The game plan to beat No. 1-ranked Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley is easier said than done -- stop the run.
The ground-oriented, unbeaten Wolverines churned out their 12th consecutive victory, rolling over No. 7 Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke 38-8 on Friday in the Nine-man state semifinals at the Metrodome. Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (12-0) will face Grand Meadow (12-1) for the championship on Friday.
"We're one of the best rushing Nine-man football teams in the state," said Wolverines senior quarterback Damon Gibson, who opened the scoring with a 1-yard run. "We all work together as one unit. That's what makes a team."
The Wolverines picked up 189 of their 363 rushing yards in the first half while building a 32-0 lead on four running touchdowns. Junior Justin Montonye scored on runs of 4 and 13 yards. He had a third touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard run.
"We have so many [rushing] weapons," Montonye said. "But our offensive line is huge. They give us so many holes to run through. They are the heart and soul of this team."
Junior Austin Maanum capped the opening half with a 6-yard scoring run 27 seconds before intermission. By then, he already had 109 yards on 15 carries.
"If we sustain and hold our blocks, we're an explosive team," said Maanum, who finished with 180 yards on 25 carries. "When we jump on a team like we did in the first half, it's tough to come back against our defense."
The defensive unit contained Chargers senior running back Daniel Polansky. He entered the game with 2,454 rushing yards this season but was limited to 46 yards on 10 carries. Polansky did catch a 20-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Hunter McMillin midway through the third quarter.
"We're a well-oiled machine," Gibson said. "It's going to take one heck of a team to beat us."
Grand Meadow 61, South Ridge 6: Superlarks coach Gary Sloan couldn't have scripted a better start for his squad. After three possessions, Grand Meadow had a 22-0 lead and was well on its way to an appearance in the Prep Bowl.
"I'm very surprised [by the outcome]," Sloan said. "I would've been happy just to walk out of here with a win."
The score was indicative of how dominant Grand Meadow was on both sides of the ball from the outset. After the opening quarter, first downs were 7-0 and total yardage 175-7 in favor of the Superlarks.
It didn't get much better for South Ridge in the second quarter in a matchup of unranked teams. The Superlarks added three more touchdowns, taking a 42-0 lead.
South Ridge picked up its initial first down 33 seconds before halftime. The Panthers only had 20 yards of offense at halftime to Grand Meadow's 308.
Superlarks junior quarterback Trenton Bleifus threw four first-half touchdown passes, going 9-for-14 for 151 yards. He hooked up with Bryce Benson twice and with the Jacobson brothers, Collin and Landon, once each.
"He's been great all year," Sloan said of Bleifus, who has thrown 30 touchdown passes and been intercepted only four times this season. "He's the best quarterback I have ever coached."
Senior Perry Stejskal opened the scoring with touchdown runs on their first two possessions. Stejskal left in the second quarter when he reinjured the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
"We were able to establish the run," Bleifus said. "That set up our play-action pass for big plays."
For South Ridge (11-2), the loss marked the end of an unbelievable turnaround under first-year coach Tony DeLeon. The Panthers were 1-16 the previous two years.
"We did a great job defensively and offensively," Bleifus said. Grand Meadow accumulated 485 total yards while limiting South Ridge to 71. "I don't think we can play any better."