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Thanks To The Miracle In Monticello, A Life Is Saved
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/28/2017 9:19:02 PM

MONTICELLO – A miracle, performed by angels, took place at Monticello High School. Those words – “miracle” and “angels” – were spoken by the mother of a young man whose life was saved on a basketball court.

It was the second day of boys basketball practice for the 2017-18 season, with workouts/tryouts held before and after school. On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, practice began at 6 a.m. Fifteen-year-old sophomore Ryan Monahan was involved in the first drill of the day when he fell to the court.

“I just kind of blacked out,” he said. “I felt lightheaded during a shooting drill and then I just kind of collapsed, I guess.”

The reaction was swift. Head coach Jason Schmidt, knowing that several coaches from other sports were working out in the nearby fitness center, hollered for them to come to the gym. He removed the nearest AED (automated external defibrillator) from a fieldhouse wall and handed it to head football coach Jason Telecky. Assistant boys basketball coach Bruce Balder-Lanoue was kneeling over Ryan when Telecky arrived with the AED.

“We were very fortunate that we had multiple staff members in the weight room working out,” said athletic director Gary Revenig. “One of the football assistants, our head girls basketball coach, our assistant principal; they all kind of took on a role.”

Schmidt had seen Ryan slowly collapse to the floor, falling on his midsection and face; he thought maybe Ryan hadn’t eaten or was dehydrated. “We rolled him over and knew immediately that it was serious,” Schmidt said. Ryan was somewhat conscious but “clearly out of it.”

Boys B squad basketball coach Nate Rengel called 911. Varsity assistant coach Cory Puppe started clearing the other players away, moving them behind a curtain that separates courts in the large fieldhouse. (Pictured, left to right, are Bruce Balder-Lanoue, Nate Rengel, Jason Telecky, Ryan Monahan, Jason Schmidt and Cory Puppe.)

One of Ryan’s friends had the number for Ryan’s mother, Cindy Monahan, in his phone, and Schmidt called her. Cindy’s initial reaction upon learning that her son had collapsed centered on his busy schedule. Monday had been hectic, with basketball before school, basketball after school and a band concert in the evening.

“He was in the right place,” she said. “If he had been with his friends, at a movie or something …” Her voice trailed off at the thought of what might have been.

Two staff members went outside to wait for the ambulance and guide the first responders into the fieldhouse. Balder-Lanoue and Telecky attached the AED’s pads to Ryan’s chest. Once the device is connected to a victim, it analyzes the heart rhythm and instructs the responders in what to do. When it told them to push a button that delivers a shock to the heart, Balder-Lanoue and Telecky looked at each other and realized, “We’re doing this.”

Within seconds, Ryan was back. He was confused, trying to figure out what happened, but he was fully conscious. The ambulance took him to St. Cloud Hospital, home of CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center.

“I knew what happened but I didn’t know they had shocked me when I first woke up,” said Ryan, who had no previous medical issues. “It was pretty scary.”

Cindy drove to the hospital, not waiting for her husband, John, to get dressed; but John moved quickly and wasn’t far behind her on the highway.

“It was absolutely mind-boggling,” Cindy said. “I don’t remember a lot. I remember getting in my car and getting to the hospital.”

She was relieved when she saw her oldest child.

“He was Ryan,” she said. “I looked at him and he looked at me, and he said, ‘Hey.’ He kept telling me, ‘I feel like I can get up and go.’ It’s a miracle. They’re angels.” (Pictured are Cindy, Ryan and John.)

Ryan was released from the hospital the next day, and doctors do not know what caused his heart to malfunction. He will undergo genetic testing and see specialists as they try to pinpoint the issue. In the meantime, he is not allowed to play basketball or do anything physical; although Schmidt told him he is more than welcome to be with the team at any time in any other role he wants to fill.

The Minnesota State High School League requires that all coaches fulfill Coaches Education Requirements (CER), including AED training. All the Monticello coaches in the building that day had done so. A few days earlier, Revenig had reminded Balder-Lanoue that he needed to complete the AED training or he would not be allowed to coach. Balder-Lanoue did so on Sunday.

“He told me Tuesday that because of the CER, everything was fresh in his mind,” Revenig said. “All that saved this young man’s life.”

