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I Found Heaven, And It’s Homecoming Day In Lamberton, Minnesota
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/30/2011 3:55:47 PM

LAMBERTON – “John! John!” I was standing along Main Street in this southwestern Minnesota town early on this Friday afternoon, jotting something in my notebook, when I heard my name being called. “John! John!”

As I looked up, two little candy suckers were landing at my feet, tossed from a Homecoming parade float by Red Rock Central senior Katie Halter. I had met Katie earlier in the day when I spoke to a couple of classes at the home of the Falcons. Athletic director Bryce Pack, who had heard me talk about the MSHSL Student Sports Information directors program at a meeting in Marshall recently, invited me to visit with the students.

I was already planning to be in the area for a football game in Minneota (I’m sitting inside a Culver’s in Marshall as I write this; kickoff in Minneota is a few hours away) and I had a blast in Lamberton. Bryce saw me parking my car outside the school and waved at me from the door. He bought me lunch at the American Legion, and the lasagne special with a Diet Coke was stupendous.

One thought kept running through my head during my time in Lamberton: I hope all these wonderful, friendly people know how lucky they are to live in a town like this. I’m the first to admit that I love small towns, having grown up in a village very much like Lamberton. But being there on Homecoming, with all the excitement and fun, was very special.

Since it was Homecoming, the students, teachers and staff were all dressed in the school colors of black, red and silver. Some had their faces painted and wackiness prevailed … in a good way. I spoke with students about the Student SID program, showed them examples of the program from other schools via mshsl.org and talked a lot about writing, reporting, interviewing and other facets of journalism.

After lunch, the real fun began. Everybody got out of school in time for the 1 p.m. parade, which was a delight. Elementary students sat on the curbs and waited for their high school heroes to throw candy. Parents, grandparents and other assorted grownups sat in lawn chairs or on lawns. The town’s police officer led the parade in his squad car with lights flashing, and the parade ended with a local fire and rescue vehicle and an ambulance. In between were vehicles carrying the Homecoming royalty, the marching band, pickups pulling flat-bed trailers carrying various groups of students, and a couple of fire trucks. The football players piled onto a trailer of hay bales that was pulled by coach Isaac Jenniges in his truck; the team had great fun pelting their teachers with candy fastballs along the parade route.

It took exactly 12 minutes for the entire parade to pass by where I was standing, and it was one of the greatest 12-minute periods of my life.

My favorite float was a graveyard on wheels, with a pile of dirt and a large headstone that said “Greyhounds RIP” (Friday night’s opponent was the New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds).

Then came powder-puff football at the football field, which also serves as the baseball outfield. The senior girls played the freshmen, coming away with a resounding victory … just as a couple of senior girls had promised me earlier. Then the junior girls played the sophomores and on the fun went. The rest of the junior high and high school students sat in the home grandstand and the elementary kids sat across the field on the visitors bleachers. (Great cheer: “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! That’s the fifth-grade battle cry!”)

Football players filled the roles of referees, chain gang members and public-address announcers. No greater fun have I ever witnessed.

I had to depart before the powder puff games were finished, but Pack sent me out in style as we stood next to the concession stand: “Hey John, how about a Diet Coke for the road?”

Perfection.

--To see a photo gallery from Red Rock Central, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 43
*Miles John has driven: 3,439

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



A Trip To Dassel-Cokato … Next Up: Red Rock Central And Minneota
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/29/2011 6:56:47 PM

After a Sunday-through-Wednesday journey through Fergus Falls, Thief River Falls, Grand Rapids and Chisholm, Thursday was a relatively quiet travel day for me. I spent some time at Dassel-Cokato High School, talking to a large group of students about the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program and telling tales from a life in journalism.

English teacher Brian Johnson organized the gathering, and I had a wonderful time with Brian and the students (that's them in the photo). They asked lots of good questions, and hopefully I came up with a few answers.

Friday will mark a return to the road in a big way. I’ll hit the highway around 6 a.m. and venture out to southwestern Minnesota for a school visit and a special event tied in with a football game. My morning stop will be Red Rock Central High School in Lamberton, where I will spend a couple of class periods visiting with students. It’s also Homecoming week at Red Rock Central, and I’m looking forward to the afternoon festivities.

Later Friday I’ll be at Minneota High School for a special ceremony before the Vikings face Fulda on the football field. For the first time, Minneota has won the MSHSL Challenge Cup, which will be presented to school officials just before kickoff.

The Challenge Cup is a year-long competition among MSHSL schools. Schools earn points for success in postseason athletic and fine arts events and the school earning the most points in each classification — A, AA and AAA — receives the traveling Challenge Cup. Minneota is the Class A winner for the 2010-11 school year. The other winners are Eden Prairie in Class AAA and Breck in Class AA.

Maybe I’ll see you on the highway … or at the gas pump!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 42
*Miles John has driven: 3,312

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



Historic Chisholm, A Game In Grand Rapids And Cross-Country Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/28/2011 9:42:50 AM

Good morning again from the road. Our MSHSL crew is in Chisholm for another area meeting today, this one at Valentini’s Supper Club. Valentini’s is one of those places that, if you went back in time 50 years or so, would probably appear the same. It’s a grand old historic establishment on a corner in downtown Chisholm.

The weather on this road trip has been fantastic. After watching volleyball in Climax on Monday evening, Tuesday’s event was outdoors: a boys soccer game between Cloquet/Esko/Carlton and Grand Rapids. Noble Hall Field in Grand Rapids is surrounded by trees, and with the sun shining and the leaves changing colors it was a beautiful scene. The teams played to a 1-1 tie. (To see a photo gallery from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

After today’s meeting the MSHSL caravan will head for home, ending the Fergus Falls/Thief River Falls/Chisholm swing of meetings. I’ll get some sleep and head to Dassel-Cokato on Thursday to talk journalism with students. My Friday schedule will take me to Red Rock Central for more journalism talk (as well as homecoming festivities), followed by a football game in Minneota.

This week’s cross-country rankings shine a big bright light on St. Cloud Cathedral. The Crusaders have the top-ranked Class 1A teams on both the girls and boys side, marking them as teams to watch as we near the home stretch of the season.

See you on the road!

Here are the cross-country rankings ...

CLASS 1A
Boys Teams
1. St. Cloud Cathedral
2. Perham
3. Blake
4. Esko
5. Waseca
6. Redwood Valley Area
7. Minnehaha Academy
8. Winona Cotter
9. Crosby-Ironton
10. Plainview-Elgin-Millville
11. Albany
12. Ottertail Central

Boys Individuals
1. Brandon Clark, Blake
2. Shane Streich, Waseca
3. Charlie Lawrence, Foley
4. Matt Welch, Proctor
5. Nick Stoks, Canby-Minneota/LinHi
6. Byron Schuldt, Nevis
7. Romeo Benish, Proctor
8. Dan Borash, Royalton
9. Jackson Lindquist, Esko
10. Pat Reinschmidt, Plainview-E-M
11. Nick Golebiowski, St. Cloud Cathedral
12. Jonnathan Surber, St. James

Girls Teams
1. St. Cloud Cathedral
2. Esko
3. Adrian
4. LaCrescent
5. Waseca
6. Blake
7. Trinity of River Ridge
8. Minnehaha Academy
9. Luverne Area
10. Annandale
11. United South Central
12. Fairmont

Girls Individuals
1. Clare Flanagan, Blake
2. McKenzie Holt, St. Cloud Christian
3. Marissa Shady, Esko
4. Elena Danielson, St. Cloud Cathedral
5. Emi Trost, Cannon Falls
6. Morgan Durbin, St. Cloud Cathedral
7. Lydia Lutz, Park Rapids
8. Jordan Kopplow, Adrian
9. Meghan Henrikson, Mankato Loyola
10. Lauren Friese, Fairmont
11. Liz Miller, Watertown-Mayer
12. Mary Ennis, Trinity

CLASS 2A
Boys Teams
1 Stillwater
2 Rosemount
3 Wayzata
4 Edina
5 Eden Prairie
6 Moorhead
7 Andover
8 White Bear Lake
9 Eastview
10 Hopkins
11 Centennial
12 Sartell-St Stephen
Others receiving votes: Rochester Mayo

Boys Individuals
1. Josh Thorson, Wayzata
2. Joey Duerr, Chaska
3. Cole O'Brien, Burnsville
4. Will Burke, Edina
5. Glen Ellingson, Moorhead
6. Wayde Hall, Stillwater
7. Riley Macon, Rochester Mayo
8. Connor Olson, Wayzata
9. Eric Colvin, Stillwater
10. Jan Ketterson, Jefferson
11. Tom Linner, Stillwater
12. Zach Roozen, Mounds View
Others receiving votes: Kieran Kelly, Chanhassen; Mubarik Musa, Worthington; Sidney Speir, Eagan

Girls Teams
1. Monticello
2. Lakeville South
3. Eden Prairie
4. Eagan
5. Wayzata
6. East Ridge
7. Edina
8. Alexandria
9. Moorhead
10. Shakopee
11. Andover
12. Chanhassen

Girls Individuals
1. Maria Hauger, 11, Shakopee
2. Jamie Piepenburg, 12, Alexandria
3. Danielle Anderson, 11, Eagan
4. Kaytlyn Larson, 9, Lakeville South
5. Kaelyn Williams, 12, Robbinsdale Cooper
6. Megan Hasz, 8 Alexandria
7. Chrissy Monson, 11, Albert Lea
8. Bethany Hasz, 8, Alexandria
9. Jenna Truedson, 9, Bemidji
10. Vivian Hett, 9, Burnsville
11. Nicole Heitzman, 11, Andover
12. Martha Hubbell, 10, Visitation

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 41
*Miles John has driven: 2,938

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



Notes From The Road (“Good Evening, Officer”) And Volleyball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/27/2011 9:46:50 AM

THIEF RIVER FALLS – Hello from the latest stop on the MSHSL Statewide Area Meetings Tour. Our crew docked here last evening and we’re holding a meeting with area administrators here this Tuesday morning before heading off for the next stop.

Monday was one darn fine day. Our meeting in Fergus Falls went off without a hitch (except for one very minor Powerpoint hiccup), and from there our traveling party headed out in two automobiles. MSHSL Program Specialist Amy Doherty -- who is brave enough to ride shotgun in the John’s Journal vehicle – and I took a side trip to Climax for some small-school volleyball.

It was Lake Park-Audubon at Climax/Fisher, and it was a grand scene. The gym in Climax is a real gem that has history and memories oozing from every corner. It’s always a joy for me to visit such places, and Monday evening’s volleyball match was terrific. Amy and I purchased tickets for the 50/50 raffle, but the $46 pot went home with someone who is not employed by the MSHSL. The other $46 went toward an FFA trip to Indianapolis, so it was well worth the purchase.

Climax/Fisher senior volleyball player Amanda Donarski sang the national anthem beautifully … both teams sat on the edge of the stage, which runs the length of the court … the U.S., Minnesota and North Dakota flags hung in the gym (after all, we were a very short walk from the N.D. border) … and dinner was a three-dollar gourmet delight: hot dog or hamburger (grilled just outside the school doors), a bag of chips and a homemade bar. Amy went for the dogs; I had a burger and what may have been the finest brownie in the history of mankind.

As great as the volleyball was, the real excitement came as we traveled to Thief River Falls. As we reached Red Lake Falls I saw the sign informing travelers that the speed limit was reduced to 30 miles per hour. I slowed down quickly, always remembering the speeding ticket I was awarded by an officer about 13 months ago in Renville. As we got into Red Lake Falls, a squad car pulled up behind with the lights a-flashin’. Oh joy.

“Good evening, sir,” said the friendly officer. “Where are you folks headed tonight?” I explained our destination and that I had seen the “30 mph” sign and certainly tried to get below that speed. He said he had clocked me driving in a speedy manner BEFORE I hit the 30-mph sign. Oh.

I handed him my license and he said, “If everything checks out with your license it’ll just be a warning.” Whew. I knew two things: 1) My license was clean; 2) This was a very fine officer. It was dark, but I swear he could have been the brother of actor Seth Rogen.

