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Grand Meadow's Trenton Bleifus busts off a run in the third quarter against Mountain Lake Area in the Minnesota State Nine-man Tournament last Friday night in Rochester. -- Herald File Photo

Larks are ready for the Dome

Published 5:32pm Wednesday, November 14, 2012

GRAND MEADOW — As the Superlarks prepare for their state nine man football semifinal matchup with South Ridge in the Metrodome this Friday at 9 a.m., they might as well be looking in a mirror.

South Ridge (11-1 overall) runs an offense very similar to GM’s as they like to balance the run and the pass. Panther quarterback Collin Huckbody has thrown 20 TDs and the team has three running backs who share the load.

South Ridge has also made its living off of forcing turnovers and creating big plays this season. The Panthers have one four games by eight points or less this season as they’ve had a knack for making the big play — like in their 24-18 win over Nevis when they came up with three interceptions in the state quarterfinals.

“My biggest concerns are protecting the ball and limiting big plays,” GM head coach Gary Sloan said. “They’ve had a lot of close games and they always seem to find a way to win. They force more turnovers than the average team and they always seem to have a lot of big plays.”

South Ridge is located in Culver, Minn., which is located 12 miles west of Duluth. It is just the third year South Ridge has had a football team and the squad went 1-16 overall in its first two seasons. It is South Ridge’s first state tournament in program history and GM’s fifth state trip in school history. The Superlarks haven’t played in the Metrodome since 1997.

“My boys are freshmen now and my wife was pregnant with them the last time we went to the dome,” Sloan said. “We knew we would have a good team this year and we always want to win a conference, the section and a state title. This year we thought we could potentially do all three.”

The Larks have prepared for Friday’s early start time by having one-hour sessions in the gym in the morning to get players used to breathing indoors and working up a sweat in the early hours.

“We’re trying to get used to that morning feeling of getting up and going,” GM defensive end/tight end Bryce Benson said. “We’ll definitely be ready to go.”

The Larks are also coming into Friday’s game a little angry as they’re not pleased with how they played on defense in a 34-20 win over Mountain Lake in the quarterfinals. Sloan said the team missed too many tackles and the squad wants to show that it is a better defense than what it showed in that contest.

“We want to play better than last week,” said GM safety/quarterback Trenton Bleifus. “We didn’t play very good on defense last week and we’re fired up going into this one.”

GM (11-1 overall) has had some solid teams in the past few seasons, but Sloan said this squad is much more deep than his past teams. He said the team has 12 quality players he can put on the field and he said the Larks’ defense is the fastest he’s ever coached.

“We really don’t have any superstars and a lot of my teams in the past have been dominated by one or two guys. We have more quality at every position than we’ve had in any other year,” Sloan said. “We’re happy to be going to the dome, but we’re not satisfied. Our goal was not to get to the dome, our goal was to get to the dome and win it.”

The winner of the South Ridge and Grand Meadow game will play the winner of Wheaton-Herman-Morcross (9-2) and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (10-0 overall) in the state championship game Nov. 23 at 10 a.m.

HOW THEY MATCH UP

Grand Meadow

Points per game: 41.3; Points allowed per game: 12.3; Path to semifinals: Grand Meadow 42, Glenville-Emmons 8; Grand Meadow 40, Lanesboro 8; Grand Meadow 25, Spring Grove 6; Grand Meadow 34, Mountain Lake 20

South Ridge

Points per game: 29.6; Points allowed per game: 12.9; Path to semifinals: South Ridge 40, Wrenshall 19; South Ridge 41, McGregor 6; South Ridge 20, Cromwell 12; South Ridge 24, Nevis 18


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