Skip to main content


John’s Journal: Opening The Eyes Of The Next Generation

‘I'm Going To Look Back On This The Rest Of My Life’

Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2021 - 4:04 PM

New York Mills

The New York Mills Eagles gather at halftime of their Class 1A semifinal game against Mayer Lutheran.

Never doubt young people. Oldsters can sometimes ponder teenagers and assume they are all wrapped up in social media, video games and other assorted activities that may not seem all that vital to those of us with gray hair. But ask anyone who spends time with teens and you’ll hear a different story.

High school events are a great source of inspiration and hope for the future. The kids involved in sports and other activities are some of the most impressive people I know, no matter the age.

During this week’s football state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium, a couple of things stand out when it comes to kids and knowing what matters … and knowing the impact they have on even younger kids.

Malachi Bunke, senior quarterback at Rushford-Peterson, displayed the maturity to understand the bigger picture even after the Trojans lost for the first time this season, a 28-8 decision against Minneota in Saturday’s Class 1A semifinals.

“The best thing about this season is opening the eyes to the younger generation,” Malachi said. “I feel like bringing back that winning culture, which Rushford hadn't experienced in football probably since 2016 (the last time the Trojans went to state, finishing as runner-up). Making it back to the Bank, I just hope that we're able to inspire a lot of those young kids.”

Rushford-Peterson lineman Carson Thompson, one of 11 Trojans seniors, recalled when he and his classmates were the little ones in town and the dreams they carried.

“Ever since we've been little kids we’ve been tight, us 11 seniors,” he said. “So just going from little kid football all the way up to here, we knew this year was coming. And after last year and everything (Covid-related) that happened, going 2-3 made us hungry. So being able to come up this year and get here at 12-0; falling short hurts, but it's definitely what we were hoping for.”

Malachi, sitting with Carson and coach Davin Thompson in front of the media, expanded on the experience of having such a memorable season with his friends.

“It's been a very special season. Back in August when we started practice, I knew it was going to be special because this group of senior boys is very special and I was looking forward to this year. It was a special year, we made it special and we had a lot of fun doing it. I'm going to look back on this the rest of my life and I'm not going to regret anything. Doing it with one of my favorite coaches of all time and my best friends, my brothers ... I'm going to miss them but it's been one heck of a season.”

Similar sentiments were shared by two Hutchinson seniors following the Tigers’ 36-6 win over Orono in Friday’s 4A semifinals.

“We always talk about tradition,” said lineman Maxten Einck, “and it was a big part of growing up as a kid, being inspired by the older kids who played football. It's such a big part of our city. Everybody comes together, it's like a huge family. And I think that's awesome.”

Teammate Sam Rensch mentioned being young the last time Hutchinson won a state title, in 2014. The current seniors were fourth-graders when that team won a championship at the Metrodome.

“We were like, ‘OK, we're going to get there someday,’ ” he said. “And now we're here. It's a dream come true.”

Minneota Vikings are Members of Team Shelly

The Minneota coaches wore t-shirts during Saturday's game that had a blue ribbon and the words “Team Shelly” on the front. Shelly Rybinski, mother of Vikings senior Anthony Rybinski, is dealing with colon cancer and the football team is behind her 100 percent.

“We’re going to support her and of course we support our teammates,” head coach Chad Johnston said. “And so we basically said that this is something that we're going to do with kids. We're completely on board and we've had a couple of situations where kids have been rallying around her, they've done some pregame stuff where she's in the middle of the huddle.

“Obviously she's got her battle to go through, but I think it's really helped her to know that she kind of feels like she gets to be part of this … we all know that when someone's battling cancer there are not always great days. Our kids been very supportive.”

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 28, Rushford-Peterson 8

1A: Mayer Lutheran 41, New York Mills 6

3A: Plainview-Elgin-Millville 28, Annandale 6

3A: Dassel-Cokato 21, Esko 14

5A: Mankato West 42, Rogers 7

Prep Bowl

Friday, Nov. 26

1A: Minneota vs. Mayer Lutheran, 10 a.m.

2A: Chatfield vs. West Central Area/Ashby 1 p.m.

4A: Kasson-Mantorville vs. Hutchinson, 4 p.m.

6A: Maple Grove vs. Lakeville South, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 27

Nine-Man: LeRoy-Ostrander vs. Fertile-Beltrami, 10 a.m.

3A: Plainview-Elgin-Millville vs. Dassel-Cokato, 1 p.m.

5A: Mahtomedi vs. Mankato West, 4 p.m.

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 [email protected] 

Minneota coach Chad Johnston.

Next Article

Adapted Soccer PI Division Wrap Up