Schools are encouraged to discuss and practice Emergency Action Plans, and in some cases individual teams will do the same. The Monticello staff members had done so, and everyone jumped in to action.

“When you put this plan together, you know you can’t do everything yourself,” Schmidt said. “Fortunately, we had all those people there. No one in the gym had used an AED in the past. We had done our training, and probably like everyone else you assume you’re never going to have to use it. And then you do.”

He added, “You do the training and maybe you kind of do it with a halfhearted mentality, thinking, ‘When will I have to do this?’ You get educated, and then it happens. Right now you could ask my captains, ‘How many AEDs are in the building?’ Before this they knew where two of them were but now they know where all of them are. What’s the plan if a referee goes down? We’ve talked about these things.”

The first responders and doctors at St. Cloud Hospital said the same thing: Ryan is alive because of the people who were prepared for such an emergency.

AEDs and emergency training are not required for high school coaches in all states. The Monahans are very thankful for the work the MSHSL has done in these areas and how their school administrators and coaches have embraced it.

“John’s brother-in-law in Colorado is a baseball coach and he’s never been trained on it,” Cindy said. “We want to get the word out. Ryan is a success story of why schools have these.”

Schmidt, who has also talked to friends who coach in other states, said, “What I’m coming to learn from talking to people is that this (AED training and use) isn’t even on their radar. That blows my mind. How can we start getting this on everyone’s radar? How in this world of technology are people not aware of this?”

Ryan collapsed on the last day of school before Thanksgiving break. His parents brought him to school after classes ended the following Monday so he could see his friends and his parents could thank everyone for saving their son’s life.

Cindy and John hugged all the staff members who helped out. John noticed the spot where the AED had hung for years and said, “I’ve walked past that thing a thousand times and I always thought it was for old people.”

The next day, John issued a series of Twitter messages thanking those who rescued Ryan. One of them read: “If your child plays sports, make sure your coaches know where the nearest AED is and they know how to use it. My son is alive today because our school was prepared and we had fine men on watch at that time.”

Thanksgiving was very special for the Monahans this year.

“We’re grateful to the school, we’re grateful to the staff, we’re grateful that everybody did what they were supposed to do,” Cindy said. “We have our son because of what they did. It’s amazing. It was a good Thanksgiving.”

One more thing: The nickname of the Monticello High School teams? They’re the Magic.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



From Beginning To End, Football Is A Special Season
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/25/2017 4:55:32 PM

As the final day of the 2017 football season progressed Saturday with Prep Bowl games at U.S. Bank Stadium, I went back to the beginning. I found my notes from Aug. 24 and 25, when the first games of the season were played. Aug. 24 was a Thursday and there was one game in the state that evening: Virginia at International Falls. Five games were played the next night, and I was in Ada to see the Ada-Borup/Norman County West Cougars host Polk County West.

Looking through my notes and quotes from those games, there were a lot of similarities with what I saw and heard over Prep Bowl weekend. Coaches and players talked about how important it was to be part of a team, about working together to set goals and try to attain them.

After Virginia defeated the International Falls Broncos 29-6, Blue Devils tight end Ethan Youso, who will play college basketball at Minnesota Duluth, told me how he briefly considered skipping his senior football season to focus on basketball.

“It was tossed around a little bit, but I didn’t think about it much because I wanted to be with the team,” Ethan said. “It might have been a good decision for my basketball career, but I have to be with the team.”

Think about those words from the first day of the season and then read what Wabasso senior quarterback Nick Altermatt said on the last day of the season. Nick was talking about his classmates after the Rabbits lost to Minneota 28-13 in the Class 1A championship game.

“We’ve been playing together since fourth grade. We’ve always had a dream,” he said. “When we were seniors this was going to be the time. Win or lose, this is probably one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. In a week or two I’ll look back and think about playing with my friends, running out on the field and having fun. Win or lose, this was fun. This was two good teams going at it and today they were a little better than us.”

Those two similar statements were made in two very dissimilar environments. Sports Stadium in International Falls is an old-school classic from the Works Progress Administration era of the 1940s. There are four tall wooden poles on each side of the field, with banks of four big light fixtures atop each one. A couple of them had a light out on that warm evening in August, giving them the look of smiles with missing teeth.

