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Apple Valley Boys’ Hockey Gets Off To A Strong Start
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/30/2010 11:24:10 PM

If the first game of the season is any indication of what to expect from the Apple Valley boys’ hockey team, one thing to watch for is balance.

The Eagles, who surprised some people with a run to the Class 2A state tournament semifinals last season, return a strong corps from that young team and showed their strength in defeating Bloomington Jefferson 6-3 Tuesday night at Bloomington Ice Garden. Apple Valley is No. 7 in the Let’s Play Hockey magazine 2A rankings, and Jefferson is No. 13.

The Eagles’ goals came from five players, with junior forward Trent Heuer scoring twice and getting two assists. Heuer assisted on the game’s opening goal by Hudson Fasching, last year’s leading scorer, and Heuer’s goals came in the second period as Apple Valley opened a 4-1 lead.

“We forecheck hard and see what happens,” Heuer said. “Tonight we got a couple of hardworking goals. It felt good to get two goals. We couldn’t ask for a better night.”

Last year, Apple Valley finished sixth in the Lake Conference with a 10-9 league record. But the Eagles got on a postseason roll that didn’t end until they lost to eventual state champion Edina in the state semifinals. There will be no surprising success story this year, because Apple Valley has been tagged as a team to watch.

“It just helped, going to the state tournament and knowing we had the ability to go to the next level,” Heuer said. “It feels great to get the first win. Everyone’s just looking at us now as one of the top team teams in the state.”

Apple Valley is diving right into the competitive soup, playing at third-ranked Eden Prairie on Thursday. The Eagles’ fifth game of the season, on Dec. 14, will be against No. 2 Wayzata.

Jefferson, which went 19-6-3 last season and finished the season with a loss to Edina in the Section 2 tournament, has a similarly tough early schedule, meeting Eden Prairie on Saturday and facing Wayzata on Dec. 16.

(To see a postgame video interview with Trent Heuer and a photo gallery from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 249
*Miles John has driven: 5,364

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



An Official Makes His Toughest Call
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/30/2010 3:00:04 PM

The day after Thanksgiving was, according to Dale Wakasugi, “kind of an interesting evening.”

That’s one way to describe the high school basketball official’s near-death experience. It was the second time his heart had malfunctioned during a game, and it’s a miraculous thing that Wakasugi is here to talk about it. He knows how lucky he is.

In December 2007 Wakasugi, then 49, collapsed during a game at Fridley High School. He had suffered a heart attack, he had no pulse and he was brought back to life because the school was equipped with automated external defibrillator (AED). It was used for the first time that night, delivering an electrical shock that restarted Wakasugi’s heart.

Round Two came last Friday night at Hamline University, where Wakasugi was working girls’ games at the Pat Paterson Memorial Thanksgiving Tip-Off Tournament. This was a rare night, because he worked back-to-back games. The first one, between Hopkins and White Bear Lake, was a fast-paced contest. With a very short break between games, Wakasugi and his partner, Crystal Flint, were officiating a game between Blaine and Rosemount

Near the end of the first half, Wakasugi was stationed on the baseline when he collapsed.

“It was a scary situation,” Blaine coach Steve Reiter said. “All of a sudden he was down. We ran over right away and at first I thought it was a heart attack. He was still breathing, and a doctor came down from the stands right away, luckily.”

This time it wasn’t a classic heart attack, but an electrical malfunction in Wakasugi’s heart. After his 2007 heart attack, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) was implanted in his chest. When his heart malfunctioned last week, the ICD did its job. He was unconscious for only a few seconds, and after being taken to a hospital in an ambulance and being checked out, he was home that same evening.

“I had no real ill effects, other than being tired for the next day,” he said. “I didn’t even spend the night in the hospital. How crazy is that?”

Since his 2007 experience, Wakasugi has been active in the “Anyone Can Save a Life” educational program, a joint effort of the MSHSL and Medtronic Foundation. He’s also a member of the Minnesota Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survivor Network, a non-profit organization that supports SCA survivors and their families, advocates for community access to AEDs and educates people about SCA and early defibrillation.

He will remain involved in those efforts, but he said his officiating career is probably over. He feels perfectly normal, in great shape to keep working basketball games. But he knows that his on-court partners, along with people who assign officials, will worry about him and the possibility of another episode.

“I don’t want to put people through that,” he said. “Even if I feel great and doctors give me medical clearance, I’ve already decided I’m probably going to just quit. It’s gotta be what’s best for the kids and the game and sport and the coaches.

“I can’t control the pace of a basketball game and I can’t pace myself. I love it, I’m passionate about it, but the decision to go forward or not was pretty easy. I don’t think it would be fair to everybody around me.”

Wakasugi wants to stay involved, possibly helping mentor and train young officials.



A Neat Sportsmanship Story From North Carolina
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/29/2010 2:09:59 PM

Readers of John’s Journal may recall the story told here exactly one month ago today about cross-country runner Trevor Jahn from Orono High School, who stopped near the finish line to assist Hutchinson’s Isaiah Barlow after Isaiah fell during a section meet.

A similar event took place in a district cross-country meet in North Carolina. Here is the story, courtesy of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association …


There are not always enough "good" stories in sports-- but here is one that truly represents the essence of high school athletics and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

Tommy Harkey, athletic director at North Stanly High School, says, "This event at the regional cross country meet had spectators clapping, cheering, and crying at the same time." Drew Laucher, the North Stanly cross-country coach, wrote a story about it for the local paper, The Stanly News and Press, which drew additional attention to it.

Jenna Huff is a runner for North Stanly who was competing at Dan Nicholas Park in the 2-A Midwest Regional for the right to advance to the state championship. Late in the race she is in 22nd place, trailing Deb Gunther of Cuthbertson by about five meters. Suddenly Gunther screams in pain and grabs her hip, almost stopping.

Instead of sprinting past Gunther to gain a spot in the standings, Huff slows down, checks on her and tells her, "Come on," gently putting her hand on Gunther's elbow.

They shuffle along toward the finish line, and as coach Laucher says, "As they approach the finish line, the crowd catches on. Applause and cheers erupt. Jenna puts Deb in front of her, just as it would have been before Deb's hip gave out. Jenna didn't take that point; it was always Deb's so it stayed Deb's."

That in itself is remarkable, but it also had an impact on the meet. It turned out that Cuthbertson and Salisbury tied for first in the regional meet, and ties in cross country means that the performance of the sixth-place finisher is used. Cuthbertson's sixth-place runner: Deb Gunther.

As Harkey noted, "Jenna could have passed the Cuthbertson runner, but instead made sure she went across the finish line in front of her, which ended up giving Cuthbertson the victory over Salisbury."

Coach Laucher was right when he said, "Cuthbertson won the regional meet that day. Jenna Huff won the crowd."

Stories like this may be fairly rare in the world of sports today, but fortunately they are not so rare in the realm of NCHSAA athletics. Our thanks to North Stanly High School and The Stanly News and Press for their accounts, and most especially we salute Jenna Huff of North Stanly High School for exhibiting the values that we hope our sports programs promote.



Theme Of Prep Bowl XXIX: New Teams, New Stars
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/27/2010 4:18:27 PM

There were plenty of familiar teams in the 2010 Prep Bowl games, including Wayzata in Class 5A, Totino-Grace in 4A and Caledonia and Triton in 2A. But one of the neatest things about the culmination of the football season was seeing new teams, as well as new stars, on display at the Metrodome.

Since the Prep Bowl series has been played in the Metrodome, five of the 12 teams that played this weekend were in their first championship game: Lanesboro, Barnesville, Holy Family, Rogers and Rosemount. Class 1A champion New Ulm Cathedral was making its second Prep Bowl appearance, having lost to Rushford-Peterson in the 2006 title game.

And then there were the individual stars, ranging from the Nine-Man game all the way through Class 5A. Cromwell’s Jordan Suhonen set Prep Bowl records for the longest run (86 yards), most rushing yards (374), most rushing TDs (5) and highest rushing average (13.4) as the Cardinals beat Lanesboro for the championship.

Adam Lentz and Nic Jensen combined for five touchdowns and 330 rushing yards to lead Lourdes past Holy Family 41-13 in the 3A game, and Wayzata’s 5A championship was highlighted by the performance of 5-foot-8 sophomore Mitchell Underhill, who rushed 12 times for 247 yards and TDs of 45, 66, 58 and 58 yards.

To me, the best story of Prep Bowl XXIX was Cromwell, which had a 2-6 record and was looking like a team that would quickly exit the postseason. But the Cardinals put together a winning streak that ended with a state championship.

SATURDAY TIDBITS …

--Rochester Lourdes’ uniforms are classic throwbacks to the Vikings of the past: purple helmets, white jerseys and pants, black shoes. It could have been 1976, except for the number worn by Eagles quarterback Nic Jensen: 4. (That's Nic in the photo above.)

--Saturday wasn't packed with drama, considering Lourdes' big victory over Holy Family and Totino-Grace's 34-14 win over Rogers (those are the Totino-Grace Eagles celebrating at left). But there was plenty of excitement; see the MSHSL Facebook page for photos from all the games and videos of the winners celebrating.

--One of the referees didn’t quite grasp the consequences of wearing a wireless microphone. Early in the 3A game, the ref had his microphone turned on when he blew his whistle and announced, “TV timeout!” The whistle, greatly amplified by the Metrodome sound system, cleared everyone’s sinuses.

--Diet Coke Count: 5

--Future plans: Take Sunday off, go to a hockey game Tuesday night.



Prep Bowl Day II: Let’s Have Some More Fun
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/27/2010 11:38:53 AM

Hello again from the Metrodome, where the high school football season will come to an end with two state championship games on this lovely Saturday.

At noon, Rochester Lourdes and Holy Family will meet to decide the Class 3A champion, and at 3 p.m. it will be Totino-Grace vs. Rogers in the 4A title game.

Friday’s four-day slate was filled with great games and exciting outcomes, and I’m sure we will see more of the same today.

Remember, the games are being televised by KSTC Channel 45 and webcast by 45.GrandStadium.TV. And I’m posting instant updates, photos and videos on the MSHSL Facebook page, and Twitter is part of the scheme, too.

--Diet Coke Count: 0



A Big Game, Yes, But There’s Time For Friends, Too
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/26/2010 8:10:09 PM

Wayzata football coach Brad Anderson was walking down the Metrodome tunnel that leads to the field, 20 minutes or so from the start of the Class 5A state championship game. I was walking up the tunnel, headed back to the press box.

I was ready to offer Brad a quick “Good luck” and say little else, because coaches tend to be concentrating on the task at hand at such times. But Brad stopped me, shook my hand, smiled and said, “How’s the job going?”

A few minutes before that encounter, I was walking around the perimeter of the field while Wayzata and Rosemount were warming up. One of the volunteer coaches at Wayzata is Tim McNiff, morning anchor at KARE-11 TV. I’ve known Tim for a long time, going back to when he was a sports reporter.

Tim, who coaches running backs, was putting his guys through pregame drills when he sprinted over to me on the sideline, shook my hand and said with a big smile, “You clean up real good!” I was wearing a jacket and tie, meaning there was no end to the comments along those lines I heard Saturday at the dome.

It’s a little bit astounding when you think about it. These coaches, preparing for a game that most coaches only dream about, smiled and shook hands with a guy who was just walking around. I wasn’t surprised by this, because I have known Brad and Tim so well for so long, and there are no better people.

