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NRHEG’s Carlie Wagner: Small-Town Attitude, Big-Time Talent
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/30/2012 12:59:46 PM

NEW RICHLAND – Carlie Wagner exploded onto the high school basketball scene last season, leading New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva to a 32-1 record and third-place finish in the Class 2A state tournament. She broke state tourney records for single-game (48) and total tournament points (112), records that had been held by Jordan’s Brittany Chambers (now at Kansas State) and Minneapolis South’s Tayler Hill (Ohio State).

As her junior season begins, Wagner already has scored more points than any male or female basketball player in school history. She is being pursued by big-time college coaches, she attracts crowds wherever the Panthers play and her star continues to rise.

So as the 5-foot-10 guard and I talked before Thursday evening’s game against Belle Plaine, my mission was to find out what it’s like to be Carlie Wagner. I phrased the question like this: Looking back to two years ago, how is your life different?

She pondered the question for a second or two. “What’s different? I have more Facebook friends, that’s about the only thing that’s different.”

It’s an amazing thing. Carlie Wagner is as down to earth as the rich black soil that covers southern Minnesota. Did you know that she is the reigning Class 1A high jump state champion, as well as a stellar volleyball player? She is absolutely untouched by her celebrity status and remains a poster child for small-town America.

“I like it that everybody treats me the same,” she said before scoring 32 points with six assists and six steals in limited playing time as the Panthers defeated Belle Plaine 80-37. “I don’t feel any extra pressure. I guess I’m just here to play ball. I’m not worried about outside influences.”

NRHEG, which is No. 2 behind Providence Academy in Minnesota Basketball News’ Class 2A rankings, will meet Chaska (No. 3 in 3A) at 1:15 p.m. in Saturday’s Breakdown Tip Off Classic at Hopkins. Fifteen games will be played in three gyms Saturday, and NRHEG is a major draw.

Wagner is the star of the team, but the Panthers are solid everywhere. Junior Jade Schultz and senior Raelin Schue combined for 26 points and 17 rebounds Thursday and junior Hannah Lundberg had eight rebounds and blocked two shots. Two younger Wagners, eighth-grade twins Maddie and Marnie, scored nine points off the bench.

Schultz made the hustle play of the game in the second half, diving for a loose ball and tipping it back into play as she slid out of bounds. The ball was quickly in Carlie Wagner’s hands for an off-handed layup and 73-35 lead.

“They are all nice kids, they work hard, and they all play their roles,” said NRHEG coach John Schultz. “Some don’t score that much but they don’t care. They know their role is defense, rebounds and that’s what made us effective last year.”

Last year was NRHEG’s first trip to the girls state basketball tournament, and that experience is paying off this season. “It gives them kind of a swagger, a confidence,” Schultz said. “Nothing’s too big for them right now.”

Carlie Wagner said her memories of last year’s state tourney begin with the fans.

“I just loved it when I looked up at the crowd and saw all the fans going absolutely insane,” she said. “I feel like we didn’t have pressure to (win a state title). It was getting a taste of it, we got a foot in the door. I didn’t expect us to win it last year.”

What about this year? “I hope so. I really hope so.”

But nearly a full season remains to be navigated before the 2013 state tournament. The Panthers know that every opponent wants to knock them off, and they remain focused on one step, one game at a time.

“We don’t talk about (returning to state) as much as our fans do,” Wagner said. “We look forward a little bit but we don’t talk about it that much because we have tough games to get through to get there.”

THE ATMOSPHERE THURSDAY NIGHT in the little NRHEG gym was spectacular. The band, under the direction of Tim Siewert, played great tunes from the stage behind one basket. When one of the cheerleaders said to me, “I follow you on Twitter!,” I snapped a photo of the cheerleaders and posted it on Twitter. Then I walked to the other end of the gym, where that cheerleader’s father was looking at the photo on his phone and hollered, “Nice shot of the cheerleaders, John!” What a country.

There were walking tacos, popcorn, a vibrant crowd, youth basketball at halftime and everything else you want in high school athletics. I hadn’t been in the gym for more than 10 minutes before NRHEG athletic director Dan Stork handed me a Diet Coke. While the junior varsity game was being played, Dan found interview space in an office; Carlie walked in wearing a pretty dress and nice shoes, then took off her shoes, relaxed and chuckled as we chatted.

If the Panthers had their names printed on the backs of their jerseys, it could say “Easygoing” on Carlie’s. Even on the court, she is smooth and under control but always hustling, almost effortlessly. If defenses focus too much on her, she will whip passes to her teammates for easy baskets. Her only fault may be that she is too unselfish.

After the game, Carlie walked to her locker to fetch a notebook from her Algebra II class. Her other classes are Anatomy, College Literature, World History, Youth Leadership Service and Computer Aps. (Does she ever sleep? Smiling answer: “Not very often.”)

“I’m really happy,” she said of the game. “I thought we were aggressive, we hit the boards hard, we were scrappy on defense. I guess it was just a really good game. It was a fun game, it was really fun.”

The spotlight on Wagner began glowing brightly at the first practice of her sophomore season when University of Minnesota coach Pam Borton walked into the gym. Carlie told me that Minnesota and Iowa State are at the top of her college list right now, but she is in no hurry to make a decision. Her love of the small-town lifestyle may bode well for Iowa State.

“I just have that country side of me,” she said. “(Iowa State is) not that huge city feel, it’s more the small-town feel I’m used to. The campus is beautiful, it has all the programs I’m looking for.

“I want to stay close to home. I want to keep my options open. I want to wait. I’m waiting for that moment when I just realize what I want. I’m waiting for that moment when I just know. When I’m certain.”

She’s thinking of a career path that involves some form of medicine mixed with sports.

“I want to stick around sports,” she said, smiling. “Who wants to miss all this fun?”

--To see a photo gallery from NRHEG, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 348
*Miles John has driven: 4,877
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Boys Hockey: Minnetonka Skates Past The Butterflies, Wins Big
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/28/2012 12:33:40 PM

There were no real misconceptions going into Tuesday night’s boys hockey season opener between Minnetonka and Apple Valley. Numbers, facts and clear-eyed logic told the story.

Minnetonka has a veteran team that is No. 4 in Let’s Play Hockey’s Class 2A rankings. Led by seniors Max Coatta, Tommy Vannelli and Jack Ramsey, the Skippers are extremely solid. They were 24-4 last season, losing to eventual state champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the Section 6 championship game.

Apple Valley, which went 11-12-3 a year ago, has a roster that is loaded with youth. The Eagles have only three players with varsity experience: senior captains Mason Preston and Christian Smith and junior Brandon Smith. Of the two other seniors on the roster, Shane Van Dusartz is the top goaltender and Brandon Loge suffered a knee injury in the first period Tuesday.

The game was a 7-1 win for the Skippers, to no one’s surprise.

“Today was a good learning experience for us,” Eagles coach Jerry Hayes said. “We had no illusions that we were going to be a team that was going to come roaring out of the gate.”

Apple Valley did not quite come roaring out, but the Eagles played Minnetonka to a standstill in a scoreless first period. The shots were 12-8 in favor of the Skippers, but at that point the scorecards were not tilted in either direction. When the Eagles got the first goal, by Dylan Reynolds, at 8:04 of the second period, it looked we had a ballgame.

Then, the onslaught. The Skippers scored three goals before the period was out and got four more in the final period.

“I was a little concerned with our guys standing around, not moving their feet,” Minnetonka coach Brian Urick said. “But it got better as the game went on and the guys got the butterflies out of the way.”

Here’s a warning that was issued to every team that will face the Skippers: Their seven goals were scored by seven individuals. Alex Klein, Vannelli, Connor Thie, Charles Huminski, Justin Bader, Coatta and John Schultd all raised their sticks in celebration, pumped a fist while skating on one knee or otherwise marked the accomplishment. James Schultd had four assists, Coatta and John Schultd had three.

“We feel pretty good to come out with a W, we’ll take it for our first game,” Coatta said. “We’ve got some things we need to work on, but we battled hard and took away some positives.”

And get this: Minnetonka was missing three players, including Ramsey (who has made a verbal commitment to play at the University of Minnesota.)

“They’re good,” Hayes said. “I really like their D and they obviously have some top-end forwards. You can tell it was the first game for everybody. The puck was a little bit square-shaped by the end of the first period with both teams kind of tomahawking a little bit. They certainly have speed up front and Brian does such a nice job with them, too. They’ll be ready to go in their conference. They’ll be right up there with the best of them.”

The Skippers aren’t dwelling on their No. 4 ranking, because rankings are worth as much as square pucks. The top three teams in 2A are Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Edina and Eden Prairie. Edina, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka are all in the Lake Conference, and the Skippers, Benilde and Eden Prairie are all in Section 6.

“Hopefully we’ll ramp up as the year goes on and get better with our young guys,” Urick said. “Hopefully we’re peaking at the end of the year. In the playoffs it comes down to one game. We’ve had teams that have been the favorite and it doesn’t always work out. We’re just going to try to prepare for the end of the year.”

The preparations are underway.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 346
*Miles John has driven: 4,727
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Totino-Grace Had The Look Of A Champion
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/25/2012 1:14:24 PM

One quick look between best friends was all it took for Totino-Grace to take control of the Class 5A state championship game. Read Brian Jerzak's story by clicking here.



Blue Earth Area, Totino-Grace Capture State Titles
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/24/2012 5:37:16 PM

Blue Earth Area broke open a close game and sailed to a 30-7 victory over Rochester Lourdes in the Class 3A Prep Bowl. Totino-Grace rolled past Owatonna 49-21 for the Class 5A title. Read Luke Sleeper's coverage by clicking here.



Mahnomen: Where Adding To The Tradition Is A Tradition
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/24/2012 4:26:47 PM

Mahnomen football coach John Clark Jr. had a little talk with his players Saturday morning. The Indians would be facing Bethlehem Academy for the Class 1A state championship at the Metrodome in a couple of hours, and Clark wanted to remind the boys about their program’s tradition.

He wanted them to think about it … then forget about it and just play football.

This is Mahnomen’s 21st appearance in the state football playoffs. That’s more than Hutchinson (20) and Eden Prairie (16). Of all the teams in all the classes who went to state this year, only Totino-Grace (22) has been here more often than the Indians. (St. Thomas Academy also made it to state for the 21st time.)