Three months later the games were played in the big stadium in downtown Minneapolis, an absolute world-class sporting showplace that will soon host the Super Bowl. But the game is the same and so are the athletes.

“Football is every town’s pride and joy,” Ada-Borup athletic director Kelly Anderson told me back in August.

After Nevis lost to Spring Grove on Friday in the Nine-Man Prep Bowl game – the first title game for both teams -- Nevis coach Shawn Klimek said, “It was a great season. There were only two teams playing today and we were one of them. That’s something we’re proud of.”

Teammates. Community support and pride. Homemade signs in the stands. Young boys hugging each other after the season is done, grateful for the opportunity and sad that it’s over.

Minneota coach Chad Johnston was talking about winning a state title but he could have been talking about every team in every sport in every community when he said, “We tell the kids never to take this experience for granted.”

Isaac Hennen Carries Minneota

Before the Class 1A title game, Wabasso coach Joe Kemp knew what the Rabbits defense would see: “We expected a big dose of Hennen and we got it.”

Minneota senior Isaac Hennen is a Mr. Football finalist who carried the ball 34 times for 291 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 8.6 yards per carry as the Vikings won their third state title in four years.

“We have the best football player in the state in Isaac Hennen and he just dominated today,” said Minneota quarterback Alex Pohlen.

Pierz Is Class 3A Champ

The Pierz Pioneers won their second state title in three years with a 34-21 victory over St. Croix Lutheran in Class 3A. Reese Kapsner scored three touchdowns for the Pioneers on runs of 38, 10 and 1 yards, and Jalen Jansen rushed for a game-high 178 yards and touchdowns of 52 and 49 yards.

The Crusaders, the 3A runner-up for the second year in a row, fumbled eight times and lost four of them. The eight fumbles tied the Prep Bowl record set by Silver Lake in 1987. The record for lost fumbles is five by Jackson in 1985.

Owatonna Wins Second Title

Owatonna rolled past defending state champ Elk River 63-26 as the Huskies captured their second championship. Owatonna won the 5A crown in 2013 after three previous Prep Bowl defeats.

The Huskies’ Jason Williams tied two Prep Bowl records. His five rushing touchdowns matched the five scored by Jordan Suhohen of Cromwell in 2010 and his six total TDs (he returned a kickoff for a score) tied the record for most total touchdowns, set by Jason Midthun of Triton in 1994.

Elk River’s Adam Nelson set a Prep Bowl record with 157 yards in kickoff returns. The previous record was 146 by Aaron Oden of Stillwater in 1984.

Tournament Tidbits

--Two juniors from Pierz competed for their third state championship in as many seasons. Last winter Kapsner and Luke Girtz were on the Pioneers wrestling team that lost to Zumbrota-Mazeppa in the Class 1A team title match, in the spring they were on the baseball team that fell to Minnehaha Academy in the Class 2A championship game, and Saturday they won the Class 3A Prep Bowl.

--Minneota’s Johnston is not only the Vikings football coach but he’s also the girls basketball coach. That team has been practicing since Nov. 13; Johnston said his assistant coaches have been directing basketball practices but he has managed to pop in on occasion. The season opener is Tuesday vs. BOLD.

--Hats off to the football team from Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, which played in the Nine-Man state semifinals before losing to Nevis. R-T-R was a big football name in the late 1980s and early 1990s when future NFL quarterback Todd Bouman was leading the team. The Knights went through a 30-game losing streak, which was broken last season. And this year they moved to Nine-Man and played at U.S. Bank Stadium.

--Total attendance for MSHSL football games at U.S. Bank Stadium was 79,437. Attendance for the semifinals was 41,983 and Prep Bowl attendance was 37,454.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Prep Bowl XXXVI
Friday

Nine-Man/ Spring Grove 32, Nevis 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 57, Pipestone 6
Class 4A/ Holy Angels 14, Cloquet 0
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 38, Minnetonka 17

Saturday
Class 1A/ Minneota 28, Wabasso 13
Class 3A/ Pierz 34, St. Croix Lutheran 21
Class 5A/ Owatonna 63, Elk River 26



Houston County, We Have A Football Hotbed
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/24/2017 10:16:18 PM

Looking for the football capital of Minnesota? The folks in Houston County, which is tucked into the southeast corner of the state, may have something to say after what transpired Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Four Prep Bowl state championships were decided, and two went to schools in Houston County. Spring Grove opened the day with a 32-0 victory over Nevis in the Nine-Man game, followed by Caledonia rolling past Pipestone 57-6 in Class 2A for their third title in a row.

