November 24, 2017 11:42 PM
(ABC 6 News) – For five straight years, the Spring Grove Lions fell one win short of a state tournament berth—in 2017, the Lions snapped the streak with not only a section championship, but a state championship as well.
The Lions defeated the Nevis Tigers in the Class 9-Man Prep Bowl on Friday, 32-0, their first state championship in school history.
“It’s an amazing feeling right now. It’s kind of hard to put into words,” Lions head football coach Zach Hauser said. “I’m just so happy for these guys and the coaches, all the time we’ve put in over the years.”
“This was their goal. After lifting weights (during the summer) at six in the morning, they’d get together and to finish it off, it’d be ‘rings on three, one, two, three rings,’ so that was their ultimate goal since last year. They did everything they could to make that happen.”
Spring Grove was led by junior quarterback Alex Folz, who completed 16 of 22 passes for 196 yards, rushed for 112 yards, and scored four touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing).
“I can remember at varsity football games when I was young, our whole team being there on the hill at the practice field,” Folz said. “Just being involved with football at a young age, it helped.”
“It feels great to finally get over the hump and be on the top,” senior defensive-end and tight end Sam Sanness said.
It’s not only the Lions’ first state title in school history, it’s also Hauser’s first career state title victory—Hauser was a quarterback at nearby Caledonia in the 90’s.
Since 2007, entering Friday, Caledonia has won seven state championships—Hauser himself is a Caledonia-native, and stays close with the current coaching staff in Caledonia.
“I talk to (Caledonia head football coach Carl Fruechte) all the time,” Hauser said. “He’s a great mentor, they have a great blueprint to follow. We don’t follow it exactly, bu you can take away a lot from it, and it’s nice to have him around to talk to.”
The Lions and Tigers remained scoreless until the 3:40 mark in the first quarter—after a 33-yard run by Lions running back Cullen Patterson on third down and one, Alex Folz capped off a ten-play, 95-yard scoring drive with a 15-yard touchdown run.
“We kind of feel each other out initially, and then from there, we figure out what plays we’re confident in,” Hauser said. “We saw we could make big plays, and when we made big plays, you have a good shot to win the football game.”
On the ensuing Tigers’ drive, Nevis converted a fake punt on fourth down before fumbling on the very next play, giving the Lions control of the football in Nevis territory. Four plays later, Folz found Ethan Matzke in the corner of the endzone for a 28-yard touchdown to give Spring Grove a 14-0 lead.
“They took away the first options on the quicker routes, so I rolled right and Ethan ran down the field,” Folz said about the touchdown. “I saw him put his hands up, I put it up there and he made a play. It was a great play on his part.”
Folz’ magic continued in the second quarter, as he threw two touchdown passes to Luke Schneider and Noah Elton, as the Lions led 26-0 at half with a state title in sight.
“It’s amazing what he can do out there,” senior running back Cullen Patterson, who contributed with a rushing touchdown in the 4th quarter said. “There’s no words for it. In practice, I don’t want to go against him (laughs).”
“We were very well-conditioned,” Folz said. “This is one of the most well-conditioned linemen group that we’ve ever had. They’re able to go through four quarters of grinding and grinding, and we were able to push through.”
Defensively, Spring Grove was outstanding again, giving up only 229 total yards to Nevis. Sanness added 1.5 tackles for loss; teammates Adin Solum, Noah Elton, Calvin Sylling added a tackle for loss; Solum also intercepted one pass.
“We just had to come off the ball hard and swat (the offensive linemen’s) hands away and contain the quarterback,” Sanness said. “We wanted to slant-hard and not get too far up the field.”
For the Lions, and specifically for Folz, the state title win was an answered prayer.
“I was just going through my head thanking everyone that could help me through the season,” Folz recalled after he took a moment to himself on the field after the game concluded. “My family, my friends, my teammates, a great season with them and thanking my grandma who’s in heaven. I ask her every game, every day before, to give us a fair chance at this game. That’s what I do every game.”
Updated: November 24, 2017 11:42 PM
Created: November 24, 2017 12:41 PM
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