There are some aging ex-footballers in Mahnomen who remember 1974, the first time the Indians went to state. They tell tales of state championships in 1980, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1998 and state runner-up finishes in 1979, 1982, 1985, 1989 and 2011.

Clark wanted his players to keep everything in proper perspective; not too much pressure but plenty of incentive.

“(Tradition) is important but when I talked to the kids this morning, I said, ‘Let’s respect that tradition but this is our team and our time. Let’s add to it.’ The best thing you can do to respect the tradition is add to it. I thought we did that.”

No one will argue. The Indians put on a ball-control show, knowing that the best way to keep Bethlehem Academy’s quick feet and rapid-fire offense from scoring was to turn the Cardinals offense into 11 spectators.

Mahnomen’s first drive covered 74 yards in 10 plays, swallowing more than five minutes of game time. The Indians also had a 96-yard, 19-play scoring drive and one that didn’t result in points but covered 60 yards in 17 plays and lasted almost 10 minutes.

“That’s exactly what our plan was,” said senior quarterback Jacob Pavek, who rushed 23 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns. “Long drives, three or four yards a pop, first downs, limited turnovers. We had a couple turnovers but our defense made up for it. Our game plan was to shove it right down their throats and that’s what we did.”

Clark said, “As coaches we talked about playing a little game of keep-away. You draw up a plan and you hope, and boy did they execute it. They just executed so well; our offensive line, our quarterback was pretty much flawless on his reads. It was maybe boring to some people but it was poetry in motion to us.”

The numbers – not just on the scoreboard – tell the story. Mahnomen had the ball for 31 minutes, 20 seconds to 16:40 for the Cardinals. The Indians ran 65 plays, the Cardinals ran 37. The total yardage was 318 to 162.

“Kids can do extraordinary things,” Clark said. “Things like heart and guts get overused a lot but I thought that’s our our kids showed. A lot of our kids played both ways and they really gutted it out. I’m proud of what they did.”

In last year’s Prep Bowl Mahnomen lost to Dawson-Boyd 35-20. Dawson-Boyd was the team that Bethlehem Academy defeated 29-20 a week ago in the state semifinals, showing a very impressive quick-strike offense.

“They were fast, we knew that,” Pavek said. “We had to shut down their running game, limit their passes, limit their big plays, and that’s what we did.”

CELEBRATION TO REMEMBER

After Blue Earth Area defeated Rochester Lourdes 30-7 in the Class 3A title game, the party got started on the Buccaneers’ side of the Metrodome. The grins, the hugs, the tears of joy … it was something to behold.

The happiest person – although he held his emotions pretty well in check on the field -- might have been Blue Earth coach Randy Kuechenmeister. He has been the head coach there for 22 years; the Buccaneers made prior trips to state in 1972, 1990, 2006 and last season but had never won a state title.

“It’s been an unbelievable year,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the kids. The kids have worked hard, they’re a very unselfish group. They epitomize what ‘team’ is all about. They do their job and they’ve done it every week. I’m very proud of them.”

Holding the state championship trophy in his arms, Kuechenmeister was asked how it felt. He hesitated, and you had the sense that tears were not far off.

“I’m just proud, proud of the kids and what they’ve accomplished,” he said. “I’m a little overwhelmed, I suppose, with the whole thing. Never in my wildest imagination did I think we’d win 13 games, go undefeated and win the state. What a credit to the kids. It’s more than I could ever imagine. I’m extremely, extremely proud of them. “

Congratulations to all the teams.

HALFTIME HIGHLIGHT

In 1982, the very first Prep Bowl game at the Metrodome featured teams from Le Center and Mahnomen. Players, coaches and cheerleaders from those two teams were honored at halftime of Saturday’s Class 3A Prep Bowl contest.

The teams lined up on the field and everyone was introduced by name. Many of the players wore their school’s jerseys and the cheerleaders brought pom-poms. The Mahnomen old-timers had an especially grand day, having watched the current Mahnomen team win a state title earlier in the day.

The lines of two teams met at midfield and “Good game!” was heard several times as the one-time opponents shook hands.

Le Center won the 1982 Class B state title with a 12-6 victory over Mahnomen. Other scores from the first Prep Bowl were: Stillwater over Owatonna 34-27 in Class AA; Brooklyn Center over East Grand Forks 30-8 in Class A; Truman over Belgrade 16-14 in Class C; and Westbrook over Hillcrest Lutheran 34-12 in nine-man.

--Photo galleries from all the Prep Bowl games can be viewed on the MSHSL Facebook page.

PREP BOWL XXXI
Friday
Nine-man: Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 40, Grand Meadow 22
Class 2A: Caledonia 25, Moose Lake/Willow River 22
Class 4A: Hutchinson 67, Holy Family Catholic 7
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 28, Lakeville North 7

Saturday
Class 1A: Mahnomen 20, Bethlehem Academy 14
Class 3A: Blue Earth Area 30, Rochester Lourdes 7
Class 5A: Totino-Grace 49, Owatonna 21

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 344
*Miles John has driven: 4,719
*Diet soft drink count: 3
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



If This Was The End, Eden Prairie’s Grant Went Out In Style
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/24/2012 9:21:52 AM

Eden Prairie rolled to the Class 6A football state title with a 28-7 victory over Lakeville North. Speculation centered on whether it was the final game at Eden Prairie for coach Mike Grant. Read Brian Jerzak's story by clicking here



Hutchinson, Eden Prairie Cruise To Prep Bowl Victories
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/23/2012 7:40:02 PM

Hutchinson rolled past Holy Family Catholic 67-7 in Friday's Class 4A Prep Bowl at the Metrodome and Eden Prairie defeated Lakeville North 28-6 in Class 6A. Read Luke Sleeper's coverage by clicking here



The Kick, The Victory, Another State Title For Caledonia
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/23/2012 4:36:25 PM

Caledonia senior Levi Schmitz has been kicking field goals since he was in elementary school. Until Friday, he had never kicked a game-winner. When I asked Warriors coach Brent Schroeder about the last time his team won a game on a field goal as time ran off the clock, he thought … and hesitated … and thought some more.

“I believe it was maybe against … It was a Three Rivers (Conference) game, I think … it would have been a good eight … oh man, it’s probably the late 90s.”

Two things about Caledonia’s football dominance: 1) They rarely win with such tick-tock heroics, because they generally win big. 2) They have now won three state championships in a row, capped by Friday’s 25-22 Class 2A Prep Bowl victory over Moose Lake/Willow River.

Schroeder called timeout with one second left in regulation so Schmitz could line up for a 24-yard kick. As the Warriors got set, Moose Lake/Willow River coach Dave Louzek used his final timeout to ice Schmitz. Didn’t work. His kick was through the middle and mayhem ensued.

“My nerves were pumping, my heart was going,” he said. “I’ve been kicking field goals since sixth or seventh grade and I know how it’s supposed to feel coming off my foot. And that’s exactly how it felt.”

It was the first winning kick of his life, too.

“That was my first one,” he said. “I’ve been thinking of all the scenarios that can happen. If we need a game-winning drive, if we need one huge Hail Mary pass, if we need a field goal kick, I’ve gone through it all in my head numerous times. It happened like I hoped it would.”

The game was a rematch of last year’s Prep Bowl, when Caledonia defeated Moose Lake/Willow Rover 27-0.

While the Warriors were moving their celebration into the locker room, a heart-tugging scene took place on the Moose Lake/Willow River sideline. Louzek was locked in a lengthy, tearful embrace with the star of his team, senior Jake Disterhaupt. One of 10 finalists for the Minnesota Mr. Football award, Disterhaupt has been a fixture for the Rebels for years.

ALL THE HARD WORK PAYS OFF

Brian Dahl and Steve Jipson have been the co-head football coaches at Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley for nine years. There were some lean early seasons, when finishing with a .500 record was an accomplishment.

Looking back, however, after the Wolverines defeated Grand Meadow 40-22 in the nine-man Prep Bowl game to win their first state football championship, you could see this coming. Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley’s record from the start of the 2008 season to the end of the 2011 campaign was 42-5, and that kind of success breeds, well, success.

One key came in 2008, when the Wolverines lost to Houston in the Prep Bowl. Another key came in 2009, when the Wolverines played in the Metrodome again, losing in the semifinals to Stephen-Argyle. The current players remember watching those contests in the Metrodome. And this season they were a perfect 13-0.

“These kids were here for those games and they saw what this is like,” Dahl said. “They have worked hard to get here.”

This year’s team will lose some talented seniors, but look for the Wolverines to begin the 2013 season with high expectations. Running back Jason Montonye scored three touchdowns Friday, running back Austin Maanum scored two and quarterback Damon Gibson had one score. All three are juniors.

--Grand Meadow and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley combined to score 99 points in last week’s semifinals, but that kind of firepower was not to be seen early in Friday’s game. The game was scoreless after one quarter, with Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley holding a 20-0 lead at halftime.

Maanum rushed 20 times for 185 yards and two touchdowns, and Montonye carried 13 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns. The Wolverines totaled 393 rushing yards.

Grand Meadow’s Trenton Bleifus completed 18 of 28 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Mike Ojulu caught a pair of touchdown passes and Landon Jacobson caught seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--With Hutchinson’s 67-7 win over Holy Family in the Class 4A Prep Bowl, the Tigers are believed to be the first school to win football titles under father and son coaches. Grady Rostberg did so in 1983, 1984 and 1998 and son Andy is the current coach.

--Weather Thoughts: Take a look at the current weather and imagine if this weekend’s Prep Bowl games were being played outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium. Well, in a couple of years these games will be played outdoors after the Metrodome is torn down and before the new stadium is built. That’s reason enough to see why the high school football season should end a week or two before Thanksgiving weekend as long as the Prep Bowl is an outdoor event.

--Final Whistle: Bryce Pack was the referee during the nine-man championship game, ending a 34-year career as a football official. Pack, the athletic director at Red Rock Central in Lamberton, will remain certified as an official in case the need to fill in comes up in future years, but the Prep Bowl was his final official game. Bryce’s son Colby was on his crew Friday and another son, Casey, worked a semifinal game last week. In the 6A game between Eden Prairie and Lakeville North, officials Pat Whalen and Bill Merritt worked their final games before retiring. It was Whalen’s fourth Prep Bowl and Merritt's fifth.

