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The Jablonski Name Is Back On The Ice
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/30/2016 11:29:27 AM

The name “Jablonski” is a permanent fixture for Benilde-St. Margaret’s boys hockey games at The Rec Center in St. Louis Park. Jack Jablonski’s name and jersey number 13 hang from the ceiling along with other retired numbers.

Jack, as Minnesota hockey fans know, was a sophomore at Benilde-St. Margaret’s when he was severely injured during a junior varsity hockey game in late December 2011. Now a student at the University of Southern California, Jack is keeping an eye on the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights this season for family reasons.

His only sibling, Max, is a senior captain who has brought the family name back to the ice. Seeing “Jablonski” on a jersey was a special moment for Red Knights fans Tuesday night as the team opened the season against St. Michael-Albertville.

“I texted him this morning and he texted back,” Max said after the game. “He wished me good luck. He’s excited for me and he’s proud of where I’ve gotten, and I’m proud of what he’s done.”

Max, who was a seventh-grader when Jack’s injury occurred, has worked hard on the ice. This is his first season on the varsity, where he centered the third line during the Red Knights’ 4-1 loss to St. Michael-Albertville. The score was 2-1 with one minute to play in the third period before St. Michael-Albertville scored two empty-net goals. Max took one shot and won five of 13 faceoffs.

“I’ve been working for this for many years,” he said. “It’s obviously nerve-wracking but coming in as a senior and a captain, I felt like I wasn’t out of place. I felt like I did well and I was excited.”

For people who have seen how hard Jack, who uses a wheelchair, has worked in therapy and rehab in regaining some of his physical abilities, it is no surprise to hear Red Knights coach Ken Pauly use words like “grit” and “heart” to describe Max.

“He’s a heady player,” Pauly said. “Guys like to play with him because he’ll give them the puck. He’s not a quitter. He wants to be out there. That’s something that’s going to be very important for us this year. We know that we’re going to have some struggles and having someone like him leading us should help us with that.”

Benilde-St. Margaret’s was one of the top teams in Class 2A last season, finishing with a record of 25-1-1. Seventeen of last year’s 21 varsity players are now gone, however. That kind of challenge is just fine with the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Max Jablonski (pictured).

“Tonight was tough,” he said. “You never want to fall in the season opener. But we knew there was going to be a lot of growing this season. Although tonight we lost, there were some good things; we played pretty even, we just couldn’t score. So we have a lot of growing to do and I think we’ll be able to use this to take a step in the right direction.

“There’s a team goal of moving on and getting farther than we did last year and hopefully going to state. Which right now is a little tough to say. It’s definitely early and it doesn’t matter what we’re doing now, it matters what we’re doing in February and March.”

Max said his big brother’s injury never caused him to consider walking away from hockey.

“Definitely it was hard to watch when that happened,” Max said. “It made you question, ‘That could be me.’ But I love the game and he loves the game, and it wasn’t like I was going to step away from it. I just try playing for him.”

Pauly said the Jablonskis have never wavered on their love of hockey.

“Through all this they’ve continued to embrace the game, where I think some people might be bitter and blame the game. They’ve continued to embrace the game.”

Until Jack left for college in California, Max was at his side. Whether Jack was working with therapists or making public appearances on behalf of the Jack Jablobski BEL13VE in Miracles Foundation (a charitable organization created to support spinal cord injury recovery: http://www.bel13vefoundation.org), Max was almost always there.

“It’s very motivational,” Max said. “How difficult his injury was to handle and his hockey career being ended so early and him losing his ability to walk, it was just absolutely devastating. And to see the way he was able to not only come back from that, but come back with a smile on his face. Right when he got out of the hospital he wanted to go to rehab right away and start working. I’m very proud of where’s gone and what he’s been able to do since his injury.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 288
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 5,086
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Lakeville South's Thompson Retires After 38 Years
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/29/2016 12:09:24 PM

One of Minnesota's most well-known football coaches has announced his retirement. Larry Thompson coached at Lakeville High School and Lakeville South for 38 years. His teams won three state titles, were state runner-up four times and he was named a state coach of the year five times.

His career coaching record was 259-143, putting him among the top 20 in victories in Minnesota history.

His letter of resignation ended with this zinger: "I was going to coach at South until we got turf, but I can't wait until I'm 100."



Remembering Rachel: A Special Relationship At Totino-Grace
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/28/2016 2:35:34 PM

Rachel Woell has been gone for more than two years, but the teenager’s impact on the football team at Totino-Grace High School has never wavered. Eagles coach Jeff Ferguson wore green sleeves during his team’s Class 6A Prep Bowl victory over Eden Prairie on Friday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. Green was Rachel’s favorite color.

Rachel (pictured) died in September 2014 after a second bout with brain cancer. She was a student manager for the Totino-Grace football team and was beloved at school, being named Homecoming queen. Even after her medical condition put her in a wheelchair, she was part of the football team until the day she died. She called the football players “my boys.”

After the Eagles’ victory in Friday’s state championship game, Rachel was there in the form of her mother, Yvette, as everyone celebrated. Players embraced Yvette, she hugged them tightly and used both hands to form a heart symbol as she looked up into the stands.

Yvette became part of the team as Rachel’s health declined.

“When Rachel was a junior and diagnosed with her second bout of brain cancer, she ended up in a wheelchair and the way for her to get to football practice and games was for me to bring her,” Yvette said Monday. “I started meeting some of the boys that way. After she passed away it was in my heart that I wanted to hang out with these guys and take them to the end of the season.”

That relationship has continued, and will go on “if they’ll have me,” Yvette said with a smile.

There’s no doubting that. Yvette is listed among the assistant coaches on the team roster. Ferguson said, “She’s a coach for us. There are six volunteer coaches and she’s one of them. She’s our director of football operations, which means she’s a mom to the football players.”

Yvette said she handles “some of the small stuff, to let the coaches coach. I make sure the players get what they need to perform and play with heart.”

Among the players she embraced after Friday’s game was senior running back Ivan Burlak (pictured, number 5). He is an immigrant from Russia whose mother and stepfather don’t speak English and didn’t attend football games,

“Yvette and (her husband) Jamie are such role models for our kids,” Ferguson said. “On senior night, she stood with Ivan. She takes care of the strays.”

Yvette will be back on the sidelines at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday for the 44th annual All-Star Football Game. Ferguson will be the head coach for the North team, with Yvette at his side.

“It’s just been great to be part of the team,” Yvette said. “It’s amazing how many players remember Rachel and how she has inspired them to be more than just football players, to be amazing people.

“Rachel would sometimes get in the car and she would be shaking her head. I’d say, ‘What’s up?’ And she would just say ‘boys.’ Now that I’m part of it I totally get it. They just make you laugh.

“And they want to keep wearing green. It just warms my heart.”

Rachel is being remembered in another way, with a special award at the end of each season. The Rachel Woell Award is given to a player who displays commitment, loyalty and love.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 5,038
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Record Attendance At Prep Bowl XXXV
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/28/2016 12:08:51 PM

Combine seven state-championship football games, a glittering new stadium, and Thanksgiving weekend, and the result is record-setting attendance.

Last weekend’s Prep Bowl games not only set a record, they crushed the previous record. A total of 47,309 tickets were scanned at the entrance to U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday and Saturday. Friday’s attendance was 28,399 and the number on Saturday was 18,910.

The previous Prep Bowl attendance record was 38,089 in 1986, meaning the 2016 Prep Bowl broke that mark by nearly 10,000 fans.

Thanks to all who attended the games and took part in the inaugural Prep Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium, Congratulations to all the teams that participated in the state semifinals as well as the championship games at the stadium.

Prep Bowl
At U.S. Bank Stadium
Friday

Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 41, Cleveland 21
Class 2A/ Caledonia 61, Eden Valley-Watkins 12
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 31, Winona 28
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 28, Eden Prairie 20

Saturday
Class 1A/ Minneapolis North 30, Rushford-Peterson 14
Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes 42, St. Croix Lutheran 35
Class 5A/ Elk River 42, Spring Lake Park 14

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 5,038
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Prep Bowl XXXV: A Day Of Pride For Minneapolis
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/26/2016 2:56:39 PM

The sun was bright over U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday, with rays crashing through the glass ceiling and making fans sitting inside wish they had brought sunglasses to Prep Bowl XXXV.

All over the neighborhoods of Minneapolis, the sun might have seemed a little brighter and the late-November temperatures might have seemed a little warmer. That’s because of what took place inside the downtown stadium during the Class 1A football state championship game.

The Minneapolis North Polars completed a perfect 13-0 season with a 30-14 victory over Rushford-Peterson. They became the first Minneapolis City Conference school to win a state football title since Washburn defeated Stillwater 13-0 for the 1977 championship in Class 2A, which was then the largest of five classes.

The celebration stretched beyond the north Minneapolis neighborhood because people associated with all the city schools take pride in such events. There is a large sense of family within these schools – North, Patrick Henry, Edison, Roosevelt, South, Southwest and Washburn – and they celebrate each other’s accomplishments, especially on a statewide level.

And that pride extends beyond the schools, too. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, for example, posted a new cover photo on her Twitter page, @MayorHodges. It was a photo of the Polars with their championship trophy (a photo that I had Tweeted). The mayor’s Twitter message was: “ALRIGHT, POLARS!!!! YOU DO US PROUD!!! #Mpls #bragMpls”

The family ties extend to North coach Charles Adams. He is a North graduate, as are his parents and his uncles. His father is one of his assistant coaches. Adams, a Minneapolis police officer who has worked at North as a school resource officer, was hired as coach of a struggling program seven years ago … one day before the season started. What did he do?

“I was literally working patrol, so I got in the squad car and told kids to come to practice the next day,” he said. “I told the kids to just trust me. And to come out and have fun.

“I’m so proud of these young men. I really value the team aspect this year. It was all about all of us this year.”

Saturday’s game was close until the late stages. Rushford-Peterson star Noah Carlson broke loose for a 74-yard touchdown sprint on the game’s second play, and North went ahead 8-7 when Azerick Rodgers hit Tayler Johnson on a 13-yard scoring pass in the second quarter. Johnson scooped up a Rushford-Peterson fumble and ran 56 yards for a touchdown to give the Polars a 16-7 lead, but Carlson caught an 11-yard pass from Landon Skalet to make it 16-14 at halftime.

An eight-yard run by Kehyan Porter gave North a 22-14 lead late in the third quarter and the clincher came when Rodgers hit Corleon Powell for a 31-yard score with 2:19 to play.

“That’s what a championship game is supposed to be,” said Trojans coach Davin Thompson. “We came up short and that happens. It was a great football game. Give a lot of credit to Minneapolis North.”

Carlson finished with 27 carries for 161 yards. North ran for 245 yards, with Nasir El-Amin, Jamin Smith, Rodgers and Porter all carrying at least 10 times. Rodgers completed 10 of 13 passes for 115 yards.

One year ago, the Polars lost to Minneota in the state championship game at TCF Bank Stadium. This was a new season, with a new outlook.

“We realized we were blessed to be in a position to just play football,” Adams said. “I told the kids, ‘We made it the Prep Bowl last year, some coaches and some kids never get there.’ There was literally no pressure. I looked at them in the tunnel and said, ‘This is just a football game. Play football.’ ”

CLASS 3A: Rochester Lourdes 42, St. Croix Lutheran 35

In the wildest game of the weekend, Lourdes used one in a series of big plays to win the 3A championship. The winning points came after a 59-yard play that began with a pass and ended with two laterals before the tackle was made at the five-yard line. Jake Groteboer ran from there for the touchdown that won it with 25 seconds to play.

After the play – which Lourdes calls “The Annexation of Puerto Rico” … as seen in the movie “Little Giants” – some wondered if the second lateral may have actually been an illegal forward pass. St. Croix Lutheran coach Carl Lemke discounted any second-guessing of the officials, saying, “There might have been calls that went our way and we don’t even know it.”

Asked if he thought high school officials should be allowed to use replay to avoid calls, Lemke said emphatically, “No. Keep the human element.”

Lourdes led 6-0 after the first quarter and that’s when things got wild. There were five touchdowns in the second quarter, after which the score was 21-21. They included a 31-yard pass from Isaac Tietz to Garett Maag and a 24-yard run by Mike Stern for St. Croix Lutheran, and a 30-yard pass from Noah Hillman to Carter Greguson for Lourdes.

Each team scored once in the third quarter to make it 28-28. Lourdes went ahead 32-28 when Hillman dashed 66 yards for a touchdown and Lutheran tied it on aq 37-yard run by Daniel Rust with 5:29 left.

Hillman completed 12 of 16 passes for 270 yards and two scores. Greguson set a Prep Bowl record with 20 unassisted tackles while rushing 14 times for 66 yards and catching five passes for 127 yards. Rust ran 17 times for 134 yards and Stern had 23 carries for 109 yards.

CLASS 5A: Elk River 42, Spring Lake Park 14

The Elks got going early, took a big halftime lead and coasted to their MSHSL first state championship in 125 years of fielding a football team.

