Spartans knock off No. 1 Menomonie
The Superior High School football team celebrated homecoming with a 31-28 win over the state’s top-ranked Menomonie Mustangs Friday night at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.
Sam Kline provided the winning points for the Spartans with a 34-yard field goal with 40.9 seconds remaining.
“I thought it was going to miss,” Kline told the Duluth News Tribune before being mobbed by classmates who had poured onto the field. “I thought I pushed it left, but when it went through it was the greatest feeling in the world.”
The win was Superior’s second straight over Menomonie and leaves both teams with records of 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the Big Rivers Conference.
The Spartans trailed the all-time series with Menomonie 0-18 before beating the Mustangs for the first time last year 35-34 at UW-Stout.
While last year’s victory was cause for celebration, Friday’s night’s win was a bit more extra special.
The victory comes one week after a disappointing 39-7 loss to Chippewa Falls. It was also over the Division 2 top-ranked Mustangs, who was favored to win the BRC and features two Division 1 players in quarterback Nate Stanley (Iowa) and running back/linebacker Mason Stokke (Wisconsin).
“I’m very proud of how our team responded to the challenges we faced after last week and the resiliency we showed,” SHS coach Bob DeMeyer said. “We got back to the basics, demanded more from each other and worked on being more focused and consistent.
“Homecoming week can be distracting enough. Add in losing one of our team leaders (Beau Reder), a bomb scare requiring a school evacuation and cancelled practice all while we’re preparing to face the No. 1 team in the state.”
Superior’s Ross Kennelly bounced back from a tough game last week with 188 yards rushing and two touchdowns. In the loss to Chippewa Falls the senior lost three fumbles.
He actually fumbled on the first play from scrimmage on Friday, but was able to recover the ball.
Two plays later Beau Girard took a pitch around the left end, got a couple of key blocks and won a 65-yard race to the end zone on the third play from scrimmage. Kline kicked the extra point giving Superior a 7-0 lead just 1:07 into the game.
The Mustangs scored the next two times they had the ball on a pair of short runs by Stokke and extra-point kicks by Stanley.
Two plays after forcing Menomonie to punt for the first time, Kennelly snuck up the middle and ran untouched for a 35-yard touchdown. Kline’s kick tied the score 14-14 with 4:55 left in the first half.
The first half was also equal on the stat sheet with Superior gaining 141 yards on 26 plays, compared to Menomonie’s 146 yards (104 rushing) on 30 plays.
Menomonie received the ball to start the second half, but on its second play Kennelly recovered a fumble at the Mustangs’ 33-yard line.
One play later Superior took a 21-14 lead when Girard took a pitch from quarterback Gunner Johnson and scored around the left end from 33 yards out. Kline’s extra-point kick came just 56 seconds into the third quarter.
Menomonie came right back and after gains of 45, 12 and 15 yards, Stokke scored from 8 yards out. The Mustangs missed the extra-point kick, leaving the Spartans with a 21-20 lead with 10:09 left in the third quarter.
The Spartans followed with a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Kennelly’s 30-yard touchdown run. Kline’s kick gave Superior a 28-20 lead.
The Spartans forced another punt and had a chance to pad their lead as they moved the ball to the Menomonie’s 9-yard line. But on fourth down, Kline’s 26-yard field-goal attempt went wide left.
Menomonie took over on its own 20 and Stokke carried the ball every time during a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run. Stokke also scored on the two-point conversion to tie the game 28-28 with 7:22 remaining.
Superior started its next drive on the 20 and thanks to a 23-yard run by Kennelly and a 24-yard pass from Johnson to Brendan French, eventually got into a first-and-goal situation at the 1.
The Spartans seemed to self-destruct a bit with three straight penalties that moved them back to the 17 with 1:15 remaining.
After a loss of 1, Superior gained the yard back and moved the ball to the middle of the field giving Kline a better angle at the game-winning attempt.
Menomonie used its final timeout in an attempt to ice Kline, but the delay didn’t faze the junior who kicked the game-winner.
Girard sealed the victory for Superior when he picked off a Stanley pass at the 33.
“Sam is clutch,” DeMeyer said. “He’s accurate, he has a strong leg and he’s really very composed. He drilled the first attempt and couldn’t have missed by much. We had no reservations about sending him out to kick the game winner.