--Total Class: One officiating crew had the distinction of working at least one game involving teams in every class, from nine-man to 6A, this season. The Fergus Falls-based crew of John Klinnert, Derrick Nelson, Timothy Rogelstad, Eric Guler and Isaiah Godding ended their season with a Class 4A state quarterfinal game between Holy Family and Hill-Muray at Macalester College.

--Quotable: After Caledonia held off BOLD 26-24 in last week’s Class 2A semifinals, Caledonia’s Schroeder was asked by the LaCrosse Tribune’s David Griswold about battling against the larger BOLD linemen: “Those guys were huge. Their Xs were bigger than our Os.”

--Big Sendoff: With the Thanksgiving holiday, the fans in Grand Meadow were unable to hold a send-off for the football team at the school, so they did something that was extra neat. A stretch of highway coming out of town was blocked off from cross traffic Thursday and everybody parked alongside the road and serenaded the team as it rolled past on a school bus, headed toward the Twin Cities.

--First Cheer: The Metrodome doors opened to fans at 9 a.m., and a couple minutes later folks from Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley shouted “Go big blue!” There was a pretty good echo in the mostly empty dome.

PREP BOWL XXXI
Friday
Nine-man: Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 40, Grand Meadow 22
Class 2A: Caledonia 25, Moose Lake/Willow River 22
Class 4A: Hutchinson 67, Holy Family Catholic 7
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 28, Lakeville North 7

Saturday
10 a.m./Class 1A: Bethlehem Academy (11-2) vs. Mahnomen (13-0)
1 p.m./Class 3A: Rochester Lourdes (13-0) vs. Blue Earth Area (12-0)
4 p.m./Class 5A: Owatonna (12-0) vs. Totino-Grace (12-0)


BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 344
*Miles John has driven: 4,675
*Diet soft drink count: 5
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Prep Bowl XXXI Has Arrived
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/23/2012 10:01:29 AM

It's a big weekend of football at the Metrodome, and we'll have full coverage here on John's Journal as well as the MSHSL Facebook page and on Twitter by following @MSHSLjohn.

Here is the lineup of games...

Friday
Nine-man: Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 40, Grand Meadow 22
1 p.m./ Class 2A: Caledonia (12-0) vs. Moose Lake/Willow River (13-0)
4 p.m./Class 4A: Hutchinson (12-0) vs. Holy Family Catholic (10-3)
7 p.m./Class 6A: Lakeville North (11-1) vs. Eden Prairie (10-2)

Saturday
10 a.m./Class 1A: Bethlehem Academy (11-2) vs. Mahnomen (13-0)
1 p.m./Class 3A: Rochester Lourdes (13-0) vs. Blue Earth Area (12-0)
4 p.m./Class 5A: Owatonna (12-0) vs. Totino-Grace (12-0)



Giving Thanks For Health And Friends And Family
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2012 3:12:15 PM

During this Thanksgiving week, one family in Breckenridge is very grateful for the blessings they have received. They are especially thankful that the phrase “cancer-free” can now be spoken.

Jack Hiedeman, 16, is a junior at Breckenridge High School and a multi-sport athlete. He plays football, basketball and baseball; his father, Kevin, is the Cowboys baseball coach. Jack had a lesion near his right knee and he was diagnosed with lymphoma in May 2011. That’s when everything changed. The word “amputation” was used. Chemotherapy caused Jack’s hair to fall out.

“When they told me what it was I was a little shocked, obviously,” Jack said. “The doctors were great, they said it was very treatable and curable. At first they thought I may have to have my leg amputated.”

His leg remains in place and his hair is back to its normal full flowing glory. Jack completed cancer treatments last May, and his parents Jack and Ann, big sister Noelle, big brother Erik and little brother Tommy are back to living their normal lives. And they are grateful for all the support they received.

“We live in a community that kept Jack in their prayers all the time,” Ann said. “We always felt great support from the town and the school.”

Jack’s saga began during his freshman year. He wrestled that winter and his knee began bothering him, but “I didn’t think anything of it.” The problem persisted during the baseball season and an MRI was performed; it showed a lesion on the end of his femur. Tests and a bone biopsy were done at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in May 2011, and the diagnosis was lymphoma.

“It was scary, but it was also a relief knowing what we were facing,” Ann said. “We thought it might be much worse. I’ll never forget Jack and Kevin and I sitting in the office and the doctors were practically high-fiving each other that it was lymphoma and not something much worse.

“We were more like, ‘Our kid has cancer. All right, what do we have to do?’ You want to fix it. That’s what moms always want to do.”

No surgery or radiation was needed. Jack’s treatment was chemotherapy; he referred to it as “heavy chemo, right away.” The routine was straightforward: Round after round of chemo, separated by 16 days.

“The chemo made me pretty sick,” Jack said. “I handled it pretty well, though. I never got super, super sick.”

He said the low point was probably near the 11th of 15 rounds of chemotherapy. “I was getting through it; there was not a lot left but still enough left that it was like a lot left. I started getting really sick. That’s when I thought it was the worst. I didn’t do anything. I sat on the couch and watched TV but didn’t hardly move.”

When Jack felt able, he hung out with his friends. They were a very big part of his journey, and many boys in Breckenridge shaved their heads in a show of support. T-shirts supporting Jack were a common sight around town.

“Jack was on chemo his entire sophomore year and they never once forgot about him,” said Ann. “Even when he was feeling bad, they never for one second left him behind. That’s a pretty amazing group of young men.”

Jack was unable to take part in sports during the fall and winter of his sophomore year. He returned to the baseball team that spring.

“Baseball’s my favorite sport,” he said. “If I would have missed that, I would have been bummed. Team-wise we didn’t have a great year but it was a lot of fun.”

He returned to the football team this fall and was back on the basketball court when practice began Monday.

“I’ve definitely been getting better and better,” he said. “During the baseball season I knew I wasn’t back all the way. Physically, I think I’m really close.”

Jack is a little bummed that he was beginning a growth spurt when the chemotherapy began. He’s 5-foot-9 and now weighs around 130 pounds. His journey has changed him, and not just physically.

“I really enjoy the good days now,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a life-changing thing. Life’s not a given thing, it makes you think about it a little more.

“If I had some advice it would probably be to take it a day at a time and think positive. I would pray every night before I went to bed, ‘OK, let’s have a good day tomorrow.’ ”

Ann has noticed the changes in her son.

“Jack has kind of come out of his shell some,” she said. “He’s always had tons of friends, but he’s much more social now and he so appreciates feeling good. He does not waste a day. He’s busy every day.”

The holidays will be extra special for the Hiedemans this year. Life is back to normal.

“You get so used to a different routine,” Ann said, thinking about the days of doctor visits, chemotherapy and uncertainty. “Now Jack’s not home very much, and we kind of miss him in that sense. We appreciate that he’s feeling good.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 344
*Miles John has driven: 4,631
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Northfield Wins Class 1A Girls Swimming Title, Two Records Fall
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/17/2012 5:39:50 PM

Northfield won two events and captured the Class 1A girls swimming and diving state championship Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. In additon, two records fell at the hands of swimmers from Albert Lea and Mankato West. Read Luke Sleeper's story by clicking here



Sixth-Grade Dreams Become Reality For Bethlehem Academy
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/17/2012 4:12:47 PM

Among fans of the Bethlehem Academy football team, a specific T-shirt is very popular. On the back are the words “Keep The Train Rolling – Coach Scott Hanson.”

Scott Hanson has been the Cardinals coach for 10 years and he came into this year’s Class 1A state tournament with a record of 44-49. But after years of so-so football at the little school in Faribault, this has turned into a special season. And the train is really rolling.

To see Bethlehem Academy playing in the Prep Bowl next Saturday might not be a miracle, but consider this: the Cardinals have been knocked out of the section playoffs in the first round on a very regular basis. Over the past eight years, their best record was 5-4 in 2004, and in all those seasons they said buh-bye in the opening round of the postseason.

They improved to 11-2 Saturday with a 29-20 victory over defending 1A state champion Dawson-Boyd at the Metrodome. Their opponent in the Prep Bowl next Saturday will be Mahnomen (13-0), which defeated Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 26-20 Saturday.

The Cardinals lost their final two games of the regular season, which may have been viewed by some as a bad omen for the Section 1 playoffs. But here they are … and the story began much further back than just this season.

Hanson has a cherished photograph of a bunch of sixth-grade boys who played youth football together and managed to play a game in the Metrodome. Those little boys are now high school seniors, and they have been the driving force behind Bethlehem Academy’s 2012 success.

“It’s not just by accident that this happened,” Hanson said. “No. 1, they’ve worked hard. And No. 2, they believe in each other. They’ve set that tone for us and it started back when they were in elementary school and they’ve worked it all the way through. It’s because of their commitment and their dedication to themselves and to each other. It’s exciting.”

The Cardinals won a grand total of nine games in the previous three years.

“We’ve talked about it,” said senior quarterback Kyle Filzen, who had 44 of his team’s 222 rushing yards Saturday and completed three of nine passes. “Our goal since ninth grade has been to get here. We’ve worked hard in the weight room, on the practice field, and it’s paid off.”

Bethlehem Academy is best-known as a volleyball powerhouse, and when the Cardinals won the Class 1A state volleyball title a week ago it was their sixth since 2002. The football players were unable to watch the volleyball championship match at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul because they were playing Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s a few hours later in Rochester.

“We were all watching on (the webcast),” Filzen said. “That was fun. They come support us, we support them, we have a good relationship. Everybody comes together and supports every sport, every activity. To have success, that just makes it all that much better.”

Bethlehem Academy’s high school enrollment is 195, and athletic director Ed Friesen estimates that 60 percent of the students are involved with football and/or volleyball as athletes, managers or cheerleaders. Those are the only fall sports in which the school fields its own teams; for cross-country, soccer, tennis and swimming, Cardinals athletes are part of cooperative teams with Faribault High School. Three Bethlehem Academy football players also play on the coop soccer team.

When the current senior football players were sixth-graders playing in the Metrodome, they talked about returning as high school athletes. And here they are. The train continues to roll.