I think maybe it comes down to a simple word: joy. They take such joy in what they do, and that goes far beyond simply coaching football. They lead young people, they set a great example, they treat everybody right. And they’re never too busy or too occupied to offer a friend a handshake and a smile.

This is one of the million and one reasons why high school activities are so special.

Wayzata went on to have a big night, defeating Rosemount 31-14 and taking home the state title. Sophomore Mitchell Underhill was the star for the Trojans, rushing 12 times for 247 yards and four TDs.

The Trojans and their fans celebrated in great style afterwards, and you can see photos and video of the postgame scene on the MSHSL Facebook page.


I DON’T KNOW the name of the young lady who served as the Cromwell Cardinals’ mascot during today’s Nine-Man football state championship game. But her reaction to the Cardinals’ state title was priceless, and it summed up what these events mean to the people who share the wins and the losses with their teams.

She lifted the large costumed head off her own head and absolutely shrieked in delight. And there was plenty to scream about for fans of both teams. Cromwell’s 49-42 victory went down to the wire, and a handful of Prep Bowl records were set in the game.

The individual star was Cromwell senior quarterback Jordan Suhonen. He set Prep Bowl records for the longest run (86 yards), most rushing yards (374), most rushing TDs (5) and highest rushing average (13.4). The teams’ combined 91 points tied a record set by Triton and Luverne in 2006 when Triton beat Luverne 70-21 in the Class 2A title game.

Cromwell’s victory capped one of the great turnarounds in high school sports. The Cardinals’ record was 2-4 with two games remaining in the regular season. That’s right: 2-4. They finished the regular season 4-4 and were the No. 3 seed in a section that has only five teams.

But here they are today, taking home a state title.

“At 2-4 we were down in the dumps,” coach Jeff Gronner said. “The coaches were frustrated, the players were frustrated. We were not a good team.”

Earlier this week, Gronner said this to Rick Weegman of the Duluth News Tribune: “Sometimes if you don’t reach goals, it can be seen as a disappointment even if it really isn’t just because expectations are so high. That’s how this season started out, as a huge disappointment, but even at 2-4 I told them, ‘All of our goals that we set are still out there. You can still accomplish every goal, but it’s going to take some effort.’ ”

They’ll now go down in history as a great team, a state championship team. Keep screaming, Cardinals.

--New Ulm Cathedral won the second game of the day, beating Barnesville 19-13 in a defensive-minded Class 1A game. Cathedral starting quarterback Kevin Larson was injured late in the first half and did not return, replaced by Nick Simon and Drew Pfaff. The backups QB got the job done and Eric Hauser rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns for Cathedral.

--In the 2A game, Caledonia defeated Triton 28-7.

--In the midst of the 91-point Nine-Man game, I posted this on Twitter: “We have a theme going: 1. Kickoff. 2. Long TD run. 3. Repeat.”

--Banner hanging on the Lanesboro side of the field: “OMG … This is HUGE.”

--How small is a Nine-Man football squad? Cromwell had only 21 players in uniform.

--Diet Coke Count: 7



Prep Bowl XXIX Is Off And Running
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/26/2010 9:49:20 AM

The Nine-Man football teams from Cromwell and Lanesboro are in the midst of their championship game here inside the warm, cozy Metrodome.

That game will be followed by three more today and two on Saturday.

Get live updates and see photos on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s a photo from earlier this morning of the Lanesboro Burros getting in a limbering-up session …

Diet Coke Count: 2



Prep Bowl XXIX: On The Air and On The Web
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/25/2010 10:11:47 PM

The annual two-day season-ending celebration of Minnesota high school football begins at 10 a.m. Friday at the Metrodome when Lanesboro and Cromwell meet to decide the state champion of Nine-Man football. That game will be followed by three more on Friday and two on Saturday.

There are plenty of ways to stay informed on what’s happening. All six games will be televised by KSTC Channel 45 and webcast by 45.GrandStadium.tv. In addition, I will be posting photos and instant updates on things like touchdowns, lead changes, final scores (and yes, the Diet Coke Count) on the MSHSL Facebook page as well as Twitter. You can find those two websites by clicking on the respective buttons on the right side of this page.

It’s going to be a great two days of dry, warm football. If you can’t join us at the Metrodome, be sure to follow all the action on TV or the internet.

Here’s the schedule …

FRIDAY:
10 a.m.: Nine-Man/ Lanesboro (11-2) vs. Cromwell (10-4)
1 p.m.: Class 1A/ Barnesville (13-0) vs. New Ulm Cathedral (11-1)
4 p.m.: Class 2A/ Caledonia (13-0) vs. Triton (13-0)
7 p.m.: Class 5A/ Rosemount (12-0) vs. Wayzata (10-0)

SATURDAY
Noon: Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (13-0) vs. Holy Family (13-0)
3 p.m.: Class 4A/ Totino-Grace (11-1) vs. Rogers (12-0)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 247
*Miles John has driven: 5,337

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn





Ex-Major Leaguer Ligtenberg Named Park Baseball Coach
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/23/2010 10:32:19 AM

Former major league pitcher Kerry Ligtenberg has been hired as the new baseball coach at Park High School in Cottage Grove. He takes over for Reid Tschumperlin, who resigned from that position this fall. Reid had been a part of the baseball program for 23 years, serving as the head coach the final nine years of his time at Park.

Ligtenberg, a 1989 Park graduate, was a three-time letter-winner in baseball. He went on to be named an All-Big Ten performer at the University of Minnesota, and in 1998 he became the first baseball player from Park to reach the major leagues. Kerry finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting as a relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves and also appeared in the World Series for the Braves.



Looking Back On Some Big Webcast Numbers
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/22/2010 12:23:47 PM

A huge number of people watched last weekend’s state football semifinals on the internet via the webcasting services of 45.GrandStadium.tv. GrandStadium not only webcasts events, but it also gives high school students opportunities to learn about broadcast productions by working on the webcast crews. It’s a true win-win.

During the semifinals Friday and Saturday at the Metrodome, more than 36,000 computer user from 34 countries/territories viewed the webcasts, a 77.67 percent increase from a year ago. In Minnesota, almost 30,000 viewers came from 306 cities, an 85 percent jump.

The upcoming Prep Bowl games – four on Friday and two on Saturday – will be webcast by Grand.Stadium. Here’s the lineup:

FRIDAY:
10 a.m.: Nine-Man/ Lanesboro (11-2) vs. Cromwell (10-4)
1 p.m.: Class 1A/ Barnesville (13-0) vs. New Ulm Cathedral (11-1)
4 p.m.: Class 2A/ Caledonia (13-0) vs. Triton (13-0)
7 p.m.: Class 5A/ Rosemount (12-0) vs. Wayzata (10-0)

SATURDAY
Noon: Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (13-0) vs. Holy Family (13-0)
3 p.m.: Class 4A/ Totino-Grace (11-1) vs. Rogers (12-0)



Saturday’s Biggest News Came In The Pool
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/20/2010 9:00:01 PM

As we close out a busy Saturday and a very busy week, let’s salute one of the finest athletes in Minnesota high school history. Here is an item that was posted on the MSHSL Facebook page as well as the MSHSLjohn Twitter account shortly before 9 p.m. Saturday …

SWIMMING BULLETIN: Rachel Bootsma of Eden Prairie has set a national record in the 100-yard backstroke. She won the Class AA race tonight in 51.53 seconds; the previous national record was 51.85. Congratulations Rachel!

That is an incredible accomplishment, and it helps us appreciate all the talented and committed student-athletes in Minnesota. That's Rachel in the photo at right.

Speaking of talented and committed athletes …

--Anoka-Hennepin won the battle of unbeatens and knocked off two-time reigning champion Park Center 5-4 for the CI division adapted soccer championship. All five goals for Anoka-Hennepin came from junior Zach Theroux.

--Unbeaten Robbinsdale/Hopins/Mound-Westonka won its third consecutive PI adapted soccer championship with an 8-1 win over Dakota United.

--Wrapping up Saturday’s football games from the Metrodome, Triton held off Eden Valley-Watkins 12-6 in the 2A semifinals and Wayzata held off Mounds View 21-16 in 5A in the the final game of the semifinals.

--Let's wrap up the weekend with the following statement: Diet Coke Count: 9.



Sorry Mahtomedi Zephyrs; I Should Have Stayed Away
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/20/2010 6:46:42 PM

If the Mahtomedi football team is looking for reasons why it lost three games this season, look right here. I watched three of the Zephyrs’ games this fall, and of course those were the only games they did not win. That includes Saturday's 23-14 loss to Rogers in the Class 4A semifinals at the Metrodome.

Mahtomedi activities director Jeff Whisler rightfully (and good-naturedly) chided me after Saturday’s loss to Rogers. Standing next to Whisler was Rogers A.D. Paul Gustafson, who also knows how to stick in the needle. Being sure Whisler could hear him, Gustafson said to me, “Well, John, we’ll see you back here next week!”

--Hutchinson won the Class A state team championship in girls' swimming and diving at the U of M Aquatics Center. The top five: 1. Hutchinson 213; 2. Monticello 205; 3. Sartell-St. Stephen 191; 4. Breck School 154; 5. Northfield 140. In the photo below is Cretin-Derham Hall's Kiera Janzen, who won the Class AA 200 freestyle for the third year in a row.

--Holy Family kicked off three times to open Saturday’s 3A football semifinal game against DeLaSalle, with the first two sailing out of bounds. The Fire wanted to keep the ball away from DeLaSalle speedster Reggie Gandy. He rushed 36 times for 274 yards but Holy Family defeated the Islanders 35-29.

--I had a mini reunion Saturday with a fellow I had not seen in a few months. I was wearing a jacket with the MSHSL logo on it, to which he said, “How much of my tax money is paying for that jacket?” Please, people, I know it is confusing when the name of the organization begins with “Minnesota State …” But the MSHSL is not a state agency, is not affiliated with government and receives no state funding. We apologize for the confusion.

--I had the pleasure of chatting with my friends Steve Thomson and Eric Nelson on WCCO AM 830 Saturday afternoon. I’ll go on AM 1500 ESPN on Sunday around 10:40 a.m., talking football, Diet Coke Counts and other related matters of great importance.

--Text message sent by my son who is a graduate student at Arizona State: “What’s the Diet Coke Count record for a single day at a state tournament?” (I will have to check the archives for that record; it’s probably around nine or 10.) Then he had to taunt his father by adding this: “71 degrees here today.” At the exact same time, this weather warning appeared on my cell phone: “Freezing rain advisory.” Grumble, grumble.

--Diet Coke Count: 8.



The Great Diet Coke Mystery Has Been Solved
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/20/2010 2:25:45 PM

Referring to an earlier post from today … the following dispatch has landed in my email depository:

“John,
I tried to get you a Diet Dew last night. I wasn't wrestled to the ground but that guard lady wasn't budging. I looked for you from both sides but didn't find you. That's when I went to the door from the hallway. Sorry I missed you.
Gary Hildebrandt
Mountain Lake”

Gary is a good guy, coach and administrator whom I have known for years in my travels around the Minnesota prep world. I am not worthy of such respect from such a guy as Gary.

But this is the Diet Coke Count monster I have created. It has taken on a life of its own …and it makes for great stories.