Sam Gibas broke free for a 60-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes gone in the first quarter, and the Elks scored three more times in the second quarter. Sherrod Kpahn ran 50 yards and Nicholas Rice had scoring runs of 33 and 54 yards before halftime to make it 27-0. Rice scored again in the third quarter, making it 35-7.

Rice rushed 13 times for 242 yards and Gibas had 11 carries for 105. The Elks did not attempt a pass. For the Panthers, Mark Buley rushed 11 times for 114 yards.

Prep Bowl
At U.S. Bank Stadium
Friday


Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 41, Cleveland 21
Class 2A/ Caledonia 61, Eden Valley-Watkins 12
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 31, Winona 28
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 28, Eden Prairie 20

Saturday
Class 1A/ Minneapolis North 30, Rushford-Peterson 14
Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes 42, St. Croix Lutheran 35
Class 5A/ Elk River 42, Spring Lake Park 14

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 5,038
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Prep Bowl XXXV: The Tears Of State Champions
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/25/2016 2:29:46 PM

A few tears were flowing after Grand Meadow capped another championship football season Friday by winning its fourth consecutive Nine-Man state title with a 41-21 victory over Cleveland at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Prep Bowl XXXV victory gave the Superlarks 50 wins in a row, the longest current streak in the state.

After the postgame awards ceremony, Grand Meadow coach Gary Sloan and do-everything senior Christopher Bain were interviewed on television by KSTC Channel 45. Bain had a stellar day, rushing 36 times for 278 yards and four touchdowns. He also was the Superlarks’ second-leading tackler behind Brenn Olson (who plays quarterback, too).

As Sloan and Bain walked off the field after the interview, Christopher – who is one of 10 finalists for this year’s statewide Mr. Football award -- began to cry. He told his coach, “I don’t want it to end.”

Think about that. Four seasons, four state championships, all the glory a high school athlete could receive, and … “I don’t want it to end.”

Christopher and his coach both teared up during the postgame interview session.

Bain, asked about ending his high school career, said, “It’s hard knowing this is your last time playing (this is where he stopped and collected himself) with your friends who you grew up with.”

Sloan, asked whether his team should be considered a dynasty, said, “We’re not a dynasty. We just go out and play hard (he then choked up for a second).

“We just love the game. We love the game. Whatever happens, happens. We’ve been fortunate, we’ve won a lot of games. Other teams have won a lot, too. I don’t even like to use that word.”

We just love the game. I don’t want it to end. Those are statements that say a lot about what high school activities mean. Well done, Superlarks.

Cleveland quarterback Carter Kopet is the real deal, and he proved it in Friday’s game. The junior broke the state record for career touchdown passes during the season and he threw for three scores in the loss to Grand Meadow. He finished the year with 131 touchdown passes, and during this season he threw for 54 scores. The single-season state record is 55, set by Breck’s Liam O’Hagen in 2003.

Kopet completed 22 of 34 passes for 238 yards Friday while running nine times for 42 yards.

“He’s a really good quarterback,” said Grand Meadow’s Wes Ojulu. “Not only throwing but running, too. We had to key on him a lot but they had other good players, too. One way or another they were going to make plays.”

Kopet said playing at U.S. Bank Stadium was “amazing. It’s something as a team, win or lose, we’re going to remember this for the rest of our lives. It stinks now but eventually we’re going to be able to tell our kids we played here.”

A media representative, thinking Carter was a senior, asked him where he would be next season.

The kid smiled and said, “Hopefully sitting in the same spot, on the other end (of the score).”

Atta boy.

CLASS 2A: Caledonia 61, Eden Valley-Watkins 12

The Warriors captured their second consecutive state title with a dominating victory over the Eagles. Caledonia scored 20 points in the first quarter and 20 more in the second.

Owen King threw five touchdown passes, one off the Prep Bowl record of six set by Triton’s Kirk Midthun in 1994. King completed 17 of 25 passes for 328 yards (the Prep Bowl record for passing yards is 368 by Edgerton/Ellsworth’s Isaac Heard in 2011). King threw only one pass in the second quarter, a completion for nine yards.

Ben McCabe led Caledonia’s ground game with 22 carries for 99 yards and three touchdowns. Eden Valley-Watkins quarterback Reese Jansen completed 12 of 30 passes for 117 yards and one touchdown, and he ran nine times for a team-leading 72 yards.

CLASS 4A: Benilde-St. Margaret’s 31, Winona 28

In a game filled with twists, turns and big plays, the Red Knights won their first state football championship. Benilde star running back Ricky Floyd left the game early with an injury, rushing only two times for nine yards. But his teammates picked up the slack and came out on top.

Liam Ford took over the ball-carrying duties after Floyd left, finishing with 18 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Red Knights quarterback Will Whitmore completed nine of 17 passes for 153 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown pass to Dakota Matthees, who also caught a 37-yard scoring pass from Terrell Hall. Winona’s Alex Franzwa rushed 10 times for 105 yards.

The lead changed hands every time points were scored. Hall’s scoring pass to Matthees gave Winona a 28-24 lead early in the fourth quarter; the winning points came when Ford ran 24 yards for a touchdown with 4:50 to play.

CLASS 6A: Totino-Grace 28, Eden Prairie 20

The Eagles of Totino-Grace opened the 2016 season with a 17-14 victory over the Eagles of Eden Prairie, and the results was the same in the Prep Bowl championship game.

Totino-Grace trailed 7-0 after a first-quarter punt return of 86 yards for a touchdown by Eden Prairie’s Kyle Connelly. The first of Gayflor Flomo’s two one-yard touchdown runs for Totino-Grace made it 7-7 at halftime. Connelly caught a 28-yard pass from Cole Kramer to put Eden Prairie ahead 14-7 midway through the third quarter.

Totino-Grace outscored Eden Prairie 21-7 in the decisive fourth quarter, getting touchdowns on a four-yard pass from Kyle Halverson to Rocky Kreuser, Flomo’s second scoring run, and a two-yard touchdown burst by Ivan Burlak. Eden Prairie ended the scoring on a seven-yard run by Carlos Williams as time expired.

Burlak rushed 24 times for 161 yards to pace Totino-Grace’s ground game. They held the ball for more than 28 minutes to Eden Prairie’s 19-plus minutes. Totino-Grace outrushed Eden Prairie 263 yards to 74.

Prep Bowl
At U.S. Bank Stadium
Friday


Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 41, Cleveland 21
Class 2A/ Caledonia 61, Eden Valley-Watkins 12
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 31, Winona 28
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 28, Eden Prairie 20

Saturday
10 a.m., Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson vs. Minneapolis North
1 p.m., Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes vs. St. Croix Lutheran
4 p.m., Class 5A/ Elk River vs. Spring Lake Park

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,988
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Twitter Users Make Prep Bowl Predictions
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/24/2016 3:57:59 PM

In a completely unscientific social-media survey, I used Twitter this week to ask people to predict the winners of Prep Bowl XXXV games. The votes came from Twitter users who follow me (I can be found on Twitter here: @MSHSLjohn).

I posted one survey for each of the seven Prep Bowl games, beginning with the Nine-Man game between Grand Meadow and Cleveland and ending with the Class 6A matchup between Eden Prairie and Totino-Grace.

A total of 4,616 predictions were made by Twitter users. The highest number of votes were cast for the Class 1A game between Rushford-Peterson and Minneapolis North; 844 predictions were made for that game. The second-highest total was for the Nine-Man game, with 820.

Here are the complete results...

Unscientific Twitter Survey

Total votes: 4,616

Class 6A/ 583 votes: 53% Eden Prairie 47% Totino-Grace

Class 5A/ 483 votes: 74% Elk River 26% Spring Lake Park

Class 4A/ 687 votes: 68% Winona 32% Benilde-St. Margaret’s

Class 3A/ 516 votes: 64% Rochester Lourdes 36% St. Croix Lutheran

Class 2A/ 683 votes: 76% Caledonia 24% Eden Valley-Watkins

Class 1A/ 844 votes: 64% Rushford-Peterson 36% Minneapolis North

Nine-man/ 820 votes: 68% Grand Meadow 32% Cleveland

Prep Bowl
At U.S. Bank Stadium
Friday, Nov. 25


10 a.m., Nine-Man/ Cleveland vs. Grand Meadow
1 p.m., Class 2A/ Caledonia vs. Eden Valley-Watkins
4 p.m., Class 4A/ Winona vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s
7 p.m., Class 6A/ Totino-Grace vs. Eden Prairie

Saturday, Nov. 26
10 a.m., Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson vs. Minneapolis North
1 p.m., Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes vs. St. Croix Lutheran
4 p.m., Class 5A/ Elk River vs. Spring Lake Park

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,938
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Prep Bowl XXXV Matchups Are Set
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2016 10:10:43 PM

Thanksgiving weekend is right around the corner, and that means it’s almost time for the annual Minnesota extravaganza known as the Prep Bowl. The Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving will be filled with football at the new home of the Prep Bowl, U.S. Bank Stadium.

The state championship matchups were finalized with 14 semifinal games over three days at the glittering new stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

In the last semifinal of the weekend, Spring Lake Park defeated Mankato West 14-0 Saturday night. The Panthers scored midway through the second quarter when a 2-yard run by Nick Robinson capped a four-play, 58-yard drive. It was a defensive battle after that, with the final score coming on a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown by Luke Onstad with 2:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Here is the Prep Bowl lineup, along with scores from the semifinals…

Prep Bowl
At U.S. Bank Stadium

Friday, Nov. 25

10 a.m., Nine-Man/ Cleveland vs. Grand Meadow
1 p.m., Class 2A/ Caledonia vs. Eden Valley-Watkins
4 p.m., Class 4A/ Winona vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s
7 p.m., Class 6A/ Totino-Grace vs. Eden Prairie

Saturday, Nov. 26
10 a.m., Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson vs. Minneapolis North
1 p.m., Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes vs. St. Croix Lutheran
4 p.m., Class 5A/ Elk River vs. Spring Lake Park

State Semifinals

Thursday

Nine-Man/ Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 38, Cromwell-Wright 29
Class 2A/ Eden Valley-Watkins 46, Maple River 13
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 44, Marshall 34
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 21, Blaine 20

Friday
Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 35, Waubun 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 55, Barnesville 20
Class 5A/ Elk River 19, Owatonna 7
Class 4A/ Winona 34, Rocori 30
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 23, Champlin Park 0

Saturday
Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson 49, Browerville/Eagle Valley 0
Class 1A/ Minneapolis North 16, Wabasso 8
Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes 43, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 21
Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran 35, Pierz 28
Class 5A/ Spring Lake Park 14, Mankato West 0

Prep Bowl tickets can be purchased in advance at mshsl.org/tickets and also will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium at the northwest corner of the stadium.

Ticket prices for the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,938
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



A Big Lead And A Close Finish For St. Croix Lutheran
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2016 8:21:11 PM

St. Croix Lutheran started fast, built up a sizable lead against Pierz … and had to hang on by its fingernails at the end. That’s the kind of game these teams played in Saturday night’s Class 3A football state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The early going was all Crusaders. They scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions and held what appeared to be a safe 35-7 lead late in the third quarter.

But …

“There’s no quit in Pierz,” Pioneers coach Leo Pohlkamp would say after the game. And he was correct. The Pioneers scored three touchdowns on their last three possessions – all in the game’s final six minutes, 43 seconds – and threw a big scare into the Crusaders before St. Croix Lutheran left the building with a 35-28 victory.

St. Croix Lutheran will face Rochester Lourdes in the Class 3A Prep Bowl next Saturday at 1 p.m.

“I was proud of our kids, the way they played defense,” said Crusaders coach Carl Lemke. “We stopped them when we had to.”

Both teams are accustomed to deep postseason runs. Pierz won the 3A state title last year and this year’s trip to state was its fourth in a row. St. Croix Lutheran (which is in West St. Paul) won state championships in 2011 and 2013 and is at state for the sixth consecutive year.

Mike Stern led the Crusaders ground game with 23 carries for 257 yards and three touchdowns. His first score was an 88-yard jaunt early in the game. After Brandon Ortman scored for Pierz on a 21-yard run to make it 7-7, the Crusaders scored the next four touchdowns, two by Stern and two by Isaac Tietz, to make it 35-7.

A touchdown run by Lane Girtz and TD passes from Lukas Otte to Preston Rocheleau and Rocheleau to Benjamin Herold made it 35-28 with 3:09 left.

The Crusaders ran six plays to close out the game and the Pioneers never saw the ball again.

Postscript: Following his media session after the game, Pohlkamp shook hands with several reporters who have covered the Pioneers this season. He told them, “Thanks for the great coverage.” That’s pretty classy.