FACE IN THE CROWD

I was walking behind one of the end zones between games Saturday when someone in the bleachers hollered, “Hi John!” I looked up at a young man sitting in the second row and said, “Do I know you?” He smiled a big smile and said, “No, but I read your journal.”

It was Austin Buysse, a junior from Minneota. The Vikings’ season ended with a loss to Dawson-Boyd in the Class 1A Section 5 championship game, and Austin had watched Dawson-Boyd fall to Bethlehem Academy on Saturday.

And the next time he hollers out my name, I’ll know who he is.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--What a kick: Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City kicker Lucas Damm has a kicking style that I had never seen before Saturday. On extra points, Lucas takes no steps before kicking; he simply stands on his left foot and swings his right shoe – straight-ahead style – into the ball. And he was two-for-two on extra points Saturday. Well done!

--First pep band song of the day: “Gimme Some Lovin’ ” by the Bethlehem Academy symphony at 8:34 a.m.

--Modern music: The Bethlehem Academy band played Green Day’s “Know Your Enemy” and the Dawson-Boyd orchestra performed Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” Good stuff all around.

--Garage rock: One of the great non-traditional Minnesota bands is from Perham. The garage band rocked the Metrodome with guitars, keyboards and vocals. They played some ZZ Top, some Doobie Brothers and absolutely killed it.

--Twitter milestone: During the first football game Saturday morning I noticed that my number of Twitter followers had surpassed 2,500. Amazing. And thanks.

--Facebook milestone: Also Saturday, we reached 8,000 friends on our Facebook page. That is an astounding number for a page that really hasn’t been around very long. Our Facebook page has more friends than any high school governing body Facebook page in the nation with the exception of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. And we’ll catch ‘em!

--See photo galleries from all the state football semifinals at the MSHSL Facebook page.

FOOTBALL SEMIFINALS
Thursday’s Games
Class 2A: Caledonia 26, BOLD 24
Class 2A: Moose Lake/Willow River 27, Jackson County Central 20
Class 4A: Hutchinson 28, Becker 14
Class 6A: Lakeville North 28, Rosemount 14

Friday’s Games
Nine-man: Grand Meadow 61, South Ridge 6
Nine-man: Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 38, Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke 8
Class 5A: Owatonna 30, St. Thomas Academy 27
Class 4A: Holy Family Catholic 49, Princeton 28
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 21, Wayzata 7

Saturday’s Games
Class 1A: Bethlehem Academy 29, Dawson-Boyd 20
Class 1A: Mahnomen 26, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 20
Class 3A: Rochester Lourdes 26, Annandale 20
Class 3A: Blue Earth Area 31, Perham 21
Class 5A: Totino-Grace 23, Bemidji 0

PREP BOWL SCHEDULE
Friday, Nov. 23
10 a.m./Nine-man: Grand Meadow (12-1) vs. Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (12-0)
1 p.m./ Class 2A: Caledonia (12-0) vs. Moose Lake/Willow River (13-0)
4 p.m./Class 4A: Hutchinson (12-0) vs. Holy Family Catholic (10-3)
7 p.m./Class 6A: Lakeville North (11-1) vs. Eden Prairie (10-2)

Saturday, Nov. 24
10 a.m./Class 1A: Bethlehem Academy (11-2) vs. Mahnomen (13-0)
1 p.m./Class 3A: Rochester Lourdes (13-0) vs. Blue Earth Area (12-0)
4 p.m./Class 5A: Owatonna (12-0) vs. Totino-Grace (12-0)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 343
*Miles John has driven: 4,631
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



For Lakeville North, The Defense Does Not Rest
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/17/2012 9:06:20 AM

Lakeville North's football team put together a remarkable season, which won't end until the Panthers face Eden Prairie in next week's Class 6A Prep Bowl. Read Brian Jerzak's story about North by clicking here



Owatonna, Holy Family, Eden Prairie Advance To Prep Bowl
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2012 7:18:14 PM

In a back-and-forth game that went down to the wire, Owatonna held off St. Thomas Academy 30-27 in the Class 5A football state semifinals Friday at the Metrodome. In 4A, Holy Family Catholic defeated Princeton 49-28. In 5A, Eden Prairie defeated Wayzata 21-7. Read coverage by Luke Sleeper by clicking here



25 Years Later, Grand Meadow Ready For Return To Prep Bowl
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2012 2:50:00 PM

Grand Meadow’s boys of 1987 aren’t as young as they were back then, when the football team played in the Prep Bowl at the Metrodome. But the memories from 25 years ago remain fresh and they are helping prepare the 2012 Superlarks for a return appearance.

Grand Meadow’s 61-6 victory over South Ridge in Friday’s nine-man semifinals at the Metrodome moved the Superlarks into next week’s Prep Bowl against Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, which defeated Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke 38-8 Friday. And there are plenty of links between the 1987 team and the 2012 team, including the fact that three of the team captains are the sons of players from the ’87 squad.

“We had a group of 11 seniors, a great group, but we also had some juniors and sophomores who were very good athletes,” said Grand Meadow assistant coach Deke Stejskal, whose son Perry is a current senior captain along with Bryce Benson and Brock Johnson. “This team here kind of mirrors that because we have 10 seniors on this team.

“Back in 1986 we got to the semifinals and we lost against Sherburn-Dunnell. So the next year we knew that if we did what we had to do as far as training in the summer, lifting weights and coming together as a team … and it was a team, just like this one is. Our goal was to get to the state championship and we got to the state championship. We didn’t win the state championship, and 25 years later it still gives you a sour taste in your mouth. So these kids here have a chance to do something that’s never been done in the history of Grand Meadow. “

The 1987 team lost in the Class C Prep Bowl to Minneota 27-7; Minneota also won state titles in 1986 and 1988. Grand Meadow went to state in 1997 and 2009 but has not been back to the Metrodome until now.

“It was great,” said Superlarks quarterback Trenton Bleifus after Friday’s game. “I’ve never played in a place this awesome before. It was amazing.”

Grand Meadow got off to a strong start and just kept going, leading 22-0 after one quarter and 42-0 at halftime. Perry Stejskal scored two first-quarter touchdowns and carried six times before leaving the game. He suffered a knee injury in Week 2 and missed seven games before returning; he reinjured the knee Friday and his status for the Prep Bowl was not known.

Grand Meadow coach Gary Sloan was an assistant coach in 1987, and he wanted this year’s team to get a sense of what it was like to play in the dome. That job fell to Deke Stejskal.

“We really hadn’t talked about it a whole lot until this week, leading up to this game,” he said. “It’s a different experience, especially when you’ve been playing outside. We had a team meeting last night and I told the kids it’s a different beast inside. With the nine-man game you’re playing on special teams, on offense, on defense and it’s important to stay hydrated. And as coaches we talked about getting guys on and off the field just to stay fresh. It helped that we got out to the big lead and we could do that.

“We weren’t satisfied just coming up here, and that was our motto all week: if we’re going to play in the Metrodome we’re going to win in the Metrodome.”

--Jason Montonye scored on two 13-yard runs in Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley’s victory over Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke. C-G-B’s Austin Maanum led all rushers with 25 carries for 180 yards and one score.

SWIMMING/DIVING UPDATE

Over at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center, Albert Lea ninth-grader Lindsey Horejsi was the star of the Class 1A preliminaries Friday. She set a record of 1 minute, 0.43 seconds in the 100 breaststroke. The Class 2A prelims were held Friday evening and the finals in both classes will be held Saturday.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--My favorite nicknames among the teams playing in the state football semifinals:
1. Grand Meadow Superlarks; 2. Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks; 3.Bemidji Lumberjacks; 4. Blue Earth Buccaneers; 5. Holy Family Fire.

--Hurray for Chelsea: 5-foot-5, 120-pound senior wide receiver and defensive back Chelsea Williams saw some action in the final minutes for South Ridge.

--First pep band tune of the day: “The Final Countdown” by the South Ridge band at 8:45 a.m.

--Youngest pep band: The gang from Grand Meadow, which looked an awful lot like an elementary-school band. They sounded great.

--Solid sounds: The orchestra from Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke was especially fun to listen to. They only played before the game and at halftime because – as is customary in small schools – the musicians moved over and sat with the rest of the students during the game. And the band from Owatonna, which I have loved listening to for years, was in fantastic form Friday.

--My favorite banner: “Don’t mess with the bull or you’ll get the horns” … courtesy of fans of the Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke Chargers.

--In other banner news: St. Thomas Academy hung a large banner that read “NOwatonna.” But sportsmanship prevailed and the last seven letters of that sign were folded back onto each other, leaving only “NO” visible.

--Most creative team: While the Lester Prairie Bulldogs didn’t make it to the Metrodome, some of their players sat in the seats behind one end zone and formed themselves into the letters LP. Nice move.

--You Know It’s A Small School When … Large schools often have multi-person video crews, complete with tripods and professional-grade cameras linked to laptop computers. The video personnel during the nine-man game between Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley and Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke was the same for each team: one female student using a hand-held video camera.

Football Semifinals
Thursday’s Games
Class 2A: Caledonia 26, BOLD 24
Class 2A: Moose Lake/Willow River 27, Jackson County Central 20
Class 4A: Hutchinson 28, Becker 14
Class 6A: Lakeville North 28, Rosemount 14

Friday’s Games
Nine-man: Grand Meadow 61, South Ridge 6
Nine-man: Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 38, Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke 8
Class 5A: Owatonna 30, St. Thomas Academy 27
Class 4A: Holy Family Catholic 49, Princeton 28
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 21, Wayzata 7

Saturday’s Games
9 a.m./Class 1A: Dawson-Boyd (11-1) vs. Bethlehem Academy (10-2)
11:30 a.m./Class 1A: Mahnomen (12-0) vs. Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (9-2)
2 p.m./Class 3A: Annandale (10-1) vs. Rochester Lourdes (12-0)
4:30 p.m./Class 3A: Perham (10-1) vs. Blue Earth Area (11-0)
7 p.m./Class 5A: Bemidji (9-3) vs. Totino-Grace (11-0)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 333
*Miles John has driven: 4,587
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Hutchinson advances to Class 4A title game with victory over Becker
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/15/2012 8:39:50 PM

Hutchinson kept its undefeated record intact, despite having to fight off a prolific aerial assault from Becker in the state semifinals. Read Luke Sleeper's story by clicking here



Rematch: Caledonia, Moose Lake/Willow River Will Meet Again In Prep Bowl
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/15/2012 2:58:26 PM

Caledonia senior Levi Schmitz had to think for a second or two when I posed this question to him Thursday at the Metrodome: When was the last time you guys were in a game like this?

