Nine-Man football games tend to be high scoring, but Nevis coach Shawn Klimek believes defense will be the key in Friday’s Prep Bowl championship against Spring Grove.
No. 1-ranked Spring Grove is seeking its first state football title when the Lions (13-0) face Nevis (11-1) at 10 a.m. Friday in the Nine-Man finals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“It’s an exciting atmosphere for the players,” Spring Grove coach Zach Hauser said. “They’ve really been building some confidence and they’ve beaten some good teams along the way.”
Section One has won the past four state titles (all by Grand Meadow) and Spring Grove looks to continue that run. The high-scoring Lions average 45.7 points per game, but they have held two state foes to a combined 13 points.
“I think their defense is really, really good,” Klimek said. “I think defense is going to decide it, whose defense makes the most plays and creates the most turnovers.”
Nevis has limited its two state opponents to a combined 30 points.
If Klimek wants his defense to decide the game, Nevis is going to have to put the clamps down on Spring Grove junior quarterback Alex Folz. But that has been no easy task for defenses all year. The 200-pounder has mashed, gashed and passed his way through defenses all season. Folz enters the game with 1,791 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns, and 2,259 yards passing and 25 touchdowns.
“They’ve got a good football team and it all starts with their quarterback,” Klimek said. “He’s a load for teams and he throws a nice ball, too. No one guy can bring him down, he spins around. Gang tackling will be the key.”
Hauser likes to use a balanced offense to keep teams honest, but Folz has played an even bigger part of the offense during the state tournament. Last week he had 29 of the team’s 42 rushes as he ran for 175 yards and all four of the team’s touchdowns. He also threw for 214 yards.
“Alex has been a workhorse for us the last three games,” Hauser admitted. “He’s hard to bring down and he’s pretty shifty, too.”
Hauser hopes to get running back Cullen Patterson (1,270 yards rushing, 17 touchdowns) more involved in the offense this week. Speedy Noah Elton is also a key receiver with more than 900 receiving yards. Elton missed part of the semifinal game when he cramped up.
“We hope our speed is an advantage,” Hauser said. “And we hope to have more balance between (Patterson) and Alex. We definitely want to get Cullen involved more.”
“We know it’s more than just (Folz),” Klimek said of the Spring Grove offense. “They have a lot of other weapons, too.”
The Tigers have a pair of brother combinations that are important to their team. Senior quarterback Jack DeWulf has rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards for run-first Nevis, while Luke DeWulf has 350 yards receiving. Brothers Michael and Jack Landquist are two key linemen for the team.
“We’re going to have to be able to stop the run,” Hauser said. “They have a quarterback who’s a good runner, but he can pass, too.”
Taylor Holty and Luke Schneider both have more than 100 tackles for Spring Grove while Folz has been a hard-hitting defensive back as well.
Spring Grove is making its third state appearance, the last being in 2011. This is the Lions’ first appearance in the state title game. The Tigers are back at state for the first time since 2012 and are making their fifth appearance.
“It’s exciting to be playing in this game,” Hauser said. “But we want to do everything we can this week to prepare to win a state championship.”