“A whole lot of kids refused to lose, just fought, fought, fought, and that’s our theme — one team, one fight. That’s what we did tonight.”
Girard added to Superior’s offense with 121 yards rushing and two long runs on nine carries.
Kennelly led the Spartans on defense with nine tackles. Mitch Anderson and Garrett Hobson both added seven tackles and Blake Graskey had six.
“I thought our defense played great, especially playing against two division one recruits and with a great team around them,” DeMeyer said. “Stokke is a big, fast kid coming downhill with a head of steam and behind a good offensive line, that’s tough to stop. Our kids didn’t back down, he really had to earn what he got.”
Stokke finished with 219 yards rushing and four touchdowns for the Mustangs, who play at undefeated Rice Lake (5-0, 3-0). Stokke also had a game-high 14 tackles on defense.
“They outplayed us in every stage of the game,” Menomonie coach Joe LaBuda told Menomonie radio station WMEQ AM after the game. “We gave up way too many big plays, turned the ball over and played our worst game of the year. I didn’t do a very good job coaching.”
The Spartans play at River Falls (0-5, 0-3) at 7 p.m. Friday.
SPARTAN SPIN: Menomonie had three turnovers, interceptions by Girard and Corey Sanders and a fumble recovery by Kennelly. … Superior, which lost six turnovers in last week’s loss to Chippewa Falls, didn’t have any turnovers. “We took care of the football when we had it and we took it away from them three times,” DeMeyer said. “Those were key to winning the game.” … In other BRC action, Chippewa Falls (5-0, 3-0) defeated River Falls, 43-7; and Eau Claire Memorial downed Eau Claire North 42-22.
Menomonie................. 14 0 6 8 — 28
Superior..................... 7 7 14 3 — 31
SHS—Beau Girard 65-yard run (Sam Kline kick), 10:23.
M—Mason Stokke 1-yard run (Nate Stanley kick), 6:55.
M—Stokke 3-yard run (Stanley kick), 0:32.6.
SHS—Ross Kennelly 35-yard run (Kline kick), 4:55.
SHS—Girard 33-yard run (Kline kick), 11:04.
M—Stokke 8-yard run (kick failed), 10:09.
SHS—Kennelly 30-yard run (Kline kick), 6:51.
M—Stokke 3-yard run (Stokke run), 7:22.
SHS—Kline 34-yard FG, 0:40.9.
Total Net Yards....................... 350 372
Comp-Att-Int........................ 5-13-20 2-6-0
Passing yards.......................... 98 38
Rushing................................ 43-252 42-334
First Downs............................. 17 11
Punt Returns.......................... 1-17 0-0
Kickoff Returns....................... 6-64 0-0
Sacks..................................... 0 0
Punts.................................. 3-28.0 2-29.5
Fumbles-Lost.......................... 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards....................... 4-20 5-24
Time of Possession:................ 20:38 27:22
RUSHING — Menomonie, Mason Stokke 31-219; Rhet Sheehan, 3-18; Nathan Stanley, 5-11; Logan Miller, 1-3; Jake Goodman, 1-2; Evan Husby, 1-(-1). Superior, Ross Kennelly, 26-188; Beau Girard, 9-121; Mitch Anderson, 5-21; Gunner Johnson, 2-4.
PASSING — Menmonie, Stanley, 5-13-2-98. Superior, Johnson, 2-6-0-38.
RECEIVING — Menomonie, Sheehan, 3-74; Goodman, 1-13; Miller, 1-11. Superior, Brendan French, 1-27; Anderson, 1-11.
TACKLES — Menomonie (40), Stokke, 14; Mitch Weber, 8; Drew Bohan, 5. Superior, Kennelly, 9; Anderson, 7; Garrett Hobson, 7; Blake Graskey, 6; Max Plunkett, 5; Zach Tharge, 4; Brett Lozon, 3; Joshiah McDonald, 3; Corey Sanders, 2; Joey Miller, 2; Girard, CJ Fortune Jr., 1; Donovan Luoma, 1; Gunnar Gronski, 1; Christian Pettitt, 1; Harrison Doane, 1; Jack Sannes, 1; Sam Kline, 1.