Football State Tournament, 2022: Semifinals, Day 1
Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2022 - 9:34 PM
Prep Bowl berths were the prize on Thursday, Nov. 17 when Day 1 of the three-day semifinals were played at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Here is a recap of the day's action:
In 1972, Mountain Iron played in the inaugural Minnesota State High School League football playoff and emerged as the Class B champion. Half a century later, the Rangers, which now includes nearby Buhl, are back in a championship game.
The Iron Range school earned that berth following a 36-15 victory over Wheaton/Herman-Norcross in the Class Nine-Man semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 17. The Rangers (12-0) broke open a close game at the half with 22 unanswered points in the second. Senior quarterback Asher Zubich completed 12 of 17 passes for 141 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter when Mountain Iron-Buhl pulled away. He also rushed for 99 yards on 18 carries and scored another TD.
Zubich made 10 tackles while on defense and had a 23-yard interception return. Sophomore linebacker Micaden Clines had a team-best 13 tackles.
The Rangers’ program is making their 12th appearance in the football state tournament since 1972.
Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (12-1) was the Class Nine-Man runner-up in 2011.
The Warriors were paced by junior quarterback Marshall Tolfison who completed 7 of 9 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. His longest strike was a 55-yard connection to senior wide receiver Andrew Walker-Hannemann that opened the scoring in the first quarter.
Spring Grove completed the Prep Bowl pairing on Dec. 3 following a 27-6 victory over Fertile-Beltrami in the lower-bracket semifinal.
Junior quarterback Elijah Solum rushed for 67 yards and scored three touchdowns and also passed for 128 in powering the Lions (13-0) into the Prep Bowl for the third time since 2017. The Lions were the Class Nine-Man champion in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Solum had Spring Grove’s opening touchdown that gave the Lions the lead for good and he added two in the fourth quarter.
Senior Tysen Grinde gave the Lions a 14-6 lead when he returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown with 2:12 remaining in the first quarter.
Senior tight end Ryan Van Den Einde opened the scoring for Fertile-Beltrami (11-1) with a 24-yard reception from junior quarterback Caiden Swenby. But the Falcons couldn’t generate any scoring after that, in part, to Spring Grove’s defense that yielded little.
Senior defensive lineman Logan Brumm led Spring Grove with 11 tackles while sophomore defensive lineman Emmett Engeldinger and Solum had nine each.
Simley slipped by Rocori by the narrowest of margins for a 17-16 victory in the Class AAAA upper bracket semifinal. The victory sends Simley (11-1) into the Prep Bowl Championship game on Dec. 2 where it will meet the winner between Hutchinson and Zimmerman, who play their semifinal game on Friday.
Simley, earning its first Prep Bowl berth since finishing as the Class AAAAA runner-up in 2014, needed all the loft that senior kicker Reid Remackel could muster in getting past Rocori (9-3).
He made a 33-yard field goal with 5:22 remaining in regulation time, a flat boot that just made it over the crossbar and just inside the right upright. It was the only scoring of the second half and completed a 10-play, 16-yard drive that ate up nearly five minutes of clock that gave Simley a 17-16 advantage.
On the ensuing possession, Rocori decided to go for it on 4th-and-3 at its 42, but senior quarterback Jack Spanier was stopped after a 1-yard gain. Simley ran out the clock from there in gaining a couple of first downs to maintain possession.
Rocori grabbed a 16-14 halftime lead behind Spanier’s 4-yard run with 39 seconds left in the second quarter. He then added the two-point conversion pass to senior Evan Acheson. Four minutes earlier, Simley regained the lead when senior quarterback Caden Renslow connected with senior wide receiver La’tayvion McCoy-Nunn on a 69-yard scoring pass when McCoy-Nunn motored past the defense before receiving the well-placed bass.
Senior running back Gavin Nelson rushed for 167 yards on 32 rushes to lead Simley. Renslow completed 8 of 11 passes for 124 yards.
Day 1 of the semifinals ended with a big-school collision of heavyweights between Maple Grove and Lakeville South, the defending Class AAAAAA champion. A 14-point second quarter and a second-half defense that stood firm was the formula that Maple Grove used to post a 14-7 victory to dethrone the defending champs.
Maple Grove (12-0) used a big strike in the second quarter, a 72-yard touchdown reception between senior quarterback Jacob Kilzer and senior wide receiver Jacob Anderson, to snap a 7-all tie and provide the necessary cushion to earn a spot in the Prep Bowl for the second consecutive season. The result? Maple Grove was the runner-up to Lakeville South.
Lakeville South senior running back Carson Hansen rushed for 89 yards on 20 carries and scored on a 3-yard run in the first quarter to give Lakeville South (9-3) a 7-0 advantage. But Hansen was held in check the rest of the way, including a 1-yard loss on a 4th-and-4 play in the closing minutes when the Cougars were trying to rally.
Kilzer completed all eight of his passes for 127 yards. He also led a balanced running game with 66 yards and a 4.1 average each time he touched the ball.
Maple Grove will play the winner of the other big-school semifinal between Eden Prairie and Rosemount, who will face one another on Friday. The Class AAAAAA Prep Bowl championship game is scheduled for Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.