The two-time defending Class 2A state champions had just defeated BOLD 26-24 in a game that went back and forth and wasn’t decided until the final seconds. Caledonia stretched its winning streak – the state’s longest currently – to 25 games in a row. Their last defeat was against Plainview-Elgin-Millville in the opening game of the 2011season.

So Schmitz had to think. He was surely tired at this point in the day, having returned five kickoffs, one punt, caught two passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, punted four times and recorded seven tackles. Oh, he also blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

“Oh, uh, against Chatfield in the regular season we won 6-0 so that was close but it wasn’t the exchange of scores like this one,” he said.

Exchange of scores, indeed. Caledonia scored four touchdowns and BOLD had three touchdowns and a field goal but neither scored back-to-back points. Caledonia led 20-17 after three quarters, and sealed the victory when Alex Varney scored on a 4-yard run. Or did they? Tyler Rock scored on a short run for BOLD with 5:06 left, cutting Caledonia’s lead to 26-24. The Caledonia defense held firm after that.

It was the first time Caledonia has given up more than 14 points this season. Last season they have up more than 14 only twice. So seeing an opponent hang two dozen points on the board was something new.

“They had drives, we had drives, but in the last five minutes we dug deep, we had passion and heart and we came out on top,” Varney said.

--In the second 2A semifinal, Moose Lake/Willow River beat Jackson County Central 27-20. A key touchdown was scored by Moose Lake’s Jake Disterhaupt on a 28-yard second-quarter run that put the Rebels ahead 20-13.

When Caledonia and Moose Lake/Willow River meet in the Prep Bowl the day after Thanksgiving, it will be a familiar matchup. Last year Caledonia beat the Rebels 27-0 in the Prep Bowl, and Disterhaupt is ready for the rematch.

“This meant everything to us,” he said. “We would give up anything to get another shot at Caledonia. And we got it. And we’re going to make it happen. We’re going to go out there and do our best and win a state championship.

“We’ll have to step our game up even more. Caledonia has to prove that they’re the best team in the state, and we’re going to play them and we’re going to match ourselves with them.”

Moose Lake/Willow River was also the state runner-up in 2009, losing to Waterville-Elysian Watertown in the Prep Bowl.

“It’s a great feeling getting back into the Prep Bowl,” said Disterhaupt, who rushed 20 times for 105 yards and caught five passes for 68 yards Thursday. “ We just need to go win one.”

HUTCHINSON ADVANCES IN CLASS 4A

Hutchinson, which is no stranger to the state playoffs, led 21-7 at halftime and defeated Becker 28-14. The Tigers will play in the Prep Bowl against the winner of Friday’s Princeton-Holy Family Catholic game. Hutchinson outgained Becker 443-16 on the ground.

I had guessed that Becker and Hutchinson had probably faced each other several times, including in the Metrodome. But no. Coaches Andy Rostberg of Hutchinson and Dwight Lundeen of Becker said this was their first meeting.

Hutchinson is making its 20th appearance in the state playoffs and the Tigers won state championships in 1983, 1984 and 1998 and took second in 2003. Becker was making its 13th state appearance. The Bulldogs won a championship in 2005 and finished second in1990, 1994, 2001 and 2006.

LAKEVILLE NORTH TOPS ROSEMOUNT IN 6A

Jamiah Newell scored two touchdowns and rushed 14 times for 103 yards as Lakeville North moved to the Prep Bowl with a 28-7 victory over Rosemount in a battle of South Suburban Conference teams.

North outgained Rosemount 181-20 on the ground and 148-83 through the air. The Panthers will face either Wayzata or Eden Prairie in the Prep Bowl; those teams will meet Friday night.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--This has been a big fall season for Caledonia, and especially for the Fruechte family. Carl Feuechte is an assistant football coach (and former head coach) whose son Isaac is a wide receiver at the University of Minnesota. While the Gophers were clinching a bowl berth last Saturday, Maria Fruechte was helping the Caledonia volleyball team finish as the Class 2A state runner-up. Maria will play collegiate volleyball at Iowa State.

--Other volleyball/football connections: Bethlehem Academy won the 1A volleyball title and the Cardinals’ football team will meet Dawson-Boyd in the 1A semifinals on Saturday. Lakeville North defeated Eden Prairie in the 3A volleyball title match last Saturday, and their football teams are both in the 6A semifinals.

--First pep band tune of the day: Green Day’s “Holiday” performed by the band from BOLD at 11:04 a.m. I approve.

--Photos from the football semifinals can be viewed at the MSHSL Facebook page.

Thursday’s Games
Class 2A: Caledonia 26, BOLD 24
Class 2A: Moose Lake/Willow River 27, Jackson County Central 20
Class 4A: Hutchinson 28, Becker 14
Class 6A: Lakeville North 28, Rosemount 7

Friday’s Games
9 a.m./Nine-man: South Ridge (11-1) vs. Grand Meadow (11-1)
11:30 a.m./Nine-man: Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke (10-1) vs. Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (11-0)
2 p.m./Class 5A: St. Thomas Academy (10-1) vs. Owatonna (11-0)
4:30 p.m./Class 4A: Princeton (8-4) vs. Holy Family Catholic (9-3)
7 p.m./Class 6A: Wayzata (9-1) vs. Eden Prairie (9-2)

Saturday’s Games
9 a.m./Class 1A: Dawson-Boyd (11-1) vs. Bethlehem Academy (10-2)
11:30 a.m./Class 1A: Mahnomen (12-0) vs. Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (9-2)
2 p.m./Class 3A: Annandale (10-1) vs. Rochester Lourdes (12-0)
4:30 p.m./Class 3A: Perham (10-1) vs. Blue Earth Area (11-0)
7 p.m./Class 5A: Bemidji (9-3) vs. Totino-Grace (11-0)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 323
*Miles John has driven: 4,543
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn




On Tap: Playoff Football, State Swim/Dive, Adapted Soccer
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/14/2012 1:57:09 PM

This is another exciting week, with fall sports rolling toward their conclusion and winter sports beginning to heat up. The main action this week revolves around three fall activies and their state tournaments.

State football semifinals will be held at the Metrodome, beginning Thursday morning and concluding Saturday night. We will have 14 games over those three days, with the winners moving on to the 31st annual Prep Bowl the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. This week’s football schedule is below.

The girls state swimming and diving championships will be held Thursday through Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Diving preliminaries will be held Thursday in both Class 1A and Class 2A, swimming prelims in both classes will be held Friday and finals will take place Saturday. Each day, Class 1A action will begin at noon and Class 2A at 6 p.m.

The adapted soccer state tournament will be held Friday and Saturday at Stillwater High School, with CI (Cognitive Impairments) and PI (Physical Impairments) divisions. Action will begin at 5 p.m. Friday and resume at 9 a.m. Saturday. The PI championship is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday and the CI championship game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday

In addition, many winter activities have already begun practicing. The list will be complete when boys basketball, wrestling and adapted floor hockey teams begin practicing next Monday and boys swimming and diving teams do the same on Nov. 25.

--All of this week’s football games as well as Saturday’s swimming and diving championships will be webcast by prep45.com. Updates will be posted on the MSHSL Facebook page and I’ll be Tweeting like a madman. Follow @MSHSLjohn

State Football Semifinal Schedule At The Metrodome

Thursday’s Games
11:30 a.m./Class 2A: BOLD (11-0) vs. Caledonia (11-0)
2 p.m./Class 2A: Moose Lake/Willow River (12-0) vs. Jackson County Central (10-2)
4:30 p.m./Class 4A: Becker (10-1) vs. Hutchinson (11-0)
7 p.m./Class 6A: Rosemount (7-4) vs. Lakeville North (10-1)

Friday’s Games
9 a.m./Nine-man: South Ridge (11-1) vs. Grand Meadow (11-1)
11:30 a.m./Nine-man: Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke (10-1) vs. Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (11-0)
2 p.m./Class 5A: St. Thomas Academy (10-1) vs. Owatonna (11-0)
4:30 p.m./Class 4A: Princeton (8-4) vs. Holy Family Catholic (9-3)
7 p.m./Class 6A: Wayzata (9-1) vs. Eden Prairie (9-2)

Saturday’s Games
9 a.m./Class 1A: Dawson-Boyd (11-1) vs. Bethlehem Academy (10-2)
11:30 a.m./Class 1A: Mahnomen (12-0) vs. Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (9-2)
2 p.m./Class 3A: Annandale (10-1) vs. Rochester Lourdes (12-0)
4:30 p.m./Class 3A: Perham (10-1) vs. Blue Earth Area (11-0)
7 p.m./Class 5A: Bemidji (9-3) vs. Totino-Grace (11-0)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 315
*Miles John has driven: 4,532
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Perham's Morris Named National Cross-Country Coach Of The Year
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/13/2012 11:24:33 AM

Here's news of an outstanding honor bestowed on a Minnesota coach. The story is courtesy of the East Otter Tail Focus and reporter Robert Williams...


PERHAM, Minn. – For the second time in three years, a Perham coach is receiving national attention.

Perham boys cross country coach Jeff Morris was named the National High School Coaches Association’s coach of the year after guiding the Yellowjackets to a Minnesota Class 1A state title last week and the Division II NHSCA Championship awarded by xcnation.com.

The state title is the fourth for the boys' program under Morris' direction. The national title is the first of any kind for Perham-Dent Public School's athletic programs.

Twitter was abuzz with the announcement Wednesday evening.

"So incredibly blessed to have had six amazing years under (Coach Morris)," senior Mark Huebsch said. "He deserves the national coach of the year more than anyone."

"We have the best coach ever," senior Ciarrin Covington said.

Morris was one of five finalists for the award and joins Perham head basketball coach Dave Cresap in gaining a national coach of the year honor.

"We went out there and they were prepared and they did what they were very capable of doing," Morris said of his team at St. Olaf after the state meet. "It was just so much fun. I'm really excited."