He asked me to please watch my speed, we parted company and here we are in Thief River Falls for this morning’s meeting. Then we’ll be off again, with the next meeting in Chisholm on Wednesday morning.

And with that, here are this week’s volleyball rankings … (drive safely, everybody) …

CLASS 3A
1. Blaine (12) 203
2. Lakeville North 193
3. Bloomington Jefferson 183
4. Lakeville South 166
5. Shakopee 142
6. Eagan (2) 133
7. Wayzata 132
8. Eden Prairie 95
9. Chanhassen 62
10. Centennial 58
Others: Andover (49), Waconia (33), Hill-Murray (10), Hutchinson (7), Totino-Grace (6), Edina (6), Delano (1)

CLASS 2A
1. Marshall (11) 179
2. Jackson County Central 164
3. Stewartville 141
4. Belle Plaine (1) 139
5. Jordan 122
6. Lesuer-Henderson 117
7. Kasson-Mantorville 104
8. Caledonia 100
9. Wadena-Deer Creek 89
10. Maple Lake 59
Others: Byron (31), Triton (7), NHREG (6), Visitation (5)

CLASS 1A
1. Bethlehem Academy (16) 240
2. Wabasha-Kellogg 203
3. Canby 199
4. Mayer Lutheran 189
5. Minneota 180
6. Southwest Christian 159
7. Ada-Borup 122
8. BBE 96
9. Nevis 95
10. MACCRAY 92
Others: Mabel-Canton (40), Win-E-Mac (38), Lake of the Woods (24), Rushford-Peterson (14), Hancock (12), Tracy-Milroy (8), Littlefork-Big Falls (7), Northern Freeze (4)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 39
*Miles John has driven: 2,737

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



A Meeting In Fergus Falls And A Special Story From Alexandria
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/26/2011 10:12:10 AM

FERGUS FALLS -- Hello from beautiful Fergus Falls, where administrators from the area have gathered for another in a series of MSHSL area meetings on this Monday morning. The MSHSL crew drove to Fergus Falls on Sunday evening, and we’ll continue on from here to Thief River Falls for another meeting on Tuesday and Chisholm for a meeting on Wednesday.

Before today’s meeting began, I learned of a wonderful story in Alexandria. Dave Harris, who is the MSHSL’s region secretary for Region 8AA as well as a well-known radio broadcaster in Alexandria, told me about Gideon Hartsell, a senior at Jefferson High School in Alexandria.

Eric Morken of the Alexandria Echo Press documented Gideon’s story, and it’s a story that is definitely worth sharing…


Card football: Gideon's moment

Gideon Hartsell, a special needs student at JHS, works his way onto the football field

By Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press

Every now and then fans are reminded in sports that the most important outcome of a game is not always the final score.

That scene played out on a hot Friday night two weeks ago when Alexandria’s Gideon Hartsell got an opportunity he won’t soon forget. Hartsell, a special needs senior at Jefferson high school, actively participated in football through his freshman year before taking over as the student manager for the varsity team as a sophomore.

Hartsell has been on the Alexandria sideline in jeans and his jersey every game since then. But on Parents’ Night in the Cardinals’ home opener against St. Cloud Tech, he stood in full pads, wearing the same No. 47 jersey that two of his older brothers had worn before him as seniors.

Hartsell was announced as the Cardinals’ Player of the Week before the game. He then waited anxiously for his chance to take the field in a varsity game for the first time. Hartsell met with all the coaches the Monday leading up to the game where he was asked how he felt about kicking the extra point after the team’s first touchdown.

“He’s kind of a talkative kid,” head coach Mike Empting said. “He’s super into sports, so he’s fully aware of the significance of going in and kicking a point after and the impact that could have on a game…initially he was kind of speechless. One of us asked him, ‘are you OK with this?’ He looked up with a smile and just said, ‘heck yeah!’ ”

Hartsell had to wait through the first half as Alexandria was held to a field goal before the break. On the second half kickoff, Gideon Burnham, a classmate of Hartsell’s at Zion Lutheran School through 8th grade, gave his teammate a chance with an 88-yard return for a touchdown.

Hartsell took the field with all eyes in a packed Citizen’s Field on him. Senior Tanner Rice put down the hold and Hartsell followed through on the kick.

The ball fell short of the uprights, but one could never tell by the reaction of his teammates. The rest of the Cardinals’ kicking unit surrounded him near the 10-yard line. Hartsell’s face lit up when senior captains Brock Wood and Jesse Hacker lifted him onto their shoulders and carried him off the field.

“Lots of tears,” his mother, Shirley, said of watching her youngest of nine children take the field. “It was very emotional. Very proud of him.”

Earning his shot

Shirley has seen her son’s passion for sports from the time he was a toddler. He grew up eager to participate in things like t-ball and any other sports that his siblings were playing in the back yard. He couldn’t always keep up, but that never affected his desire to participate.

“I try my best,” Gideon said.

He has continued to put everything he has into his role as student manager. Hartsell is on the practice field before a lot of his teammates, organizing footballs, cones and doing anything else he can to help things run smoothly.

“He does such a great job,” Empting said. “Every day he is out there for practice. Every game he has been there since his sophomore year. He works as hard as some of the [players] do in practice, getting things ready, making sure everything is in place for practice to get started.”

In the coaches’ eyes, his hard work had earned him the chance to get on the field. Defensive coordinator Russ Hinrichs brought the idea to Empting after last season. They went over all the different scenarios, including what to do if the score was close late in the game.

“We went over it all,” Empting said. “The bottom line is that we were going to do it. It didn’t matter the situation, close game or not, the first time we scored that night, he was going to go in and kick the extra point.”
True to their word

Sure enough, the game was close.

Burnham’s touchdown gave Alexandria a 9-7 lead. The Cardinals come into every season hoping to compete at the top of the Central Lakes Conference and needed to win the game to keep from falling to 0-2.

All of that was secondary in this moment. Empting stayed true to his word and sent Hartsell in with his parents and many of his siblings watching on.

“It could have lost the game,” Shirley said. “It could have boiled down to that, but [Empting] still went for it. I just have the utmost respect for him and give him credit for doing that.”
Shirley called it a teaching moment for anyone who saw it. Empting thought of it as just the right thing to do.

“I really believe in the fact that our football team is a family,” he said. “The players that have come and gone through here, they’re always welcome back into the locker room…Gideon and his family have been a huge part of our football family for a long time. It just felt like giving back to one of your own.”

It ended up not coming down to that one point. The Tigers scored a touchdown on their first drive of the second half and held on for the 14-9 win. At least for one night, that final score did not feel like the most important outcome of the game.

“It was an awesome night,” Shirley said. “It was a night he will never forget. We won’t either.”

Postscript: Last week, Gideon was voted Homecoming king.



I’ve Seen Nine Football Games in 2011, and Number Nine Was Special
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/24/2011 12:33:23 AM

The football regular season is at the halfway point, with most teams having played four games so far in 2011. I have the luxury of watching lots of games, and on Friday I saw my ninth football game of the autumn. And it was a dandy evening.

The occasion was Minnetonka’s homecoming game against Edina in a matchup of Lake Conference teams. I have been to games at Minnetonka in the past, but this one was extra special. The football was grand, with the Skippers defeating Edina 28-14. The score was 21-0 at halftime; until Edina quarterback Mark Handberg scored on a 1-yard sneak in the third quarter, Minnetonka’s defense had not yielded a point all season.

I arrived about 90 minutes before kickoff and the place was already jammed with people. A student rock and roll band was playing, grills were cooking up burgers and a long line of people was waiting for the good eats.

It was as perfect a night for football as I can remember … and I’ve been going to high school football games for a long, long time. A few miles away from Minnetonka, Minneapolis Southwest was hosting Minneapolis Washbun in the first night game in Southwest history. Boosters had rented temporary lights for the game, and I can’t imagine a better night to do so.

I parked my car, walked to the Minnetonka locker room and chatted briefly with Skippers coach Dave Nelson and some of his assistants. I have known Dave for a long time; this is his 10th year at Minnetonka and I knew him long before that when he was the Blaine coach. (I’ll be writing about Coach Nelson – several Coach Nelsons, in fact – in a few days.)

Minnetonka athletic director Ted Schultz estimated the crowd at 8,000 people. But the atmosphere went beyond the size of the audience. There were about a million little kids maintaining a noisy din on a bank off one end zone; as the sun set a cloud of brown dust rose from that end of the field as kids ran up and down the slope. The Minnetonka student section was large and loud; when things briefly got a little chippy on the field, the students chanted “Sportsmanship! Sportsmanship!” The cheerleaders and dance team literally kept things hopping, the marching band performed in the stands as well as on the field at halftime. The sunset was absolutely beautiful, adding to a perfect night.

The last words Nelson said to his players before they took the field were simple and exemplified what high school sports are all about: “Go out and have a blast!”

Before kickoff, Skippers assistant coach Terry Westermann said to me, “What’s our record when you show up?” I replied, “I don’t think it’s all that good.” Which is true, because I’ve been to several playoff games in which the Skippers didn’t come out on top.

At halftime, with Minnetonka ahead 21-0, Westermann told me, “You get to stay for one more half. You’re on double-secret probation.”

And of course, he was smiling on both occasions.

Good humor was everywhere. As referee Pat Whalen spoke to the team captains and prepared for the coin toss, he said, “Fellas, I’m going to show you all the athletic ability I have left in this body and catch this coin. If I drop it, we’re going to do it again.”

He nailed it on the very first try.

--To see photos and video from the Minnetonka-Edina game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 37
*Miles John has driven: 2,352

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



Guest Posters Now Available
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/23/2011 3:00:33 PM

This is from Chris Franson, a great up and coming scribe.



As New U.S. Citizen, Soccer Official Knows What’s Really Important
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/22/2011 2:43:18 PM

ST. CLOUD -- Adalberto Villalobos has played soccer all his life and worked as a high school soccer official in Minnesota for many years. But when Villalobos stands for the pregame national anthem this season, something is different.

The native of Costa Rica became an American citizen in May, and here’s how he describes hearing the anthem at his first soccer game this fall…

“A young lady sang it beautifully, and I found myself turning so the other officials wouldn’t see me getting teary-eyed. Emotions took over and it hit home; it’s for real, I’m here, I’m part of it. Not that I didn’t feel part of it or welcome or respected before, but it has taken a different turn. It’s a different lens now. It kind of makes you see things from a different perspective.”

Villalobos (right), 42, lives in St. Cloud with his wife Diane and their children Gabriel, 12, and Sofia, 8. Adalberto and Diane met when she visited Costa Rica as a student at St. Cloud State in 1991. He worked with a program that helped visiting students become acquainted with the country’s culture.

“The moment I saw her, the stars and the butterflies and everything came together,” he said, smiling. “She tells everybody the feeling was mutual.”

When Villalobos was 12 he had lived with relatives in Michigan for a year. He learned English at that time and he calls that year “one of the best gifts I’ve received. It continues to give.”

As his relationship with Diane – who teaches Spanish at St. Cloud’s South Junior High -- continued, he moved to Minnesota in 1993 and the couple was married. He played soccer in St. Cloud for several years, worked as an assistant coach at Tech High School and got into officiating. He worked junior varsity games for seven years and is now in his sixth season as a varsity official.

“Officiating definitely gives me a way to maintain that connection with a sport that is a passion in my life, to give back to the community and to give to the future generations,” he said. “I think that is key. Not only do we officiate and enforce the rules of the sport, but we serve as role models in a very direct way. We are almost a sample of authority that young adults will be faced with in their lives and they have to learn to respect that. I see it as a huge opportunity to contribute.”

In Costa Rica, soccer was everywhere for Villalobos. He was kicking a ball as he learned to walk, began playing on teams in elementary school and continued playing to the college level. Diane played soccer at Rosemount High School, and they both help coach their children’s soccer teams.