Prep Bowl
At U.S. Bank Stadium

Friday, Nov. 25

10 a.m., Nine-Man/ Cleveland vs. Grand Meadow
1 p.m., Class 2A/ Caledonia vs. Eden Valley-Watkins
4 p.m., Class 4A/ Winona vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s
7 p.m., Class 6A/ Totino-Grace vs. Eden Prairie

Saturday, Nov. 26
10 a.m., Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson vs. Minneapolis North
1 p.m., Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes vs. St. Croix Lutheran
4 p.m., Class 5A/ Elk River vs. Mankato West or Spring Lake Park

State Semifinals

Thursday

Nine-Man/ Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 38, Cromwell-Wright 29
Class 2A/ Eden Valley-Watkins 46, Maple River 13
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 44, Marshall 34
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 21, Blaine 20

Friday
Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 35, Waubun 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 55, Barnesville 20
Class 5A/ Elk River 19, Owatonna 7
Class 4A/ Winona 34, Rocori 30
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 23, Champlin Park 0

Saturday
Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson 49, Browerville/Eagle Valley 0
Class 1A/ Minneapolis North 16, Wabasso 8
Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes 43, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 21
Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran 35, Pierz 28
Class 5A/ Mankato West (11-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (11-0)

Tickets can be purchased in advance at mshsl.org/tickets and will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium at the northwest corner of the stadium

Ticket prices for the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,938
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Rochester Lourdes: Run, Run, And Run Some More
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2016 5:42:12 PM

Some teams run the ball and some teams RUN the ball. Rochester Lourdes is clearly in the latter category, as the Eagles displayed in a 43-21 victory over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Saturday in the Class 3A football state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.

How well do they run the ball? Let us count the ways…

Nine different players had rushing attempts, led by quarterback Noah Hillman with 12 carries for 158 yards and touchdowns of 45, 13 and 46 yards. Carter Greguson ran 15 times for 122 yards and a score, and Jake Groteboer ran 11 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

All told, the Eagles (12-0) had 52 rushes for 440 yards. They attempted only four passes, with Hillman completing two of them for 32 yards. Hillman’s three touchdowns came in the first half; Lourdes led 26-7 at halftime.

“They put you in a situation where it’s one-on-one battles, and if you miss a tackle you’re in trouble,” said Rebels coach Anthony Soderberg. “When they make you miss they’re running for a long time.”

Hillman directs the Eagles’ option offense, and it ran pretty darn well Saturday.

“Confidence is probably the key word there,” Lourdes coach Mike Kessler said of Hillman. “Noah’s a pretty physical kid. He’s really worked hard in the weight room. He’s tough. He’s a quarterback who runs through a lot of arm tackles.”

Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton’s season ended with a record of 11-2. The Rebels’ only previous loss was to Class 2A state semifinalist Barnesville 22-21 in week five of the regular season.

Two interceptions in the first quarter killed DGF drives as well as momentum.

“At the state level, the state semifinals, turnovers kill you,” Soderberg said.

“This is the hardest part about football, the last game. Only seven teams finish the season with a win, everybody else finishes with a loss. It’s a gut-wrenching loss. With the amount of time and effort these kids have put into it, it means something to them.”

State Football Semifinals

Thursday

Nine-Man/ Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 38, Cromwell-Wright 29
Class 2A/ Eden Valley-Watkins 46, Maple River 13
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 44, Marshall 34
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 21, Blaine 20

Friday
Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 35, Waubun 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 55, Barnesville 20
Class 5A/ Elk River 19, Owatonna 7
Class 4A/ Winona 34, Rocori 30
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 23, Champlin Park 0

Saturday
Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson 49, Browerville/Eagle Valley 0
Class 1A/ Minneapolis North 16, Wabasso 8
Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes 43, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 21
Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pierz (10-1)
Class 5A/ Mankato West (11-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (11-0)

Tickets can be purchased in advance at mshsl.org/tickets and will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium at the northwest corner of the stadium

Ticket prices for the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,938
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Minneapolis North: “It’s Bigger Than Just One”
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2016 2:57:44 PM

A year ago, Minneapolis North finished one short step away from a state football championship. The Polars lost to Minneota 35-18 in the Class 1A championship game at TCF Bank Stadium.

The 2015 Polars were led by Tyler Johnson, a dynamic offensive, defensive and special teams player who now is seeing playing time as a freshman at the University of Minnesota. The 2016 North team does not have a marquee player of that caliber, but they have something more.

“This team is different because last year we had a great player and a bunch of good players,” Polars coach Charles Adams said after North beat Wabasso 16-8 Saturday in the 1A semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. “Now we have a great team. It’s bigger than just one.”

North’s victory moved the Polars into Prep Bowl XXXV, where they will meet Rushford-Peterson next Saturday at 10 a.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Wabasso had watched film on the Polars, including last year’s North-Minneota game. Rabbits coach Joe Kemp agreed with Adams that this is a different team.

“It was a big surprise to me,” Kemp said. “We’d been watching them on film and I didn’t think there were as fast as they were today. But they showed it today.

“I’ve watched that (Minneota) film numerous times. Minneota was able to grind the ball down the field. Credit to North, they were more physical and better today than they were last year. I think North went to town on (last year’s Prep Bowl loss), used that for inspiration.”

North opened the scoring Saturday when Isaac Johnson caught a six-yard pass from Azerick Rodgers with 4:59 left in the first quarter. Wabasso tied the score 8-8 early in the second on a 41-yard run by Mr. Football finalist Mitchell Fulton. The deciding score came in the third quarter on a 12-yard run by Jamin Smith.

North’s Kehyan Porter carried the ball 16 times for 118 yards and Rodgers completed 12 of 24 passes (with three interceptions) for 117 yards. Fulton rushed 25 times for 105 yards and Nick Altermatt completed seven of 14 passes (with one interception) for 99 yards.

State Football Semifinals

Thursday

Nine-Man/ Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 38, Cromwell-Wright 29
Class 2A/ Eden Valley-Watkins 46, Maple River 13
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 44, Marshall 34
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 21, Blaine 20

Friday
Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 35, Waubun 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 55, Barnesville 20
Class 5A/ Elk River 19, Owatonna 7
Class 4A/ Winona 34, Rocori 30
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 23, Champlin Park 0

Saturday
Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson 49, Browerville/Eagle Valley 0
Class 1A/ Minneapolis North 16, Wabasso 8
Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (11-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (11-1)
Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pierz (10-1)
Class 5A/ Mankato West (11-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (11-0)

Tickets can be purchased in advance at mshsl.org/tickets and will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium at the northwest corner of the stadium

Ticket prices for the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,938
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Beating The Odds: A Great Ending For Browerville/Eagle Valley
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/19/2016 11:53:09 AM

The greatest thing I’ve witnessed during three days of state semifinal football games at U.S. Bank Stadium didn’t take place on the field. It happened, oddly, inside the Delta Sky360 Club, an area that is reserved for high-end ticket holders at Vikings games.

The club is under the seats behind the Vikings bench. On Saturday morning, though, those seats were filled by fans of the Browerville/Eagle Valley Tigers. Their team had a rough go in the days’ first game against Class 1A opponent Rushford-Peterson.

The Rushford-Peterson Trojans got started quickly behind senior running back Noah Carlson. He carried the football 18 times for 236 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, at which time the score was 49-0. The second half was played under running time, Carlson didn’t touch the ball again, and there was no further scoring.

You might expect hangdog looks from the team that was on the bottom end of such a lopsided score. Tigers coach Wayne Petermeier, however, was almost exuberant in the postgame media session. That’s because the Tigers were 5-3 in the regular season, had new starters this season at every offensive and defensive line position, and never dreamed they would finish their season in the new billion-dollar NFL stadium.

“To beat the teams we did to get to this building,” Petermeier said, not having to finish the sentence.

“We graduated 16 kids last year. Every kid we had on the line on offense and defense was brand new. For these guys to get to where we’re at, for kids that have pride, losing’s tough. But for us to get here is an accomplishment in itself. I couldn’t be prouder of this group of kids to do what they did. Winning and losing, at this point in time, I couldn’t care less.”

Here’s the best part of the scene. Petermeier said these words in the same postgame interview room that is used by Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. Same table, same backdrop, same everything. He answered questions alongside quarterback Bryce Irsfeld. The interview room is adjacent to the Delta Sky360 Club, separated only by a clear glass wall.

As the coach spoke to the media, several dozen Tigers fans watched from the other side of the glass. They couldn’t hear a word he was saying. But they watched. When the media session was over and Petermeier and Irsfeld stood up from the table, all those fans applauded. Silent, appreciative applause from the other side of a glass wall.

It spoke volumes for a coach and a team and a community that had a great season.

Football State Semifinals

Thursday

Nine-Man/ Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 38, Cromwell-Wright 29
Class 2A/ Eden Valley-Watkins 46, Maple River 13
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 44, Marshall 34
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 21, Blaine 20

Friday
Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 35, Waubun 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 55, Barnesville 20
Class 5A/ Elk River 19, Owatonna 7
Class 4A/ Winona 34, Rocori 30
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 23, Champlin Park 0

Saturday
Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson 49, Browerville/Eagle Valley 0
Class 1A/ Minneapolis North (11-0) vs. Wabasso (11-1)
Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (11-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (11-1)
Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pierz (10-1)
Class 5A/ Mankato West (11-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (11-0)

Tickets can be purchased in advance at mshsl.org/tickets and will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium at the northwest corner of the stadium

Ticket prices for the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 286
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,938
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



It Will Be Eagles Vs. Eagles In Class 6A Prep Bowl
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/18/2016 10:00:57 PM

The second day of football state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium came to a close Friday evening with a familiar team moving on to next week’s Prep Bowl championship games. Eden Prairie defeated Champlin Park 23-0 in Class 6A, meaning the Eagles will face Totino-Grace for the state title next Friday night.

Eden Prairie, of course, is no stranger to the Prep Bowl. The Eagles (11-1) won state titles in 1996, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Totino-Grace has an equally impressive pedigree with championships in 1977, 1978, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012.

In the first week of the 2016 regular season, the Totino-Grace Eagles handed Eden Prairie its only loss by a score of 17-14. Eden Prairie beat Totino-Grace 28-27 in the 2014 Prep Bowl.

Eden Prairie started Friday’s scoring five minutes into the game. After a punt pinned the Eagles on their own one-yard line, they covered those 99 yards in eight plays. Kyle Connelly caught a 53-yard pass from Cole Kramer for the touchdown. A 26-yard field goal by Antonio Montero made the score 10-0 at halftime.

A two-yard touchdown run by Carlos Williams made the score 17-0 late in the third quarter; that drive covered 80 yards in eight plays. Solo Falaniko scored on a 10-yard run with six minutes left in the fourth quarter to make it 23-0.

Champlin Park finished the season with an 8-4 record.

State Football Semifinals

Thursday

Nine-Man/ Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 38, Cromwell-Wright 29
Class 2A/ Eden Valley-Watkins 46, Maple River 13
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 44, Marshall 34
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 21, Blaine 20

Friday
Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 35, Waubun 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 55, Barnesville 20
Class 5A/ Elk River 19, Owatonna 7
Class 4A/ Winona 34, Rocori 30
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 23, Champlin Park 0

Saturday
9 a.m. Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson (11-1) vs. Browerville/Eagle Valley (9-3)
11:30 a.m. Class 1A/ Minneapolis North (11-0) vs. Wabasso (11-1)
2 p.m. Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (11-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (11-1)
4:30 p.m. Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pierz (10-1)
7 p.m. Class 5A/ Mankato West (11-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (11-0)

Tickets can be purchased in advance at mshsl.org/tickets and will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium all three days at the northwest corner of the stadium

Ticket prices for the state semifinals as well as the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 276
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,888
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



A Wild Ride For Winona And Rocori
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/18/2016 8:13:17 PM

After the Class 4A football teams from Winona and Rocori had finished a momentous state semifinal Friday evening at U.S. Bank Stadium, everyone in attendance looked at someone else and uttered words along these lines: “Can you believe what we just saw!”

It was quite non-believable. If you consider ping-pong to be a back-and-forth sporting endeavor, this was way beyond that. This was more of an amusement-park ride, a big one, a ride that is not for the squeamish, not for the faint of heart. This was a truly wild ride.

“It was like a roller coaster,” said Winona coach Jeff Cassellius after his team escaped with a 34-30 victory and a spot opposite Benilde-St. Margaret’s in next Friday’s 4A Prep Bowl game.

There were big plays and big miscues. The teams combined for 11 turnovers: Winona (11-1) lost two fumbles and threw three interceptions, while the Spartans (9-4) lost four fumbles and threw two interceptions.

Robert Warren was a hero for Winona. He rushed 17 times for 224 yards and touchdowns of 71 and 54 yards. The Winhawks ran for 284 yards while Rocori passed for 309. In total, they combined for 894 yards; 444 for Winona and 450 for Rocori.

Rocori quarterback Connor Schoborg completed 31 of 42 passes, two for touchdowns. Gunner Feldhege caught 10 passes for 87 yards.

What pulls a team through in a wild game like this one?

“I think it’s just that family that we talk about, that brotherhood,” Cassellius said. “Believing in each other and getting after it, that sacrifice they’re willing to make for one another.

“It was like the best roller coaster in the world. Up and down and around and around. When we got off, we were still smiling.”