Cresap won the award from maxpreps.com in 2011 when the Perham boys basketball team won the state championship.

The announcement from xcnation.com was slated to be given in December, but the dominating performance from this year's team made an early announcement possible.

"We all felt comfortable with the choice," said xcnation.com co-founder David Taylor. "To take a school that size and make a ranking as high overall requires a level of coaching far above that of the norm or even the elite. It is anomalous so we submitted the name for boys cross country."

Perham's cross country title avenged a one-point loss in the 2011 final, a motivating factor for a team that avenged that defeat by running one of the top five races in state meet history. By way of Morris' direction, the team set out on a mission from November 2011 not to be denied this year's trophy.

"That one point, you know, that was on us all year long and now that we've beat 'em it just feels so good," senior Dalton Dahms said. "It was just so much fun being out there with all the guys."

Today (Thursday, Nov. 8) at 5 p.m. CST, on the NHSCA National High School Sports Hour, (link with this story) host Jeff Fisher talks with Morris about Perham's season. The show can be listened to live or in the archives (show #347).

According to Taylor, xcnation.com will feature Perham in an annual series beginning December 15 titled "the Program".

The intent is to have the seven varsity runners and coach share a bi-monthly individual message on their team and program.

"It should be fun and it will keep Perham's name recognition growing, as well as show other programs how to be successful," Taylor said.

The national championship trophy should arrive in Perham Friday and the banner next week.

A tentative date of Friday, Nov. 30 has been scheduled to present the trophy and banner during the Minnehaha Academy/Perham boys' basketball game.

In a bit of irony, Minnehaha Academy cross country is a rather heated rival with the Perham boys' team next to the annual battles with St. Cloud Cathedral.



State Volleyball Championships: A Day For Veteran Coaches
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/10/2012 10:58:36 PM

The state volleyball tournament, like all such events, can be a blur of games and whistles and boisterious fans and bands and overtimes and winning and losing. The volleyball tournament, which concluded its three-day run at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night, fit the mold perfectly. There were tremendous athletes on display, superior teamwork and strategy as six chess pieces moved around the court for each team, with the landscape changing after every point and the fans along for a wild ride.

Scenes that stood out for me included …

--Superstars Sarah Wilhite of Eden Prairie and Alyssa Goehner of Lakeville North – who have been club volleyball teammates for four years – embracing (photo) after North defeated Eden Prairie 3-1 in the Class 3A title match.

--Caledonia football players, easy to spot with their blond mohawk haircuts, cheering for the Warriors volleyball team, which fell to Marshall 3-1 in the 2A championship match. The football team won in the state quarterfinals on Friday night and will play in the Metrodome in a few days, and you know the volleyball players will be doing the cheering.

--The teams from Bethlehem Academy and Southwest Christian gathering together after their match in a large circle and giving thanks. At that moment, the fact that Bethlehem Academy had won the 1A title with a 3-1 victory was of little importance to either team.

A common denominator for each title-winning team was the coach. All three have been coaching for a long time and all three are members of the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. None of them take any credit for their team’s success, but we all know better than that.

“We had some kids who stepped up and made some big plays,” said Bethlehem Academy coach Franz Boelter, who has been leading the Cardinals for 21 years and has won six state titles since 2002 and finished second at state four times.

The words of the other winning coaches were similar, giving credit to their players for all their hard work and commitment. During the Class 2A postgame ceremony, Marshall coach Dan Westby received his medal and applauded (photo) the Tigers fans as he walked across the court. Westby, who has been the coach at Marshall since 2004 (and also coached for 10 years at Renville County West, winning the 1A state title in 2002), has led Marshall to state championships in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011 and now this year.

The “newcomer” among the winning coaches Saturday was no newcomer, but he is in his first year at Lakeville North. Walt Weaver coached at Apple Valley for 31 years, taking teams to 13 state tournaments and winning titles two titles before retiring six years ago. He took over at North this season when Steve Willingham became the coach at Lakeville South.

North won the state title two years ago under coach Milan Mader, who retired after that season. Willingham led the Panthers to a state runner-up finish last year and Weaver was at the helm for this year’s championship.

From day one this season, the first words out of Weaver’s mouth have been about how talented the North players. The second words out of his mouth were usually along the lines of “I hope I don’t mess them up too bad.”

Boelter is the most outwardly emotional of the three coaches. As the Cardinals received their gold medals, he hugged each of them with tears in his eyes. It’s not about the end result, but the journey that the team shares.

“I’m really happy for our seniors,” Boelter said outside the locker room a few minutes later. “You see them come out here, a lot of wet cheeks. Sometimes you can’t tell if we’re the winning locker room or the losing locker room.

“The underclassmen can’t understand why the upperclassmen are crying so much and the upperclassmen can’t understand why they’re not. It’s kind of a funny situation. It’s a great group of kids and I knew that before our season ever started.”

Weaver was a late hire at Lakeville North and missed the first four days of practice because he had booked a trip to Alaska before accepting the job. He is not certain if he will return next season.

“Right now, this minute, I might be back, I might not,” he said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. We’ll see.”

ONE OF THE NEW coaches at the state tournament also knows the experience as a player. Cassie Wolpern is in her third year at Belle Plaine, which finished fourth in 2A.

As a player at Belle Plaine she became a national volleyball figure, playing at state in her sophomore and junior years before graduating in 2003. She was a four-time all-state selection and during her senior season she became the all-time national leader in career kills with 2,638; today she ranks sixth on that list. She still holds the Minnesota prep record for career kills, as well as the single-season records for kills and blocks.

Wolpern played one season at the University of San Diego before transferring to Minnesota State Mankato, where she graduated with a degree in finance. The Tigers’ appearance at state this year was their first since 2005

TOURNAMENT NOTES

--My favorite pre-match moment: The Bethlehem Academy players in a tunnel that leads to the floor, standing in a circle with their arms around each other, swaying and singing quietly, sweetly.

--My favorite in-match moment: The Southwest Christian students chanting during timeouts: “Coach ‘em up, Greg! Coach ‘em up!” (The coach is Greg Sayuk).

--Tweet of the day: “Congrats to the (redacted) Vball team, consultation state champs!” The word is “consolation.” But I know what you meant; congrats indeed!

--We have turned the Xcel Energy Center over to Bruce Springsteen, who will perform there Sunday and Monday.

ALL-TOURNAMET TEAMS
--Class 1A: Carly Masloski, Underwood; Riley Hanson, Megan Norby, Nevis; Shelby Kaster, Win-E-Mac; Megan Larson, Taylor Reiss, Minneota; Mackenzie Horkey, Katie Lubben, Southwest Christian; Jessie Mathews, Maddie Borwege, Bethlehem Academy.

--Class 2A: Afton Sobasky, St. Croix Lutheran; Brooke Anderson, Thief River Falls; Mariena Hayden, Belle Plaine; Macy Weller, Sauk Centre; Maria Fruechte, Emma Lange, Taylor Winjum, Caledonia; Kenzie Beekman, Hannah Bennett, Sydney Griffin, Marshall.

--Class 3A: Jessica Yost, Bemidji; Meghan Koop, Roseville; Carlee Hoppe, Shakopee; Lydia Dimke, Taylor Morgan, Blaine; Sarah Wilhite, Jamie Cairncross, Eden Prairie; Alyssa Goehner, Erica Handley, Sami Flattum, Lakeville North.

--Photo galleries from the state volleyball tournament can be found on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 313
*Miles John has driven: 4,035
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Caledonia Football: A Hair-Raising Tournament Tradition
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/10/2012 10:05:38 AM

The Caledonia Warriors, who advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals with a big win Friday, are riding a 23-game winning streak, have won the last two state championships and four of the last five. What's their secret? Look at their hair. Read Brian Jerzak's story by clicking here



Class 6A Football: Wayzata, Eden Prairie Advance To Semifinals
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/9/2012 8:20:49 PM

After a wild first few seconds in which both teams scored, Wayzata went on to beat Eastview in the Class 6A football state quarterfinals Friday at the Metrodome. In the second game, Eden Prairie held off Minnetonka 21-18. Read Luke Sleeper's report by clicking here



Friendship Will Take A Backseat During Volleyball Title Match
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/9/2012 4:37:36 PM

The Class 3A volleyball state championship matchup not only will pit the last two state champs – Eden Prairie last year and Lakeville North in 2010 – but it also will feature two of the state’s marquee players.

Eden Prairie senior hitter Sarah Wilhite and Lakeville North junior hitter Alyssa Goehner have been piling up honors for a long time: all-conference … all-state … all-America, etc. Wilhite was selected by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association as this season’s Ms. Volleyball and Goehner was named player of the year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

When their teams meet at 5 p.m. Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, Wilhite and Goehner might feel a bit strange, however. That’s because they are accustomed to being teammates. The pair have played together for four years on a Northern Lights club team that won a national championship last summer.

“We’re actually really good friends,” Wilhite (right) said after Eden Prairie defeated Blaine 3-0 in Friday’s semifinals. “It’s going to be exciting.”

Last year’s 3A championship match was a bone crusher, lasting 2 hours, 6 minutes before Eden Prairie won it 22-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-18, 22-20. A kill by Wilhite was the winning point; she finished with 33 kills and Goehner had 34.

After the state tourney ends Saturday, Wilhite and Goehner will reunite as club volleyball teammates. But deciding the high school state championship comes first.

“She’s an amazing opponent, but an even more amazing teammate,” Wilhite said of Goehner. “It’s going to be a little weird seeing her on the other side of the net, but it’s exciting. I know once the match starts we’re just worrying about our side of the net and the other side is just any other opponent.”

Wilhite will play collegiate volleyball at Wisconsin and Goehner plans to play at Marquette … where they won’t be far apart.

SPECIALIZATION OR NOT

Players like Wilhite and Goehner play volleyball throughout the year, and that kind of commitment certainly can be a boon to athletes. But not all teams at the state tournament have athletes who specialize. For example, Bethlehem Academy – which will play in the Class 1A state championship match for the 10th time in 11 years – has a host of two- and three-sport athletes.

“We have kids who would love to play volleyball all year round and they play as much as they can, but almost all of our kids play in our own club and our club doesn’t start competing until after basketball season is done,” Cardinals coach Franz Boelter said. “We have kids who don’t even practice volleyball for the most part until the basketball season is over. We just say that the time we put in, let’s make sure it’s quality time, and we need three-sports athletes in a small school.”