--Diet Coke Count: 5.



A Prep Bowl With No Hyphens? It Can't Happen
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/20/2010 1:40:03 PM

(Amending earlier post: The MSHSL Media Specialist has learned that Totino-Grace, which will play in the 4A Prep Bowl, includes a hyphen. Kindly disregard the key point raised in this posting...)

As the state football tournament has evolved, one fact is rising to the fore: If Triton defeats Eden Valley-Watkins in today's Class 2A semifinal game, we will have a hyphen-free Prep Bowl.

It’s up to you, Eden Valley-Watkins Eagles. It’s all on your strong shoulders to hold up the glory of the hyphen for all your brothers-in-hyphenated-arms out there across our great state. Think about Ada-Borup and Alden-Conger, Babbitt-Embarrass and Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, Plainview-Elgin-Millville and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and all the other hyphenated schools.

--Two games have been completed here at the Metrodome. Cromwell beat Underwood 18-12 in Nine-Man and New Ulm Cathedral beat defending champion Minneota 34-33 in Class 1A. Right now, Rogers and Mahtomedi are on the field in the 4A semifinals.

--1A is getting high marks for scoring lots of points. A total of 146 points was put on the board in the two semifinal games.

--In the Never Give Up Division, we present the Cromwell Cardinals. They had a record of 2-4 six weeks into the season, but now they have strung together six consecutive victories and will meet Lanesboro (11-2) in the Prep Bowl next week for the Nine-Man state championship.

Lanesboro followed a similar theme, losing the first two games of the season before turning things around. Nine-Man football always provides good stories

--The pep band song that will be hard to top: New Ulm Cathedral’s version of “Phantom of the Opera.”

--Season’s Worst Handshake: Having spent time on the practice field in Minneota during the preseason and attending the Vikings’ season opener at Adrian, I have come to know coach Chad Johnston. As he walked off the field at halftime, we met briefly. I totally botched the handshake, extending a fist for a knuckle bump while Chad went with the traditional handshake. My bad, coach.

--I mentioned the cadre of ball boys at the Dome on Friday. Saturday saw the addition of ball girls. Great job, girls.

--Diet Coke Count: 3.



The Great Diet Coke Mystery
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/20/2010 10:30:41 AM

I learned this morning that during Friday’s games, someone without the proper credentials attempted to get into the press box and was stopped – if not wrestled to the ground – by security. The person’s mission, from what I was told, was to deliver a Diet Coke to me. Wonderful thought. Many thanks. But there’s no need to slip past security. It’s easier to walk around to the front of the press box and hand it to me. I will drink it with great gusto.

--Speaking of which … Diet Coke Count: 1.

--Sign in the Underwood crowd: “Fire Childress. Hire Ross.” Yes, the Underwood coach’s name is Chuck Ross.

--Cromwell defeated Underwood 18-12 in today's Nine-Man lid-lifter. No. 2 on the docket is Minneota vs. New Ulm Cathedral in Class 1A.



Back At The Metrodome, Choosing Football Over Sleep
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/20/2010 8:03:13 AM

Good morning once again from the press box in the big blue room. We’re under way on Day Two of the state football semifinals. I left the dome at 11:15 last night and walked back in at 7:35 this morning. In between was half an hour of driving to get home, a few minutes of sleep and another half an hour of driving to get back downtown. As my dear sweet wife once told me, “You can sleep when you’re dead.”

The first game of the day just began, with Cromwell meeting Underwood in a Nine-Man contest. Both schools are from the northern regions of the state. Game two will be a meeting of southern schools: New Ulm Cathedral vs. Minneota in Class 1A.

--With Rosemount’s 28-14 win over Brainerd on Friday in the Class 5A semifinals, a trend of metro schools playing for the big-school title continued. Mounds View and Wayzata will meet tonight in the other 5A semifinal, assuring that two metro schools will face off in the Prep Bowl next Friday.

The last time a non-metro team won the large-school state football title was in 1987, when Moorhead defeated Winona 13-7 in the championship game. The last time a non-metro team played in the big-school title game was 1995, when Rochester Mayo lost to Stillwater 31-7.

--Diet Coke Count: Zero (let’s see how long that lasts…)



Ending The Day With A Great Big Number: 17,000
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2010 9:16:14 PM

The biggest number from today’s football show at the Metrodome has little to do with yards and points. It’s a number that means eyeballs.

Grandstadium.tv, the MSHSL partner which is webcasting the state semifinals as well as next week’s Prep Bowl, had a big, big Friday. Even before the final game of the day began, 17,000 viewers from 23 countries and 47 states had tuned into the webcast. To quote one of the Grandstadium staff members, “We’re crushing last year’s statistics. It’s fun.” The address is www.grandstadium.tv

--Catching up: Caledonia beat Ottertail Central 55-7 in the Class 2A game and Rosemount leads Brainerd 7-0 in the first half of the 5A game that will end our day at the dome. (Updates from the 5A game can be found on Facebook and Twitter.)

--Haircuts of the day: Caledonia players (right) with what could only be called blond Mohawks.

--Best surprise meeting: When I heard a voice calling my name from the stands, I looked up and saw my friend Mark Kroulik, the former coach at Stephen-Argyle. This was Mark’s first season away from the game and he looks great. The only downside was that his wife Beth didn’t make the trip, too.

--Can any team top the number of fan buses that came to town from Brainerd? The Warriors had 16 of ‘em. More than 700 Brainerd students bought their game tickets before leaving town.

--Referring to today’s earlier mention of Friday’s debut of the new Harry Potter movie, this Twitter message was filed by my college sophomore daughter this evening: “Going to see #hp again!” Doesn’t surprise me one bit.

--Diet Coke Count: 7.

--And now we rest. We’ll kick off another six-game lineup at 8 a.m. Saturday. See you soon …



Lourdes Impressive In 3A Victory Over Albany
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2010 6:36:35 PM

The best word to describe Rochester Lourdes’ 22-7 victory over Albany in the Class 3A football semifinals? Workmanlike. The Eagles were methodical and impressive in advancing to the Prep Bowl.

Adam Lentz scored two touchdowns and rushed 33 times for 250 yards, and he was one strong weapon for Lourdes. The Eagles outgained Albany 336-141 and were aided by two Albany turnovers.

--Time check: The 3A game was the quickest of the day, lasting 2 hours, 5 minutes. The 2A game between Caledonia and Ottertail Central kicked off at 6:38, moving us a little closer to schedule. The scheduled start time for that game was 5:45.

--Quote of the day/ Brainerd coach Ron Stolski, talking about his team’s fan support a few hours before the Warriors’ 5A game against Rosemount: “I don’t know how many buses are coming. A billion?”

--The Brainerd team did some pregame stretching and warming up at the Vikings’ practice facility in Eden Prairie. More than a few people in the press box pondered the question of whether that may result in some bad mojo.

--*Diet Coke Count: 7. (*once again, this includes the consumption of Diet Pepsi and Diet Mountain Dew. Legally, I think I have to say that.)



Best Game Of The Day (And The Fastest)
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2010 4:59:35 PM

Today’s Class 4A semifinal football game between Totino-Grace and St. Thomas Academy was played in 2 hours and 12 minutes. That’s not nearly as important as the score – Totino-Grace 28, St. Thomas Academy 21 – but it was a good trend after the first two games went longer than that. Trying to squeeze six games into one day can be, shall we say, a challenge.

The 4A game great fun to watch. Totino-Grace locked up the win with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and the individual star for the Eagles was senior Nick Frandsen. He caught two touchdown passes from Alex Kreuser and rushed 18 times for 11 yards, but his biggest play may have come on defense.

Frandsen intercepted a pass at the Cadets 26, and three players later he caught a 24-yard tipped touchdown pass to put the Eagles ahead 28-21 with 5:42 left.

--As I write this, Rochester Lourdes leads Albany 13-7 in the second quarter of the Class 3A semifinals.

--Today's ball boys come from Osseo, Anoka, Minnetonka and Watertown-Mayer. Good job, kids!

*Diet Coke Count: 6. (*this includes the consumption of Diet Pepsi and Diet Mountain Dew. Legally, I think I have to say that.)



One Thousand Yards And One Harry Potter Fan
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2010 2:07:05 PM

In the second game of the day at the Metrodome, Barnesville defeated Goodhue 49-30 in what could easily be termed a track meet. The teams not only combined for 79 points, but they also accumulated 1,073 yards.

Barnesville had 527 yards and Goodhue had 546. But here’s the odd thing: Goodhue ran a total of 96 offensive plays to only 39 for Barnesville. That’s a pretty good indication that the Barnesville Trojans had their track shoes on.

Barnesville averaged 13.5 yards play to Goodhue’s 5.7. The Trojans had scoring plays of 29, 82, 74, 9, 54, 95 and 26 yards. Barnesville ran for 460 yards and Goodhue passed for 386. Barnesville led 21-7 after one quarter and it was basically a trade-off of long plays after that.

Adam Rice had 198 rushing yards and Zach Hochhalter 161 for the Trojans. Goodhue’s Brandon Dowden completed 22 of 43 passes for 386 yards with two interceptions.

Barnesville will play in next week’s Prep Bowl against the winner of Saturday’s game between Minneota and New Ulm Cathedral.
TIDBITS AFTER TWO GAMES

--I was asked to do a halftime interview during the 1A game, talking to a member of the student crew from www.grandstadium.tv, which webcasts the games. The interviewer was Kathleen Gamble, a senior at Rosemount High School. She did a great job, asking me about the MSHSL Student Sports Information program and assorted John’s Journal/Facebook/Twitter business.

When I asked Kathleen (that's us in the photo) if she would be in the dome for tonight’s Rosemount-Brainerd Class 5A game, she said no. She explained that today is opening day for the new Harry Potter movie. I understand completely.

--Barnesville fans pulled off a neat change on a large, professionally made sign that hung in front of their seats. It originally read, “Home of the Trojans.” But using some duct-tape technology, the “H” was transformed into a “D.” Very nice.

--Game time updates: The Class 1A contest lasted 2 hours, 32 minutes. Class 1A lasted 2:39. Not a good trend.

*Diet Coke Count: 4.5. (*this includes the consumption of Diet Pepsi and Diet Mountain Dew. There … all the bases have been covered.)



Nine-Man: Lanesboro Beats Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke 34-26
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2010 11:25:54 AM

We began the day of football semifinals in grand style, with Lanesboro holding off Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke 34-36 to advance to next week’s Prep Bowl. The only downside to the day’s first game was that it lasted more than two and a half hours, pushing the start of the second game back about half an hour past the scheduled kickoff time. We’ll see how the schedule plays out the rest of the day.

The statistics don’t exactly tell the story of this game. Goodridge's Dillon Olson ran 43 times for 280 yards and Goodridge had 427 total yards to Lanesboro’s 309. In possession time, Goodridge held the ball for 31 minutes, 22 seconds to 16:38 for Lanesboro. The Burros lost two fumbles to one for the Blue Devils.

But Lanesboro scored on four consecutive possessions in the middle of the game and used two defensive stops to win the game. The Burros stopped Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke at the 1 on the Blue Devils’ opening drive, and Jake Reed intercepted a pass inside the 10 to end Goodridge’s final drive of the game.

Here’s a recap of the day so far …

MOST EXCITING PLAY …
A 67-yard TD pass from Lanesboro’s Braden Hanson to Lucas Johnson.