Villalobos (he is known to his friends as Adal), who works as a Spanish translator/interpreter, became an American citizen on May 4 at the Federal Courthouse in St. Paul. He was the only Costa Rican among 60 people who were naturalized that day. (In photo at left, he holds his certificate of citizenship.)

He could have applied for citizenship in 1996, three years after marrying Diane. “At the time the expense to become a citizen was enough to kind of say, ‘You know, if I’m a legal resident and all I’ll be missing is voting and being able to run for office, I’m OK with that.’ All the other benefits and advantages were there.”

But one day his children came home talking excitedly about holding elections at school. Their question: “Daddy, who are you voting for?”

“I had to explain it to them, which they understood,” he said. “It put a bug in my brain; this country has opened its doors to me, I feel welcome, respected, proud. How about if we formalize it?”

I spoke with Villalobos on Sept. 15, which was Costa Rica’s independence day. He admitted that his native country still tugged at his heart.

“It kind of bugged me, ‘Am I giving up being Costa Rican?’ Deep in my heart, I’m not stopping being Costa Rican. I’ll never stop cherishing and valuing just being who I am. But at the same time, it is an honor, it is a privilege and I take it with all the seriousness that it entails to be a U.S. citizen.

“To me, the participation in democracy at all levels is important. I’m a firm believer that we teach and we do much better when we show with our actions, when we are role models. If I’m teaching my kids to be good citizens and participate in democracy, why not show that dad is also proud of that and part of it.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 35
*Miles John has driven: 2,304

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



A Great Story Of One Runner Coming To The Rescue
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/22/2011 9:35:54 AM

This story comes courtesy of a press release from the Anoka-Hennepin School District….

When Andover High School cross-country runner Josh Ripley heard the screams of Lakeville South runner Mark Paulauskas, Josh knew he needed to help. While other competitors in the Applejack Invite in Lakeville ran by, Josh stopped to see what was wrong.

In the first mile of a 2-mile junior varsity race held Sept. 16, Josh found Mark holding his ankle and bleeding profusely. Worried that Mark had punctured his Achilles heel, Josh carried the wounded runner for a half a mile to get him to his coach and parents. After making sure Mark was in good hands, Josh jumped back into the race.

It turns out Mark had been “spiked,” meaning he was stepped on or came in contact with pointed metal spikes some runners wear on their shoes to get better traction. Mark was taken to a hospital where he received more than 20 stitches and is in a brace/boot to immobilize the area so the stitches do not pop out.

Josh, a junior at Andover High School, said stopping to help the injured runner was “just natural instinct.”

“I didn’t think about my race, I knew I needed to stop and help him,” Josh said. “It was something I would expect my other teammates to do. I’m nothing special; I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Josh, the son of Stacey and Jason Ripley of Andover, will be honored by the Anoka-Hennepin School Board for his actions at the board’s meeting Monday, Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m. in Coon Rapids.

Mark’s coach and parents are extremely grateful to Josh for his actions.

“I was stunned and so proud of the sportsmanship and kindness he showed to our runner who was injured,” said Jessica Just, the Lakeville South team’s coach. “The family, our Lakeville South coaching staff and our whole team were so thankful and appreciative of Josh's act of kindness and selflessness to a rival competitor.”

Gene Paulauskas, Mark’s father, learned of Josh’s actions after Mark had been handed off to him.

“While I was running with Mark in my arms [to get medical attention], he told me that it was a runner from another team who had stopped and helped him to an area of the course where he could get some help,” Paulauskas said. “It was horrible to see Mark with such a bad injury, but we were all struck by the selfless act of compassion, kindness and sportsmanship exhibited by Josh Ripely, the Andover runner.”

When someone told Josh’s coach, Scott Clark, that Josh was carrying another runner, Clark said he thought he misheard.

“Then Josh comes jogging into view carrying a runner,” Clark said. “I noticed the blood on the runner’s ankle as Josh handed him off to one of the coaches from Lakeville. Josh was tired and you could tell his focus was off as he started back on the course, clearly he intended to finish, this happening inside the first mile. I got his attention and told him to relax and get his focus back for racing and not worry about his place. Josh continued to run and finished.”

Clark said what Josh did says a lot about him as an individual.

“Clearly Josh is a compassionate and caring person,” Clark said. “We consistently talk about being a team and caring about how each person on the team does. Cross country is filled with quality athletes at each school. It is always gratifying to see it exhibited in such a way as Josh did.”



This Week’s Associated Press Football Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/21/2011 6:32:30 PM

CLASS 5A
#1 (1) Eden Prairie (3-0)
2 (2) Wayzata (3-0)
3 (3) Cretin-Derham Hall (3-0)
4 (4) Lakeville South (3-0)
5 (6) Minnetonka (3-0)
6 (5) Blaine (3-0)
7 (7) Rosemount (3-0)
8 (8) Lakeville North (3-0)
9 (T10) Mounds View (2-1)
10 (T10) Hopkins (2-1)
Others receiving votes: Shakopee, Osseo, St. Cloud Tech, Owatonna

CLASS 4A
#1 (1) Mankato West (3-0)
2 (2) St. Thomas Academy (3-0)
3 (4) South St. Paul (3-0)
4 (5) Rogers (3-0)
5 (6) Bemidji (3-0)
6 (3) Mahtomedi (2-1)
7 (7) Delano (3-0)
8 (9) Hutchinson (3-0)
9 (10) Marshall (3-0)
10 (NR) Holy Angels (3-0)
Others receiving votes: Spring Lake Park, Hill-Murray, Detroit Lakes, Faribault, Hermantown, Northfield

CLASS 3A
#1 (1) Rochester Lourdes (3-0)
2 (T2) Albany (3-0)
3 (T2) Glencoe-Silver Lake (3-0)
4 (T2) Holy Family Catholic (3-0)
5 (7) Pequot Lakes (3-0)
6 (NR) St. Croix Lutheran (3-0)
6 (8) Plainview-Elgin-Millville (3-0)
8 (NR) Waseca (3-0)
9 (NR) Zimmerman (3-0)
10 (NR) New London-Spicer (3-0)
10 (NR) Fairmont (2-1)
Others receiving votes: Mora, Pine City, St. Cloud Cathedral, Montevideo

CLASS 2A
#1 (1) Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (3-0)
2 (3) Moose Lake-Willow River (3-0)
3 (T4) Barnesville (3-0)
4 (T4) Jackson County Central (3-0)
5 (T4) Pierz (3-0)
6 (NR) Caledonia (2-1)
7 (8) Chatfield (2-1)
8 (NR) Norwood-Young America (3-0)
9 (NR) Hawley (3-0)
9 (10) Mayer Lutheran (3-0)
9 (NR) Blue Earth Area (3-0)
Others receiving votes: BOLD, Eden Valley-Watkins, Maple River, Osakis, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton

CLASS 1A
#1 (1) New Ulm Cathedral (3-0)
2 (2) Goodhue (3-0)
3 (3) Mahnomen (3-0)
4 (4) Adrian (3-0)
5 (6) Dawson-Boyd (3-0)
6 (T8) Southland (3-0)
7 (10) Warren-Alvarado-Oslo (3-0)
8 (T8) Blooming Prairie (3-0)
9 (NR) Braham (3-0)
9 (NR) Le Center (3-0)
Others receiving votes: MACCRAY, Deer River, Sleepy Eye, Fertile-Beltrami, Minneota/Lincoln

NINE-MAN
#1 (1) Edgerton/Ellsworth (3-0)
2 (2) Nicollet (3-0)
3 (3) Ada-Borup (3-0)
4 (5) Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (3-0)
5 (6) Hills-Beaver Creek (3-0)
5 (7) Ulen-Hitterdal (3-0)
7 (8) Spring Grove (3-0)
8 (T10) Kittson County Central (2-1)
8 (NR) North Woods (3-0)
10 (NR) Grand Meadow (3-0)
Others receiving votes: Wheaton, Nevis, Onamia, Stephen-Argyle, Eagle Valley, Climax/Fisher, Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke




Running For Lots Of Reasons, Putting Cancer In The Background
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/20/2011 8:53:26 PM

It’s safe to say that this is the biggest weekend of the regular season in high school cross-country, with the Roy Griak Invitational, the Milaca Mega Meet and the Apple Valley Eagle Invitational all scheduled for Saturday. Most of Minnesota’s top runners will be competing, with teams and individuals looking ahead to the state cross-country meet in Northfield on Nov. 5.

One Minnesota runner will not be seen reaching the finish line first in any of those races and she will not qualify for state. But she is content to just run, no matter the race, no matter the competition and no matter where she finishes.

Pierz High School junior Beth Broschofsky has been finishing way back in the pack while competing in junior high races this fall, and that is just fine with her. That’s because after surviving cancer and having a metal rod replace the humerus in her right upper arm, just running – even while wearing a large brace that keeps the arm strapped close to her body -- is enough.

As Beth finished last at a junior high race in Royalton last week, the encouragement was solid. She came down the final stretch to the sounds of teammates and friends shouting “C’mon Beth!” and “Way to go Beth!”

While I interviewed Broschofsky after the race, another runner came up and interrupted with a very quick, “Good job!” Beth told her, “You too!”

She does not run very fast, which is understandable with one arm strapped against her body. Broschofsky was a strong runner on the track team as a freshman, finishing third in the 3,200 meters at the Central Minnesota Conference championships. But a year ago, a week before the start of her sophomore year in school, the trouble began with a bump and some soreness in her right upper arm. She thought it might be a muscle tear or similar injury.

“We had an x-ray done and the doctor said it didn’t look right,” Beth told me. The x-ray was sent to the University of Minnesota hospital, and Beth soon had an appointment with a specialist there.

“They looked at the x-ray and they said the bone was weak. They were thinking it was either an infection or some sort of tumor.”

A biopsy was performed the next day, and the news was not good. It was Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. (Orono High School soccer player Nick Manzoni, who was profiled in John’s Journal on Sept. 1, also was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma last year.)

Beth had her first chemotherapy treatment the same day that school started in Pierz. Surgery to remove the tumor in her arm was done Dec. 27, with more chemo following, as well as a bone-marrow transplant. She was home-schooled throughout the 2010-11 school year but it wasn’t all bad, she said with a smile.

“My grandpa (Herb Broschoskfy) taught me how to play cribbage during that time,” she said. “We played cribbage every day.”

Other than losing her hair, Beth handled the chemo very well. She saw other young patients suffering much worse fates, and she is thankful for the treatment and care she received.

“She leads by example and you never hear her complain,” said Pierz cross-country coach Rey Zimney. “And if anybody would have a reason to complain about something it would be her. She’s really been quite an inspiration.”

Last season would have been Beth’s first on the cross-country team. Now that she’s finally able to run again, her goals for this fall are simple: get stronger and be ready for track next spring.

“I’d just like to improve, I guess,” she said. “I’m kind of trying to get back into shape for track and be competitive.”

A section of bone and muscle in her shoulder was removed during surgery and the range of motion is limited. “I can still write and everything, but I can only lift my arm about this high,” she said, raising it a few inches. “Maybe with therapy I’ll be able to lift it a little farther.”

She wears the brace because the running motion could damage her shoulder and arm. “I’ll pretty much have to wear it forever (when running), because of my surgery. They want to keep my arm in place,” she said.

The highlight of the season might have come in Pierz’s first big meet, the Irish Invitational at Maple Lake on Sept. 1. Via email, Zimney told coaches of the other teams what Beth had experienced. He wrote: “This young lady went through HELL last year, but we can give her a moment she will never forget.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Beth knew nothing about what was in store as she got closer and closer to the home stretch of the junior high race.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” she said. “It was weird; I was running and everybody was saying my name and I was thinking, ‘How do they all know my name?’ I saw all these signs with my name and they were wearing my shirt that they had for a benefit. It was a surprise.”

Beth is healthy and getting stronger all the time. She has regular medical checkups but so far, so good.

“Yep, it’s looking good right now,” she said with another smile. “I’m just hoping it won’t come back.”

