What began as a nightmare wound up as the sweetest dream Mountain Iron-Buhl could have imagined.
The Rangers put a first quarter in which they fell behind by 19 points behind them, cut the deficit to five by halftime, then completed the rally with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, emerging with a 28-25 victory over Spring Grove in the Nine-Man championship game Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"We just had to keep fighting, no matter what," Mountain Iron-Buhl quarterback Asher Zubich said. "We told ourselves before the game: it's going to be rough. There is going to be lots of downs, probably more downs than ups, but we had pride, we had heart."
The Rangers (13-0) scored the winning touchdown with 25 seconds left when senior running back Damian Tapio took a direct snap and sped over left tackle for a 10-yard score. They added a two-point conversion on a pass from Zubich to Riley Busch.
The drive started with 3 minutes, 20 seconds to go after Micaden Clines' second interception in as many series.
The game began so well for Spring Grove (13-1), which scored the first three times it had the ball.
"I think we lulled ourselves to sleep, just a little bit," senior lineman Ty Cleven said. "We took our foot off the gas pedal."
Said Spring Grove coach Kody Moore: "Once you lose momentum, it's tough to get it back."
Mountain Iron-Buhl won its first state title in 50 years; it was among the champions in 1972, the first year Minnesota had state football tournaments.
"That team was pretty much our idols," said Zubich, who had 295 yards of total offense, 168 passing and 127 rushing. "After every practice, we'd mention their name, the '72 team. That just shows, 50 years from now, we'll still be being talked about."