MOST EXCITING PLAY THAT DIDN’T COUNT …
Long, back-and-forth, zigging-and-zagging run by Goodridge’s Hanson. But … offsetting penalties nullified the play.

BEST NICKNAME …
Lanesboro Burros. Obviously.

NEATEST UNIFORM TOUCH …
Again it’s Lanesboro, with a little set of horse shoes (donkey shoes?) imprinted on their pants.

BEST THROWBACKS …
Straight-ahead kickers in the Nine-Man game.

BEST CHAIN GANG …
The crew for the Nine-Man and1A games. They hail from Hopkins High School, and they are so into their job that they have their own newsletter, called “Pull It Tight.”

BEST COMPLIMENT …
The athletic director from a Class 5A metro school, standing on the sideline during the Nine-Man game, said, “Some of these guys could play for us.”

MIXED MESSAGES…
Lanesboro’s colors are orange and black but there was a smattering of orange caps in the Goodridge crowd … hunting caps.

PURPLE REIGN …
Class 1A teams Goodhue and Barnesville both wear purple. When I saw three ladies wearing big floppy purple hats, I wasn’t sure who they were cheering for.

*Diet Coke Count: 2.5. (*this includes the consumption of Diet Pepsi and Diet Mountain Dew. Thank you.)



State Football Semifinals Are Under Way
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2010 8:10:36 AM

Good morning from the Metrodome, where the annual two-day extravaganza of state football semifinals is off and running. The teams from Lanesboro and Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke have opened today’s six-game slate with a Nine-Man semifinal game.

Both teams are backed by enthusiastic crowds. Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke’s last trip to the state playoffs came in 1991, and the Blue Devils have a large following this morning. Lanesboro is the early leader in the contest for the best nickname. They are, of course, the Burros, which might be darn hard to beat as we go through games today and Saturday.

My alarm rattled my brain at 6:30 this morning, I entered the Dome through the loading dock at 7:43 and posted the day’s first online updates on Facebook and Twitter at 7:57.

Let’s see how the day plays out …



Getting Primed For Two Days Of Indoor Football
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/18/2010 4:18:53 PM

It's not football 24/7, but the state semifinals provide us with almost-dusk to dawn (and beyond) football for two days inside the Metrodome. The extravaganza begins at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

I'll be parked in the Dome for all 12 games, providing instant updates from every game on Facebook and Twitter and posting my thoughts, opinions and the world-famous Diet Coke Count right here on the Journal. Speaking of the Count, here's what I wrote earlier in the week about this highly controverisal subject:

"We have an issue here. The Metrodome, once a Coke-only facility, is now Pepsi-only. Pepsi also produces Diet Mountain Dew, which is actually the old scribe’s No. 1 choice, even over the beloved Diet Coke. With the state semifinals and Prep Bowl coming up over the next two weekends, do I begin a Diet Mountain Dew count? Or is that a slap in the face to the tradition-laden Diet Coke Count? I’ll be pondering this heavy question in the days to come, and feel free to offer input via the email address at the top of this post."

Diet Cokes aside, here's the schedule for the semifinals...

State Football Semifinal Schedule
Friday’s Games
8 a.m.: Nine-Man/ Lanesboro (10-2) vs. Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke (12-0)
10:15 a.m.: Class 1A/ Goodhue (9-3) vs. Barnesville (12-0)
12:45p.m.: Class 4A/ St. Thomas Academy (11-0) vs. Totino-Grace (10-1)
3:15 p.m.: Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (12-0) vs. Albany (12-0)
5:45 p.m.: Class 2A/ Caledonia (12-0) vs. Ottertail Central (12-0)
8:15 p.m.: Class 5A/ Rosemount (11-0) vs. Brainerd (11-0)

Saturday’s Games
8 a.m.: Nine-Man/ Underwood (10-2) vs. Cromwell (7-4)
10:15 a.m.: Class 1A/ New Ulm Cathedral (11-1) vs. Minneota (11-1)
12:45p.m.: Class 4A/ Mahtomedi (10-2) vs. Rogers (11-0)
3:15 p.m.: Class 3A/ DeLaSalle (11-1) vs. Holy Family (12-0)
5:45 p.m.: Class 2A/ Triton (12-0) vs. Eden Valley-Watkins (12-0)
8:15 p.m.: Class 5A/ Mounds View (11-1) vs. Wayzata (9-0)



Can't Get To The Metrodome? You Can Still Watch The Games
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/18/2010 12:39:48 PM

Reminder: If you're unable to watch the state semifinal football games in person on Friday and Saturday, you can see them on the nearest computer screen for free

All the semifinal games can be seen live via webcast on 45.grandstadium.tv. The Prep Bowl can be seen live on KSTC-45 or 45.grandstadium.tv




DeLaSalle's Gandy Runs And Runs And Runs Some More
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/17/2010 2:57:09 PM

The question made DeLaSalle football coach Sean McMenomy smile. He sat back in his chair inside the coaches office at the downtown Minneapolis school and pondered an answer to this query: If you’re a defensive coach, how do you stop Reggie Gandy?

“Defending him? You’ve got to take care of your gaps and kind of bottle him up, I guess,” he said.

Guesswork is probably as good a strategy as just about anything else that teams have attempted against Gandy, who will lead the Islanders into the Class 3A state semifinals against Holy Family on Saturday at the Metrodome. Gandy is the kind of runner who causes nightmares for defensive coordinators and headaches for statisticians.

The 5-foot-11, 187-pound senior has rushed 278 times for 2,839 yards (an average of more than 10 yard per carry) and 38 touchdowns. His longest run of the season was a 77-yard touchdown burst against LeSueur-Henderson in DeLaSalle’s 44-0 quarterfinal victory on Monday at the Metrodome.

Gandy rushed 21 times for 233 yards and five touchdowns (one of them is pictured at right) in that game. That was a pretty nice way to become acclimated to indoor football, leading to what the Islanders hope is a state title.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Gandy said. “We’re just kind of living for the moment and enjoying it.”

Saturday’s game could turn into a fireworks show because Holy Family also likes to move up and down the field. The No. 2 rusher in the state is Fire senior quarterback Jeff Soule with 1,953 yards; he also has passed for 1,353 yards.

DeLaSalle has scored an average of almost 48 points this fall (ranking second in the state to Class 1A Minneota’s 49), while giving up an average of 16. Holy Family’s average score is 44-15.

“Holy Family has been putting up big numbers and they’re a great team,” McMenomy said. “I’m OK with a basketball score; that’s my style and I have more fun with that vs. a 3-0 game. It’s two great teams. They’re undefeated and they have a lot of confidence.”

DeLaSalle has not lost since opening the season with a 30-27 defeat to St. Anthony Village. Gandy ran for 91 yards in that game but exploded a week later in a 48-40 shootout with Concordia Academy; he carried 43 times for 359 yards and six touchdowns. Since then, his single-game rushing totals read like the weights of a team of sumo wrestlers: 358, 381, 412, 355, etc.

“He’s really intelligent so he understands the game, he understands the nuances of why things happen and he reads defenses very well,” McMenomy said. “Physically, he’s always in the weight room (where he bench-presses 335 pounds and squats 615).”

Gandy has received scholarship offers from Northern Iowa and North Dakota. He plans to take official visits after the football season, saying “I’m just kind of holding out on it so I won’t get off track on what our goals are.” He had planned to take a visit on Dec. 19, but that’s the date of the Mr. Football banquet; he is one of 10 finalists for that award.

Gandy, along with his older brother Greg and younger brother GeVelve, has survived a challenging home life.

“His mom kind of left under some circumstances about 10 years ago, and probably about seven years ago their father died of cancer,” McMenomy said. “The three of them were taken in by an aunt, their dad’s sister. They’ve lived in two- or three-bedroom houses with nine or 12 people in them. For those guys to grow and be successful is a great thing.

“Reggie has a 3.1 GPA, got a 25 on the ACT and he’s a team captain. Everyone has fallen in love with him. He’s a role model, an ambassador for the honors program. He’s kind of been the rock for the family.”

Greg Gandy is a student at Minnesota Community and Technical College and GeVelve is a sophomore defensive back for the Islanders. Reggie transferred from Minneapolis Southwest to DeLaSalle when McMenomy made the same move two years ago. McMenomy, a Rosemount native who played for coach Jim Wacker at Minnesota, has known Reggie since he was a seventh-grader.

“He’s a great coach in general, but we all think he’s amazing and he’s probably the funniest guy around, that’s for sure,” Gandy said of McMenomy. “He always finds a way to lighten the mood or make it a little more intense, which always helps. He sometimes jumps in a jersey, too, and acts like he’s 18 years old. It doesn’t always work out for him but it’s fun to watch.”

Last season, Gandy was DeLaSalle’s No. 2 rusher behind Evan Williams. Williams carried 186 times for 2,201 yards and 31 TDS, while Gandy had 137 rushes for 1,340 yards and 24 touchdowns.

“Evan was a sprinter and he’d sprint around the edge,” McMenomy said. “Reggie likes contact, he likes being physical and he likes running over people.”

This season, the Islanders’ offense is multi-dimensional. Quarterback Tyler Harper is a 58-percent passer who has thrown for 1,735 yards (ranking 15th in the state) and 21 touchdowns. Harper also has rushed for 662 yards, while Dio Zafke-Varela, Aaron Warren and Chris Williams all have run for more than 200 yards. Ross Barker has caught 25 passes for 840 yards (No. 6 in the state) and 10 touchdowns, and Williams has 20 catches for 335 yards.

But everything revolves around Gandy, who has made opposing coaches fret all season. And now that the postseason is in full swing, the awards are rolling in. In addition to being a Mr. Football finalist, Gandy also has been named a first-team all-metro selection by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“That’s nice,” he said. “But it’s not our ultimate goal.”

Sleep well, defensive coordinators.



Hall of Fame Tracy Coach Dies At 89
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/17/2010 1:19:08 PM

Here's a story about legendary Minnesota coach Leo "Gabby" Sebastion from the Tracy Headlight Herald:

One of Tracy High School's most beloved post-World War II-era teachers and coaches has died.

Leo “Gabby” Sebastian died Friday in Omaha, Nebraska, at the age of 89. Funeral services are planned Saturday at Tracy Lutheran Church.

“He was an icon,” said Charlie Knott (THS Class of 1968), who played on Sebastian’s undefeated 1968 football team. “Everyone loved and respected the guy.” In turn, Knott said, Sebastian was known as someone “who would do anything” to help his athletes and students.

An ex-Marine who served in the Pacific during World War II, Sebastian came to Tracy in 1947, after accepting a job as a high school history and social studies teacher. Coaching football and basketball were among his extra-curricular assignments.

Inheriting a football program that hadn’t won a game in 1946, Sebastian’s teams initially struggled. In his first season, Tracy gridders won only two games and lost five. But in 1948, the squad was 4-2-1, setting the stage for a dominant Scrapper football program over the next two decades. When Sebastian stepped down as Scrapper football coach in 1970, his teams had compiled a 23-year record of 108-61-10. Three times (1953, 1963, 1968) Sebastian-coached teams went undefeated.

Sebastian continued to serve as THS’s athletic director in the 1970s and retired from teaching in 1982. The Luther College graduate was inducted into his school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1977, and into the Minnesota State High School Football Association’s Hall of Fame the same year. Tracy’s “swimming pool park,” where the high school football field had been located until 1979, was named in his honor in 1989.