Indeed. One big comeback is enough.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 34
*Miles John has driven: 1,854

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



Willmar Swimming & Diving: Wonderful Reminder Of What’s Really Important
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/19/2011 3:14:30 PM

Here’s a terrific story from Willmar, in the form of a letter of thanks from an athlete’s mother to school officials, coaches and teammates. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in who’s winning and who’s not, but sometimes we need a reminder of why school activities are truly important in ways that go far beyond what the scoreboard says...

Mr. Millea-
The following info is from an email that went to our head girls swim coach (Carl Shuldes), superintendent (Jerry Kjergaard) and me. It was sent by Lynn Stier (parent of Megan, the athlete spoken of below) and when I asked Lynn if she was OK with me passing it on to you she said she was fine with that. As an A.D., I really like to be included on POSITIVE emails like this, so I thought I would share with you. Thanks for your time and for sharing great stories on the MSHSL website!
Jamie Thompson
Willmar Activities

Carl,
I have thanked you personally for this amazing year so far for Megan, and also felt the need to thank you a little more publicly as you should be extremely proud of yourself, your girl’s swim/dive team, your coaches, and the great program you run that not only builds athletes, it builds character.

Background for Jamie and Dr. Kjergaard, our youngest daughter, Megan, is in the 8th grade and has Down syndrome. Megan typically has been involved in Special Olympics bowling in the fall. Last spring, my husband and I talked about wanting her involved in a more “active” sport and one that she really enjoys. I talked to Carl to see if our girls swim/dive team has had athletes with special needs and would this be feasible. He was completely open to the suggestion and this fall we decided to have Megan become part of this team. Carl has been very accommodating to Megan’s needs and we have adjusted practices and meets accordingly so she can enjoy them and be successful.

Either my husband or I try to be at every practice to just help out the coaches if needed. Megan is having the time of her life. She feels a part of the team, she has been participating in the diving mostly (for her it means feet first), and is making a connection with the teammates and coaches. Her endurance has improved greatly since practice started in August and she is able to make it through most of the practice time.

A few things really struck my husband and I and warmed our hearts (and this usually is followed by tearing up!). Early in the year, one of the seniors asked if she could be Megan’s “secret swimmer” which is a teammate who does the extra special things for another teammate for the away meets. That was very cool! Megan has been included in the team activities as well.

Last Thursday was Megan’s birthday and we also had a home meet. Carl was aware of this and really went the extra mile to make it even a more special day for Megan. The girls sang to her by the diving area. After the march in, it was announced and the team sang to her again and the crowd cheered. The diving girls and coach also gave her some great gifts that just made Megan feel even more part of the team.

We are so very proud of Megan’s accomplishments and definitely know that Carl, his coaches and the fellow teammates have contributed to these successes this fall. We cannot thank you enough for touching our lives and especially Megan’s in the ways that you have. We also know that Megan has touched many lives in return. We are all very blessed!

Thanks for taking the time to read this and it is a great success story to be shared even more publicly if the opportunity arises. I enjoy speaking publicly about these types of successes and would be willing to do so if ever needed. As we are looking at school programming, athletics, etc., and why it is important that they continue to be part of our children’s lives, this goes deeper for us personally. Thanks again and have a great day!

Lynn Stier



Marshall The New No. 1 Team In 2A Volleyball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/19/2011 12:52:38 PM

In one of the biggest volleyball matches in the state last week, Marshall defeated Jackson County 3-2 in Jackson. As a result, Marshall is the new No. 1 team in the coaches association Class 2A polls.

The Tigers were No. 2 behind Jackson County Central when they met on Thursday. Jackson County Central is No. 2 this week.

The top two remain the same in 3A, with Lakeville North No. 1 and Bloomington Jefferson No. 2. Shakopee moved from No. 4 to No. 3 after defeating Wayzata last week. Wayzata fell from No. 3 to No. 5, with Lakeville South going from sixth to No. 4.

There were no changes in the Class 1A top 10, with Bethlehem Academy maintaining its hold on the No. 1 spot.

CLASS 3A
1. Lakeville North (17) 255
2. Bloomington Jefferson 233
3. Shakopee 202
4. Lakeville South 198
5. Wayzata 172
6. Blaine 171
7. Centennial 129
8. Eagan 120
9. Chanhassen 88
10. Eden Prairie 85
Others: Andover (75), Waconia (33), Hill-Murray (16), Minnetonka (11), Totino-Grace (5), Owatonna (1)

CLASS 2A
1. Marshall (8) 186
2. Jackson County Central (1) 175
3. Belle Plaine (2) 167
4. Lesuer-Henderson (1) 160
5. Stewartville (2) 153
6. Caledonia 98
7. Kasson-Mantorville 88
8. Maple Lake 83
9. Wadena-Deer Creek 77
10. Byron 68
Others: Jordan (67), Triton (29), Zumbrota-Mazeppa (18), Visitation (10)

CLASS 1A
1. Bethlehem Academy (13) 209
2. Mayer Lutheran 192
3. Wabasha-Kellogg 175
4. Nevis (1) 169
5. Minneota 147
6. Southwest Christian 120
7. Canby 118
8. Ada-Borup 113
9. BBE 77
10. Win-E-Mac 66
Others: MACCRAY (41), Mabel-Canton (22), Hancock (12), Littlefork-Big Falls (7)



A Great Game, A Great Atmosphere And A Terrific New Facility
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/17/2011 12:07:12 AM

One of the great traditions in Minnesota high school football takes place at Mahtomedi High School, and it begins hours before the games even start. The tradition is music; specifically, college fight songs played over the sound system. For about as long as anyone can remember, those tunes have been the siren songs as fans flock to George Smith Field and watch their Zephyrs.

Friday’s game against St. Thomas Academy was no different. As I got out of my car, I heard the Michigan fight song “The Victors” … and the Notre Dame Victory March … and the Minnesota Rouser … and on and on. But the music was about the only thing that was the same from previous years at Mahtomedi. Because everything else is new.

Thanks to a referendum approved by voters in the district, Mahtomedi now has one of the finest football/track facilities in the state. The football field, although rich with tradition, was known as a beat-up grass surface before artificial turf was installed earlier this year. The track also is new, as are the bleachers, the press box, the ticket windows, the fencing, etc.

“It’s community support,” said Mahtomedi athletic director Jeff Whisler. “Without the referendum this doesn’t happen.”

Friday’s game pitted not only two Classic Suburban Conference teams, but two of the top teams in Class 4A. St. Thomas Academy came in holding the No. 2 spot in the Associated Press 4A rankings, with the Zephyrs No. 3 (Mankato West is No. 1). The Cadets, who trailed Mahtomedi 13-0 at halftime, did all the scoring in the second half to take away a 21-13 win.

The atmosphere was sensational, thanks to the spectacular new facility, a standing-room crowd, two great rivals and an autumn chill in the air. Here are a few observations from my eighth high school football game of the season …

--The best name in prep sports so far this year might be St. Thomas Academy senior running back Hootie Hubbell. After Hootie ran 38 yards for the go-ahead score on fourth and inches in the third quarter, I posted that news on Twitter. One of my followers sent this reply: “That kid has the best name in MN football: Hootie Hubbell.” Who could argue? Well, maybe one of Hootie’s teammates: senior defensive back Paddy Clancy.

--The large and boisterous Mahtomedi student section had lots of fun all evening and even pulled off a little costume trickeration. They all wore black shirts during the first half, and when the second half began they had all switched to white tops.

--As the ball was snapped on both of Mahtomedi’s touchdowns, Zephyrs coach Dave Muetzel was yelling “Timeout! Timeout! Timeout!” Thankfully for the coach, his offensive players didn’t hear his shouts. On the first one, Trevor Dittberner ran 2 yards for a touchdown, and on the second one, Luke Lindahl scooted 6 yards for another score.

--Late in the third quarter, tempers became a little elevated on the field. After each team was called for a personal foul on the same play, the referee called all 22 players together and had a few words with them. That was the end of the problem. Well done.

--The star of the game (in my eyes, at least) was my friend Nick Walsh, a first-rate broadcaster who was doing play-by-play of the game via the MSBN online sports network. The battery in my cell phone was dying at halftime, but Nick loaned me his charger in the press box, easily saving the day. I owe him a Diet Coke.

--To see photos and video from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 34
*Miles John has driven: 1,854

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



Some News Briefs As Another Busy Week Comes To A Close
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/16/2011 2:03:13 PM

It’s Friday, which means another evening of football games. The weather has certainly turned more football-friendly, as we’ll all be adding a few more layers than in previous weeks.

I’ll be reporting on a game later this evening, and in the meantime I want to share two news items. One is from Minnesota and the other is from Michigan.

--The first item is courtesy of Maple Lake athletic director Dave Schroeder:

Marty Kiebel, head volleyball coach at Maple Lake High School, recently won his 200th volleyball game (all with Maple Lake). The 200th win came in a five-set match with Monticello, his alma mater, on Aug. 30th. This is Marty's 11th year as head coach. The Irish girls have gone on to win seven more matches since his 200th and are standing at 12-0 for the season. Marty's career record 207-121.

--The second item is from the Michigan High School Activities Association. I joined the MSHSL exactly 18 months ago, and now the Michigan association has made a similar hire. I’m certain that more high school associations across the country will be doing the same. Here’s the press release from the MHSAA:

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Sept. 13 – An award-winning journalist while covering high school sports over the past decade, Geoff Kimmerly will join the Michigan High School Athletic Association staff in the newly created position of Media & Content Coordinator later this month.

Since 2000, Kimmerly has served as the prep sports editor for the Lansing State Journal, where he directed the coverage of 46 mid-Michigan athletic programs, produced blogs and hosted videos on the outlet’s website that were among its most viewed offerings. He also covered Michigan State University athletics.

Kimmerly received a number of awards for his writing from the Michigan Press Association and the Michigan Associated Press. He was also a member of the AP’s selection committee for all-state teams and a voter for its weekly football and basketball polls.
In his role with the MHSAA, Kimmerly will take a lead role in expanding the available content on the Association’s website, including the creation of original stories and features on high school sports. He will also help manage the schedules and scores section of MHSAA.com, assist with media relations, and take responsibility for coordinating statewide records.

“Geoff has been an outstanding writer for the Lansing State Journal over the past decade, and visitors to MHSAA.com will enjoy the new content he will create,” said John E. “Jack” Roberts, Executive Director of the Association. “He has also shown versatility in new media that will help us expand our internet outreach to schools.”

Kimmerly, a native of Frankenmuth, is a 1999 graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. He will begin his duties at the MHSAA on Sept. 26.



MSHSL Day In St. Cloud; Latest Football Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/15/2011 10:18:36 AM

Good morning from beautiful St. Cloud, where the sun is shining and athletic directors from the area have gathered for an MSHSL area meeting. Today’s gathering is the first in a series of fall area meetings, followed in the next few weeks by gatherings in Mankato, Marshall, Fergus Falls, Thief River Falls, Chisholm, Rochester and the Twin Cities.

These meetings serve to keep administrators updated on all sorts of information, from eligibility to insurance to continuing education requirements for coaches to concussion legislation, etc.

The meeting (that's the meeting in the photo) will end around noon. I’ll spend the rest of the day in this part of the state, attending a cross-country meet in Royalton this afternoon and a soccer game in St. Cloud this evening.

