Panthers pancaked in semifinalsGrand Meadow quarterback Trenton Bleifus was 10-for-17 passing for a game-best 153 yards and four touchdowns in leading Grand Meadow to a 61-6 pancaking of South Ridge in a Class 9-Man state semifinal last Friday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
MINNEAPOLIS – Playing football in the Metrodome for his first time last Friday, Grand Meadow quarterback Trenton Bleifus said he was wide awake for the game’s 9 a.m. kickoff.
Juicing up his Superlarks, Bleifus was 10-for-17 passing for a game-best 153 yards and four touchdowns in leading Grand Meadow to a 61-6 pancaking of South Ridge in a Class 9-Man state semifinal last Friday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Bleifus, a 6-foot, 192-pound junior right-hander, found teammate Collin Jacobson on a 32-yard strike in the first quarter, while also connecting with Collin’s younger brother, Landon Jacobson, once and Bryce Benson two times during the second quarter.
Grand Meadow teammate Perry Stejskal ran in the game’s opening two touchdowns in the first quarter, as the Section 1 champion led 42-0 by halftime, outgained South Ridge 485-71 in total yards and sent the never-contested affair into running time in the fourth quarter.
“This is my first state tournament,” said Bleifus, jubilant. “I’ve never had a game like this. I didn’t think it was possible. This was our best game for all of us. We’ll do anything to get the title.”
Unranked Grand Meadow (12-1) will play for that title when they face top-rated Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley in Friday’s Prep Bowl at 10 a.m. at the Metrodome. Grand Meadow – a small southeastern Minnesota school of 80 students – hasn’t played for the state championship since the Superlarks were the Class C runners-up in 1987.
Longtime Grand Meadow Coach Gary Sloan had his team practice at 6:15 a.m. several times before last Friday’s game with the Panthers. He added that Bleifus has 30 passing touchdowns and 17 rushing this season.
“I’ve been here 28 years and he’s the best I’ve had,” Sloan said of his signal-caller. “He’s a good ball-handler; a very good quarterback.”
First-year South Ridge Coach Tony DeLeon said his team practiced once in the morning, attributing the lopsided loss to simpler reasons.
“I don’t think that was a factor – the kids go to school every day so they have to get up early,” he said. “You have to give a lot of credit to Grand Meadow, they came out and executed and we didn’t.”
South Ridge’s lone touchdown came when quarterback Kody Karppinen tossed a 10-yard pass to teammate Drew Janke, who reached inside the right pylon midway through the final quarter of running time.
“We wish we could have gone further,” said senior linebacker Robby McQuade, “but I’m proud of this season; this team. We all stepped up.”
The Panthers finished 11-2, a drastic change from going 1-16 the previous two seasons.
“We brought a new idea and new attitudes, and here we are at the Dome,” DeLeon said. “Final four – there’s nothing to be ashamed of. The kids were upset, of course, because they wanted to win it all. But I told them we’re going to be together forever in the record books. Five or 10 years from now, at their class reunion, they’ll realize how special this was.”
“We should keep our heads up; we’ve come a long way,” added a teary-eyed senior Devon Lee in the Metrodome tunnel after the game. “This is where the pros play. We made it here. A lot of teams want to be here.”
The Superlarks will now return to the Dome Friday, not forgetting a Panthers team that will be remembered by many, including Sloan.
“South Ridge is a very good team; I was very concerned when this game started,” he said. “I’ve been on both sides of these, when things get stream rolling on you and it seems you can’t do anything right and the other team can’t do anything wrong. Today it went our way, but if we played them a week from now, it could go the other way.”