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John’s Journal: Amid Disappointment, Lessons Are Learned

‘It’s just a game. There are bigger things in life’

Posted: Friday, November 19, 2021 - 3:20 PM

Becker postgame

Becker coach Dwight Lundeen with Carter Callahan and Ethan Anderson.

In every game, somebody wins and somebody loses. There is a scoreboard for a reason.

But high school activities, whether it’s football or wrestling or debate or gymnastics or you name it, are about much more than wins and losses. Under the best circumstances, students learn life lessons about hard work, teamwork, facing challenges, accepting disappointment and many others.

Coming out on the short end of the scoreboard can teach some of those lessons. After Hills-Beaver Creek lost to Fertile-Beltrami 30-22 in Friday’s Nine-Man state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium, Hills-Beaver Creek coach Rex Metzger talked about the importance of his team’s two regular-season losses.

“After we lost those two games in week five and week six, we kind of just found out a lot about ourselves,” he said. “We go back into film and kind of correct some things that we weren't maybe doing quite right. Those losses corrected a lot of things for us and after that we kind of just went back to the basics. … You never want to lose games, but those two losses really taught us a lot about ourselves and got us to this point.” 

Metzger said those words in an interview room that is used on Sundays by the Minnesota Vikings. After each high school game at the stadium, the head coach and two or three players from each team talk about the game and answer questions from the media. The winning teams are always happy, while the losing teams – especially the players – are often quite disappointed. That is no surprise; they wanted to win and advance to the Prep Bowl.

In one of the most exciting football games this week, Kasson-Mantorville defeated Becker 24-20 in Thursday’s Class 4A semifinals. Becker has won three state titles, the most recent in 2015, and has been the state runner-up five times. Kasson-Mantorville will play in its first Prep Bowl next week.

The KoMets scored the winning touchdown – and took the lead for the first time -- with 1:21 to play in the fourth quarter.

In the interview room, Becker coach Dwight Lundeen was joined by seniors Carter Callahan and Ethan Anderson. Lundeen, who is the only head football coach Becker has ever had, completed his 52nd season and there’s no reason to think he won’t be back for season 53 in 2021.

Carter and Ethan certainly wished the outcome had been different for the Bulldogs, who won all 11 games they had played before facing Kasson-Mantorville. But they also realized something important: Their team had done the best it could, and sometimes you don’t win.

“It’s just a game,” Carter said. “There are bigger things in life.”

Ethan added, “It is just a game. But you work so hard for this game and, you know, it does get emotional but you've got to take a step back and realize the situation you're in, how grateful you are to be here. That's a big part of it.”

That sense of gratitude permeates these kinds of events. The coaches, the players, the officials, the fans … everyone is joyful at having these opportunities to celebrate the accomplishments of their communities’ young people.

I have known Lundeen for a long time and I have always found him to be the absolute perfect example of a coach. After Friday’s game, his only lament was that the Bulldogs’ season had ended.

“The only reason they feel really bad is we can't practice on Monday,” the coach said. “Every time you go on the field in athletics, there's that risk of winning and losing, and we're willing to take that risk. And as a coach, I'm willing to take that risk all the time, but I feel really bad because we're not practicing tomorrow.”

During the 2019 football season I spent time in Becker, something I have done on a regular basis over the years. The story I posted a few days later included this passage…

“You can't put all your joy into the outcome of Friday night. That just can't be,” Lundeen said. “And I keep telling the kids that Number 1, we're going to play hard. And if (the opponent) plays well and we play well and we lose, so be it. And we're going to practice Monday the same way, whether we lost or we won.

“You're trying to teach them the skills of a game and you're also trying to teach them all the other things that you've been taught by people who have been in your life. And when they graduate, I hope they reflect what we taught, what we modeled. And that's the part that's really enjoyable; we want them to be great husbands and great fathers who work in the community. Not only should they learn to block and tackle, but to be that citizen that we want them to be.”

Remembering A Friend

The Fertile-Beltrami Falcons, who will meet LeRoy-Ostrander in next Saturday’s Nine-Man Prep Bowl game, are carrying a lost classmate with them this season.

Jude Olson was 16 when he died in an ATV accident in July 2020. He played football and went to state as a heavyweight wrestler in his sophomore season.

Jude Olson would have been playing with us today,” said Falcons coach Brian Nelson. “I think that's in the back of our kids’ minds. They're playing for Jude and playing for our community and I'm very, very proud.”

Jude’s obituary read in part, “Jude’s hobbies were listening to music, playing on his X-Box, cracking jokes, swimming, spending time with friends and 4-wheeling. It was never a dull moment when Jude was around. He had a quick wit that left you in stitches. He was a deep thinker that even left grownups pondering. He had a heart of gold, and an infectious smile that would light up a room and melt your heart. He was a gentle giant that gave teddy bear hugs.

Teammates and Opponents

Football players for the West Central Area/Ashby Knights are as close-knit as any group of teammates, but the situation is different in other seasons. That’s because the Knights are a cooperative team with players from two schools: The Ashby Arrows and the West Central Area Knights.

The schools also coop in wrestling (also joined by Brandon-Evansville) but they each have their own basketball and baseball teams. In track and field, Ashby and Brandon-Evansville have a coop team.

“It is very unique to be playing with these guys and you're all really close,” said Knights quarterback Evan Paulson. “And then it gets to the next season and you're still really close, they're all still your friends, but then you're competing against them and you go all out against them no matter who they are. … You play as hard as you can, but everybody out there is kind of always friends and everybody respects each other.”

The Knights defeated Maple River 8-7 Friday in the Class 2A semifinals and will meet Chatfield in the Prep Bowl next Friday at 1 p.m.

Football State Semifinals


Nine-Man: LeRoy-Ostrander 49, Kittson County Central 0

2A: Chatfield 22, Barnesville 18

4A: Kasson-Mantorville 24, Becker 20

6A: Maple Grove 35, Eden Prairie 3


Nine-Man: Fertile-Beltrami 30, Hills-Beaver Creek 22

2A West Central Area/Ashby 8, Maple River 7

5A: Mahtomedi 34, Robbinsdale Cooper 7

4A: Hutchinson 36, Orono 6

6A: Lakeville South 40, St. Michael-Albertville 14


1A: Minneota vs. Rushford-Peterson, 9 am

1A: New York Mills vs. Mayer Lutheran, 11:30 am

3A: Annandale vs. Plainview-Elgin-Millville, 2 pm

3A: Esko vs. Dassel-Cokato, 4:30 pm

5A: Rogers vs. Mankato West, 7 pm

Tickets, brackets, streaming, online program, etc.:

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at 

Orono football

The Orono Spartans in the tunnel before taking the field against Hutchinson in the Class 4A semifinals.

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