Visitation for Sebastian is planned Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Almlie Funeral Home. A. Funeral services at Tracy Lutheran will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by internment at Tracy Cemetery.



Coming Soon: Catch Him If You Can
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2010 10:37:13 PM

I conducted interviews Tuesday afternoon in researching a story that will be posted here on the Journal at some point Wednesday.

The story is about the most dynamic high school football player in Minnesota, someone whose team will play in this weekend's state semifinals at the Metrodome. The young man has a truly interesting background and a very bright future.

It's fun to watch him on the field, and it's just as much fun to spend some time with him.

Stay tuned ...



A Close Game, A Not-So-Close Game And Football Marches On
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/15/2010 8:41:31 PM

Monday’s snowstorm-induced football doubleheader at the Metrodome provided one close game and one not-so-close game, but you can bet your favorite scoop shovel that all the players and fans – not to mention media members – were happy to be indoors for the two state quarterfinal games. Both games were postponed at south-suburban sites due to Saturday’s snow.

One of the first comments I heard from the crowd before the first game was this: “Isn’t it great to get out of school?” You would expect that those words came from a student, but no, they were spoken by an adult. A teacher or school staff member, I assume, who was apparently blessed with the gift of complete honesty.

Give credit to the Metrodome crew for making the site ready for football, on the heels of a monster truck show over the weekend. Tons of dirt were removed from the playing surface, leaving the slightest dusty haze in the dome when Monday’s games began.

The first game was a Class 2A contest between unbeaten Triton and twice-beaten Maple Lake (right photo). Triton was the favorite, considering the Cobras’ perfect record and last week’s victory over defending state champion Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.

Triton is a state tourney veteran, too, while Maple Lake was making its first trip to state. The Irish came into the game with a 9-2 record, making one think they would face an uphill battle against Triton.

One would be wrong. Triton had to work mighty hard to defeat the Irish 28-21 and give Cobras coach Don Henderson his 200th career victory against 62 defeats in 24 years. Maple Lake was inside the Triton 20 with less than three minutes to play, but couldn’t convert on fourth down from the 19.

The second game, a 3A quarterfinal, went more according to expectations. DeLaSalle came in riding a 10-1 record behind a high-powered offense, facing a LeSueur-Henderson team that was 4-4 in the regular season before getting hot as the fifth seed in Section 2.

The Islanders’ Reggie Gandy (left), who had rushed 257 times for 2,606 yards and 33 touchdowns, had three scores before the second quarter was three minutes old. A field goal made the score 23-0 before the Giants mounted a threat. But LeSueur-Henderson was stopped on fourth down at the DeLaSalle 1 late in the first half. After that, it was all Gandy all the time. His fifth touchdown of the game put the Islanders ahead 37-0 in the third quarter. The final was 44-0.

Other Tidbits from the Dome …

--As veteran stadium announcer Dave Giles checked the pronunciations of some DeLaSalle players’ names with coach Sean McMenomy before the game, he delved into the past. Giles reminded McMenomy that he had been the announcer when McMenomy was a high school player at Rosemount.

--Diet Coke Count: Zero. We have an issue here. The Metrodome, once a Coke-only facility, is now Pepsi-only. Pepsi also produces Diet Mountain Dew, which is actually the old scribe’s No. 1 choice, even over the beloved Diet Coke. I consumed one Diet Dew at the Dome, but with the state semifinals and Prep Bowl coming up over the next two weekends, do I begin a Diet Mountain Dew count? Or is that a slap in the face to the tradition-laden Diet Coke Count? I’ll be pondering this heavy question in the days to come, and feel free to offer input via the email address at the top of this post.

It’s a real dilemma…



Live From The Metrodome: Today's State Football Doubleheader
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/15/2010 10:03:07 AM

We'll get an early taste of indoor football today when two state quarterfinal games are held at the Metrodome.

Both games were postponed on Saturday because of the weather. In a Class 2A game, Triton and Maple Lake were originally scheduled to play at Lakeville North. In 3A, DeLaSalle and LeSueur-Henderson had been scheduled at Farmington.

Here is today's Metrodome schedule ...

--4 p.m.: Triton (11-0) vs. Maple Lake (9-2).

--7 p.m.: DeLaSalle (10-1) vs. LeSueur-Henderson (7-4)

I'll be inside the big blue room for both games, posting updates on Facebook and Twitter and posting some photos, too.

We'll return to the Dome on Friday and Saturday for the state semifinals in all six classes. Those will be long days of football, with the Nine-Man semifinals starting at 8 a.m. each day and the Class 5A games scheduled for 8:15 p.m. starts.

In addition, this week also will see the girls' state swimming and diving championships at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as the state adapted soccer tournament on Friday and Saturday at Stillwater High School.

Have a great week!




Wadena-Deer Creek Volleyball: An Unforgettable Story
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/13/2010 6:51:19 PM

After the volleyball team from Wadena-Deer Creek finished a dream season that helped its town recover from a nightmare event, I talked with senior Courtney Volkmann in a quiet corridor outside the Wolverines’ locker room at Xcel Energy Center.

A tornado that knocks down your family’s home and farm, your high school and plenty of other structures is one thing. Volleyball is an athletic activity and I won’t try to tell anyone that playing volleyball can heal a community. But after spending some time in Wadena earlier in the week, and then watching the Wolverines and their families and fans at the tournament in St. Paul, you will never convince me that school activities don’t mean something. Especially after what Wadena has been through.

The Volkmanns – Courtney is the daughter of coach Sue Volkmann – lost almost everything in last summer’s tornado. And when I asked Courtney what this all means to her … the tornado, the recovery, the volleyball season, the state championship … she hesitated for a few seconds.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Courtney (that's her with the big smile in the above photo) she finally said. “After the tornado our priorities came first and volleyball was pushed aside. But then we came out to play the game we love.”

There it is. Playing the games we love means something. It’s not only the winning or losing, the practices and the bus trips, the tears and the cheers. It’s being together, sharing the experience, making memories and pulling everyone else along for the ride.

That’s why folks at Wadena-Deer Creek packed the elementary school gym where the Wolverines played their home volleyball matches. It’s community. And the Wolverines epitomized that during a 2010 season which they finished as Class 2A state champs and the only undefeated team in Minnesota.

“It’s amazing,” said another senior, Kelsi Crawford. “We’ve been a team the entire year and we stayed a team through it all.”

It’s truly an amazing, unforgettable story.

THE OTHER WINNERS Saturday at Xcel Energy Center were Wabasha-Kellogg in Class 1A and Lakeville North in 3A. For all three teams, it was the first state volleyball title in school history.

Lakeville North’s celebration centered around head coach Milan Mader (left), who had taken 14 previous teams to state but had never won a championship, finishing second five times. Mader is in his 35th season as a head and he ranks behind only Hibbing’s Gail Nucech in career victories.

AND THIS STORY was told to me …

During the Saturday morning consolation matches, a few of the Minnesota Wild players came to the area for treatment, etc. Some high school volleyball players saw some of the professional hockey players outside the Wild locker room. One of the girls asked one of the hockey players if she could have his autograph, and the Wild player replied by saying, “You’re playing in the state tournament. I should ask you for your autograph.” Classy.

REPEATING THE EARLIER bulletin from today ...

The football playoff games postponed because of Saturday's weather will be played Monday at the Metrodome.

Triton vs. Maple Lake in Class 2A will meet at 4 p.m. and LeSueur-Henderson vs. DeLaSalle in Class 3A will play at 7 p.m.

It’s a darn safe bet that I’ll be there for Monday’s games, with immediate updates on Facebook and Twitter.

--To see a full array of photos from Saturday’s volleyball action, including championship team photos and the Wells Fargo all-tournament teams, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke count: two for the day, 11 for the tournament.

Let’s all take a day off.



Football Update: Two Games At The Metrodome On Monday
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/13/2010 3:27:16 PM

Bulletin ...

The football playoff games postponed because of Saturday's weather will be played Monday at the Metrodome.

Triton vs. Maple Lake in Class 2A will meet at 4 p.m. and LeSueur-Henderson vs. DeLaSalle in Class 3A will play at 7 p.m.



A Snowy, Slippery Day For Volleyball And (Some) Football
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/13/2010 2:27:20 PM

Saturday. Big day. Snowy day. Slushy day. Both-hands-on-the-wheel kind of day.

Once me and my snowblower had completed the season opener, I drove to the Xcel Energy Center for volleyball’s Championship Saturday. Didn’t see one snowplow en route, but saw cars in the ditch and cars fishtailing as they hit slick sports. What fun.

Help me out here: On Tuesday it was me and my lawnmower working in the yard. And Saturday was snowblower time? I just do not understand.

Speaking of the weather, if you peeked at the Journal earlier today you saw the news that two football state quarterfinals were postponed today due to the snow/ice/slush. The Class 2A game between Maple Lake and Triton at Lakeville North and the 3A game between DeLaSalle and LeSueur-Henderson at Farmington will be played Monday, sites and times to be determined.

The best places for immediate information on such things as postponed games and playoff results are the MSHSL Facebook page (now proud home of more than 1,500 Friends!) and @MSHSLjohn on Twitter. The news flows fast and furious in those two spots.

Here at Volleyball Central, we are working our way through fifth-, third- and first-place matches.

Today's results at this point …

--In Class 1A, Wabasha-Kellogg leads Martin County West two games to none in the title match, Minneota beat Mayer Lutheran 3-2 for third place and Win-E-Mac beat Belgrade 3-1 to finish fifth.

--In 2A, Visitation beat Marshall 3-1 to finish fifth and Stewartville beat Sauk Centre 3-0 to finish third. The upcoming title game is between Wadena-Deer Creek and Hutchinson.

--In 3A, East Ridge beat Andover 3-1 to place fifth and Centennial will meet Waconia in the upcoming fifth-place game. In the finals, it will be Lakeville North vs. Wayzata.

--Diet Coke count: one for the day, 10 for the tournament.

More to come…



WEATHER ALERT: Two Saturday Football Games Postponed
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/13/2010 1:26:53 PM

Today's snow has forced some changes to the Saturday schedule of football playoff games.

Here's the update ...

--Today's Class 2A game at Lakeville North between Maple Lake and Triton will be played Monday at a site and time to be determined.

--Same plan for today's 3A game at Farmington between DeLaSalle and LeSueur-Henderson. It has been postponed until Monday, with the site and time to be determined.

All other football games today will be played as currently scheduled.

And the state volleyball tournament is safe and warm inside the Xcel Energy Center.

Updates to come ...



John’s Journal Makes It Big … Behind Bars?
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/12/2010 4:09:00 PM

You know you have made the big time when your Twitter messages are being read by people who work – and are housed? – in American jails. That’s one thing I learned during semifinal day at the state volleyball tournament.

I was doing what I normally do during Friday’s action at the Xcel Energy Center: watching some great volleyball, chatting with my buddies in the press/coaching/officiating corps, sipping Diet Coke, never seeing daylight (or darkness for that matter), jotting down notes for the next edition of John’s Journal and sending out updates to the non-Xcel Center world via Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s some “inside Twitter” talk: When someone else with a Twitter account forwards one of my Tweets, my computer screen lets me know. Well, today my computer screen told me that my Tweets were being re-tweeted by the Twitter account @USJails.