Spring Grove and Caledonia are not only just up the road from each other – 10 miles apart – the two schools pool athletes for cooperative teams in wrestling, softball, track and field, soccer and gymnastics. The links don’t end there, either.

Spring Grove coach Zach Hauser is a Caledonia graduate who teaches physical education in Caledonia. His offensive coordinator, Kody Moore, is another Caledonia grad who lives in Caledonia. (The coaching ties were the topic of a well-written story by Pat Ruff in the Rochester Post-Bulletin this week.)

Caledonia has been the team to beat in Class 2A for years, but all this is new for Spring Grove.

“It’s an amazing feeling right now,” Hauser said. “It’s kind of hard to put it into words. But I’m so happy for these guys and the coaches. All the time they’ve put in over the years; I can’t say enough good things about the group we got to work with this year.”

Grand Meadow, another Section 1 team, had won the last four Nine-Man state championships, but this year the Lions rose to the top. Hauser recalled summer weight-lifting sessions, after which the players gathered together and ended the session by stating their main objective.

“This was their goal,” Hauser said. “After lifting weights at 6 o’clock in the morning, it was, ‘Rings on Three!’ ”

Spring Grove made their first Prep Bowl appearance in only their third trip to the state football playoffs.

Caledonia has been dominant for years, winning state championships in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016. Their all-time record in Prep Bowl games is 9-2. In 12 trips to the state playoffs, the Warriors have failed to reach the Prep Bowl only twice (2009 and 2014).

Those two weren’t the only strong teams in Houston County. The Houston Hurricanes went 8-2, losing to Cleveland in the Nine-Man Section 1 playoffs one week before Spring Grove beat the Clippers in the section title game.

Bad Break For The Arrows

Pipestone suffered a Prep Bowl setback a week early, when quarterback Cody Thompson was diagnosed with mononucleosis. In the state semifinals last week, the junior completed 10 of 14 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns while also running for a score. He didn’t feel well the next day and was diagnosed Sunday.

Thompson passed for 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns coming into the state tournament.

“It was pretty bad,” said Arrows coach Clay Anderson. “After breaking down film of Caledonia to begin with it, was like ‘Oh my god.’ Then it was like getting slugged in the gut. I told my coaches it was like we were back in week one.”

Sophomore Jonathan Tinklenberg, the backup quarterback, completed two of eight passes against Caledonia.

“God bless him, he usually gets in there to kneel it or hand off a couple times,” Anderson said. “What a time to have to take over, when you’re going into the state championship game as a sophomore.”

Tournament Tidbits

-- Spring Grove's 32-0 victory over Nevis was only the fourth Nine-Man Prep Bowl shutout. The others were …

1977 Deer Creek 20, Hillcrest Lutheran 0
1993 Chokio-Alberta 35, LeRoy-Ostrander 0
2014 Grand Meadow 48, Edgerton-Ellsworth 0

--Caledonia quarterback Owen King had a hand in six touchdowns, which tied a Prep Bowl record. The senior passed for five scores and ran for one. The only other Prep Bowl player to take part in six touchdowns was Triton quarterback Kirk Midthun; he threw for six scores in 1994.

--After Holy Angels defeated Cloquet 14-0 in the Class 4A title game, Lumberjacks coach Tom Lenarz was asked about his team’s five turnovers (Holy Angels also had five). He turned the question into a strong statement about football.

“These are not just football lessons, but life lessons,” he said. “We didn’t win today but can we take something positive from it? We came together, we didn’t quit. I think there are lots of thing to focus on other than a bad hop here or there.”

He also was asked about an outpouring of support his team received from fans all over northern Minnesota.