Talented Bethlehem Academy eighth-grader Payton Nutter (pictured) – who had a game-high 32 assists in the Cardinals' 3-0 semifinal victory over Win-E-Mac -- played only volleyball last year but will play on the Cardinals’ basketball team this winter.

“This year I’m not going to (specialize in volleyball),” she said. “It’s just a lot to do and I want to focus on both sports, because I really like basketball, too.”

Bethlehem Academy senior Jessie Mathews, who also plays basketball, said, “I’ve grown up playing both sports. I don’t think it’s a disadvantage, I think it’s kind of nice because you get different teams and different people you’re with and kind of have two families. I love both sports.”

Another Cardinals senior, Taryn Ashley, plays volleyball, basketball and softball. For a small school like Bethlehem Academy, with an enrollment of 195 high school students, everybody needs to stay busy.

“Typically because we’re so small, it’s nice to be able to play multiple sports,” Ashley said. “We need the people.”

Eden Prairie’s Wilhite, on the other hand, has been only a volleyball player since she was in fourth grade.

“I’ve loved it ever since I started playing and I haven’t really been into any other sports,” she said. “It kind of takes up my life all year round.”

Regardless of whether players are volleyball specialists or multiple-sport athletes, the level of overall volleyball talent in Minnesota continues to rise.

“The thing with these kids is they have so much strength and athleticism,” said Lakeville North coach Walt Weaver. He’s seen it all, too. Weaver coached at Apple Valley for 31 years, winning two state titles and taking 13 teams to state before retiring six years ago. He came back this season to lead Lakeville North.

--Bethlehem Academy will meet Southwest Christian in today’s Class 1A state championship match at 3 p.m.

--In Class 2A, the 3 p.m. championship match will be between defending champion Marshall and Caledonia.

--While the Marshall Tigers were warming up for their semifinal against Belle Plaine, Tigers coach Dan Westby shook my hand at the courtside table and said, “What’s a guy gotta to do to get on John’s Journal?” Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

--Photo galleries from the state volleyball tournament can be found on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 313
*Miles John has driven: 3,991
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Class 6A Football: Rosemount Shocks Edina, Lakeville North Beats Prior Lake
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/8/2012 9:06:45 PM

In the first game of the 2012 state football tournament, the result was a big surprise. Rosemount, which went 4-4 in the regular season and was unseeded in the tournament, knocked off top-seeded Edina 14-10 at the Metrodome. In the second game, Lakeville North beat Prior Lake 22-3. You can read Luke Sleeper's story by clicking here



A Day In The Life Of A Guy With A Notebook …
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/8/2012 6:27:25 PM

A timeline of my day Thursday, split between the state volleyball tournament quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center and state football quarterfinals at the Metrodome ….

7:25 a.m.: Walking the dog. Hurry up buddy, I got stuff to do today.

7:40: Breakfast arrives, delivered through a small window and into my car.

8:05: Traffic at a near-standstill on Interstate 35E heading into downtown St. Paul. Didn’t panic. Bottleneck loosened up.

8:49: Inside Xcel Energy Center, pulled the state tournament program out of my bag. Began leafing through it, not realizing at first that it was the state football tournament program.

9:03: A mouse scooted under my courtside table at volleyball. My computer mouse. It’s wireless. I dropped it.

9:02: Answering emails as the first volleyball matches begin.

9:04: The first Facebook comment on a photo I’ve just posted says this: “Let’s go North!” It was posted by the Lakeville South High School Deans. Nice.

9:17: A match is interrupted briefly while a slow, aging journalist tries to fish out the volleyball that has rolled under his table. Sorry, everybody. That’s as fast as I go.

9:32: Earplugs. Do I have earplugs in my bag? These bands are REALLY LOUD.

9:48: Post my first incorrect Twitter score update of the day.

10:07: The first of 33 matches over three days ends as Lakeville North defeats Anoka in the Class 3A quarterfinals.

10:41: “Heads up! Heads up!” A Blaine player warns me during warmups that an inflated projectile is coming my way. The ball bangs off the table in front of me, narrowly missing my laptop.

11:35: Shakopee coach Matt Busch, talking about how the noise level from the fans affected his players during the Sabers’ 3-2 victory over Roseville in 3A: “They could barely hear each other, even when they were yelling.”

12:17: Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” can be heard inside the Bethlehem Academy locker room as the Cardinals prepare for the1A quarterfinals.

12:25: I hear a female voice holler at me, “Hey sweet cheeks! How are you?!” Sadly, it is not Mrs. John’s Journal.

1:55: The “what to drink” debate cranks up in my head. So far I’ve had two bottles of water. I knuckle under and have a Diet Coke on the rocks. And a donut ... no ice.

2:10: The Bethlehem Academy cheerleaders pose for a photo in front of the door to the Minnesota Wild’s locker room, a door that hasn’t seen much use lately.

2:15: Bethlehem Academy coach Franz Boelter says “I don’t think we played great, but we played OK” in a 3-0 victory over Martin County West.

2:20: As the North Woods volleyball players wait to go onto the court, they are performing a series of very loud, very choreographed cheers/chants/dances. As I make my way down the corridor, one of the Grizzlies tells her teammates, ‘Wait.” I walk past their smiling, silent faces … and then the fun resumes.

3:45: Pack up my gear, leave the Xcel Center and head for the Metrodome, nine miles away.

3:55: Pass a school bus from Nevis on Interstate 94.

4:05: Arrive at the Metrodome to the sounds of the Edina band limbering up in the parking lot.

4:12: I’m greeted in the press box with these words: “You’re looking good for an older gentleman.” Thanks.I think.

4:31: On the field at the Metrodome, I am congratulated on the fact that the MSHSL Facebook page has the second-most fans in the nation among high school governing bodies.

4:58: As I was purchasing a Diet Mountain Dew from a vending machine in the loading dock, a fellow snapped a photo of me. Sorry, Diet Coke (which isn’t available in the Metrodome).

5:02: Kickoff between Edina and Rosemount in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.

5:15: I hear the magic words, “You want sauerkraut with that?” Why yes I do want sauerkraut on this bratwurst from the concession stand.” Thank you very kindly.

5:43: I'm trying to keep my sports straight while watching football in front of me and tuning into the Prep45 webcast of the volleyball tournament on my computer.

6:00: The Edina dance team performs an excellent halftime show. I say to the guy sitting next to me in the press box, “Man, that was a fine brat!”

6:40: I post an incorrect score on Twitter from the first football game, writing that Edina and Rosemount are tied 10-10 late in the third quarter. The actual score is Rosemount 14, Edina 10. My next Tweet says this: “Third quarter has ended and the score is Rosemount XIV, Edina X.”

6:56: In the Edina student section, a large cardboard Barack Obama is held high in the air.

7:19: Unseeded Rosemount beats top-seeded Edina 14-10 in the 6A football quarterfinals.

7:28: Rosemount coach Jeff Erdmann tells his exuberant players: “Nobody knows who we are! Nobody (in the media) talked to us! The only people who believed in us are right here and up in the frickin’ stands!”

7:57: The football game between Prior Lake and Lakeville North begins … three minutes ahead of schedule.

8:20: Twelve hours into my workday, and I’m back to the concession stand for a “Quarterback Dog.” Let’s see what happens…

9:13: Lakeville North and Prior Lake are tied 3-3 early in the second half. So far, so good on that Quarterback Dog.

9:20: Learn on Twitter that the Class 2A football playoff game between BOLD and Holdingford at St. Cloud State is going into a second overtime.

9:31: Final score from St. Cloud: BOLD beats Holdingford 23-20 in double OT.

9:58: Feeling sleeeeepy. Another Diet Pepsi? Naw, then I’d never sleep tonight. Gotta be back at volleyball in the morning.

10:07: Final score is Lakeville North 22, Prior Lake 3.

10:22: Pack up and exit the Metrodome. Gotta get home and walk the dog.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 313
*Miles John has driven: 3,947
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



We’re Ready For A Big, Busy Stretch Of Fall Championships
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/7/2012 11:25:30 AM

Here we go, starting a big week of state tournaments and looking ahead to the culmination of fall sports for 2012. The soccer, cross-country and girls tennis seasons have come to an end, and volleyball, football, girls swimming and diving and adapted soccer are in the postseason.

Here’s what we are looking forward to…

--The state volleyball tournament will take place at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, with play in all three classes beginning Thursday. Quarterfinals will be contested that day, with semifinals (and consolation rounds) on Friday and championship, third-place and fifth-place matches on Saturday.

--The state football quarterfinals will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 16 sites around the state. The busiest single site will be St. Cloud State’s Husky Stadium with one game Thursday, two on Friday and three on Saturday. All four Class 6A quarterfinals will be played at the Metrodome, with two games Thursday and two on Friday.

--Girls swimming and diving will complete section tournaments this week in preparation for the state championships Nov. 15-17 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.

--And adapted soccer teams are gearing up for the state tournament, as well. That tourney will take place at Stillwater High School on Nov. 16-17.

Before you know it, winter sports will be in full swing. Practice is already underway for girls hockey and dance team, and Monday, Nov. 12, is the first day of practice for boys hockey, girls basketball, gymnastics and alpine and Nordic skiing.

And away we go!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 289
*Miles John has driven: 3,907
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Another Honor For Shakopee's Maria Hauger
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/6/2012 6:33:25 PM

Maria Hauger, the Shakopee cross-country star who became only the second four-time state champion in Minnesota history on Saturday, has received another honor. She has been named the Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week.

The senior runner capped a record-setting high school cross-country career in dominating fashion Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Hauger won her fourth consecutive Class 2A state championship, joining legendary Dawson-Boyd runner Carrie Tollefson as the only Minnesota athletes to win four titles. Hauger also set an all-time course record of 13 minutes, 42 seconds in winning with a 15-second margin over the rest of the field.

Hauger finished ninth at the state meet as an eighth-grader before beginning her four-year championship reign. She has narrowed her list of college choices to five, and the University of Minnesota is among the five.

Congratulation to Maria as the first two-time winner of the Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week Award as she also won on Oct. 2 after winning the prestigious Roy Griak Invitational cross-country meet in course-record time.