I also learned via these Twitter dispatches that I can “check out http://martincountyjail.info/ for #mugshots.” Uh, no thanks. But I do now know that my Tweeted updates from the Class 1A semifinal match between Martin County West and Minneota were being forwarded to everyone who subscribes to the Tweets from the Martin County Jail. I am honored … I think.

ON THE VOLLEYBALL front, Martin County West’s 3-2 victory over Minneota was the best match of the tournament so far. It was not only the first one to go past four games, but it also provided the spectators with the greatest comeback of the week.

Martin County West lost the first two games before rallying with three victories, including a 16-14 decision in the fifth set. It was pure bedlam inside the Xcel Center during the fifth game, and the winning point set off a wild celebration by the Martin County West Mavericks. (You can see it on video; go to the MSHSL Facebook page. There are lots of photos there, too.)

Martin County West will meet Wabasha-Kellogg in Saturday’s state championship match.

We also had a 3-2 decision in Class 2A later Friday, with Hutchinson hanging on to beat Stewartville. The Tigers will meet Wadena-Deer Creek in Saturday's title match. In the 3A championship match, it will be Lakeville North vs. Wayzata.

Here are some other assorted thoughts and sights from Volleyball’s Day Two …

--My head was tested by a flying volleyball on Thursday, and on Friday it was my computer’s turn. Minneota was warming up, I was sitting at courtside (I should know better), and a ball came out of the sky and landed right on my keyboard. It didn’t seem to cause any damage, because everything I have typed since then has %&^^&*(((_)))_(*%$$^^$UYFGHBY% (just kidding).

--Royce Murra from KBEW radio in Blue Earth was preparing to broadcast the Martin County West match, and he had the questionable fortune of sitting next to me. He needed guidance with the pronunciation of some of the Minneota player’s names. I was absolutely no help, but sitting on the other side of Royce was Byron Higgin of the Minneota Mascot. Byron rode to the rescue.

--I heard a vuvezela briefly during the morning part of the tournament, but then it disappeared. I assume it fell victim to the MSHSL’s no-noisemaker rule.

--Speaking of music, some of Friday’s highlights included the Wayzata band playing “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” from the Supremes (1966!), the Waconia band hitting Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” out of the park and the Martin County West band keeping things fresh with Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” It has been a dynamite day on the musical front.

--Diet Coke Count: four for the day, nine for the tournament.



Buckle Up For A Full Day Of Volleyball And Football
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/12/2010 10:30:02 AM

Good morning once again from courtside at Xcel Energy Center. This is the center of the Minnesota volleyball universe this weekend, but we will be a two-sport center of the universe today and Saturday. That’s because the state football playoffs kick into high gear with 17 games today and six more on Saturday.

The state football quarterfinals opened on Thursday night with one game; Rosemount defeated Lakeville South 24-14 in Class 5A. The Irish now advance to the Metrodome next week, where they will face the winner of tonight’s game between Brainerd and Eden Prairie.

The Journal will be heavy on volleyball most of today, but here’s the lineup of football games this weekend … and we’ll be posting score updates on volleyball as well as football all day on the MSHSL Facebook page and @MSHSLjohn on Twitter.

THURSDAY'S FOOTBALL RESULT
Class 5A
Rosemount 24, Lakeville South 14


FRIDAY'S FOOTBALL LINEUP
Nine-Man
Goodridge-Grygla (11-0) vs. Ada-Borup (9-1), Fargodome, 2 p.m.
Edgerton/Ellsworth (11-0) vs. Lanesboro (9-2), Southwest State, 6 p.m.

Class 1A
Mahnomen (11-0) vs. Barnesville (11-0), Fargodome, 5 p.m.
Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (6-4) vs. New Ulm Cathedral (10-1), Chaska, 7 p.m.
Adrian (9-2) vs. Goodhue (8-3), Southwest State, 8 p.m.

Class 2A
Moose Lake/Willow River (11-0) vs. Eden Valley-Watkins (11-0), St. Cloud State, 5 p.m.
Luverne (9-2) vs. Caledonia (11-0), Rochester Community College, 7 p.m.
Pelican Rapids (7-4) vs. Ottertail Central (11-0), Fargodome, 8 p.m.

Class 3A
Glencoe-Silver Lake (9-2) vs. Rochester Lourdes (11-1), Burnsville, 7 p.m.
Milaca (9-2) vs. Holy Family (11-0), Chisago Lakes, 7 p.m.

Class 4A
St. Thomas Academy (10-0) vs. Northfield (8-2), Lakeville North, 7 p.m.
Mahtomedi (9-2) vs. Mankato West (10-0), Chanhassen, 7 p.m.
Bemidji (8-1) vs. Rogers (10-0), Duluth Public School Stadium, 7 p.m.
Sauk Rapids-Rice (7-4) vs. Totino-Grace (9-1), St. Cloud State, 8 p.m.

Class 5A
Brainerd (10-0) vs. Eden Prairie (9-1), Maple Grove, 7 p.m.
Cretin-Derham Hall (10-1) vs. Mounds View (10-1), Griffin Stadium, St. Paul, 7 p.m.
Blaine (10-0) vs. Wayzata (8-0), Osseo, 7 p.m.


SATURDAY'S FOOTBALL LINEUP
Nine-Man
Underwood (9-2) vs. Nicollet (10-0), St. Cloud State, noon
Mountain Iron-Buhl (10-1) vs. Cromwell (6-4), Duluth Public School Stadium, noon

Class 1A
Barnum (9-1) vs. Minneota (10-1), St. Cloud State, 3 p.m.

Class 2A
Maple Lake (9-2) vs. Triton (11-0), Lakeville North, 6 p.m.

Class 3A
East Grand Forks (8-3) vs. Albany (11-0), St. Cloud State, 6 p.m.
DeLaSalle (10-1) vs. LeSueur-Henderson (7-4), Farmington, 6 p.m.



State Volleyball Tournament: Day One Is A Wrap
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/11/2010 11:50:44 AM

Here’s a brief summary of the opening day of the state volleyball tournament: 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, 3-0 (etc.), “Cleveland Rocks,” five Diet Cokes, two pretzels. And now, the details …

--Of the 12 matches held on Day One, 10 were 3-0 sweeps. No games went to five games and the only four-gamers were Mayer Lutheran’s victory over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and Sauk Centre’s win over defending state champ Marshall. That really helped keep things on schedule, which is never guaranteed.

--“Cleveland Rocks” was the tune of the day. We heard some exceptional pep bands, including the electrified and electrifying Ada-Borup rock & roll pep band (which was short a few musicians because they stayed home in order to not miss football practice). The Marshall band could probably get work entertaining deer hunters, considering that almost all of them wore blaze orange (it’s a school color, too). Kudos to the bands from Andover and Esko for hitting all the right notes on “Cleveland Rocks.”

--After several people asked me about the day’s Diet Coke count, I made an executive decision to reinstate the ever-popular DC Count. The DC: 5 for the day, 5 for the tournament.

--I also snuck in two pretzels – one cinnamon, one cheese. After all, you don’t stay in this kind of condition by eating nothing but fruits and vegetables.

--Here’s the Friday lineup for the Class 2A semifinals: Hutchinson vs. Stewartville at 5 pm. And Wadena-Deer Creek vs. Sauk Centre at 7 p.m.

--I drove up north to visit the Wadena-Deer Creek volleyball team earlier in the week, and the result was a in-depth story here on the Journal. Looks like the story unleashed a pretty strong media force when the Wolverines arrived in the Twin Cities. I chatted with coach Sue Volkmann before WDC’s quarterfinal match and she said they had been kept busy much of the day with interviews, as well as cameras following them wherever they went. Glad I could help spread the word.

That’s it for Day One. If you want to keep up with the volleyball tourney in real time (and see lots more photos), click on the MSHSL Facebook page as well as MSHSLjohn on Twitter.


5:15 P.M. UPDATE

We have made our way through the Class 1A volleyball semifinals, and this division also gave us the best match of the day so far.

With all four 3A matches and three in 1A decided by 3-0 scores, it appeared that a theme was developing. Then came Mayer Lutheran and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa. They split the first two games, ensuring at least a four-gamer. Mayer Lutheran came out on top in a very exciting contest, 27-25, 17-25, 25-22, 26-24.

So Friday’s 1A semifinals look like this: Minneota vs. Martin County West at 1 p.m. and Wabasha-Kellogg vs. Mayer Lutheran at 3 p.m.

The Class 2A quarterfinals have just begun on one court, with Hutchinson facing Visitation. Stewartville and Esko (great nickname, Eskomos) will start soon, and the final two matches of the day will pit Wadena-Deer Creek vs. Delano and Marshall vs. Sauk Centre.

More tidbits …

--Ada-Borup’s student buses left for St. Paul at 6:30 a.m. Thursday and headed back north right after the match. The Cougars will have a busy day on Friday, with the volleyball team playing in the consolation bracket in St. Paul at 1 p.m. and the football team meeting Goodridge-Grygla in the Nine-Man football state quarterfinals at the Fargodome at 2 p.m.

--Best costumed fans: several boys from Mayer Lutheran, who dressed as gorillas, a banana and cheerleaders (skirts and all).

--Another killer rendition of “Cleveland Rocks,” this time by the Esko band. And the Eskomos have the cleanest, whitest tuba you will ever see outside a clean, white tuba factory.

--Back by popular demand, the Diet Coke count: 4 for the day, 4 for the tournament.


1:35 UPDATE

The 3A semifinals are all set, with Friday’s matches looking like this: Lakeville North vs. Centennial at 9 a.m., Wayzata vs. Waconia at 11 a.m.

The Class 1A quarterfinals have begun here at the X. Minneota is leading Win-E-Mac 1-0 and Martin County West is ahead of Ada-Borup 1-0. The Ada-Borup rock & roll pep band is here with us, which is always a treat.

Also on hand is one of my youngest journalistic colleagues, Ada-Borup student Nick Wagner. Nick is one of the superstars of the MSHSL’s new Student Sports Information Directors program. He and his fellow student SIDs at Ada-Borup are posting great stories and photos on their website. To see their work, go to the top of this page, click on the “Schools” link and then click on “Ada-Borup.” It’s terrific stuff.

Two more vignettes from Day One:

--A player was looking for a place to throw away her gum before taking the court. She opened up the lid of what looked like a trash receptacle. Oops, it was a container filled with ice.

--Waconia students held up a series of handmade signs that read “BELIEVE.” After the Wildcats’ victory, they put down four letters and the newly rearranged sign read “LEE” … in honor of coach Jim Lee.

More to come …


11:50 A.M. POST ...

Hello from downtown St. Paul. I’m sitting courtside at Xcel Energy Center for the opening day of one of the most exciting events in our high school universe, the state volleyball tournament.

This is always high-flying fun, with big, enthusiastic crowds, pep bands that keep the joint jumping and some absolutely fantastic athletes playing on two courts in one of the finest arenas in the world.

The Class 3A schools kick off the day, and the winners so far have been Lakeville North and Centennial. The Panthers defeated East Ridge in the first round and Centennial got past Rochester Mayo. As I type this, Waconia is battling Moorhead and Wayzata is facing Andover.

Two things that happened shortly after I got here this morning let me know where I was. 1) A volleyball bounced off my head. 2) I heard a band playing “Cleveland Rocks.”