In the meantime, let’s close this short dispatch with this week’s Associated Press state football rankings…

CLASS 5A
1 (T1) Eden Prairie (2-0)
2 (T1) Wayzata (2-0)
3 (3) Cretin-Derham Hall (2-0)
4 (4) Lakeville South (2-0)
5 (6) Blaine (2-0)
6 (5) Minnetonka (2-0)
7 (8) Rosemount (2-0)
8 (7) Lakeville North (2-0)
9 (9) Brainerd (2-0)
10 (10) Mounds View (1-1)
10 (NR) Hopkins (1-1)
Others receiving votes: Anoka, St. Michael-Albertville, Stillwater, Champlin Park, Shakopee

CLASS 4A
1 (1) Mankato West (2-0)
1 (2) St. Thomas Academy (2-0)
3 (3) Mahtomedi (2-0)
4 (4) South St. Paul (2-0)
5 (5) Rogers (2-0)
6 (6) Bemidji (2-0)
7 (10) Delano (2-0)
8 (NR) Spring Lake Park (2-0)
9 (NR) Hutchinson (2-0)
10 (NR) Marshall (2-0)
Others receiving votes: Hill-Murray, Holy Angels, Chaska, St. Paul Central, Red Wing, Faribault, Becker

CLASS 3A
1 (1) Rochester Lourdes (2-0)
2 (3) Albany (2-0)
2 (4) Glencoe-Silver Lake (2-0)
2 (2) Holy Family Catholic (2-0)
5 (5) DeLaSalle (2-0)
6 (7) Kasson-Mantorville (2-0)
7 (8) Pequot Lakes (2-0)
8 (T9) Plainview-Elgin-Millville (2-0)
9 (NR) Mora (2-0)
10 (NR) Breck (2-0)
Others receiving votes: East Grand Forks, Milaca, St. Croix Lutheran, Waseca, La Crescent, Foley, New London-Spicer

CLASS 2A
1 (1) Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (2-0)
2 (2) Eden Valley-Watkins (2-0)
3 (3) Moose Lake-Willow River (2-0)
4 (5) Pierz (2-0)
4 (7) Jackson County Central (2-0)
4 (4) Barnesville (2-0)
7 (T8) LeSueur-Henderson (2-0)
8 (6) Chatfield (1-1)
9 (NR) Osakis (2-0)
10 (NR) Mayer Lutheran (2-0)
Others receiving votes: BOLD, Blue Earth, Caledonia, Hawley, Lewiston-Altura, Luverne

CLASS 1A
1 (1) New Ulm Cathedral (2-0)
2 (2) Goodhue (2-0)
3 (3) Mahnomen (2-0)
4 (7) Adrian (2-0)
5 (4) Minneota/Lincoln HI (2-0)
6 (8) Dawson-Boyd (2-0)
7 (5) Ottertail Central (2-0)
8 (9) Southland (2-0)
8 (10) Blooming Prairie (2-0)
10 (NR) Warren-Alvarado-Oslo (2-0)
Others receiving votes: Red Lake County, Le Center, Sleepy Eye, Braham, Deer River, Fillmore Central, Fertile-Beltrami

NINE-MAN
1 (1) Edgerton/Ellsworth(2-0)
2 (3) Nicollet (2-0)
3 (5) Ada-Borup (2-0)
4 (6) Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (2-0)
5 (7) Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (2-0)
6 (9) Hills-Beaver Creek (2-0)
7 (NR) Ulen-Hitterdal (2-0)
8 (NR) Spring Grove (2-0)
9 (NR) Bigfork (2-0)
10 (NR) Floodwood (2-0)
10 (NR) Kittson County Central (1-1)
10 (NR) Climax/Fisher (2-0)
Others receiving votes: Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke, Grand Meadow, North Woods, Eagle Valley, Onamia



A Never-Ending Day In The Life Of An Athletic Director
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/14/2011 2:26:37 PM

I was walking across a large parking lot at Eastview High School on Tuesday evening – going from a volleyball match in the gym to a soccer game in the stadium -- when a minivan pulled up beside me. The friendly driver said, “Hey John, you want a ride?” Matt Percival, the athletic director at Eastview in Apple Valley, was on the move again.

Eastview’s fifth-year athletic director is typical of the people who hold these important positions. Athletic and activity directors work long days, juggle multiple tasks and do much of their work behind the scenes. The public does not often realize what must take place before a game begins, but athletic directors certainly do. And Percival, like his colleagues, knows that athletic directors can’t do it all alone.

“The key without a doubt is having all the other people who help out. If you end up being the one person, it’s impossible,” he said. “You rely on lots of folks.”

When Percival gave me a lift, it was just part of his typical workday. His alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. and many days he does not return home until 9:30 p.m. or later. His wife, Robin Percival, is the principal at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, and they have two daughters; Katie is in second grade and Emily is in kindergarten.

Emily had a soccer game Tuesday evening, and she and Katie were buckled into their car seats when I hitched a ride across the parking lot. Matt had taken a one-hour respite from his Eastview duties to coach at Emily’s game.

Percival (pictured at right) spends 30 minutes every morning working out on an elliptical machine in his basement while watching SportsCenter on ESPN. “That 30 minutes of quiet time by myself is a pretty good thing,” he said.

Before arriving at Eastview around 7 a.m., “We get the kids up and going, walk the dog and drop the kids off at school. One big milestone for us is having both kids in the same school this year. That’s a huge accomplishment. This is a breeze right now.”

Every day as an athletic director is interesting, but Monday had been particularly trying because all email and telephone systems at Eastview – as well as at all schools in District 196, which includes Apple Valley, Eagan and Rosemount high schools – were down all day. Cutting off communication makes an administrator’s job even tougher.

Percival, 39, has been at Eastview since the school opened in 1997. He taught social studies and is a former softball and hockey coach. I asked him to describe what Tuesday was like for him, and it was a whirlwind of decisions and action…

“Any time we have home events Joan (his administrative assistant, Joan Beckmann) and I spend some time making sure we have workers for everything. The assigners from the officials associations help us so much, and we become assigners when it comes to event workers. This morning we were trying to find and recruit some folks. Without a doubt, the part of this job I enjoy most is the people.”

Eastview girls tennis coach Jeff Olsen had received some bad news from his doctor on Monday, and he had to step away from coaching temporarily. “The doctor’s instruction was to eliminate anything that may cause stress,” Percival said. So he had to make sure an assistant tennis coach would take over.

Tuesday’s schedule was packed with home events against teams from Bloomington Jefferson: Girls tennis at 3:30, girls soccer at 5, and volleyball and boys soccer at 7. But Percival is also an assistant principal, working with social studies, physical education and business staff.

“This morning I did some classroom walkthroughs and observations,” he said. “I was probably in and out of 10 classrooms this morning, and I spent time chatting with teachers and kids.”

Before lunch he looked at his emails – some of which had been sent a day earlier when the system was down – and then spent a little more than an hour monitoring the lunchroom. “That’s a good time talking to lots of kids,” he said.

He was interviewed about sportsmanship by students who work on a school television program and met with a few student-athletes who were, as he put it, “not meeting all expectations.”

He was on the tennis courts before the matches against Jefferson began, drove home to meet his kids when they got off the school bus and brought them back to Eastview. He checked in with the girls soccer teams and officials at 4:30 to make sure everything was ready for their 5 o’clock game.

Shortly before 6 p.m., Percival and his daughters drove to Emily’s soccer game. Once the game was finished and snacks were handed to the kids, it was back to Eastview. Former Eastview AD Bruce Miller, now an assistant principal, helped keep an eye on things while Percival was away.

Percival spent most of the evening at the boys soccer game, but checked in on the volleyball match during its late stages. After it ended and the gym was clearing, he headed back to the stadium for the second half of boys soccer. He guessed that by 9:30 – barring overtimes and other unforeseen consequences – the stadium would be quiet.

“We’ll lock it up, shut off the lights and do it again tomorrow.”

While Matt was tending to his duties, Robin was going to a second-grade open house at the kids’ school and attending a 7 p.m. meeting at Henry Sibley.

“And sooner or later we’ll see each other, have dinner, get the kids tucked in and get some sleep,” Matt said.

Monday night, Matt’s dinner was from Jimmy John’s and Robin brought home food from Chipotle.

And today, just like every other day for every athletic director in the state, they’re doing it all over again.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 28
*Miles John has driven: 1,615

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



Osseo Honors John Hansen, 40-Year Coach/Choral Director
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/13/2011 11:46:32 AM

John Hansen had a difficult time putting his emotions into words. In less than an hour, the football stadium at Osseo High School would officially bear his name, and Hansen was searching for a way to describe his feelings.

“Unreal” was the first word he discovered. “It’s hard for me to take it all in and understand that this is really happening,” he said. “It’s like a dream come true.”

It happened last Friday before Osseo hosted Park Center in the Orioles’ first home game of the season. The stadium has been known for decades as Carl A. Tonn Field, named after a prominent school board member who served from 1948 to 1966.

Hansen’s name was added to the facility -- now known as John D. Hansen Stadium at Carl Tonn Field – for one good reason. No, make that two good reasons: Hansen was not only Osseo’s football coach for 40 years, he also was the school’s choral music director for the same period of time. From 1952 until 1992, Hansen served countless numbers of students in athletics as well as music.

Jim Tonn, son of Carl Tonn (who died in 2001), was one of many former athletes and singers who were on hand for Friday’s stadium dedication. Jim was the captain of John’s first championship team in 1954.

“John is a fine man, to say the least,” Jim Tonn said. “My dad and John were the best of friends.”

Friday’s pregame ceremony was very special. The Tonn family was recognized and given a new plaque that honors Carl, and Hansen (pictured with his wife Bev) received a similar plaque bearing the new name of the stadium. The national anthem was sung by current Osseo music students as well as many former students of Hansen’s. Seeing all the people whose lives were touched by Hansen was a tribute to a great educator and a great person.

“John Hansen was the best football coach. All you heard growing up was getting to play for coach Hansen,” said Mike Korton, a 1989 grad who was named Osseo’s male athlete of the year as a senior. Korton is now the head football at Champlin Park High School, and his presence at Friday’s ceremony said everything about how he feels toward Hansen.

The ceremony began at 4:45 p.m., with kickoff scheduled for 5 p.m. Champlin Park had a 7 o'clock home game that night, but Korton was missing the preparation for his team’s game to honor Hansen.

“I know I’m supposed to be at pregame right now with my kids,” Korton said. “But my kids understand where I am. I grew up three blocks from here, so I’d sit on my steps as a little kid and listen to the games and wonder, ‘What’s that going on? It sounds like a circus up there.’ And you grow up wanting to become part of the circus. And it was great.

“Coach Hansen never did anything wrong. He always respected everybody, he treated you like you wanted to be treated. I hope I can be a coach like him someday. I don’t know if I can do it for 40 years, though.”

When Korton played for Hansen, Craig Hansen (no relation) was the offensive line coach. Hansen went on to a long career as the head coach at Maple Grove, where he retired from coaching after last season.

“John Hansen and Craig Hansen had a big impact on me,” Korton said. “I told them I was going to become a coach.”

The newly named Hansen-Tonn facility was built in 1970, and before that the football field was where the baseball field outfield now stands. Hansen retired with a record 259-105-13, making him the winningest football coach in Minnesota at the time. As the 2011 season began, he was tied for 12th on the all-time list.

Hansen’s teams were undefeated in 1963, 1969 and 1970, winning the mythical state title in 1970 (before playoffs began). In 1986 the Orioles played at the Metrodome in the Prep Bowl, losing to Apple Valley.

“When I was in high school, if anybody had told me that I was going to be a music teacher, I would have told them they were crazy” said Hansen, a 1946 graduate of St. Louis Park. “I enjoyed music very much, I sang in the choir and also played football, basketball, track. That was kind of my main interest, yet I really loved the music part of it, I loved to sing.”

He was in the Navy for two years after high school, then went to Hamline University in St. Paul. After graduating from Hamline, he was hired by Osseo to fill the two jobs he held for 40 years.

“Being in the Navy gave me a chance to kind of grow up a little bit and in my mind decide what to do as far as my life,” he said. “My two main interests were music and athletics, and that’s exactly what I went into. I found that I enjoyed both of them equally, and there were some great performers in both of them.

“It was just a treat to go to work every day, and that’s why I didn’t retire early. I loved it, I really did. I just loved it.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 24
*Miles John has driven: 1,604

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



Another Swap At The Top Of 3A Volleyball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/12/2011 12:47:51 PM

Lakeville North and Bloomington Jefferson have traded places atop the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Class 3A rankings this season, and North reclaimed the top spot this week after defeating Jefferson in Saturday’s championship match of the Southwest Minnesota Challenge in Marshall.