Volleyball’s Best, With A State Berth On The Line
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2012 11:40:50 AM

When the top two teams in the Class 3A volleyball rankings squared off to determine which one would go to the state tournament, the atmosphere matched the action. Read Brian Jerzak's story by clicking here



Class 6A Football Playoffs: Lakeville North 42, Roseville 0
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/3/2012 10:24:11 PM

Lakeville North is playing its best football of the season, qualifying for the Class 6A state tournament with a big win over Roseville. Read Luke Sleeper's story by clicking here



Shakopee’s Hauger Wins Fourth State Title, Joins Elite Company
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/3/2012 3:33:02 PM

NORTHFIELD -- Maria Hauger turned back the clock Saturday. And she didn’t wait until bedtime like the rest of us. She did it in the middle of the afternoon and turned it all the way back to 1994. That’s when Dawson-Boyd’s Carrie Tollefson became the only athlete in Minnesota history to win five cross-country state championships.

Hauger won the Class 2A state title for the fourth year in a row Saturday at St. Olaf College. She joined Tollefson – who went on to become an NCAA cross-country and track champion at Villanova University and run the 1,500 meters at the 2004 Olympics – as the only four-time champions. Tollefson won three Class 1A titles and two in Class 2A between 1990 and 1994. (Hauger and Tollefson are pictured here in a photo from earlier this season.)

Haugen’s other goal in her final high school race in Minnesota was to set a girls course record. And she did that, too, finishing in 13 minutes, 42 seconds. That shattered the record of 13:54.7 set in 2005 by Bria Wetsch of Holy Family.

The second-place finisher was Anna French, a sophomore from Wayzata. Placing third was Alexandria ninth-grader Bethany Hasz, followed by Eagan senior Danielle Anderson and Bemidji sophomore Jenna Truedson.

Any time anyone mentions to Hauger that she is in the same hemisphere as Tollefson, she brushes the comparisons aside: “She’s an Olympian, I’m just a high schooler.”

Hauger says that another athlete she also looks up to is swimmer Michael Phelps, “even though he’s not a runner. He’s just amazing.”

That word fits Hauger pretty well, too. Her running career began when she was in seventh grade and she broke the Shakopee school record in the mile in her very first race. She placed ninth at the state cross-country race in her first appearance, as an eighth-grader, and won every championship race since. The only race in Minnesota she didn’t win in the last four years came earlier this season at the Montgomery Invitational, when Blake junior Clare Flanagan – who captured her second Class 1A title Saturday – reached the finish line 18 seconds ahead of Hauger.

Hauger responded with a dominating victory at the Roy Griak Invitational two weeks later, and put a gold-medal cherry on her prep cross-country career Saturday.

“I’m pretty exhausted,” she said after the race. “Probably the most exhausting race, though, was the Griak. I felt like I was going to pass out. This one was good.”

She said her list of possible colleges has been narrowed to five. She wouldn’t name them, other than saying that the University of Minnesota is among the five.

CLASS 2A BOYS

Wayde Hall of Stillwater captured the title with a four-second margin of victory over runner-up Obsa Ali of Richfield. Third place went to Joe Klecker of Hopkins, followed by Will Burke of Edina and Connor Olson of Wayzata. Hall placed seventh last year at state.

The 2A boys team title went to top-ranked Stillwater. The Ponies had a score of 46, followed by Edina (80), Wayzata (90), Owatonna (125) and Rosemount (152).

CLASS 1A BOYS

The rankings held true to form as Proctor senior Matt Welch (pictured), the No. 1 runner in the 1A coaches poll, won his first state title after finishing 14th, 13th and 61st in the previous three years. The runner-up was Foley senior Charlie Lawrence, who is ranked second. Lawrence placed third a year ago. Shane Streich of Waseca, who finished fifth a year ago, placed third this year.

Perham cruised to the 1A boys team title with a score of 37 points. St. Cloud Cathedral was second with 72, followed by Waseca (164) and Martin County West and Winona Cotter, both with 200. Perham was third in 2009, first in 2010 and second last year.

CLASS 1A GIRLS

Blake junior Clare Flanagan easily won her second consecutive state title, finishing 12 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. The runner-up was Cannon Falls’ Emi Trost, followed by McKenzie Holt of St. Cloud Christian, Emily Mantor of United South Central and Marisa Shady of Esko.

Esko, which had been a top five team for the last three years, broke through to win the team crown. The Eskomos had 115 points, followed by Annandale (150), Minnehaha Academy (151), Waseca (157) and Dover-Eyota (184). Esko was eighth in 2009, fifth in 2010 and third last year.

--Photo galleries from state cross-country are posted on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 288
*Miles John has driven: 3,819
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn



Remembering Our Friend Ron Sellnow
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/2/2012 6:19:32 AM

Before each of Thursday’s four state championship soccer games at the Metrodome, a moment of silence was held in honor of former teacher, coach and Hopkins athletic director Ron Sellnow, who died last week.

A Celebration of Life will be held at the Lindbergh Center at Hopkins High School, Saturday, Nov. 3 at 11 a.m. Here are Ron’s obituary as well as his MSHSL 2009 Hall of Fame biography:

--Ron’s obituary…

Ronald Sellnow, age 70, of St. Louis Park, passed away in his home on Wednesday Oct. 24th after a noble battle with Lymphoma. Ron was preceded in death by his father, Edward, and two infant brothers. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Judi, and their three children, Gretchen (Joe) Randall, Derek (Melissa) Sellnow, and Jennifer (Patrick) Dame, grandchildren Gabrielle, Susanna, Madison, Claire, Nicolette, Nicholas, Delanee and Olivia and his mother Ruth, brother Gerald, sisters Sandie, Janell and Karen, and many loving nieces and nephews.

Ron spent 35 years in the Hopkins School District teaching at Eisenhower, Lindbergh and Hopkins High School. In his role as a math teacher and coach, he inspired countless numbers of students and athletes, eventually leading hockey teams to the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament and leading a team to a State Soccer Championship.

After retiring as the Hopkins High School Athletic Director in 1999, Ron continued working with young athletes in his role as Select 17 Camp Director for USA Hockey, and Secretary of the Minnesota State High School League Sections 5 and 6AA. Among many other awards, some of his most treasured were his inductions into The Minnesota State High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2011, and The Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame in 2009.

Far and beyond Ron's professional accomplishments was the influence and happiness he gave to his family. He loved traveling with Judi, whether to Europe or to visit their children around the country, or just to their cabin which was a centerpiece in their lives. His legacy lies with those grandchildren, whom over the years, like his student athletes, he has taught to work their hardest, try their best, and above all else, be positive influences to others.

Ron spent his life dedicated to youth athletics, so in lieu of flowers, the family requests that those interested in honoring Ron's legacy donate to a student-athlete scholarship fund that the family is establishing in Ron's name. If you would like to donate to the fund, please make checks payable to Judi Sellnow with "scholarship" in the memo. A Celebration of Life will be held at the Lindbergh Center at Hopkins High School, Saturday, Nov. 3rd at 11:00 a.m.

--Ron’s MSHSL Hall of Fame biography…

Ron Sellnow left a legacy at Hopkins High School, where he was a teacher, coach and athletic director for 35 years.

A graduate of Staples High School, Ron obtained his BS degree from St. Cloud State University and a master’s degree from the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
Hopkins High School first hired Ron as a math teacher in 1964. Soon thereafter he began to coach cross country running, hockey and soccer.

As an assistant hockey coach for 27 years the Hopkins junior varsity hockey teams never had a losing season. The varsity teams won two section titles and made two state tournament appearances in 1975 and 1980.

When Ron took over as head soccer coach he led the Royals to two conference championships, five region championships, and five consecutive state tournament appearances capturing the state title in 1983 and runners-up in 1980.

Eric Tuck, a senior on the ’83 championship team who scored the game winning goal says, “Coach Sellnow had such an even keel personality. He was always very calm during practice and games, which I believed transcended to his players. We came back from many deficits as Coach Sellnow’s calm demeanor always gave us the confidence to battle back and not give up.”

Ron was named ‘Soccer Coach of the Year’ twice by the Minnesota Soccer coaches Association, and was a nominee for the National Soccer Coach of the Year in 1985.
In 1988, Ron had to make a decision to give up coaching to be the district director of athletics. The position included 26 sports programs at Hopkins High School, 22 sports at two area middle schools, and 195 salaried and volunteer coaches.

With a determination to give high school students the best experience possible, Ron enthusiastically took on his new responsibilities and his leadership was known at every level—from the Classic Lake Conference to the Minnesota State High School League. He managed the Classic Lake Conference soccer and golf competitions, the Section hockey and soccer tournaments, and the State Boys’ and Girls’ Soccer Tournaments. He also serves as an event assistant at the State Boys’ Hockey Tournament.

Ron served on numerous League committees including the Strategic Planning Committee, the Soccer Advisory Committee, the Soccer Officials Selection Committee, and the Athletic Advisory Committee, which he chaired in 1998. He has also held posts on the Region 6AA Executive Committee and was the committee chair from 1994 to 1999. For his service, the Region honored him with a service award and his peers voted him the Region 6AA Athletic Director of the Year in 1999. Now in retirement, Ron is the Administrative Region 5AA Secretary, a position he’s held since 1999.

Ron’s contributions to the professional organizations that represent athletic directors and coaches are far too numerous to list. He is a founding member and past secretary of the Minnesota Soccer Coaches Association. He held roles as president and region representative for the Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association which in 1999 named Ron Athletic Director of the Year.

Ron’s entrance in the League’s Hall of Fame is the fourth hall that bears his name. The others include Hopkins High School, the Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, and Minnesota Soccer Coaches Association.

Those who work closely with Ron will comment about the respect they have for the job he’s done and his high standard of ethics. One such comment comes from a longtime colleague who says: “Ron has made serving the people of Minnesota his career and has done it in a way that sets him apart from his peers. His integrity, professionalism, personal warmth, and sense of fairness are unequal.”

This quote sums up beautifully all that Ron represents as a teacher, a coach, and athletic director. No doubt many athletes have taken with them the character-enhancing qualities Ron Sellnow brought to their high school experience, making it for each of them, what he always hoped it would be---rich in values to build their lives on.



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