State Football Semifinals

Thursday

Nine-Man/ Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 38, Cromwell-Wright 29
Class 2A/ Eden Valley-Watkins 46, Maple River 13
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 44, Marshall 34
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 21, Blaine 20

Friday
Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 35, Waubun 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 55, Barnesville 20
Class 5A/ Elk River 19, Owatonna 7
Class 4A/ Winona 34, Rocori 30
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (10-1) vs. Champlin Park (8-3)

Saturday
9 a.m. Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson (11-1) vs. Browerville/Eagle Valley (9-3)
11:30 a.m. Class 1A/ Minneapolis North (11-0) vs. Wabasso (11-1)
2 p.m. Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (11-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (11-1)
4:30 p.m. Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pierz (10-1)
7 p.m. Class 5A/ Mankato West (11-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (11-0)

Tickets can be purchased in advance at mshsl.org/tickets and will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium all three days at the northwest corner of the stadium

Ticket prices for the state semifinals as well as the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 276
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,888
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Elk River’s Strategy: Take The Air Out Of The Game
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/18/2016 5:21:44 PM

The Elk River football team throws a pass about as often as a super moon appears. The unbeaten Elks came into the state playoffs having thrown the ball only 23 times all season, in fact.

There was this shocking statistic after the Elks beat Owatonna 19-7 in Friday’s Class 5A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium: They threw the ball once. It was an incompletion. So much for the aerial circus.

But golly can these Elks run. Sam Gibas carried the football 26 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns and the team finished with 269 yards on the ground. Owatonna (9-3) had 90 rushing yards and 99 through the air, coming up short in a game that featured two outstanding defenses.

“I was really impressed with Elk River’s defense,” said Owatonna coach Jeff Williams. “If you would have told me we would hold Elk River to 19 points, I would have said we had a really good chance of winning that football game. Elk River did some good things. They did a nice job of rallying up. What looks soft sometimes on tape didn’t look soft tonight. Hats off to them. Their defense played really well, as did ours, I thought.”

The Elks (12-0) feature a full-house backfield and lots of deception to keep defenses off balance. Williams said, “It was almost like defending a Barry Switzer Oklahoma team in 1978: ‘You’ve got the quarterback, you’ve got pitch.’ ”

The longest touchdown was a 4-yard run by Gibas. If anyone had thoughts of deep balls and long scoring plays, they were dashed quickly.

“That was a grind,” said Elks coach Steve Hamilton. “That was a tough game. Owatonna played really well, physical. Give credit to our defense. They played lights out today. We needed them. I think the biggest thing with us this year is our defense. They won the game for us today.”

State Football Semifinals

Thursday

Nine-Man/ Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 38, Cromwell-Wright 29
Class 2A/ Eden Valley-Watkins 46, Maple River 13
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 44, Marshall 34
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 21, Blaine 20

Friday
Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 35, Waubun 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 55, Barnesville 20
Class 5A/ Elk River 19, Owatonna 7
Class 4A/ Winona (10-1) vs. Rocori (9-3)
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (10-1) vs. Champlin Park (8-3)

Saturday
9 a.m. Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson (11-1) vs. Browerville/Eagle Valley (9-3)
11:30 a.m. Class 1A/ Minneapolis North (11-0) vs. Wabasso (11-1)
2 p.m. Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (11-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (11-1)
4:30 p.m. Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pierz (10-1)
7 p.m. Class 5A/ Mankato West (11-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (11-0)

Tickets can be purchased in advance at mshsl.org/tickets and will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium all three days at the northwest corner of the stadium

Ticket prices for the state semifinals as well as the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 276
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,888
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Caledonia Moves On To Class 2A Prep Bowl
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/18/2016 2:58:25 PM

Football is serious business in Caledonia. Success on Friday nights – as well as Friday afternoons – is a point of pride in this southeast Minnesota community. The latest Friday success was a matinee affair Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Warriors defeated Barnesville 55-20 in the Class 2A state semifinals, putting them on the cusp of back-to-back championships. Caledonia will meet Eden Valley-Watkins next Friday in the title game.

The victory over Barnesville ended up being lopsided, but the early stages presented something new and different for the Warriors: They fell behind. Ben McCabe of Caledonia (13-0) ran 16 yards for the game’s first touchdown, but a 60-yard TD run by Brady Tweeton of Barnesville (11-1) and a five-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Stetz to Connor John put the Trojans in front 13-7 after the first quarter.

Caledonia scored the next seven touchdowns, but for a while there was some question.

“I had never been down before as a starting quarterback,” said Caledonia’s Owen King. “I’m proud of how our team came together.”

The back-breaker for Barnesville came via three second-quarter turnovers. Caledonia turned them all into touchdowns and the halftime score was 41-13.

“I think that last six minutes of that first half killed us,” said Barnesville coach Bryan Strand. “We had momentum and something bad happened, something bad happened, something bad happened. Instead of being down 13 we were down a ton at halftime.

“We talked about that all week: we had to play a perfect game. We had to play flawless.”

State Football Semifinals

Thursday

Nine-Man/ Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran 38, Cromwell-Wright 29
Class 2A/ Eden Valley-Watkins 46, Maple River 13
Class 4A/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 44, Marshall 34
Class 6A/ Totino-Grace 21, Blaine 20

Friday
Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow 35, Waubun 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 55, Barnesville 20
Class 5A/ Owatonna (9-2) vs. Elk River (11-0)
Class 4A/ Winona (10-1) vs. Rocori (9-3)
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (10-1) vs. Champlin Park (8-3)

Saturday
9 a.m. Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson (11-1) vs. Browerville/Eagle Valley (9-3)
11:30 a.m. Class 1A/ Minneapolis North (11-0) vs. Wabasso (11-1)
2 p.m. Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (11-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (11-1)
4:30 p.m. Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pierz (10-1)
7 p.m. Class 5A/ Mankato West (11-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (11-0)

Tickets can be purchased in advance at mshsl.org/tickets and will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium all three days at the northwest corner of the stadium

Ticket prices for the state semifinals as well as the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 266
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,888
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Despite Worries, Grand Meadow Wins Again
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/18/2016 12:15:56 PM

Gary Sloan is a worrier, like every other football coach on the planet. And boy oh boy was the Grand Meadow coach worried about Waubun before they met Friday in the Nine-Man state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Grand Meadow is used to playing in big games, as evidenced by the Superlarks’ pedigree. They have won the last three Nine-Man state championships and their 49-game winning streak is the state’s longest current victory streak.

And yet, Sloan worried. Even after his team beat the Bombers 35-0, he still expressed concern about playing them.

“The game was closer than that,” Sloan said. “Waubun is a very, very good football team. They’re so explosive. If we play them three or four times you never know how it’s going to go.”

That may very well be true, but Friday’s game went the way of the Superlarks. Christopher Bain, one of 10 finalists for the Mr. Football award, rushed 23 times for 173 yards and three touchdowns, including a 62-yard burst that made the score 21-0 midway through the third quarter.

Grand Meadow (13-0) ran 48 times for 299 yards while holding Waubun (12-1) to two rushing yards on 26 carries. The Bombers gained 91 passing yards, with Peyton Syverson completing nine of 25 passes.

“I think our defensive coaches had an awesome game plan and the kids did an awesome job implementing the plan,” Sloan said. “Waubun is so quick and so deceptive with all their options, you need a great deal of discipline to defend them.”

The Bombers were fighting injuries, but coach Paul Clark wasn’t looking for excuses.

“When you get to Game 13 everyone’s going to be hurting,” he said. “I’m sure they have bumps and bruises also. They were just bigger, faster and stronger than us today. We just ran into a machine.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 266
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,888
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Class 6A: Down To The Wire In A Game Of Inches
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/17/2016 11:10:20 PM

After Totino-Grace defeated Blaine 21-20 on Thursday night at U.S. Bank Stadium, a member of the victorious Eagles defense made a profound statement about football, a game measured in yards but decided in much smaller increments.

“We know football can come down to one play, it can come down to inches,” said linebacker Charlie Waters, who led his team with eight tackles.

He was referring to the most critical stage of the game. Blaine scored with 59 seconds left in the fourth quarter to make it Totino 21, Bengals 20. Blaine went for two points and the win, with quarterback Connor Melton being sacked on the play.

“There was no doubt in our mind we were going to go for two,” said Blaine coach Tom Develice. “We were going to beat Grace. We were going with that play.”

Totino-Grace’s coverage, however, gave Melton no one to throw to.

“Yes, 100 percent, we knew they would (go for two),” Eagles coach Jeff Ferguson said. “We would, too. You’ve got to win or lose sometime.”

When these teams met in Week 5 of the regular season, Totino-Grace won 21-14. Thursday’s victory gave the top-ranked Eagles a record of 12-0 as they await the winner of Friday’s game between Eden Prairie and Champlin Park in next week’s Prep Bowl.

“This was a tough matchup,” said Ferguson, who spent 18 years as an assistant coach at Blaine. “They are really good. They have three really good weapons. Their quarterback is good, their protection is good, (running back) Chase Harper is good. Number 1 (receiver Byron Bynum Jr.) is good, 84 (receiver Kurtis Weigand) is a special player. They played really, really well. Credit to them. That’s a great coaching staff and a great football program.”

Harper carried 21 times for 99 yards and three touchdowns for the Bengals (9-3). Melton completed 22 of 39 passes for 286 yards. Totino-Grace’s Gayflor Flomo ran 17 times for 120 yards and Ivan Burlak rushed 18 times for 91 yards and a touchdown.

“The kids played hard,” Develice said. “It was 21-20 when 17 of 17 sportswriters didn’t give us a chance. The kids played their butts off. I’m proud of our kids.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 266
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,838
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Big Plays, Big Points For Benilde-St. Margaret’s
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/17/2016 8:45:27 PM

If you enjoy rock ‘em sock ‘em make-the-scoreboard-sing football, there was a 30-second span in Thursday’s Class 4A state semifinal between Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Marshall that you would have relished.

I am not making any of the following sentence up: Three touchdowns were scored in those 30 ticks of the clock. I kid you not.

The score was Benilde 14, Marshall 13 in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium when bang! … Benilde’s Ricky Floyd broke through the line and sprinted 51 yards for a score. After the kickoff, zoom! … Marshall’s Trey Lance hit Nick Ektanitphong on a 63-yard touchdown pass. The ensuing kickoff was wow! … of course returned 93 yards for a score by Benilde’s Payton James.

The final score was Benilde 44, Marshall 34 and that’s pretty much how the game went.

“It was a game of big plays all night,” said Marshall coach Terry Bahlmann. “We knew Floyd was going to be a big factor. It was a back-and-forth game. They’re a good football team, they’re an explosive offense. There had to be a ton of yards for both teams.”

The coach was correct. The teams combined for 744 yards; 382 for the Benilde Red Knights (9-3) and 362 for the Marshall Tigers (11-1).

If there was a key point in the contest, it was probably in the third quarter. Floyd’s third touchdown of the night, a 34-yard run, gave Benilde a 35-28 lead. After a punt by Alex Houlihan pinned Marshall on the 1-yard line, Braeden Fitzgerald tackled the Tigers’ Jackson Lee in the end zone for a safety and 37-28 score. The free kick was returned by James 32 yards to the Marshall 35, and quarterback Will Whitmore capped a six-play drive with a one-yard TD run and 44-28 score as the third quarter ended.

How big was the safety?

“That was probably your turner right there,” said Benilde co-coach Jon Hanks. “We went up 10 points and we got the ball.”

Floyd, who finished with 32 carries for 273 yards, is a handful.

“If you don’t do the little assignments and he gets outside, he’s tough to tackle,” said Marshall linebacker Reese Winkelman (who also caught five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown). “He can really fly.”

Bahlmann said of the Red Knights, “They don’t drive the field on you, they just hit a big play.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 266
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,838
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Speed Pays Big Dividends For Eden Valley-Watkins
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/17/2016 5:31:46 PM

Speed thrills. And it helps when kids who can run like the wind can also throw a football and catch a football. That was the story Thursday for Eden Valley-Watkins. The Eagles defeated Maple River 46-13 in the Class 2A football state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium and will play either Barnesville or Caledonia in next week’s Prep Bowl.

Eden Valley-Watkins quarterback Reese Jansen completed 14 of 17 passes for 377 yards and five touchdowns. That’s nearly 30 yards per completion, with Matt Schindler, Greg Lux and Jacob Streit each catching four passes and combining for the five touchdowns.

“It was a nice effort,” said Eden Valley-Watkins Jon Thielen in the understatement of the day. “We came out and did some of the things we wanted to. Greg thought he could get over the top, Reese thought he could get over the top. We took some shots over the top and it paid off.”

The touchdown passes were from 72, 68, 12, 51 and 38 yards. The first one was a blockbuster, a Jansen-to-Schindler hookup less than three minutes into the game.

“We just didn’t anticipate that kind of sped,” Maple River coach Brian Schoneck said. “They got behind us and we didn’t have an answer for that. We could not match that kind of speed.”

Maple River quarterback Jeff Lewis completed eight of 18 passes for 56 yards and one score. Lincoln Arndt rushed 21 times for 92 yards, John Sonnek ran for a touchdown and Lewis hit Ethan Sindelir for a 14-yard touchdown.

Maple River held the ball for nearly 28 minutes, which was eight minutes longer than Eden Valley-Watkins. The total offensive yards told the story: 512 for Eden Valley-Watkins, 191 for Maple River.