North, which beat No. 3 Wayzata in the tournament semifinals, had been No. 1 in the first ranking of the season before dropping to No. 2 behind Jefferson. Saturday’s loss was the first of the season for Jefferson; Lakeville North is undefeated.

In the Class 2A rankings, Jackson County Central retained the No. 1 spot despite two losses at a weekend tournament in Shakopee. The Huskies fell to Bethlehem Academy (No. 1in 1A) in the tournament and lost to Eagan (No. 9 in 3A) in the third-place match. LeSueur-Henderson made a big move in the 2A poll this week, climbing from fourth to second.

Bethlehem Academy kept its hold on the top spot in 1A, while Mayer Lutheran rose from No. 4 to No. 2.

Here are this week’s rankings …

CLASS 3A
1. Lakeville North (12) 194
2. Bloomington Jefferson (1) 181
3. Wayzata 171
4. Shakopee 147
5. Blaine 144
6. Lakeville South 131
7. Centennial 94
8. Andover 78
9. Eagan 73
10. Eden Prairie 66
Others: Chanhassen (58), Waconia (25), Hopkins (22), Hill-Murray (12), Hutchinson (2), Totino-Grace (1)

CLASS 2A
1. Jackson County Central (6) 182
2. Lesuer-Henderson (1) 171
3. Belle Plaine (3) 170
4. Marshall (1) 167
5. Stewartville (2) 155
6. Kasson-Mantorville 125
7. Caledonia 90
8. Maple Lake 83
9. Byron 65
10. Wadena-Deer Creek 59
Others: Jordan (53), Visitation (45), Triton (12), Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (8)

CLASS 1A
1. Bethlehem Academy (11) 193
2. Mayer Lutheran 171
3. Wabasha-Kellogg (1) 170
4. Nevis (1) 145
5. Minneota 136
6. Southwest Christian 118
7. Canby 114
8. Ada-Borup 99
9. BBE 98
10. Win-E-Mac 89
Others: MACCRAY (25), Hancock (7), Mabel-Canton (5)



Filling Holy Family’s Football Schedule: A Tough Year, An Easy Year
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/12/2011 10:51:48 AM

The Holy Family Catholic football team had so much trouble filling its 2011 football schedule that on Saturday the Fire hosted a team from Escanaba, Michigan. But a few days before that game, the schedule for 2012 was already set.

Big relief? There’s no question, because Holy Family athletic director Matt Thuli had spent countless hours trying to line up eight regular-season games for this season.

The Fire is in a transition phase between conferences. The school left the Minnesota River Conference after last year and will become a full-sport member of the Wright County in the spring. Filling the current football schedule was quite a tussle, and Saturday’s game against the Escanaba Eskymos (a 50-14 Holy Family victory) was symbolic of that struggle.

Escanaba is a seven-hour drive from Holy Family, which is in the western Twin Cities suburb of Victoria. A former Holy Family assistant coach was from the Escanaba area, and last spring he learned that the Eskymos were looking to fill their schedule, too. Holy Family coach Dave Hopkins phoned Escanaba coach Dan Flynn, and before long Saturday’s game was on the schedule.

Holy Family helped pay some of Escanaba’s transportation costs and also provided pizza and drinks for the Eskymos’ postgame bus ride.

Holy Family, a Class 3A football team, also found games against five other Minnesota 3A schools (Watertown-Mayer, New Ulm, New London-Spicer, Esko, Waseca) and two from Class 4A (St. Thomas Academy, Duluth Denfeld). Six of the eight games are at home, which is one nice quirk. Thuli said locking up games with Watertown-Mayer, New Ulm, Waseca and New London-Spicer happened quickly. But filling the other four other slots on the schedule was a long, hard slog.

“We explored quite a bit with Zero Week with a couple schools,” he said. “We talked a little bit to (5A defending state champion) Wayzata, but we were thinking, ‘Do we need that (playing a much larger team)?’”

Thuli had discussions with several other schools, and Zero Week was part of many of those talks. “In each case, and it’s no fault to either school, for one or the other it just wasn’t the right fit so we never pulled the trigger on Zero Week,” he said.

Holy Family will help Duluth Denfeld pay its travel expenses when the Hunters come to Victoria for the Oct. 19 regular-season finale.

“It was a lot of work,” Thuli said of filling the schedule. “With football there’s a little more physicality. In basketball if you get beat by 50, feelings might be hurt but you won’t walk away with kids hurt.”

The 2012 Wright County Conference football schedule was finalized last week, and you know what that means for Holy Family.

“I already know my football schedule for next year,” Thuli said.

--To see a photo gallery from the Holy Family-Escanaba game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 21
*Miles John has driven: 1,569

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



Two Great Coaches, Two More Reasons To Love High School Activities
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/9/2011 10:54:13 PM

A quick note, recapping two excellent moments from Friday’s football festivities …

I witnessed two football games on Friday. The first one, with a 5 p.m. kickoff, was Park Center at Osseo. In a wonderful pregame ceremony (which I will be writing about), Osseo’s Carl A. Tonn Field – named for a past school board member and prominent Osseo supporter – was rededicated as John Hansen Stadium at Carl A. Tonn Field.

John Hansen was Osseo’s football coach as well as director of choral music for 40 years before retiring in 1992. Many of John’s former players and singers were on hand for the pregame ceremony. Among them was Osseo grad Mike Korton, who is the head football coach at Champlin Park. Even though Champlin Park had a home game Friday against Maple Grove, Mike wanted to support his high school coach … even it meant missing most of the pregame activities and warm-ups at his own game. That’s a pretty special tribute.

My second game of the day was Wayzata at Eagan, starting at 7. I was standing on the Wayzata sideline during the second quarter when Trojans coach Brad Wayzata (right) saw me. He smiled, we shook hands and chatted. This was quite extraordinary; while the game was going on, I asked Brad about his daughter Barrett, with whom I had chatted after Wayzata games in the past couple years. Brad told me Barrett (who is interested in journalism) is a freshman at Kansas, and he was planning to drive to Kansas after Friday’s game to see her.

Our conversation happened while Wayzata’s defense on the field. Brad runs the offense, and as Eagan lined up to punt, Brad slapped me on the back, smiled again and hustled back down the sideline to have a word with his offensive players.

How neat is that? One coach taking time away from his own team to honor his old coach, and another coach chatting with a scribe during a game as if they were standing on a street corner.

Boy, I love this job…

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 19
*Miles John has driven: 1,501

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



Thinking Back To Ten Years Ago This Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/8/2011 4:54:07 PM

I’ll always remember where I was on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I had an appointment to speak to a class at Bloomington Jefferson High School, and I turned on the radio at home as I was getting dressed for the day.

There was talk of something bad happening in New York City. I turned on the TV in the kitchen and saw a big black smoldering hole in the side of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. A plane had apparently struck the building, but nobody knew anything more than that. Before long another aircraft blasted into the other twin tower.

I drove to Bloomington Jefferson, arriving a few minutes early. I listened to the radio in the car for as long as I could and then walked into the school and was escorted to the room where the Sports Literature class was meeting. There were televisions in the classrooms, but because of construction work in the school none of the TVs were working. I told the class everything I had learned from listening to the radio, and then we were all in blackout mode.

After the class period ended, I drove to the Star Tribune building in downtown Minneapolis. Like everyone else in the newsroom, I watched the scenes on television. The Pentagon was on fire … a plane had apparently gone down in Pennsylvania.

Fast-forward a few years and I was back at Jefferson, writing about a memorial stone that had been installed at the school in honor of former Jaguars quarterback Tom Burnett, who died when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. I also wrote about former Blake linebacker Gordy Aamoth, who died in one of the twin towers on Sept. 11. The stadium at Blake now bears his name and a twisted beam from the World Trade Center is on display at the stadium.

In the Sept. 14, 2001, edition of the Star Tribune, I wrote a column under the headline “High school sports can help the healing.” I had spoken with people at Colorado’s Columbine High School as well as Osceolo High School in Wisconsin, where a traffic accident had claimed twin brothers a few weeks before Sept. 11. That column seemed to resonate with readers at the time, and to this day people occasionally will mention it to me. I have heard from a few people who say they saved that column, and they read it every day as Sept. 11 comes around. That is equally touching and humbling.

Here is that column as it appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sept. 14, 2001…

High School Sports Can Help The Healing

In the horrible wake of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, all after-school activities were canceled Tuesday in the Jefferson County (Colo.) School District. This didn't surprise Ed Woytek, the athletic director at Columbine High School.

The day's events hit Columbine hard, especially the senior class. They were freshmen on April 20, 1999, when two students shot and killed 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

"Our coaches and all of us are on kind of a fine line, especially with what happened here previously," Woytek said.

Columbine still is recovering from that day. Recovery also is an ongoing process in Osceola, Wis., where twin brothers Eric and Aaron Kipp, 18, died in a car accident on the way to football practice 30 days ago.

With thousands of innocent people presumed to have perished this week, what do you say? How do you heal? Maybe it's best to listen to the kids. That's among the lessons learned at Columbine and Osceola.

"Pretty much all of them are saying to us, 'We need to be a family,'" Woytek said. "Because that's what happened a few years ago; they got with family. And that's where we need to be, that's where our American people need to be, is with family."

After the Kipp brothers died, football practices were stopped for a short period. But soon, everyone wanted to return -- or try to return -- to some sense of normalcy.

"Very soon, the kids were ready to go back," said Osceola coach/principal Mike McMartin. "They said, 'Coach, I need to keep busy.' And they were right. When we jumped back into it, although they weren't the best practices in the world, there was almost a big sigh of relief that they could start moving forward and take with us all the good things that the boys had shared with us for so many years, instead of thinking about the bad."

Activities went on as scheduled Tuesday in Osceola, the day of the attacks.

"We just really felt during that time it was massively important that we show to the kids, 'Hey, we're going on. We're not going to let these people defeat us or take us off our feet here. We're going to move forward and be proud,'" McMartin said.

At Columbine and Osceola, tragedy struck a specific community of people. This week, tragedy struck us all.

The Columbine Rebels take a 1-1 record into tonight's game at Dakota Ridge. Osceola is 3-0 and the homecoming opponent for rival St. Croix Falls. The games go on, as do our lives.

"Everybody keeps saying we'll never get back to normal, just like our nation will never get back to normal," Woytek said. "But hopefully we're going to get as close to normal as we can."

So if sporting events are part of your normal routine, stick with it. If you haven't been to a high school game in years, tonight would be a wonderful time to go. Get away from the television, escape the headlines. Find a seat in the bleachers and take a break, however temporary, from all that's gone so wretchedly wrong in this world.

Watch the team captains shake hands before the coin flip. Hold your hand over your heart during the national anthem as the flag flutters at half-staff. Bow your head during the moment of silence to honor this week's victims. Get on your feet for the opening kickoff. Watch our young people -- players, cheerleaders, fans -- as they smile, holler and laugh together during this evening that is tradition both athletic and social. Buy popcorn, listen to the band, cheer first downs, simply celebrate.

Maybe administrators at every school can find a recording of God Bless America, and across our states -- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado and beyond -- we'll sing together when the game ends. Just like a family.



One Change At The Top Of Statewide Football Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/8/2011 12:21:09 PM

The No. 1-ranked teams in the Associated Press football rankings remained the same this week with one exception. In Class 5A, Eden Prairie moves up one spot and now shares the No. 1 spot with Wayzata.

The other No. 1 teams are Mankato West in 4A, Rochester Lourdes in 3A, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in 2A, New Ulm Cathedral in 1A and Edgerton/Ellsworth in Nine-Man.

5A had the most changes this week, with four new teams joining the top 10. The newcomers are No. 5 Minnetonka, No. 7 Lakeville North, No. 8 Rosemount and No. 10 Mounds View.

