The Grand Meadow Superlarks, the No. 1 seed in the Section 1 9-man football tournament and the No. 1 team in the state in Class 9-man in the last AP poll of the season had to dig deep against No. 2 seed Lanesboro in the section final due to missing five starters because of COVID-19 contact tracing. The Superlarks did just that, but Burros running back JT Rein and his teammates proved to be just a bit too much Friday night as Lanesboro held off the Larks 16-12 to claim the section title.
Grand Meadow won the opening coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, so Lanesboro started with the ball and took 6:25 off the clock with a 15-play, 69-yard drive, all runs, the last a 1-yard touchdown for Rein to put the Burros up 8-0 after the 2-point conversion pass from quarterback Seth Semmen to tight end Ben Snyder.
The Superlarks took over on their own 29 after the ensuing kickoff and were forced to punt after four plays, but Rein was separated from the football on the seventh play of Lanesboro’s next drive and Grand Meadow recovered at the Burros 35. Lanesboro’s veteran defense then dug in, though, and forced a turnover on downs at their 34.
The Burros gave the ball right back to Grand Meadow on the ensuing drive, though, as Semmen fumbled the snap from center on fourth and 1 at the Lanesboro 44. The Superlarks recovered, and were facing 4th and 11 from the Burros 18 on the next drive when quarterback Evan Oehlke went back to pass and wide receiver Taylor Glynn made a spectacular diving catch in the back of the end zone to cap off the eight play, 44 yard drive to cut the Lanesboro lead to 8-6 after the 2-point conversion pass was incomplete.
The Burros led 8-6 at halftime, and each team was forced into a three-and-out to start the second half. Grand Meadow’s second drive of the third quarter ended with a punt after six plays, and Lanesboro took over at their 20. The Burros’ offense, which had been held in check since the first drive of the game came alive as on the sixth play of the drive from the Superlark 43, Rein took a handoff, sprinted through a hole up the middle, cut to his right, got to the sideline and outraced everyone to the end zone and a 16-6 Burros lead after the 2-point conversion pass.
Grand Meadow had the answer on the ensuing drive as taking over at their 45 after a pair of kickoffs went out of bounds, Oehlke kept the ball on the read option and sprinted 49 yards to the Lanesboro 6-yard line. Two plays later, running back Daniel Smith barged into the end zone from 2 yards out to cut the Burros’ lead to 16-12 after Oehlke’s extra point was blocked.
Lanesboro came right back on their next drive with a 49 yard run by Rein to help move the ball into Grand Meadow territory, but they were eventually stopped by the Larks defense at the 3-yard line. Momentum, though, swung back to Lanesboro as Oehlke was sacked at the 1-yard line and punter Taylor Glynn was forced to punt the ball from the back line of the end zone. Lanesboro took over at the Superlark 40, but again, the Grand Meadow defense stood tall and forced another turnover on downs at their 23. Not to be outdone, the Burros defense had an answer as an intentional grounding penalty and a sack, one of four on the evening for Lanesboro forced an eventual turnover on downs at the Superlark 25 yard line. Facing 4th and 5 at the Grand Meadow 20 with :36 second left, a 12-yard run by Rein proved to be the clincher as the Larks, who were out of timeouts had to watch the rest of the time tick off the clock to give the Burros the win.
Oehlke led the Superlarks in rushing with 17 carries for 73 yards, Daniel Smith added eight carries for 23 yards and freshman Blake Ludemann had five carries for 12 yards. Through the air, Oehlke was 4-14 for 79 yards and a touchdown, and Taylor Glynn led the Larks in receiving with three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown, while Smith had one catch for 34 yards.
Grand Meadow winds up the season with a record of 6-1. Lanesboro, who fell in their opener to LeRoy/Ostrander 27-20 reeled off seven straight wins to claim the Section 1 9-man title with a 7-1 record.