“We thought coming in we probably had an advantage with our team speed,” Thielen said. “A lot of times this year we did. That’s why we run what we run. We keep them spread out.

“We try and get them moving, try and use our speed to our advantage. All summer long these kids are doing speed stuff, speed and strength training, just for that purpose.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 266
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,838
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



A Game Of Firsts At U.S. Bank Stadium
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/17/2016 3:04:18 PM

On a day of firsts, the best first eye-opening performance of MSHSL football at U.S. Bank Stadium came from an 11th-grader from Cleveland High School. His name is Carter Kopet and he put up some big numbers on Thursday as the Clippers defeated Cromwell-Wright 38-29 in the Nine-Man state semifinals.

It was the first high school game to be played at the new home of the Vikings. And Kopet had himself a day. He completed 23 of 39 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns, and carried the ball 25 times for 108 yards and two more scores.

And he didn’t even seem out of breath afterwards.

“Carter Kopet is really good,” said Cromwell-Wright coach Jeff Gronner, whose team finished an outstanding season with a 12-1 record.

People who follow high school football in Minnesota already knew about Kopet. He holds the state record for career touchdown passes with 127, and he has 50 TD passes this season (the state record is 55). He’s 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds and has quick feet to go with a strong, accurate arm.

“We had hard time tackling him,” Gronner said. “We had coverage and he pulled it down and he made some plays with his feet.”

The first high school touchdown in the stadium was by Cromwell-Wright junior Nic Johnson, who ran nine yards with 4:23 left in the first quarter. The first touchdown was a 20-yard connection from Kopet to Austin Plonsky for a 7-6 first-quarter lead.

Plonsky also had a big day. The junior caught nine passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, including an astounding one-handed catch in the end zone.

“They scored first,” Kopet said. “We were kind of nervous and we didn’t lock in right away. As soon as we did you could almost see that switch get flipped and we were locked in the rest of the way.”

Cromwell-Wright’s Kannon Korpela picked off a Kopet pass and returned it 10 yards for a score with 3:49 left in the second quarter. That made the score Cromwell-Wright 22, Cleveland 20. Short TD runs by Kopet before and after halftime gave the Clippers a 31-22 lead, a lead they held the rest of the way.

Cleveland (12-0) came into the game knowing that its usual array of big plays and long scores might not hold up.

“These guys love big plays,” said Clippers co-coach Erik Hermanson. “We’ve been preaching ‘Take what they give you’ all week until we're blue in the face. We knew it was going to be five yards at a time.”

Kopet said, “We know the higher you get (in the postseason) you’re not going to be able to throw it 50 yards and catch it for a touchdown on every single play.”

Zion Smith led Cromwell-Wright with 15 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown, and he also completed six of 17 passes for 93 yards and a score.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 266
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,838
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Football State Semifinals At U.S. Bank Stadium
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/14/2016 4:07:13 PM

Here's the schedule of games this week...

Thursday
11:30 a.m. Nine-Man/ Cleveland (12-0) vs. Cromwell-Wright (12-0)

2 p.m. Class 2A/ Maple River (10-2) vs. Eden Valley-Watkins (10-1)

4:30 p.m. Class 4A/ Marshall (11-0) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (8-3)

7 p.m. Class 6A/ Totino-Grace (11-0) vs. Blaine (9-2)

Friday
9 a.m. Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow (12-0) vs. Waubun (12-0)

11:30 a.m. Class 2A/ Caledonia (12-0) vs. Barnesville (11-0)

2 p.m. Class 5A/ Owatonna (9-2) vs. Elk River (11-0)

4:30 p.m. Class 4A/ Winona (10-1) vs. Rocori (9-3)

7 p.m. Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (10-1) vs. Champlin Park (8-3)

Saturday
9 a.m. Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson (11-1) vs. Browerville/Eagle Valley (9-3)

11:30 a.m. Class 1A/ Minneapolis North (11-0) vs. Wabasso (11-1)

2 p.m. Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (11-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (11-1)

4:30 p.m. Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pierz (10-1)

7 p.m. Class 5A/ Mankato West (11-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (11-0)

Tickets can be purchased in advance at mshsl.org/tickets and will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium all three days.

Ticket prices for the state semifinals as well as the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.



State Volleyball: A 3A Championship Match For The Ages
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/12/2016 8:45:35 PM

Saturday’s Class 3A volleyball state championship match was something that will be remembered for a long time. If you were inside Xcel Energy Center watching Eagan and Champlin Park go at it hammer and tong in the final match of the volleyball season, you know what I’m talking about.

Here is a sample from my Twitter barrage during the match…

--I have been at every #mshsl state volleyball tournament for 15 years and I don't remember a crowd this large or a scene this exciting.

--Champlin Park sophomore Emma Schmidt goes up for a kill, senior teammate Sydney Hilley yells "Get on that!" Point Rebels.

--Timeout with Eagan leading 20-19 and the Champlin Park Show Band is playing Born to be Wild. This is fun. #mshsl

--Another timeout, Eagan leads Champlin Park 23-20 in first set. Eagan's big band playing We Are Family. Indeed we are. #mshsl

It was that kind of deal. Fun, exciting, thrilling. You get the idea.

The matchup was exactly what you want in a state title game. Eagan came in with a record of 30-1, and the Wildcats’ only loss was to Champlin Park in a tournament on the final day of the regular season. The Rebels were 31-2 with losses to Lakeville North and Hopkins.

Eagan came out on top this time, winning 3-1 to clinch its second consecutive championship and third in four years.

“It never gets old,” said Eagan coach Kathy Gillen. “Every tournament has a different feel and a different way to get to the finals.”

Gillen has been the Wildcats coach in two stints. She stepped down after 17 years in 2008 and returned before the 2011 season. She was inducted into the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014. Eagan won previous state titles in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2013 and 2015.

The Wildcats won the first set 25-20 Saturday before Champlin Park rallied to win the second set 25-17. The final two sets finished 25-21.

“It was a hard-fought match,” said Rebels coach John Yunker, whose team played in the championship game for the first time in school history. “We played them a couple weeks ago and it was very similar. They made a couple more plays than we did.

“Eagan’s a great team. They haven’t been challenged a whole lot this year because of their level of play.”

Each team was led by a player headed to a Big Ten volleyball team: Eagan’s Brie Orr will play at Iowa and the Rebels’ Hilley will go to Wisconsin.

Orr finished with 18 kills and 19 set assists, both team highs. Hilley, a force at the net, had a phenomenal 110 attacks and totaled 27 kills along with 18 digs.

“I didn’t even know I had that many swings,” Hilley said. “That’s a lot of swings. Every single time I took a swing they had a solid closed block. They got a lot of great touches on me.”

Class 1A
Fifth place/ Underwood defeated Kimball 3-0
Third place/ Tracy-Milroy-Balaton defeated Heritage Christian 3-0
Championship/ Mayer Lutheran defeated Caledonia 3-1

Class 1A Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team
Brenna Tinjum, Underwood; Bella Lien, Heritage Christian; Gabbie Gervais, Sydney Lanoue, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton; Madison Hucky, Olivia Tjernagel, Madi Beck, Mayer Lutheran; Madisyn Heaney, Adrianna Reinhart, Mariah Schroeder, Caledonia.

Class 2A
Fifth place/ Morris/Chokio-Alberta defeated Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 3-1
Third place/ Kenyon-Wanamingo defeated Kasson-Mantorville 3-0
Championship/ Maple Lake defeated Concordia Academy 3-0

Class 2A Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team
Karly Fehr, Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta; Peyton Suess, Kasson-Mantorville; Mara Quam, Megan Flom, Kenyon-Wanamingo; Brooke Weichbrodt, Anika Neuman, Erin Fallert, Concordia Academy; Amber Klug, Linsey Rachel, Brynn Paumen, Maple Lake.

Class 3A
Fifth place/ Prior Lake defeated Moorhead 3-1
Third place/ Lakeville South defeated Hopkins 3-0
Championship/ Eagan defeated Champlin Park 3-1

Class 3A Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team
CC McGraw, Prior Lake; Jasmyn Martin, Hopkins; Jenny Mosser, Halle Johnston, Lakeville South; Sydney Hilley, Izzy Ashburn, Champlin Park; McKenna Melville, Taylor Olstad, Brie Orr, Alyssa Doucette, Eagan.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,788
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Class 2A State Volleyball: Seeds Don’t Matter
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/11/2016 10:06:43 PM

Concordia Academy came into the Class 2A state volleyball tournament under the proverbial radar. The Beacons were the state runner-up last year but if anyone predicted they would return to the championship game in 2016 they weren’t too vocal about it.

The Beacons had a very good regular season, taking a 20-7 record into the playoffs. They were ranked eighth in Class 2A and seeded fourth as the state tournament began. No surprise there.

Conversely, there was Kenyon-Wanamingo. The Knights came to state with the No. 1 ranking, the No. 1 seed, a record of 32-1 and a big label: The Team To Beat.

It wasn’t easy by any means, but Concordia Academy got the job done Friday at Xcel Energy Center, defeating the Knights in a five-set match, 25-17, 19-25, 29-27, 22-25, 15-10. The Beacons advanced to Saturday’s championship match against Maple Lake and holy smokes was it wild.

“I definitely think we knew that the pressure was on Kenyon-Wanamingo mostly,” said the Beacons’ Erin Fallert. “And we were going to go out and play our game and have fun, and not be concerned that we were the underdog.”

Teammate Anika Newman added, “We knew we had nothing to lose. So we played our hearts out.”

The Knights had only lost one opening set all year, against Caledonia (which will play for the Class 1A title Saturday).

“Everyone was just like, ‘Whoa we lost,’ ” Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Mara Quam said of the first-set results. But if the Knights were on their heels they didn’t show it, rallying to win the second set and setting the five-set train rolling down the tracks.

If the Beacons felt any pressure, it wasn’t apparent.

“We talked about that in pregame, them coming in as the number one seed and we were the four,” said Concordia Academy coach Kim Duis. “They were unstoppable at points. But we could stay loose and play our game and have fun at it.”

On the other half of the bracket, second-seeded Maple Lake defeated third-seeded Kasson-Mantorville 3-1. The Irish (29-3) lost the first set to the KoMets (22-12) before taking the next three sets.

State Volleyball Tournament Update

Class 2A quarterfinals

Kenyon-Wanamingo defeated Holy Angels 3-0
Concordia Academy defeated Morris/Chokio-Alberta 3-1
Maple Lake defeated Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 3-0
Kasson-Mantorville defeated Hermantown 3-0

Friday’s 2A Semifinals
Concordia Academy defeated Kenyon-Wanamingo 3-2
Maple Lake defeated Kasson-Mantorville 3-1

Friday’s 2A Consolation
Morris/Chokio-Alberta defeated Holy Angels 3-2
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton defeated Hermantown 3-1

Saturday’s 2A Matches
11 a.m., fifth place/ Morris/Chokio-Alberta vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
1 p.m., third place/ Kenyon-Wanamingo vs. Kasson-Mantorville
3 p.m., championship/ Concordia Academy vs. Maple Lake

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,738
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Class 1A State Volleyball: It’s Been 34 Years
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/11/2016 6:22:05 PM

Mayer Lutheran won its only state volleyball title 34 years ago. In that 1982 Class 1A championship match, the Crusaders defeated Becker by a score of 19-17, 18-11. That’s right, winning two sets meant a state title from the first state tourney in 1974 until 1985, when winning three sets became the norm.

Joelle Grimsley has been the Mayer Lutheran coach since 1993 and has taken the team to state 10 times. On Saturday they will return to the spot their school last saw in 1982, in the hopes of adding a second championship trophy to the collection.

On Thursday the top-seeded Crusaders had cruised to a 3-0 quarterfinal victory over Stephen-Argyle. Their task in Friday’s semifinals was a much rougher go because they needed five games to defeat Heritage Christian 3-2. The score broke both ways and the final was 25-19, 22-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-4.

“(Before the fifth set) we talked about getting back to our basics,” Grimsley said. “We had to stay aggressive and not get into a tipping game. We were there to win and we had to stay aggressive.”

The biggest challenge for the Crusaders was Heritage Christian senior Bella Lien. She stands 6 feet, 2 inches and is a force at the net. She will play at North Dakota State University.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that girl is 6-2. Yikes,’ ” said Grimsley.

Heritage Christian had also played five sets in defeating Underwood on Thursday. Ten sets within 24 hours can be a tall order.

“I saw the girls still playing well,” said Heritage Christian coach Tom Fuglestad. “I think Mayer really surged in that fifth set. Two five-setters in a row on consecutive days certainly could have taken a toll but they battled with everything they had.”

--Caledonia advanced to the title match against Mayer Lutheran with a five-set victory of its own. The Warriors held off Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 20-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-21, 16-14. It was Caledonia’s first five-set match of the season.

“We’ve never been pushed to a fifth set this season,” said Warriors ninth-grade middle hitter Lydia Lange. “We didn’t want the first one to be a loss.”

TMB coach Katie Gervais said, “I thought both teams were so aggressive. They were very confident. Both teams were good, they just didn’t back down. That’s the kind of game you want. … I think it was just a good battle back and forth.”