Here are the rankings …

CLASS 5A
#1 (2) Eden Prairie (1-0)
1 (1) Wayzata (1-0)
3 (3) Cretin-Derham Hall (1-0)
4 (4) Lakeville South (1-0)
5 (NR) Minnetonka (1-0)
6 (9) Blaine (1-0)
7 (NR) Lakeville North (1-0)
8 (NR) Rosemount (1-0)
9 (10) Brainerd (1-0)
10 (NR) Mounds View (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Hopkins, Stillwater, Rochester Century, Rochester John Marshall, Champlin Park, Totino-Grace, St. Michael-Albertville, Shakopee, Eagan, Anoka

CLASS 4A
#1 (1) Mankato West (1-0)
2 (2) St. Thomas Academy (1-0)
3 (9) Mahtomedi (1-0)
4 (7) South St. Paul (1-0)
5 (NR) Rogers (1-0)
6 (8) Bemidji (1-0)
7 (6) Northfield (1-0)
7 (5) Waconia (1-0)
9 (4) Detroit Lakes (1-0)
10 (NR) Delano (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Spring Lake Park, Hutchinson, Marshall, Becker, Sartell-St. Stephen, Benilde-St. Margaret's, Sauk Rapids-Rice, Red Wing, Fergus Falls, Hill-Murray, Holy Angels, Willmar

CLASS 3A
#1 (1) Rochester Lourdes (1-0)
2 (3) Holy Family Catholic (1-0)
3 (2) Albany (1-0)
4 (4) Glencoe-Silver Lake (1-0)
5 (6) DeLaSalle (1-0)
6 (5) Fairmont (1-0)
7 (7) Kasson-Mantorville (1-0)
8 (NR) Pequot Lakes (1-0)
9 (9) Plainview-Elgin-Millville (1-0)
9 (NR) Thief River Falls (1-0)
Others receiving votes: East Grand Forks, Milaca, Byron, Minnehaha Academy, Mora, St. Anthony, Breck, Waseca, Minneapolis Washburn, Proctor

CLASS 2A
#1 (1) Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (1-0)
2 (5) Eden Valley-Watkins (1-0)
3 (3) Moose Lake-Willow River (1-0)
4 (4) Barnesville (1-0)
5 (7) Pierz (1-0)
6 (NR) Chatfield (1-0)
7 (9) Jackson County Central (1-0)
8 (8) Pelican Rapids (1-0)
8 (NR) LeSueur-Henderson (1-0)
10 (6) Luverne (0-1)
Others receiving votes: Caledonia, Sibley East, BOLD, Mayer Lutheran, Hawley, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Triton

CLASS 1A
#1 (1) New Ulm Cathedral (1-0)
2 (3) Goodhue (1-0)
3 (2) Mahnomen (1-0)
4 (4) Minneota/Lincoln HI (1-0)
5 (6) Ottertail Central (1-0)
6 (7) Barnum (1-0)
7 (10) Adrian (1-0)
8 (8) Dawson-Boyd (1-0)
9 (NR) Southland (1-0)
10 (NR) Blooming Prairie (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Warren-Alvarado-Oslo, Royalton, Red Lake County, Braham, Fertile-Beltrami, Le Center, Deer River, Red Rock Central

Nine-Man
#1 (1) Edgerton/Ellsworth (1-0)
2 (3) Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke (1-0)
3 (6) Nicollet (1-0)
4 (5) Lanesboro (1-0)
5 (7) Ada-Borup (1-0)
6 (2) Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (1-0)
7 (NR) Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (1-0)
8 (NR) McGregor (1-0)
9 (4) Hills-Beaver Creek (1-0)
10 (8) Mountain Iron-Buhl (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Eagle Valley, Climax/Fisher, Spring Grove, Ulen-Hitterdal, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Floodwood, Grand Meadow, Kittson County Central, Bigfork



A Big Loss For Wayzata Football And Latest Cross-Country Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/7/2011 12:24:41 PM

If you watched Wayzata’s 31-14 victory over Rosemount in the Class 5A football state title game last year, you remember the performance of then-sophomore Mitchell Underhill. He ran 12 times for 247 yards and touchdowns of 45, 66, 58 and 58 yards.

Underhill suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 47-20 season-opening victory at Prior Lake. Wayzata will play at Eagan this Friday.

--The top-ranked teams remained unchanged in this week’s cross-country polls released by the coaches association, but there were some shifts at the top of the individual rankings.

In Class 1A girls, Blake’s Clare Flanagan has risen from No. 7 in the preseason rankings to the current No. 1 spot. And in Class 2A boys, Wayzata’s Josh Thorson has moved from No. 2 to No. 1.

Here are all the rankings…

CLASS 2A

Boys Teams
1. Stillwater
2. Wayzata
3. Rosemount
4. Edina
5. Moorhead
6. Andover
7. White Bear Lake
8. Eastview
9. Mounds View
10. Eden Prairie
11. Owatonna
12. Sartell – St Stephen
Others receiving votes: Burnsville, Forrest Lake, Mahtomedi, Monticello

Boys Individuals
1. Josh Thorson, Wayzata
2. Zach Roozen, Mounds View
3. Glen Ellingson, Moorhead
4. Cole O'Brien, Burnsville
5. Riley Macon, Rochester Mayo
6. Tom Linner, Stillwater
7. Nathan Rock, Rosemount
8. Mubarik Musa, Worthington
9. Jan Ketterson, Bloomington Jefferson
10. Joel Reichow, White Bear Lake
11. Joey Duerr, Chaska
12. Connor Olson, Wayzata
Others receiving votes: Tyler Broadwell, Sartell - St Stephen; Ahmed Bule, St Paul Central; Will Burke, Edina; Wayde Hall, Stillwater; Sidney Speir, Eagan; Parker Wharram, Mound Westonka

Girls Teams
1. Monticello
2. Lakeville South
3. Eden Prairie
4. Andover
5. Prior Lake
6. Wayzata
7. Roseville
8. Eagan
9. East Ridge
10. Sartell
11. Alexandria
12. Stillwater

Girls Individuals
1. Maria Hauger, 11, Shakopee
2. Jamie Piepenburg, 12, Alexandria
3. Erica Seidenkrantz, 12, Monticello
4. Nicole Heitzman, 11, Andover
5. Amber Seidenkratz, 10, Monticello
6. Kaelyn Williams, 12, Robbinsdale Cooper
7. Jenna Truedson, 9, Bemidji
8. Danielle Anderson, 11, Eagan
9. Emily Knapczyk, 12, Armstrong
10. Chrissy Monson, 11, Albert Lea
11. Taylor Scholl, 12, Prior Lake
12. Piper Bain, 12, Edina

CLASS 1A

Boys Teams
1. St. Cloud Cathedral
2. Minnehaha Academy
3. Perham
4. Esko
5. Winona Cotter
6. Waseca
7. Blake
8. Albany
9. Mora
10. Plainview-Elgin-Millville
11. LaCrescent
12. St.James

Boys Individuals
1. Brandon Clark Blake
2. Jonnathan Surber St. James
3. Shane Streich Waseca
4. Byron Schuldt Nevis
5. Matt Welch Proctor
6. Nick Stoks Canby-Minneota/LinHi
7. Jacob Siekmeier Math&Science Acad
8. Cade Ekstrom Madelia/Truman
9. Charlie Lawrence Foley
10. Jesse Delgado Waseca
11. Matt Schrupp Winona Cotter
12. Micheal Wagner Eveleth-Gilbert

Girls Teams
1. Adrian
2. St. Cloud Cathedral
3. Blake
4. LaCrescent
5. Waseca
6. Albany
7. Annandale
8. Park Rapids
9. Perham
10. United South Central/AC
11. Trinity at River Ridge
12. Esko

Girls Individuals
1. Clare Flanagan Blake
2. Jordan Kopplow Adrian
3. Cheyanne Bower S., James
4. Victoria Alexander Lake of the Woods
5. Emi Trost Cannon Falls
6. Greta Danielson St. Cloud Cath.
7. Jordan Chancellor Blake
8. Sally O”Brien Waseca
9. Kallyn Knutson Esko
10. Lydia Lutz Park Rapids
11. McKenzie Holt St. Cloud Christian
12. Megan Sauer Adrian



Remembering A Teammate, An Opponent And What Sportsmanship Means
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/6/2011 2:44:06 PM

WABASHA – Across Minnesota last Friday, 104 high school football games were played. Every one of those games was important, but what took place prior to one specific game was very, very special.

It was a scene unlike anything I have witnessed in several decades of writing about sports of all kinds, from the professional ranks to the youth level. I doubt I will ever see anything like it again. The story, which began a year ago with a terrible tragedy, continued Friday evening with memories, tears and special tributes.

Cole Younker was 16 years old when he was killed in a car accident on Sept. 10 last year. He was a passenger in a car that collided with a semi-trailer on Highway 61 in Wabasha. Cole was a three-sport athlete at Wabasha-Kellogg High School.

On Friday, Southland High School’s football team played at Wabasha-Kellogg in the first game of the season for both teams. As Southland coach Shawn Kennedy told me, “We wanted to do something in honor of and in memory of the young man who was killed. We wanted to do something to really show true sportsmanship.”

It was a simple act, really, involving the planting of a tree and releasing of balloons. But simple acts can have the greatest impact.

The planning began when Southland athletic director Bill Feuchtenberger phoned Wabasha-Kellogg athletic director/football coach Nick Richmond. “He said Southland wanted to do something when the time was right,” Richmond said. “We decided we were going to do a tree and he said, ‘Whatever it takes, just send us a bill and we’ll do it.’ ”

Cole’s mother, Bonnie Younker, was asked to select a tree and she picked out a beauty. It’s a red maple, which will someday stand 35 to 40 foot tall. It was paid for by Southland. Between warm-ups and the start of Friday’s game, both teams lined up on either side of the planting site, which is in a corner of the football/track complex. Four captains from each squad placed the tree in a hole (that had been dug by Richmond a day earlier) and then used shovels to fill in the dirt around the trunk.

Bonnie stood with the Wabasha-Kellogg Falcons and cried while the tree in memory of Cole was planted. When the job was done, she hugged all eight captains.

It was quite a sight: young boys in football uniforms (minus helmets) taking their time and working together to get that tree started on its new life. A few fans gathered around to watch. Some of them cried and others sniffed back the tears.

“I’m very fortunate, along with the rest of the coaching staff, in that we get to play in a conference, the Three Rivers North and South, in which all of us coaches get along very well,” Kennedy had told me earlier. “When something like this happens, I think it affects everybody. He was a son, a sibling and it was a devastating thing. Why not try and do something in his honor, to really show that it’s only a game and to really show true sportsmanship? We always talk about being a class act at Southland, and Nick does the same thing over here, and that’s what it’s all about.”

On the right shoulder of each Falcons jersey this season are two small black numbers: 32. That was Cole’s number. Stickers with his number were affixed to their helmets. Some of the players had written Cole’s initials, CJR, on black anti-glare patches they wore under their eyes. Some have tattoos dedicated to Cole.

On Thursday, Richmond sat down to watch the film from last year’s game between Wabasha-Kellogg and Southland. He admitted that it was hard to watch as Cole made tackles, and he didn’t let the players watch the video.

“The one-year anniversary is coming up and the kids are still feeling it,” he said.

As a recording of the national anthem was played, the teams stood in lines at each end of the field. Bonnie Younker and several other women then brought out bundles of balloons and handed one to each Falcon. The players had written notes to Cole, which had been placed inside the balloons. As the balloons were released into the warm Minnesota sky, they floated up and began taking a southwesterly tack toward the nearby Mississippi River.

“I get goosebumps when I say this, but this is why we do this,” said Kennedy. “I’m starting my 27th year of coaching. And let me tell you something, I think this is pretty special to be able to be a part of this and help do something for Wabasha and for the family.

“I lost my father when he went in for gall bladder surgery and never came home. It just brings back those kinds of feelings for me personally. I am very blessed, because 55 of these kids drove six and a half hours in a snowstorm to be at my dad’s wake service. That’s pretty special. It’s only a game, and this puts it in perspective that there are more important things.”

The game ended with Southland winning 48-0. But that’s not the memory that will remain. The sight of a grieving mother, of young boys doing something larger than themselves and their game, of all those balloons sailing away ... all of it unforgettable.