As the Waconia Wildcats were waiting to enter the court and warm up, they were standing in a corridor just off the floor. I walked through them down the narrow hallway when coach Jim Lee stopped me. He introduced me to his team and said some nice things about the work I do on behalf of the MSHSL and high school activities. I told the girls that they were lucky to have a great coach like Mr. Lee and I wished them luck.

A few minutes later, the Wildcats were warming up when one of them hit a ball, uh, out of bounds. It sailed to the side of the court – where I was sitting – and softly conked me on the head. No harm done. My head is a lot harder than that.

One of the first tunes cranked out by the Andover band was “Cleveland Rocks” … always a personal favorite. On the other end of the Xcel Center, the Waconia orchestra gave us “Living On A Prayer."



Mound-Westonka’s Harrison Named High School Heisman Finalist
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/10/2010 3:40:27 PM

Julia Harrison, a three-sport athlete and honor student at Mound-Westonka, has been named one of 12 national finalists for the 2010 Wendy’s High School Heisman Award. Julia is among six females and six males selected as finalists from more than 55,000 students from across the country who applied for this prestigious award.

Harrison receives a gold medal, $100 Wendy’s gift card and a $2,000 donation to her high school. She also will receive an all-expense paid trip for her and her parents to New York City to participate in the collegiate Heisman weekend festivities with the other 11 national finalists. She will receive her awards during a special ceremony from Archie Griffin, the only athlete to ever win two collegiate Heisman Trophies.

During the Heisman weekend in New York, one male and one female will be selected from among the 12 national finalists as the 2010 Wendy's High School Heisman National Winners. The national winners will be announced on Wendy’s High School Heisman television special on ESPNU, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m.

In preparation for the television special, an ESPN camera crew will be filming a day in the life of Julia Harrison at Mound-Westonka High School on Nov. 12 to gather footage for the televised broadcast.

Julia, the daughter of Sue and Ralph Harrison (pictured), has applied early decision to Dartmouth. She hopes to run and Nordic ski there. She is at the top of her class with GPA and ACT/SAT scores and is a member of the National Honor Society, an AP scholar and she has taken seven AP classes during her high school career. She is a National Merit Commended Scholar. She has been member of the varsity cross -country, Nordic ski and track teams throughout her high school career. She has made six state appearances in cross-country, one in Nordic ski and three in track. Julia holds the school record for the mile and as part of the 4x800 relay team.

In ninth grade, Julia was recognized by District 287 for her advanced progress in the Mandarin Chinese program while she was also successfully completing Spanish Courses.

The Wendy's High School Heisman was created in 1994 to recognize high school seniors who excel in academics, athletics and in their communities.



A Tornado, A Team And A Tight-Knit Community
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/9/2010 1:54:25 PM

WADENA – The tornado that tore through this Minnesota community in June ripped Wadena-Deer Creek High School to shreds, sent the roof of the nearby ice arena sailing through town, destroyed homes and trees and knocked down hundreds of cemetery headstones.

But it was a miracle. Actually, it was more than just a miracle.

“It was a huge miracle that nobody was killed,” said high school senior Courtney Volkmann. Those words came from someone whose family home and farm were wiped out by the storm. And they are evidence that people in Wadena are very thankful and grateful for what they have, even in the wake of the F4 tornado that struck on June 17.

There were plenty of smiles and laughter in the school hallways when I visited Wadena on Monday. Of course, the school hallways aren’t the same hallways that were wrecked in June. The high school is now off limits to all but demolition workers, who will take down what’s left of the building before reconstruction takes place and a new school opens – if all goes as planned -- in 2012.

High school classes are being held at the nearby Minnesota State Community and Technical College, as well as across the street at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School. It’s an awkward and crowded situation, where an elementary classroom has been turned into a weight room and wrestling mats, boxes of textbooks and other supplies line the hallways.

Lots of people from Wadena-Deer Creek will travel to St. Paul this week for the state volleyball tournament. And if there ever was a team that was easy to root for, it’s the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines. They are undefeated, they are ranked second in Class 2A and seeded second in the state tourney, and they have been a rallying point for their entire community. If you look at the state tournament program, the Wolverines’ team photo was taken as they posed outside the main entrance of their wrecked school. (This is that photo.)

“The volleyball team has galvanized us,” said athletic director Norm Gallant. “It’s been great for our town. We needed something to cheer for, that’s for sure.”

Of course, not having a high school gym was an issue. The team played its home matches in the gym at the elementary school, with fans sitting on folding chairs for part of the season until bleachers could be installed. But as has been the story time and again since June 17, everybody pitched in and made it work; school custodians set up the chairs and the fans took them down.

“It was kind of a rallying point … something good is happening and it’s something to cheer for,” said volleyball coach Sue Volkmann, who also is Courtney’s mother. “Our town got really close and we just learned to work together.”

The Volkmanns have dealt with some of the worst effects of the storm. Their home and their farm – eight or nine buildings, three silos, garages, a shop – were destroyed, as were some livestock.

“It pretty much took everything,” said Sue (pictured below with the team during Monday's practice).

The Volkmann family and the volleyball team were at a summer tournament in Bemidji when the tornado hit. Sue’s husband, Tim, received a call that the storm had struck their farm as well as parts of town. The team stopped playing in the middle of a match and prepared to leave. But tornado warnings were then issued for Bemidji, so everyone in the gym took shelter in locker rooms … where there was no cell phone service.

“They had just found out that their whole farm was gone, and we had to sit in the locker room and wait,” said senior Kelsi Crawford.

The home of another member of the volleyball team, sophomore Melissa Moenkedick, also was destroyed.

The volleyball team has always been a close-knit group. But dealing with what happened to their school and their town brought them even closer together,

“The day of the tornado we were together at a volleyball tournament, so we actually went into the whole situation together,” Sue Volkmann said. “We came home together to see everything that had happened, and we’ve worked through this whole thing together.

“I think it put a lot of things into perspective real fast. The day it happened, volleyball pretty much ended for the summer and a lot of fun times ended for the summer. Going to the lake every day wasn’t going to happen and a frame of mind changed. But you’ve got to give these kids credit. Not only this community but surrounding communities, we had kids from different towns working every day. They didn’t bat an eye. Sometimes we kind of wonder if this generation doesn’t work as hard, but they really stepped up.”

The rest of the summer was filled with the sounds of chain saws and heavy equipment. The usual summer routine was gone, but the volleyball players had a familiar refuge once the season began.

“I think volleyball was a good way to get away from all the tornado stuff,” Crawford said. “The summer was so hectic with everything happening, and volleyball was actually a routine that we could get back into. We could settle down and be together again.”

The Wolverines have dominated their competition this season, with a record of 30-0 that includes 28 matches in which they have not lost a game. The only teams to win a game against the Wolverines were Minnetonka and North St. Paul (both are 3A schools), which lost 2-1 in tournaments.

“Everyone is good at their own thing, and there are a lot of different hitters so we can spread the ball around,” said senior middle hitter Rachel Craig.

Wadena-Deer Creek went 30-5 last year, placing fifth at the state tournament. The current seniors will make their third consecutive trip to state this week, and that experience is invaluable as they seek their school’s first state volleyball title.

“The first year we were down there we just wanted to touch the floor, so we were dropping papers to touch the floor,” said Sue Volkmann.” And then it was getting out there and playing the ball out of the big black hole up in the ceiling. But we’ve been there, done that, and now we’re ready to go down there and play.”

Wadena-Deer Creek’s quarterfinal opponent is Delano (22-8) at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“The first two years we were kind of timid the first couple games,” Crawford said. “But this year I think we’re going to be so confident. We want the state title so bad.”

Whether the Wolverines win the championship or not, this has been a season no one will ever forget.

“We have lots of good people here and great kids,” said Gallant. “How you deal with adversity says something about you.”

To see a photo gallery from Wadena-Deer Creek, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 199
*Miles John has driven: 5,337

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Jessica Aney Named SportsKid Of The Year
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/9/2010 9:55:40 AM

Jessica Aney, a seventh-grade tennis and hockey player from Rochester Century, has been named national SportsKid of the Year by Sports Illustrated For Kids.

In this photo, Jessica receives a jacket Tuesday morning from Bob Dure of Sports Illustrated for Kids during an assembly (and surprise announcement) at Friedell Middle School. (Photo by Jerry Olson, Rochester Post-Bulletin.)

I wrote about Jessica during the recent Class 2A state tennis tournament. She was the state runner-up, losing to junior teammate Kelsey Frechette in the championship match.

Congratulations to Jessica!



Coming Soon: A Story Of Survival And Success
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/8/2010 9:25:25 PM

One of the teams involved in a state tournament this week has a compelling story that goes far beyond athletics.

I spent some time with that team on Monday, and a story will be posted here soon. This photo may offer a hint of where the story began ...





Hauger Runs To Another State Championship
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/6/2010 3:08:15 PM

The temperatures were a bit on the cool side but the sun was bright during Saturday’s state cross-country championships at St. Olaf College in Northfield. And one factor remained constant from one year earlier: Shakopee’s Maria Hauger.

The sophomore (right) was the only one of three defending champions to repeat, and she did it in dominating style with a 15-second margin over runner-up Jamie Piepenburg of Alexandria. Last year, Piepenburg was third.

Eden Prairie won the 2A girls team title with a score of 69, followed by Monticello (79), Lakeville South (141), Elk River (175) and Andover (181).

--In Class 2A boys, Adam Zutz of St. Francis won the individual title, followed by Burnsville's Cole O’Brien and defending champion Aaron Bartnik from Eden Prairie. Wayzata captured the team championship with 61 points, followed by Moorhead (130), Rosemount (134), Burnsville (141) and Edina (148).

--The rankings held up in the Class 1A boys individual competition, although with some shake-ups. Second-ranked Mason Ferlic of Mounds Park Academy claimed the state title, followed by third-ranked Matt Jergensen of Caledonia, top-ranked and defending champion Mubarik Musa of Worthington and fourth-ranked Brandon Clark of Blake. Perham won the team championship with a score of 78. The Yellowjackets were followed by Plainview-Elgin-Millville (98), St. Cloud Cathedral (102) and Minnehaha Academy and Waseca (both with 187).

--Sophomore Marisa Shady of Esko (pictured at left) was somewhat of a surprise winner in 1A girls. She was ranked eighth in the state but recorded a six-second victory second-place Lauren Friese of Fairmont. Placing third was Elena Danielson of St. Cloud Cathedral. Adrian won the team title with a score of 89, followed by St. Cloud Cathedral (118), Dover-Eyota/St. Charles (143), La Crescent (166) and Esko (169).

To see photo galleries from Saturday's races, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 198
*Miles John has driven: 5,037

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



A Big Crowd And A Big Win For St. Thomas Academy
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2010 10:54:46 PM

In one of the biggest football games in the state Friday night, St. Thomas Academy had taken a 14-0 lead against South St. Paul early in the second quarter of the Class 4A Section 3 championship game. The South St. Paul pep band, seated behind one of the end zones, began playing the Journey song, “Don’t Stop Believing.”

The Packers never stopped believing in themselves, but St. Thomas Academy never stopped scoring. The Cadets rolled to a 35-7 victory in front of an overflow crowd and put themselves into next week’s state quarterfinals against Northfield. That game will be played next Friday at Lakeville North.