State Volleyball Tournament

Thursday’s 1A Quarterfinals

Mayer Lutheran defeated Stephen-Argyle 3-0
Heritage Christian defeated Underwood 3-2
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton defeated Kimball 3-0
Caledonia defeated Cook County 3-0

Friday’s 1A Semifinals
Mayer Lutheran defeated Heritage Christian 3-2
Caledonia defeated Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 3-2

Friday’s 1A Consolation
Underwood defeated Stephen-Argyle 3-1
Kimball defeated Cook County 3-0

Saturday’s 1A Matches
9 a.m., fifth place/ Underwood vs. Kimball
11 a.m., third place/ Heritage Christian vs. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
1 p.m., championship/ Mayer Lutheran vs. Caledonia

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,738
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Class 3A State Volleyball: We Meet Again
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/11/2016 1:35:16 PM

On October 22, two volleyball teams who were – it seems now – destined to meet again on a much bigger stage, squared off to decide who would be the champion of the Chaska Invitational. That match was in a high school gym on a Saturday afternoon. On that day, Champlin Park defeated Eagan 25-23, 23-25, 19-17.

That was Eagan’s only loss of the season. Prior to that match, Champlin Park lost to Lakeville North and Hopkins in tournaments.

Which brings us to Saturday at 5 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center. Eagan (30-1) and Champlin Park (31-2) will play in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd to decide the Class 3A state championship.

“It’s one match for the state championship and we’ll see what happens,” said Champlin Park coach John Yunker after both teams won semifinal matches Friday. The defending state champions from Eagan breezed past Lakeville South 3-0 in a 51-minute match and Champlin Park defeated Hopkins 3-0.

It’s a championship pairing that may have been foretold by the Class 3A coaches association rankings: Eagan is No. 1 and Champlin Park is No. 2; they hold those same spots in the state tourney seedings.

Champlin Park finished fifth at state two years ago and was third last season, losing to Eagan in the semifinals.

“We come back each year with a bigger goal in mind, that we want to do more,” said the Rebels’Allie Miller.

Eagan played nearly flawless volleyball against Lakeville South, winning 25-12, 25-13, 25-15. Wildcats coach Kathy Gillen said, “The girls played well today. There’s not a whole lot you can look at and change or tweak. They executed the game plan.”

Lakeville South senior star Jenny Mosser, who will play at UCLA, was held to eight kills in 45 attempts. This is the Cougars’ first trip to state, while Eagan is playing at the big arena for the fourth consecutive year. Eagan has also played in the last three championship matches, winning twice.

“I definitely think the experience they have (is a factor),” Mosser said of facing Eagan. “Playing here is a different game altogether. They didn’t make many mistakes and we didn’t rise to the occasion.

“You obviously know that you have to play really well if you even want to have a chance of competing with them.”

The Champlin Park-Hopkins match was also a dual between two of the top hitters in the state. Rebels senior Sydney Hilley will play at Wisconsin and Hopkins’ Jasmyn Martin will play for the Gophers. Hilley finished with 23 kills and a .305 attack percentage to Martin’s 19 and .135.

“They played really well,” said Hopkins coach Vicki Swenson. “They don’t do anything fancy, they’re very well-disciplined. And when the going gets tough they like to go to Hilley. With a player like that it helps elevate the play of the other kids.”

State Volleyball Tournament

Thursday's 3A Quarterfinals

Eagan defeated Grand Rapids 3-0
Lakeville North defeated Prior Lake 3-2
Champlin Park defeated Roseville 3-2
Hopkins defeated Moorhead 3-0

Friday’s 3A Semifinals
Eagan defeated Lakeville South 3-0
Champlin Park defeated Hopkins 3-0

Friday’s 3A Consolation
Prior Lake defeated Grand Rapids 3-0
Moorhead defeated Roseville 3-0

Saturday’s 3A Matches
9 a.m., fifth place/ Prior Lake vs. Moorhead
3 p.m., third place/ Lakeville South vs. Hopkins
5 p.m., championship/ Eagan vs. Champlin Park

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,738
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Class 2A State Volleyball: “An Absolute Blast”
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/10/2016 9:35:41 PM

Sometimes it’s hard to tell who won and who lost. That was the case after the first match of the Class 2A state volleyball tournament Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.

The result was no shock: Top-seeded Kenyon-Wanamingo defeated unseeded Holy Angels 3-0 in the quarterfinals.

Afterwards, one of the head coaches said this: “It is and has been an absolute blast.”

One of the players said, “People always talk about how great the state tournament is. But I think some of the teams that come here more frequently take it for granted. The fact that we’ve gotten this far is really unbelievable.”

Here’s the thing. Those statements came from the losing team. Holy Angels coach Tom Emanuel and senior Mackenzie Downes were as chipper as could be despite losing to the Knights (33-1).

Holy Angels (27-5) had not been to state in volleyball since 1995, so this was an entirely new experience for everybody. And the Stars squeezed every ounce of enjoyment out of it, coming to the arena at 8:30 a.m. to watch some of the Class 3A matches, returning to school for a pep rally and then getting ready to play.

“I think we’re still all on cloud nine,” Emanuel said.

--Fourth-seeded Concordia Academy of Roseville defeated fifth-seeded Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta 3-1.

--Second-seeded Maple Lake defeated unseeded Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 3-0.

--Third-seeded Kasson-Mantorville defeated unseeded Hermantown 3-0

State Volleyball Tournament

Class 2A quarterfinals
Kenyon-Wanamingo defeated Holy Angels 3-0
Concordia Academy defeated Morris/Chokio-Alberta 3-1
Maple Lake defeated Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 3-0
Kasson-Mantorville defeated Hermantown 3-0

Friday’s 2A Semifinals
5 p.m./ Kenyon-Wanamingo vs. Concordia Academy
7 p.m./ Maple Lake vs. Kasson-Mantorville

Friday’s 2A Consolation
5 p.m./ Holy Angels vs. Morris/Chokio-Alberta
7 p.m./ Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton vs. Hermantown



Class 1A State Volleyball: Top Four Seeds Advance
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/10/2016 5:38:22 PM

Playing at the state volleyball tournament for the first time in school history is exciting, thrilling, and it can be a little scary. Especially if the first-time team is facing an opponent that knows the ropes.

That was the formula Thursday at Xcel Energy Center when unseeded Stephen-Argyle met top-seeded Mayer Lutheran in the Class 1A quarterfinals. The Stephen-Argyle Storm was at state for the first time; the Mayer Lutheran Crusaders were in the big show for the 12th time since winning the 1A title in 1982. Mayer Lutheran’s most recent appearance was two years ago, so lots of current players had been here before.

The result was no surprise, as the Crusaders rolled to a 3-0 victory.

“It’s huge,” Crusaders coach Joelle Grimsley said of having state tourney experience. “We basically have a routine of what we’re doing. We’re very conscious of our time and what needs to be done. The thing we stress the most is to keep everything as normal as possible.”

That can be a tough assignment, particularly for a team walking into the giant arena for the first time and looking up into that high, dark ceiling. Couple that inexperience with a talented opponent, and the task is very tall.

“They’re just a little bit bigger and faster than what we saw on tape,” said Storm coach Renae Lindgren. “It was kind of an eye-opener for our girls. But it wasn’t for lack of effort and heart.”

The day and the match went according to plan for Mayer Lutheran (27-6).

“It was kind of what we wanted, to get out fast and stay strong,” said Grimsley.

Stephen-Argyle (28-4) will play at least one more match, facing Underwood in Friday’s consolation bracket; the winner will play in Saturday’s fifth-place match. Win or lose, the Storm have made lots of memories in getting to state.

“There’s been so much excitement,” Lindgren said. “We had a fun time with the kids at our elementary school, and the high school has been pretty crazy. We’ve had to share it because our football team went to state, too. (The football team will meet Waubun in the nine-man state quarterfinals Friday night at Brainerd High School.)

“We told the girls, ‘Don’t hang your heads. We lost to a good team.’ Our goal is to get to 30 wins. And we’ve got another shot at that tomorrow.”

--Fourth-seeded Heritage Christian (26-10) held off fifth-seeded Underwood (28-5) in the match of the day in Class 1A. The teams split the first four sets before the Eagles won the fifth and deciding set 15-13.

--Second-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton advanced to the semifinals with a 3-0 victory over unseeded Kimball.

--Third-seeded Caledonia advanced by defeating unseeded Cook County 3-0.

State Volleyball Tournament

Class 1A Quarterfinals
Mayer Lutheran defeated Stephen-Argyle 3-0
Heritage Christian defeated Underwood 3-2
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton defeated Kimball 3-0
Caledonia defeated Cook County 3-0

Friday’s 1A Semifinals
1 p.m./ Mayer Lutheran vs. Heritage Christian
3 p.m./ Tracy-Milroy-Balaton vs. Caledonia

Friday’s 1A Consolation
1 p.m./ Stephen-Argyle vs. Underwood
3 p.m./ Kimball vs. Cook County




Semifinals Are Set In Class 3A State Volleyball
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/10/2016 11:43:21 AM

The 2016 state volleyball tournament is under way at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. The Class 3A quarterfinals are the first order of business, followed by Class 1A matches in the afternoon and 2A quarterfinals this evening.

The opening round of 3A play was highlighted by a five-set match between fourth-seeded Lakeville South and fifth-seeded Prior Lake. Prior Lake played very well in winning the first two sets before the Cougars rallied to win the next three and advance with a 3-2 victory.

“I think early (Lakeville South was) tight,” Prior Lake coach Mike Dean said. “We were able to get them in some tough spots early on. I thought early on our serve receive was really well played. After set two we got a little tight. And you had a team that started to relax and realized this was it. That sometimes has a calming effect on a team. They came out, they brought it, hats off to them.”

Defending state champion and top-seeded Eagan advanced to Friday’s semifinals with a 3-0 victory over unseeded Grand Rapids. Eagan will meet Lakeville South in the semifinals and Grand Rapids will face Prior Lake in the consolation bracket.

Grand Rapids coach Bryan Fideldy said his team knew that drawing Eagan in the quarterfinals was a rough way to start the tournament.

“In all honestly we expected to play defense throughout the match,” he said. “We’re vertically challenged. We have a 5-9 middle. That’s a pretty tough chore for our kids to handle.

“Every (Eagan) girl on the floor threw darts at us. Anyone who watches volleyball can see why Eagan has earned the respect they have.”

Also in Class 3A, second-seeded Champlin Park held off unseeded Roseville 3-2, and third-seeded Hopkins defeated unseeded Moorhead 3-0.

State Volleyball Tournament

Class 3A quarterfinals
Eagan defeated Grand Rapids 3-0
Lakeville North defeated Prior Lake 3-2
Champlin Park defeated Roseville 3-2
Hopkins defeated Moorhead 3-0

Friday’s 3A Semifinals
9 a.m./ Eagan vs. Lakeville South
11 a.m./ Champlin Park vs. Hopkins

Friday’s 3A Consolation
9 a.m./ Grand Rapids vs. Prior Lake
11 a.m./ Roseville vs. Moorhead



Preseason Girls Hockey Rankings From Let's Play Hockey
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/9/2016 8:45:26 PM

CLASS 2A
1 Eden Prairie (9)
2 Maple Grove (3)
3 Hill-Murray (2)
4 Edina (1)
5 Minnetonka
6 Cretin-Derham Hall
7 Elk River/Zimmerman
8 Centennial
9 Blaine
10 Wayzata
11 Lakeville South
12 Chaska/Chanhassen
13 Eastview
14 Eagan
15 Forest Lake
16 White Bear Lake
17 Lakeville North
18 Spring Lk Park/Coon Rapids
19 Stillwater Area
20 Dodge County
Receiving votes: Mounds View, Hopkins/Park, Benilde-St. Margaret's, Farmington, Sartell/Sauk Rapids, Grand Rapids/Greenway, Cambridge-Isanti, Bloomington Jefferson, Duluth, Prior Lake, Roseau, Champlin Park, East Ridge

CLASS 1A
1 Blake (10)
2 St. Paul United
3 Breck
4 Warroad
5 Proctor/Hermantown
6 Thief River Falls
7 Mound Westonka
8 Alexandria
9 New Prague
10 Northfield
11 Red Wing
12 Hibbing/Chisholm
13 Orono
14 Owatonna
15 South St. Paul
16 Princeton
17 New Ulm
18 Moose Lake Area
19 East Grand Forks
20 Hutchinson
Receiving votes: Duluth Marshall, Mahtomedi



Finalists Announced For 2016 Mr. Football Award
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/9/2016 8:35:52 PM

The 10 finalists for the 2016 Mr. Football Award have been announced by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association.

The Mr. Football Award is sponsored by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association (MFCA) and the Minnesota Vikings.

The Mr. Football Award was first presented in 2004, with the first winner being Nick Mertens of East Grand Forks High School. The 2015 winner was J.D. Spielman of Eden Prairie High School.
The 2016 Mr. Football Award will be presented at the Mr. Football Banquet on Sunday, December 4th (10:00 AM) at the Doubletree by Hilton Minneapolis Park Place Hotel (500 Park Place Blvd., Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55416).

