Spring Grove senior QB has new role this fall after suffering ACL injury

Sep. 16—SPRING GROVE — As soon as he landed after shooting a layup in May, Spring Grove's Elijah Solum knew something was wrong.

Solum was playing in an AAU basketball game in Wayzata on May 12 when he went up for a shot like he had done hundreds of times in his career. But this time his landing felt different.

He had suffered an ACL injury.

"I went up for a layup and I came down wrong and my knee just twisted," Solum said.

The rest of Solum's junior baseball season last spring was done. He had surgery on his left knee on June 27, but he knew he would miss his senior football season as well.

It was last season that Solum helped lead the Lions to a state runner-up finish in 9-Player football as a starting quarterback and linebacker. He had hopes of taking the team one step further in 2023, but the injury dashed those hopes.

"You lose an All-Star quarterback, it's awfully difficult to fill those shoes," Spring Grove coach Kody Moore said. "But one of the things that gets overlooked was how good he was on defense at middle linebacker."

Despite being disappointed at not getting to play his senior football season, Solum has remained upbeat about the situation and he is doing his best to help the team in any way he can.

"We were so close last year, but we still have a good team this year," Solum said. "It's still fun to be around these guys and it's exciting to hopefully get back to the same spot we were last year and hopefully win it."

Solum is the one dealing with his injury, but it also sent shockwaves throughout the Spring Grove athletic community.

"It was obviously a pretty big shocker last spring," Moore said. "I think our guys were pretty down in the dumps about it. So it's been a bit of a roller coaster that way, but I feel like they've responded to that adversity pretty well."

Despite the loss of their quarterback and a team leader, the Lions are ranked No. 2 in the state in 9-Player. They took a 3-0 record into Friday's game against rival Lanesboro.

Solum is doing all he can to stay involved with the program. He is at practices helping teammates try to improve and get ready for each game. That is especially true of the players who are taking his place on offense and defense.

"It's difficult, but I think it helps him being around the guys," Moore said.

During varsity games, Solum is on the sidelines looking at an iPad to help determine what plays should be run and what choices can be made.

"Just giving quarterback tips and reads and stuff and throwing mechanics," Solum said. "And on the sidelines, I'm just trying to help all the players with where they are supposed to be lined up. Just simple stuff like that."

Junior Bryce Berns has stepped in at quarterback in place of Solum. Berns was a backup receiver and a special teams player a year ago.

"Byrce has done a really nice job of filling those shoes and he has good guys around him that really help him out," Moore said.

Solum has helped Berns off the field while Moore said veteran seniors Jaxon Strinmoen and Jacob Olerud have been beneficial on the field.

While Solum will not play football this season, he hopes to return in time to play part of his senior basketball season.

He has a target date of January, which would be just seven months after his surgery.

Despite his injury, Solum still has hopes of playing a sport in college. He is still undecided between football and basketball.

"It's a 50-50 right now," he said of his college sport. "I'll have to see how this year of basketball plays out and then I'll probably know."

Winona State University and Wartburg College in Iowa have shown interest in Solum in football while Gustavus Adolphus College has expressed interest in basketball. Solum, who is 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, said quarterback would be his preferred position in college football.

In the spring, Solum hopes to play baseball but he would also like to attend track and field practices to work on his speed and quickness. And although he wants to play basketball during the winter, he will not rush his return.

"I'm just going to try and be 100 percent before I step on the court," he said. "I should be good to go when it's all said and done."