If you believe in setting a tone, the opening kickoff definitely set a tone. The Cadets’ Paddy Clancy returning the kick 85 yards for a score. Will Ratelle scored on a 28-yard run for the 14-0 margin on the first play of the second quarter and quarterback Sam McManus ran for two scores and threw to Augie Braddock (number 5 in this photo) for the final touchdown as the Cadets improved to 10-0.

St. Thomas Academy is ranked No. 1 in 4A, and Friday’s performance over the fourth-ranked Packers may have solidified the Cadets as the team to beat. The Packers came in with a 10-0 record, having won by an average score of 38-10 this season.

My theory going into the game was that South St. Paul needed to take a two-touchdown lead in order to beat the Cadets. STA is explosive, and playing on their home field’s artificial turf played to their advantage. South St. Paul boasts one of the state’s best running games regardless of class, with junior Sam Sura (pictured below) rushing for more than 1,900 yards this season.

But Clancy’s kickoff return got the Cadets rolling and their defense took it from there. Sura was held to 75 yards on 22 carries and QB Harrison Rund completed two of nine passes for 37 yards. For STA, McManus, Braddock, Ratelle and Will McFadden each rushed for between 55 and 63 yards. In total, the Cadets outgained the Packers 325 yards to 162.

DESPITE THE DEFEAT, the Packers had an outstanding season. They have received tremendous support from their fans all season, and that was evident Friday night. The bleachers on the Packers’ side of the field were completely full an hour before kickoff.

TIDBITS FROM FRIDAY’S GAMES …

--Two defending state champs lost: Triton beat Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 27-26 in 1A and Albany beat New London-Spicer 36-18 in 3A.

--LeSueur-Henderson, which beat Minneapolis Washburn 60-32 to advance to state in 3A, had a 4-4 regular season and was seeded fifth in Section 2.

--One No. 4 seed advanced to state: East Grand Forks, champions of Section 8 in 3A.

--In games between unbeaten teams, St. Thomas Academy beat South St. Paul; Triton beat Waterville-Elysian-Morristown; Barnesville beat Browerville 57-21 in 1A; and Edgerton-Ellsworth beat Wheaton 22-16 in Nine-Man.

--State quarterfinal games that are rematches from the regular season: Rosemount vs. Lakeville South in 5A, Cretin-Derham Hall vs. Mounds View in 5A, and Ada-Borup vs. Goodridge-Grygla in Nine-Man.

To see a photo gallery from the St. Thomas Academy-South St. Paul game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.



A Great Day Of Soccer At The Metrodome
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/4/2010 3:32:01 PM

Championship Thursday was filled with great plays and memorable moments as four state soccer titles were decided at the Metrodome.

--In the Class 1A boys game, Prairie Seeds Academy of Brooklyn Park defeated Mankato East 3-2 in overtime, with Gerald Ben scoring the game-winner. Both teams came into the championship game unbeaten.

--Rogers captured the 1A girls title with a 3-1 victory over Mahtomedi. Jessica Bianchi scored two goals for the Royals, who capped an unbeaten season. The loss was the first for Mahtomedi.

--Apple Valley defeated Minneapolis Southwest 3-0 in the 2A boys contest, giving the Eagles their second title in a row and extending their state-record winning streak to 47 games. Southwest finished the season with a 22-1 record. Hudson Fasching scored two goals for the Eagles.

--The final game of the day pitted Lake Conference rivals Eden Prairie and Wayzata for the 2A girls title. Eden Prairie won 3-0 with Taylor Uhl scoring all three goals.

For photo galleries from each game, visit the MSHSL Facebook page.



Things To Know About This Week's Football Section Finals
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/3/2010 2:20:06 PM

Ninety-six teams are still playing football in Minnesota, and that number will be cut in half when section championship games are played Friday and Saturday around the state.

Four games are especially noteworthy because they match up undefeated teams ...

--4A Section 3/ No. 4 South St. Paul (10-0) at No. 1 St. Thomas Academy (9-0), 7 p.m. Friday. These teams met twice last season, with STA winning both. They are both in the Classic Suburban Conference but did not meet during the 2010 regular season.

--2A Section 2/ No. 6 Triton (10-0) at No. 1 Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (10-0), 7 p.m. Friday. This is a rematch of last year’s section final, which W-E-M won 27-0 en route to the state title.

--1A Section 6/ No. 2 Barnesville (10-0) vs. No. 3 Browerville (10-0) at the Fargodome, 3 p.m. Friday This is another rematch from last year’s section championship. Barnesville beat Browerville 33-7 before falling to Minneota in the state quarterfinals.

--Nine-Man Section 3/ No. 3 Edgerton-Ellsworth (10-0) vs. No. 6 Wheaton (10-0) at the Fargodome, 12:30 p.m. Friday. These teams met last year in the section semifinals, with Wheaton winning 40-0 before losing to Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley in the section final.


Here are some other numbers, facts and assorted tidbits…

The playoff field includes…
43 of 48 No. 1 seeds
28 No. 2 seeds
18 No. 3 seeds
3 No. 4 seeds (Hill-Murray in 4A Section 4, Sauk Rapids in 4A Section 8, East Grand Forks in 3A Section 8)
2 No. 5 seeds (LeSueur-Henderson in 3A Section 2, Glenville-Emmons in Nine-Man Section 1)
1 No. 6 seed (Cleveland in Nine-Man Section 2)
0 No. 7 seed
0 No. 8 seeds

This weekend’s matchups include …
27 No. 1 vs. No. 2
15 No. 1 vs. No. 3
1 No. 2 vs. No. 4
2 No. 3 vs. No. 4
1 No. 2 vs. No. 5
1 No. 3 vs. No. 5

In 5A, 2A and 1A, all eight No. 1 seeds are still alive…
In 4A and 3A, six No. 1 seeds remain
In Nine-Man, seven top seeds remain

Defending state champions still alive …
Minneota (1A), Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (2A), New London-Spicer (3A), Totino-Grace (4A), Cretin-Derham Hall (5A).

Top-ranked teams still alive …
Nicollet (Nine-Man), Springfield (1A), Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (2A), Albany (3A), St. Thomas Academy (4A), Wayzata (5A).

After this weekend’s games, state quarterfinals will be played Nov. 11, 12 and 13 at sites around the state before moving to the Metrodome for the semifinals Nov. 19-20 and the Prep Bowl games Nov. 26-27.



Who Are Those Guys Standing In A Snowstorm? Officials!
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/2/2010 6:56:03 PM

This photo may appear to be a bunch of ice fishermen wearing matching outfits in an attempt to stay warm on a cold January evening. But they are Minnesota high school football officials, and they represent the passion and commitment of all the men and women who give back so our high school students can have the best possible experience.

This photo was taken a week ago, on Oct. 26, at a Nine-Man section football playoff game in Fergus Falls. The officials are referee Haakon P. Vaadeland, umpire Rod Erickson, linesman Jim Runyan, line judge Jerry Loud and back judge Dan Rehkamp from the Viking Land Officials Association.

The temperature was 34 degrees with wind gusts between 40 and 50 mph, a wind chill around 0 and up to four inches of snow on the field. Hillcrest Lutheran defeated Ashby in the game, and the commitment of the officials will be remembered for a long, long time.



More Indoor Soccer; Football And Cross-Country Ahead
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/2/2010 1:48:18 PM

Greetings again from the press box at the Metrodome, where the state soccer tournament continued Tuesday. The day’s most exciting game ended with Apple Valley defeating Lakeville North 2-1 in a Class 2A boys semifinal.

Apple Valley is the defending state champion and Tuesday the Eagles extended their state-record winning streak to 46 games. Apple Valley and Lakeville North were scoreless until the 67th minute, when Tom Obarski got a goal for the Eagles. Lakeville North answered with an unassisted goal by Torbjorn Morkeberg in the 71st minute for a 1-1 tie, and the game-winner came in the final minute of regulation when Dane Grundstrom scored for Apple Valley.

In the first 2A boys game Tuesday, Minneapolis Southwest defeated Stillwater 2-0. The Lakers will meet Apple Valley in Thursday’s title game.

Thursday’s championship slate looks like this: Prairie Seeds Academy and Mankato East will play for the 1A boys title at 10 a.m., Rogers and Mahtomedi for the 1A girls crown at 12:30, the 2A boys game between Apple Valley and Minneapolis Southwest will be at 3 p.m. and Eden Prairie and Wayzata will decide the 2A girls champion at 5:30 p.m. One third-place game will be held Thursday, with Lakeville North meeting Stillwater in 2A boys at 8 a.m.

To see lots of photos from Tuesday’s soccer action, check out the world-famous MSHSL Facebook page.

This is a busy week of prep sports, with football section finals being played Friday and Saturday and the state cross-country meet being held Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield. I’m planning to watch South St. Paul play at St. Thomas Academy on Friday in a battle of unbeaten teams in Class 4A Section 3, and then bright and early Saturday morning I’ll be in Northfield for the annual running of the kids.

And if you haven’t already done so, get out and vote today.



A Full Day Of Soccer, More On Tuesday
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/1/2010 12:51:59 PM

We all remained cozy and dry Monday, since the Metrodome is the home of the state soccer tournament semifinals and finals. The Monday schedule consisted of six semifinal games inside the dome.

Tuesday's schedule is highlighted by Class 2A boys semifinal games, with Minneapolis Southwest meeting Stillwater and Apple Valley facing Lakeville North. Three third-place games also will be played Tuesday.

Here’s the roundup from Monday...

Class 2A girls semifinals
Wayzata 1, Stillwater 0
An early goal held up as Wayzata (16-2-3) defeated Stillwater (21-2) to reach Thursday’s title game against Eden Prairie. Taylor Wodnick scored on a header in the first half for Wayzata, and Megan Pyrz’s three saves kept Stillwater off the board.

Eden Prairie 2, Mounds View 0
Aliena Krausert scored at 24:22 and Taylor Uhl made it 2-0 at 63:58 as the Eagles (19-0-1) moved to the title game. Goalkeeper Kathleen Charley stopped two shots by Mounds View (14-6-2).

Class 1A girls semifinals
Mahtomedi 3, Blake 0
Junior forward Emily Sierakowski scored all three goals as the Zephyrs (19-0-4) defeated the Bears (18-2-2). Sharon Oldani made seven saves for Mahtomedi. In Thursday’s title game, the Zephyrs will meet Rogers.

Rogers 1, Chisago Lakes 0
A goal by Jessica Bianchi in the sixth minute put Rogers (23-0) ahead and the Royals held on for the rest of the game to defeat Chisago Lakes (16-6-1).

Class 1A boys semifinals
Mankato East 1, St. Cloud Cathedral
East’s Abdifatah Aden scored with an assist by Adam Osman with 3:17 remaining in regulation. East (18-0-2) goalkeeper Derrick Davis made four saves and Ben Kemper had two saves for Cathedral (17-5-1).

Prairie Seeds Academy 4, St. Paul Academy & Summit School 0
Gerald Ben scored three goals and Carlos Boquin had one to carry the Lycans (18-0-1) into Thursday’s championship game against Mankato East. Prairie Seeds had 14 shots on goal to none for SPA. St. Paul Academy (15-5-1) goalkeeper Matt Fiedler stopped 10 shots.

To see a photo gallery from Monday's games, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.



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