The 10 finalists for the 2016 Mr. Football Award (in alphabetical order) are:

Name School Position Sub-District Class
Blaise Andries Marshall OT/DT South Central Red 4A
Christopher Bain Grand Meadow RB/LB N.Central Red 9M
Mitchell Fulton Wabasso RB/S Southwest 1A
Sam Gibas Elk River RB/LB North Central Blue 5A
Noah Gindorff Crosby-Ironton QB/LB/K Northeast Blue 2A
Zach Ojile Spring Lake Park QB/DB/P Suburban Red 5A
Jaran Roste Alexandria QB North Central Red 5A
Jacob Stanislawski Winona OL/DL Big Southeast Blue 4A
Wade Sullivan Lakeville North RB Metro East White 6A
Tanner Tiege Big Lake RB/WR/K North Central White 4A

Mr. Football Award Criteria:

•Nominee must be a graduating senior.
•Nominee’s Head Coach must be a current member of the MFCA.
•Nominee must not have any MSHSL violations.
•Each player must be nominated by their Sub-District/MFCA representative.

Class 6A, 5A and Sub-Districts will be allowed to nominate two players. Class 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A and 9 man Sub-Districts will nominate one player.

Previous winners of the Mr. Football Award:
2015 – J.D. Spielman, Eden Prairie
2014 – Robbie Grimsley, Hutchinson
2013 - Jeffrey Jones, Minneapolis Washburn
2012 - Bridgeport Tusler, Osseo
2011 - Philip Nelson, Mankato West
2010 - Peter Westerhaus, Holy Family Catholic
2009 - Zach Vraa, Rosemount
2008 - Varmah Sonie, Apple Valley
2007 - Michael Floyd, Cretin-Derham Hall
2006 - Blake Sorensen, Eden Prairie
2005 - Matt Carufel, Cretin-Derham Hall
2004 - Nick Mertens, East Grand Forks



Marshall’s Kaia Sueker: Two Sports At Once
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2016 6:22:06 PM

Kaia Sueker is a girl on the move. The sophomore at Marshall High School is constantly involved … in something. It might be music, where she plays the violin and is also a percussionist. It might be the basketball team in the winter, the track team in the spring, or the volleyball and cross-country teams in the fall.

That’s right, Kaia (“KY-uh”) is a two-sport athlete during what for most athletes is a one-sport season. You want to see someone who stays busy? Here she is.

“I do have a little free time to get my homework done,” she said. “And I like art, drawing or painting, stuff like that.”

Fall is Kaia’s busy season, and it was capped at Saturday’s state cross-country meet. The Marshall Tigers finished fourth in Class 2A and Kaia placed 28th among individual runners. In the field of 175 runners, Marshall’s Claire Boersma placed 20th, Natalee Sample was 25th, Morgan Radel was 44th, Alison Mortier was 79th, Bellamy Sukalski was 87th and Sydney Blomme was 162nd.

“I thought the race went well,” Kaia said. “I thought we gave it our all. Even though it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, there’s nothing to be sad about because we gave it our all and pushed hard.” (Kaia, wearing 778, is pictured warming up Saturday with Boersma.)

Kaia’s after-school schedule included volleyball practice on non-game days, usually followed by getting in miles as a cross-country workout. Volleyball, a highly coordinated team sport, requires everyone to be at practice; cross-country is more of an individual activity where Kaia could get her work done around her volleyball schedule.

“It’s really unique,” said Marshall girls cross-country coach Marie Sample. “I’ve never known a kid to be able to do both sports at the level she has.”

After Kaia’s freshman season on the Tigers track team, Sample came up with an idea. Sample is also the girls track coach and she knew Kaia was talented on the track. So …

“I talked to her about this shared thing and said, ‘Why don’t you try it?’ She got in it and realized she’s a pretty good little runner.”

Kaia, Boersma, Nichole Sample and Natalee Sample (daughters of Marie) went to state in the 4x800 relay last spring, finishing 12th in Class 2A. Marshall competes with the state’s biggest schools in track, volleyball and cross-country, which makes Kaia’s dual-sport experience even more remarkable.

“It’s obviously difficult but the reason it’s able to work is because Kaia is a kid who’s really mastered the skill of time management at an early age,” said Marshall volleyball coach Dan Westby. “I’ll never get it right. My desk looks like World War III. She’s really got that part down.”

The Tigers volleyball season ended a week ago with a loss to Prior Lake in the Class 3A Section 2 playoffs. That gave Kaia a rare week with just one sport as the Tigers prepared for Saturday’s cross-country championships.

“It is a little weird this week,” she said with a giggle.

Kaia and the Tigers cross-country team also went to state last season, where they finished second behind Edina in the team race and Kaia placed 27th among individuals. Saturday was Marshall’s fourth consecutive appearance at state as team.

Cross-country, especially on the girls side, is filled with small athletes and Kaia fits that bill at 5-foot-2. She stands out on the volleyball court, however, where height is important at the net. She’s a specialist, coming onto the court to serve and defend in the back of the court. Even playing a part-time role, she led the Tigers in serve attempts, serve percentage and ace serves this season.

“She’s a kid who’s always been really driven,” Westby said. “If she sets her mind to do something, she’ll do it well.”

Kaia was the Tigers’ No. 2 finisher at the Section 2 cross-country championships.

“Without Kaia we’re a different team,” Sample said. “She adds a punch. The thing about Kaia that’s really cool is she is a competitor. She’s kind to everyone, a great teammate. But she competes.”

Kais said she loves the team atmosphere of cross-country.

“Everybody’s always there to support you,” she said. “Even after races other people will give you a hug and say, ‘Great job.’ I love the nature of the sport.’ ”

After playing volleyball “since I could probably walk,” Kaia said, “I love volleyball, too. It’s a team sport and it’s just like a great atmosphere. I love that, too.”

When Sample proposed joining the cross-country team, Kaia got excited.

“My track coach kind of brought up the idea of, ‘Why not try both this year and see how it would work?’ Track was really fun and she thought (cross-country) would be a great opportunity, too. My reaction was like, ‘Oh, that would be awesome, I hope this could all work out.’ I was very excited but I did think, ‘How would this work?’ ”

Turns out it worked just fine.

Basketball practice starts in 11 days.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 234
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,638
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



It’s A Farmington Sweep In 2A Girls Cross-Country
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2016 4:38:41 PM

NORTHFIELD -- Two young runners from Farmington High School have been making cross-country waves all season, usually finishing first and second each time they compete.

The duo continued that theme through Saturday’s 2A state championship race at St. Olaf College, with eighth-grader Anna Fenske winning the state title and sophomore teammate Lauren Peterson placing second. Third was Chanhassen senior Anastasia Korzenowski.

Fenske was ranked No. 1 in the final coaches poll of the season, with Peterson 11th and Korzenowski second. As they have done all season, the Farmington duo dominated from the get-go.

“At first I thought a lot of other girls were going to go out a little bit harder,” Fenske said. “So Lauren and I were just going to stay with those girls and work our way up. But that didn’t really happen and we just ran our own race.”

Fenske’s time was 17 minutes, 41.5 seconds on an afternoon with bright sunshine and temperatures touching 70 degrees. Peterson finished in 18:17.1 and Korzenowski’s time was 18:26.5.

“I just said in my head, ‘state title, state title, I want to win that state title,’ ” Fenske said. “And I’m super happy.”

Peterson said she and Anna worked hard together all season, providing motivation and inspiration to each other.

“It was just encouraging each other in practice.,” she said. “When one of us is getting tired or is falling off the pace, we have each other to kind of work together.”

Edina repeated as the team champion with a score of 45, followed by Willmar at 58 and Minnetonka at 105. Edina’s top runners were Amanda Mosborg in sixth, Emily Kompelien in ninth and Morgan Richter in 10th. Richter was last year’s Class 1A runner-up at Breck. Willmar’s top three were Jessa Hanson in seventh, Kayla Rudie in 12th and Sophie Schmidts in 14th. For Minnetonka, Sophie Whicher was fifth, Elizabeth Halbmaie 22nd and Kylie Melz 35th.



No Looking Back For 2A Boys State Champ
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2016 4:26:35 PM

NORTHFIELD – As Patrick Roos sprinted toward the finish line Saturday in the final race of his MSHSL cross-country career, an excited fan of the Edina senior screamed from the gallery.

“Go Patrick! Come on Patrick! That’s my son!”

With his mother exhorting him on, Roos outkicked junior Khalid Hussein of Wayzata and senior Innocent Murwanashyaka of St. Paul Como Park to win the Class 2A boys cross-country state title.

Roos took nothing for granted, not knowing if the other runners were 30 yards back or right on his heels.

“On the stretch home I didn’t look back,” he said. “I just went straight for it. Honestly, I didn’t think I could win it until I crossed the finish line. I thought Khalid was right behind me, and he’s beaten me a couple times this year. So I just hauled as fast as I could, no looking back.”

Roos’s time was 15 minutes, 36.4 seconds, well ahead of Hussein’s 15:41.8. Murwanashyaka’s time was 15:47.8.

Roose finished fifth at state a year ago and was ranked fourth among boys 2A runners in the final coaches poll of this season. He consciously did not begin the race at a breakneck pace, choosing to stick with a plan he has grown accustomed to.

“The difference today was I was going to go at my own pace, a comfortable pace, and not go with the top guys,” he said. “I knew if I went with them I’d probably fall back a little bit. And I like going out slowly and then progressing. That’s just kind of how I race.

“But you always want to change it. You think, ‘If I catch up to them now or later…’ and your mind is all over the place when you’re racing. That’s why I try not to think about it.”

Wayzata was the team champion with 38 points, followed by Edina at 91 and Maple Grove at 128. Wayzata’s top finishers after Hussein were Liban Jama in 11th and Grant Price in 19th.

After Roos, Edina was led by Zachary Miller in 23rd and Max Manley in 38th.



Eighth-Graders Finish 1-2 In 1A Girls Cross-Country
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2016 4:11:16 PM

NORTHFIELD -- Youth was served Saturday at the Class 1A girls cross-country championship, with eighth-graders finishing first and second. Tierney Wolfgram of Math & Science Academy in Woodbury won the state title with a time of 18 minutes, 23.6 seconds and Martin County West’s Marissa Whitehead was second in 19:08.6.

Whitehead made a strong push in the final strides to finish ahead of Perham senior Brynnan Covington, who was third in 19:08.8.

A year ago, Winona Cotter seventh-grader Grace Ping was the 1A champ, but she and her family moved to Utah over the summer. Wolfgram (pictured) placed 10th in 2015, Whitehead was 20th and Covington was 13th.

“She’s like a big role model to me,” Wolfgram said of Ping. “She showed me that a seventh-grader could get (age-group) world records and run that fast.”

Wolfgram was ranked No. 1 among 1A girls during the season and was not challenged in most of her races. As things turned out, the state championship race was much the same.

“I knew from the first mile that I’d win,” she said.

She is the first state champion in any sport from Math & Science Academy, which was founded in 1999. Because of her No 1 ranking and pile of first-place awards throughout the season, lots of people had told her she would win Saturday’s race.

“It’s pretty nerve-wracking,” she said. “Coming into this race, I’ve never been more nervous. Because everyone I know was like, ‘Oh, you’re going to win.’ But what if I don’t?”

Fairmont captured the 1A team title with 84 points, followed by Perham at 86 and Annandale at 127. Fairmont’s top runners were Sarah Krumholz in 25th, Jenna Pavich in 27th and Iliana Ramon in 30th.

For Perham, Brynnan Covington was followed by Caitlin Covington in 24th and Hailey Wegscheid in 29th. Annandale’s top finishers were Emma Fashant in 28th, Jessica Scheer in 42nd and Emily Kasper in 53rd.




Wild Finish In 1A Boys Cross-Country
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2016 3:51:24 PM

NORTHFIELD -- In an all-out, guns blazing, there’s-no-tomorrow sprint to the finish line – with bodies tumbling to the ground afterwards – three of the state’s top male cross-country runners made it anybody’s race until the absolute very end Saturday at St. Olaf College.

Junior Declan Dahlberg of Mounds Park Academy stretched across the line in a time of 15 minutes, 56.9 seconds, followed by junior Matt Steiger of La Crescent in 15:57.1 and senior Carl Kozlowski of Lake City in 15.57.3.

That’s a mighty tiny difference – quicker than the blink of an eye – between the top three runners in one of the tightest finishes in state meet history.

Dahlberg, who finished 19th last year, came out on top after a pack of seven runners rolled into the final 200 meters. Dahlberg, Steiger (17th a year ago) and Kozlowski (third in 2015) broke free from that pack before reaching the final stretch.

Dahlberg was ranked No. 1 in the statewide coaches poll, but he didn’t lean on that Saturday.

“You can’t expect to go in and be No. 1 just because your name’s on top,” he said. “It’s good to see the work has paid off. The (ranking) doesn’t mean much. This means everything.”