“In a weird way, I expected a call from them just because I know coach Kennedy,” Richmond said. “From the first time I met him, he was a class act. I love the guy. So I knew it was coming. How do you show sportsmanship better than what they’re doing?”

As the season opener neared, some of the Falcons wrote notes to Cole that were separate from the notes that sailed away with the balloons. One of them read:

“Hey buddy, we miss you. It’s not the same here any more. We’re playing for you, OK? Thanks for everything you’ve ever done to and for me. Miss you.”

--To see a photo gallery of the tree planting and balloon release, as well as video, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 15
*Miles John has driven: 1,466

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



Volleyball Rankings: More Change At The Top In 1A
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/6/2011 10:42:11 AM

For the third time in as many weeks, there is a new team in the No. 1 spot in the Class 1A state volleyball rankings. Nevis was No. 1 in the preseason poll, Wabasha-Kellogg was in the top position last week and this week Bethlehem Academy is the new No.1.

The 3A and 2A leaders remain unchanged, with Bloomington Jefferson No. 1 in 3A and Jackson County Central No. 1 in 2A.

Bethlehem Academy has played two matches and has a record of 1-1. But the Cardinals’ opening opponents have not been slouches. Bethlehem Academy lost to Lakeville North (the defending 3A champ and current No. 2 team) 3-0 in the season opener and then went to Marshall (No. 5 this week in 2A) and came away with a 3-0 win.

Here are this week’s rankings, courtesy of the state volleyball coaches association…

CLASS 3A
1. Bloomington Jefferson (14) 261
2. Lakeville North (3) 236
3. Wayzata 222
4. Blaine 196
5. Lakeville South 175
6. Shakopee 174
7. Centennial 150
8. Eden Prairie 113
9. Andover 71
10. Eagan 59
Others: Hopkins (42), Chanhassen (32), Waconia (28), Hill-Murray (22), Burnsville (21), Apple Valley (8), Minnetonka (2)

CLASS 2A
1. Jackson County Central (8) 133
2. Stewartville (1) 127
3. Belle Plaine 112
4. Lesuer-Henderson 108
5. Marshall 103
6. Maple Lake 77
Kasson-Mantorville 77
8. Byron 74
9. Wadena-Deer Creek 67
10. Visitation 39
Others: Jordan (28), Esko (6), Caledonia (6) Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (4)

CLASS 1A
1. Bethlehem Academy (9) 190
2. Wabasha-Kellogg (2) 176
3. Nevis (2) 158
4. Mayer Lutheran 155
5. Minneota 144
6. Win-E-Mac 127
7. Southwest Christian 123
8. BBE 112
9. Canby 71
10. Ada-Borup 59
Others: MACCRAY (31), Mabel-Canton (7), Sebeka (6), Hancock (6), Martin County West (5)



Future Gophers QB Helps Journalist Break The Rules
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/2/2011 12:48:29 AM

NEW PRAGUE -- There is a cardinal rule in this business of sports writing: You never conduct interviews until after the game has ended. That’s why I was quite surpised when Mankato West football Mark Esch offered to let me violate that rule Thursday night.

There was no drama taking place. The West Scarlets had long ago tied a big ribbon on their season-opening victory over the New Prague Trojans. The score was 22-0 after one quarter, 52-0 at halftime and 60-6 with a few minutes to play in the fourth quarter as I stood on the West sideline chatting with Esch.

There was no mystery about who the media would interrogate after time ran out. West quarterback Philip Nelson, who might be the highest-profile high school player in Minnesota, had put on a big show. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound senior completed 10 of 16 passes for 184 yards and five touchdowns, and also ran the ball 11 times for 135 yards and another score. And that was just in the first half; he didn't set foot on the field after halftime.

Nelson committed to the University of Minnesota in February, and Thursday’s performance is sure to be noticed by Gophers fans. I was looking forward to interviewing the three-year starter following the usual timetable: 1) game ends, 2) teams shake hands, 3) coaches speak to their players, 4) reporters ask questions.

But out of the blue, Esch said, “John, would you like to talk to Philip now?” I stammered and stuttered a bit, surprised by the in-game offer. I said, “That’s something I would never ask to do, but if it’s OK with you, sure.” So the coach hollered, “Phil!” Nelson walked over to us, Mark introduced his quarterback to the guy from the MSHSL and the pre-postgame interview began.

“I just knew the Gophers was where I wanted to go,” Nelson said. “The coaching staff has such a hard-nosed program, they’re disciplining everybody, they’re going to make me a better person and I think they’re going to start winning sooner than what a lot of people think. That really excites me. I want to be part of my home state and help turn around the program.”

The final score was Mankato West 60, New Prague 14 and the entire second half was played under running time. Rules allow running time to be used in the fourth quarter when the margin is 35 points or more, but coaches have the option to speed the clock sooner. Shortly before halftime, Esch asked the officials if they would talk to New Prague coach Jim Benick about going to running time right away in the second half, and that’s what happened.

West is ranked No. 1 in Class 4A for good reason ... and Nelson is the biggest reason. He connected with Hunter Friesen for touchdown passes of 16, 11 and 24 yards, and found Konor Severns for scoring plays of 26 and 12 yards. Nelson also ran for a 12-yard score and Jordan Hage had a 5-yard TD carry for the Scarlets.

“I think the game has really slowed down for him, even from last year to this year,” Esch (right) said. “He put on an extra 20 pounds in the offseason. He sees things well and he’s focused.”

The West defense, meanwhile, held New Prague to less than 50 yards of offense in the first half; the Trojans never got within 45 yards of the end zone until the third quarter.

“He did a nice job,” Benick said of Nelson. “He executed, he’s physical, he put the ball on the money. He’s a nice player, a nice competitor. The best way to stop him is keep him off the field. And we weren’t doing that at all.”

Nelson, who kicked off four times and would have punted if the Scarlets had lined up in punt formation in the first half, said, “I think we played really hard. We executed really well offensively and defensively and we just played an all-around great game. But there’s always room for improvement.”

West had an overall record of 34-3 in the past three season. They won the 2008 Class 4A state title (when Nelson started one game as a freshman), lost in the state semifinals in 2009 and in the state quarterfinals last season. Nelson has started every game since the start of the 2009 season, and his goal this season is to take home another state championship.

“I’m so excited for my senior year,” he said. “This is our senior class’s last chance to play together and win state, and I’ve been looking forward to my senior year more than anything else. This is the most unbelievable year that you can ever experience, playing with the kids you grew up with. We’re taking it week by week.”

It’s safe to consider Week 1 a smashing success ... even if the rules of journalism were ignored.

--To see a photo gallery from Thursday's game, as well as a postgame video interview with Nelson, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 13
*Miles John has driven: 1,295

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



A Season Interrupted By Cancer, But Plenty To Be Thankful For
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/1/2011 12:05:28 AM

Nick Manzoni’s coach calls him a ridiculously talented soccer player. Which is part of the reason why not being able to play this season is ridiculously hard for the Orono senior attacker. But cancer does ridiculous things.

Manzoni, who was a Class A first-team all-state player a year ago, was considered one of the top candidates to be named Minnesota’s Mr. Soccer at the conclusion of the 2011 season. But over the summer, tests for recurring pain and soreness in his right calf showed Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare disease that accounts for only one percent of childhood cancers.

That means Manzoni (No. 10 at right) is undergoing chemotherapy, which is a weekly routine right now, followed by surgery in September and then more chemo. It also means no soccer this fall.

Not playing is “ridiculously hard, to be honest,” Nick said Wednesday night at Orono before the fifth-ranked Spartans lost a 3-2 overtime decision to St. Michael-Albertville. His doctors believe the cancer was found early enough that he should get a clean bill of health at the end of the treatment regimen. But again, sitting out his senior year is hard on him as well as his teammates.

Nick had 18 goals and 10 assists last season, when the Spartans reached the state quarterfinals. Fellow senior Willi Semsch said Nick’s play was crucial in getting through the Section 6 playoffs in 2010.

“In the section semifinals against Breck we were up 1-0 and he hit a shot from probably 35 or 40 yards out, chipped the goal, and that was pretty cool,” Semsch said. “And in the section finals against Benilde, which is probably our biggest rival, he pretty much dominated that game and scored two goals. That was huge.

“We’ve just got to step up as a team, all of us. No one of us is as good as him, so we’re going to have to do it as a team, as a whole. We’ve got to support each other.”

Another senior, Mason Whitney, said playing without Manzoni is “a huge difference because we had to completely change our offense. Generally our offense was kind of ‘Get Nick the ball, watch him dribble and watch everybody else run,’ because sooner or later about four people would draw to him and he would pass or just keep on dribbling and score a goal.”

Orono coach Brad Carlson said Manzoni is “a ridiculously good soccer player. He’s the complete package in soccer and he’s as smart as a whip.”

The cancer was diagnosed in June, and it wasn’t long before Debbie Manzoni saw a sight that brought her to tears … but these were tears of gratitude for Nick’s friends.

“He’s got some great, great, great buddies on the team and everywhere,” she said. “Nick started losing his hair and he got it buzzed but he said, ‘Nope, this won’t do. It’s still patchy.’ ”

So Nick and some of his friends shaved each other’s heads. “I came home to see all these bald heads sitting in the basement,” Debbie said. “I just started crying.”

At the Spartans’ first game this season, headbands bearing Nick’s number 10 and his initials (NWM for Nicholas William Manzoni) were unveiled. That’s just one of many ways Nick has been supported by his teammates, his friends and their families.

“He’s got good friends and they care about him a lot,” Carlson said. “His first week in the hospital, Willi and Mason spent the nights with him.”

Nick was preparing for a college showcase soccer event when the pain in his calf returned for the second time this year. He still plans to play college soccer, but the schedule has just been adjusted a little.

“I’ll see how I recover from this whole thing, but right now the plan is to recover by the end of January, get back on my club team and start playing a lot,” he said. “I might take a gap year to try and get in better shape.”

Semsch remembers Nick saying he had a pain in his leg, but soreness and minor injuries are nothing out of the ordinary for athletes.

“Then one day he said it might be cancer, and he told me a couple days later that it was cancer,” Semsch said. “I wanted him to be out on the soccer field with me, because he’s a really, really good player. And he’s one of my best friends, so it was tough in both senses.”

Before the Spartans opened the season at home against Maple Grove last week, Semsch asked Manzoni if he planned to be there. “He was like, ‘Oh, it’s going to kill me to not play.’ I know it’s just killing him,” Semsch said.

Whitney was on a school trip to Spain when he learned of Nick’s diagnosis. “It was a huge blow,” he said. “My friends told me online and I couldn’t really call him or anything. When I got home I just drove straight to the hospital.

“It’s really tough. It’s tough on all of us, and I would imagine it’s just tenfold and way, way worse for him. He doesn’t like to show his emotions that much but you can tell it’s just eating him up not being on the field, not playing with us. We’ve been building up to our senior year, we’ve been talking about it since day one. We went to state last year and we were planning on going even further this year.

“This is a huge wakeup call, when one of your best friends goes out. Everything’s fine and dandy, nobody’s ever been even sick, really. And then he ends up getting cancer.”

Cancer is certainly bad news, but there has been plenty of good news since Nick was diagnosed. The best bit of medical information came when the Manzonis learned that the cancer had not spread from Nick’s calf.

“We had so many people praying for us, and three prayers were answered,” Debbie said. “It could have spread to his lungs, to his bones and to his bone marrow. And each day for three days we received the results of those tests, saying, ‘Not in his lungs, not in his bones, not in his marrow.’ Thank you, Lord, for that good, good news.”

Nick goes into the hospital every Monday for chemotherapy, which is administered intravenously. He stays for three or five days each time. The chemo has had no side effects other than the loss of his hair.

“The doctor said he’s been like the poster child,” said Debbie. “There are a lot of things to be thankful for in the midst of a really awful, scary thing.”

--To see more photos, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 11
*Miles John has driven: 1,241

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



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