In the team race, Mora won its third straight championship. The Mustangs had a team total of 93 points, followed by Perham at 99 and La Crescent at 12.

Mora’s Michael Schwinghamer finishes seventh, Alec Sanbeck was 12th and John Schwinghammer was 15th. Perham was led by Jacob Dickerson in 19th, Hunter Kjelshus in 21st and Clayton Anderson in 30th. For La Crescent, Steiger was followed by Zack Emery in fourth and Andrew Lechnir in 64th.



Today’s The Day: Cross-Country State Championships
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2016 6:09:35 AM

NORTHFIELD -- The weather forecast is excellent for today’s MSHSL cross-country state championships at St. Olaf College. The annual event brings together the state’s finest distance runners as team and individual champions are crowned in Class 1A and 2A, girls and boys.

The temperature is expected to reach into the upper 60s under sunny skies. It sounds like we have a glorious day ahead.

All of today’s races will be 5,000 meters. Separate awards ceremonies will be held for each class. And if you’re on the bubble about attending in person, you should know that admission is free.

I’ll be posting immediate updates on Twitter (@MSHSLjohn if you care to follow along) after each of the four races, followed by stories about the races here on John’s Journal.

Here is today’s race schedule…

10 a.m./ Class 1A boys
11 a.m./ Class 1A girls
1 p.m./ Class 2A boys
2 p.m./ Class 2A girls

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 234
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,638
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn




Class 2A Girls State Soccer: Centennial Reigns
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/3/2016 9:18:11 PM

Centennial capped the soccer season and the first run of MSHSL state tournaments at U.S. Bank Stadium in style Thursday, recording the first state championship in the program’s history. And the Cougars did it from a rare place, as the fifth-seeded team in the eight-team field.

They held off second-seeded Rosemount 2-1 to win the Class 2A state championship. Centennial (18-0-3), which lost in the state quarterfinals last year, was making its sixth appearance in the state tournament and first time in the championship game.

Rosemount (17-2-2) had been to state five times previously (most recently in 1997) and also was playing in the title game for the first time.

Both teams reached Thursday’s game by narrow margins. Centennial had defeated Lakeville North 2-1 in a shootout in the quarterfinals and beat Andover 2-1 in Tuesday’s semifinals. Rosemount outlasted Minnetonka 2-1 in overtime in the state quarterfinals and beat Minneapolis Washburn 2-1 in the semifinals.

“To get to the moment is something that only two teams in the state do,” said Irish coach Gretchen Stramel, who played on Rosemount’s last state tournament team. “The girls played hard and they came up a little bit short. They fought to the end. What they did in order to get here was nothing short of spectacular. They have to hold their heads up high and be so proud of everything that they accomplished.”

Tessa Trettel scored both goals for the Cougars, one in each half. Her goal eight minutes into the second half made it 2-0. The Irish kept battling, with Lauren Bangh making it 2-1 on a goal with 6:40 remaining in regulation.

“It’s unbelievable,” Trettel said of the tournament experience. “It’s amazing that the hard work we put in during practice pays off on the field.”

Centennial coach Ginger Flohaug said her team’s position as the fifth seed “probably” provided evidence that the Cougars were overlooked when the eight tournament head coaches went through the electronic seeding process.

“I feel like in the coaches rankings, they either don’t know our opponents from the north (suburbs) or don’t respect them,” she said. “Having Andover (which finished third) and us in the final four should help that in the future.”

One of Flohaug’s pregame goals was to make sure everyone on the roster saw playing time. And that indeed happened.

“I’m so proud of every player,” she said. “It’s great to get everybody in and touch the field and know what it’s like to play in a championship game.”

STATE SOCCER TOURNAMENT

MONDAY SEMIFINALS

2A boys/ Stillwater 6, Andover 1
2A boys/ Wayzata 2, Edina 0
1A boys/ Northfield 3, Mankato West 0
1A boys/ St. Thomas Academy 1, Blake 0
1A girls/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 3, Hill-Murray 2
1A girls/ Mankato West 3, Dover-Eyota 0

TUESDAY SEMIFINALS
2A girls/ Centennial 2, Andover 1
2A girls/ Rosemount 2, Minneapolis Washburn 1

TUESDAY THIRD-PLACE GAMES
1A boys/ Mankato West 2, Blake 0
1A girls/ Hill-Murray 3, Dover-Eyota 0
2A boys/ Edina 3, Andover 0

THURSDAY
THIRD-PLACE GAME

2A girls/ Andover 2, Minneapolis Washburn 1
CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
1A boys/ St. Thomas Academy 1, Northfield 0 (2 OT)
1A girls/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 2, Mankato West 1
2A boys/ Stillwater 2, Wayzata 0
2A girls/ Centennial 2, Rosemount 1

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 168
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,585
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Class 2A Boys Soccer: Stillwater Finishes Unbeaten
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/3/2016 6:07:15 PM

Defense wins championships, and it also wins games. Evidence is provided by the Stillwater boys soccer team, which beat Wayzata 2-0 in Thursday’s Class 2A state championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Ponies not only completed an undefeated season at 22-0, they also displayed one of the best defenses you will ever see. Their opponents only scored 11 goals in those 22 games, which if you do the math comes out to half a goal per game.

“They’ve been tremendous," Stillwater coach Jake Smothers said of his defensive specialists. “We have a great back four, with six or seven players who can play back there.”

The Ponies won their first title in Class 2A; they won single-class crowns in 1995 and 1996.

Colman Farrington scored early in the second half and Kohei Adams made it 2-0 late in the game. The second goal was crucial.

“When it was 1-0 we knew any mistake of ours would mean a tie game,” Farrington said. “Kohei putting that one away was a tremendous feeling, knowing that we got this. It was amazing. We knew we had a little bit of a cushion. I think it took some of the pressure off us.”

Wayzata had pitched four shutouts in five previous postseason games.

“I just love the run we made this year,” Trojans coach Dominic Duenas said. “I couldn’t be prouder of these guys. Our senior leadership was top-notch. I told the boys that sitting here in our 22nd game of the season and our first loss; there’s nothing to hang our heads about. I’m extremely proud of the players.”



Three Stadiums, Four Titles For Benilde-St. Margaret’s
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/3/2016 3:41:56 PM

The Benilde-St. Margaret’s girls soccer team is on a pretty good little run in the last few years. And one thing is clear: the Red Knights can play anywhere and be successful.

--In 2013 Benilde-St. Margaret’s defeated Blake 1-0 to win its second consecutive state championship in the final year the tournament was held at the Metrodome.

--Last year the Red Knights beat Orono 4-2 in the title game at St. Cloud State’s Husky Stadium.

--Thursday they held off Mankato West 2-1 to become the first girls team to win a state title inside U.S. Bank Stadium. Pretty cool, huh?

“We kind of talked about it all season long, that it would be really cool to do that,” said coach Scott Helling-Christy. “And we knew it would be really hard. And to get the opportunity, it really fueled us to make it happen.”

The Red Knights (17-4-1) have made 11 trips to state with four titles and three runner-up finishes. Mankato West (18-3), at state for the third time, played in its first championship game.

Benilde wasted no time in scoring against the Scarlets, with Amanda Cassidy putting the ball in the net after only 35 seconds. Maren Noble made it 2-0 late in the first half and the Scarlets’ Rachel Luedtke scored in the second half.

“Obviously if you can score a goal in the first 30 seconds of a game that can give you an edge,” Helling-Christy said. “Amanda is a fantastic player and she does a great job of getting in behind and getting the ball to somebody else or scoring herself. That was like, ‘Wow! 30 seconds into the game and we’re already up 1-0.’ As a coach, you like that.”

Mankato West coach Crissy Makela -- the only coach the Scarlets have had since the girls soccer program began 21 years ago – used the word “proud” several times in a postgame media session. She was proud that her young team, which has only two seniors (Lauren Colway and Dana Bohks) made it all the way to the state championship game.

“I’m really proud of the effort the team put into this,” Makela said. “We have two seniors. It was their last 80 minutes and we wanted to give them the best possible ending we could.

“I’m exceptionally proud of this team. It’s like being a proud parent. It’s like having 22 of your own daughters out there playing.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 168
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,585
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



1A Boys Soccer Championship: St. Thomas Academy 1, Northfield 0
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/3/2016 1:20:42 PM

After 80 minutes of regulation, one 10-minute overtime period and 3 minutes, 5 seconds into a second overtime Thursday, St. Thomas Academy became the first high school team to win a state championship inside U.S. Bank Stadium. The Cadets scored the only goal of the elongated game on a penalty kick by Devin Kennedy.

The championship is the first in boys soccer for St. Thomas Academy, which finished the season with an 18-4 record. The Cadets were the third-place team at state last year; their best previous finish was second in 1999.

Last year’s trip to state provided plenty of motivation for the 2016 team. Finishing third a year ago “didn’t really cut it for us juniors,” Kennedy said.

Northfield goalkeeper Cristian Fuentes-Rivera, who made nine saves in the game, guessed correctly that Kennedy would go to the keeper’s right with the penalty shot. But the ball found the corner of the net as Fuentes-Rivera stretched out.

“I was exhausted,” Kennedy said. “I was hanging around near half field and I saw (teammate Vernon Lovegreen) go down in the box. As the referee blew the whistle and signaled the penalty I kind of got chills all the way up my back. I knew I might be able to take this and win it for the team, and not go through the drawn-out shootout.

“I was confident until I made eye contact with the goalie. He was kind of staring me down, making me nervous.”

The Cadets finished with 13 shots to seven for Northfield (16-4-3), which was also the state runner-up in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Cadets goalkeeper Matthew Wahl made four saves.

“It’s probably the worst way to end a game,” Northfield coach Scott Wopata said. “That was a really close match. There wasn’t going to be an obvious winner after we went to overtime 0-0. We withstood their waves of attack, which is what we did all season. It’s clearly a tough way to walk away from the game. At the same time, there wasn’t a lot of difference between the teams.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 168
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,585
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



2016 Prep Bowl To Honor Former Players, Coaches
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/1/2016 4:19:33 PM

A news conference was held Tuesday on the main concourse overlooking the field at U.S. Bank Stadium. Soccer was being played at the time but the news centered on football.

The MSHSL, in conjunction with the Minnesota Sports Facilitates Authority and the Minnesota Vikings, announced that all players and coaches who took part in the state football playoffs between 1972 and 2015 will be honored during this year’s Prep Bowl games Nov. 25-26.

The first 1,400 alumni players and coaches to register will receive a special commemorative Prep Bowl tag. During the Class 6A championship game on Nov. 25, Prep Bowl record-holders will be recognized at halftime. Former players and coaches, along with their guests, will be seated together in Section 120 on the lower level of the stadium.

On November 26, all head coaches of championship football teams from 1972 to 2015 will be honored during halftime of the Class 5A championship game.

Tickets and more information is available by going to www.mshsl.org/prepbowl

Speaking at the news conference were Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, MSHSL executive director Dave Stead, Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren and Vikings wide receiver Isaac Fruechte, who played in the Prep Bowl at Caledonia High School.

STATE SOCCER TOURNAMENT

The key games Tuesday at U.S. Bank Stadium were the Class 2A girls semifinals, and the results of those contests finalized the lineups for Thursday’s state championship games.

The title games will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday with Northfield facing St. Thomas Academy in the Class 1A boys final, followed by Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Mankato West (1A girls), Stillwater vs. Wayzata (2A boys) and Centennial vs. Rosemount (2A girls).

CLASS 2A GIRLS SEMIFINALS

Centennial 2, Andover 1


The Cougars trailed 1-0 when Megan Vatne scored for Andover. Centennial made up the difference after halftime, getting goals from McKenna Gieske and Ashley Ebeling to advance to Thursday’s title game.

Rosemount 2, Minneapolis Washburn 1

Megan Dahl scored for Rosemount in the ninth minute and Washburn’s Lizzie Mewes answered early in the second half. The deciding goal was scored by the Irish’s Jadyn Scholler with 8:58 to play.

STATE SOCCER SCHEDULE

MONDAY SEMIFINALS

2A boys/ Stillwater 6, Andover 1
2A boys/ Wayzata 2, Edina 0
1A boys/ Northfield 3, Mankato West 0
1A boys/ St. Thomas Academy 1, Blake 0
1A girls/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 3, Hill-Murray 2
1A girls/ Mankato West 3, Dover-Eyota 0

TUESDAY SEMIFINALS
2A girls/ Centennial 2, Andover 1
2A girls/ Rosemount 2, Minneapolis Washburn 1

TUESDAY THIRD-PLACE GAMES
1A boys/ Mankato West 2, Blake 0
1A girls/ Hill-Murray 3, Dover-Eyota 0
2A boys/ Edina 3, Andover 0

THURSDAY
THIRD-PLACE GAME

8 a.m.: 2A girls/ Andover vs. Minneapolis Washburn

CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
10 a.m.: 1A boys/ Northfield vs. St. Thomas Academy
12:30 p.m.: 1A girls/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Mankato West
3 p.m.: 2A boys/ Stillwater vs. Wayzata
5:30 p.m.: 2A girls/ Centennial vs. Rosemount

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 168
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,537
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



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