“I think one of the things I will look back on and really enjoy about this last week was all the people from northern Minnesota reaching out to me and reaching out to the kids,” he said. “It was exciting to look up in the stands and see all those familiar faces. And schools that we play against up north were in our corner today, and that was a great feeling for us.”

--After Eden Prairie defeated Minnetonka 38-17 in the Class 6A game to end the first day of the Prep Bowl, Minnetonka coach Dave Nelson – always the epitome of class – said to the media: “I want to thank you guys for promoting high school football and all the work you do. We know you all work hard and you’re here late at night and you work your butts off. We appreciate it.”

--Eden Prairie’s Antonio Montero kicked a 42-yard field goal late in the first half. The kick was one yard short of the Prep Bowl record of 43 yards by Brian Smiddle of Blaine in 1996.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Prep Bowl XXXVI
Friday

Nine-Man/ Spring Grove 32, Nevis 0
Class 2A/ Caledonia 57, Pipestone 6
Class 4A/ Holy Angels 14, Cloquet 0
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 38, Minnetonka 17

Saturday
10 a.m.: Class 1A/ Minneota (13-0) vs. Wabasso (13-0)
1 p.m.: Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (12-0) vs. Pierz (12-0)
4 p.m.: Class 5A/ Owatonna (11-1) vs. Elk River (11-1)



Class 2A Boys Hockey Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/22/2017 11:06:08 AM

From Let's Play Hockey

CLASS 2A
1. Edina 0-0-0
2. Duluth East 0-0-0
3. Moorhead 0-0-0
4. Minnetonka 0-0-0
5. St. Thomas Academy 0-0-0
6. Holy Family 0-0-0
7. Centennial 0-0-0
8. Eden Prairie 0-0-0
9. Hill-Murray 0-0-0
10. Wayzata 0-0-0
11. White Bear Lake 0-0-0
12. Elk River 0-0-0
13. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 0-0-0
14. Cretin-Derham Hall 0-0-0
15. Maple Grove 0-0-0
16. St. Michael-Albertville 0-0-0
17. Blaine 0-0-0
18. Duluth Marshall 0-0-0
19. Lakeville North 0-0-0
20. Andover 0-0-0



Class 1A Girls Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/21/2017 7:06:04 PM

Provided by Minnesota Basketball News

CLASS 1A
1. Goodhue
2. Lyle-Pacelli
3. Hayfield
4. Mountain Iron-Buhl
5. Bigfork
6. Ada-Borup
7. Lac Qui Parle Valley
8. Cromwell-Wright
9. Southwest Minnesota Christian
10. Sleepy Eye



Class 2A Girls Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/21/2017 7:05:26 PM

Provided by Minnesota Basketball News

CLASS 2A
1. Sauk Centre
2. Minnehaha Academy
3. Rochester Lourdes
4. Norwood-Young America
5. Roseau
6. Eden Valley-Watkins
7. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
8. Byron
9. Rush City
10. Maranatha Christian



Class 3A Girls Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/21/2017 7:04:45 PM

Provided by Minnesota Basketball News

CLASS 3A
1. DeLaSalle
2. Holy Angels
3. Hutchinson
4. Cooper
5. Grand Rapids
6. Mahtomedi
7. Simley
8. Northfield
9. Waseca
10. Hill-Murray



Class 4A Girls Basketball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/21/2017 7:04:15 PM

Provided by Minnesota Basketball News

CLASS 4A
1. Hopkins
2. Eastview
3. Lakeville North
4. Minnetonka
5. Centennial
6. Cretin-Derham Hall
7. Wayzata
8. Forest Lake
9. St. Michael-Albertville
10. Park Center



Erich Martens To Be New Executive Director
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/20/2017 9:30:18 PM

The Minnesota State High School League’s Board of Directors on Monday approved a selection committee’s recommendation to hire Erich Martens as the seventh executive director in the 101-year history of the organization.

Martens, currently the principal at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School, was approved in a
roll-call vote after a selection committee’s recommendation to the board of directors.

“The Minnesota State High School League is a very respected organization and
provides outstanding opportunities for students in academics, arts, and athletics and I
am thrilled to move into the executive director role and support students, coaches,
athletic directors, and administrators as they continue to pursue their passions and learn
through their participation,” Martens said.

Martens has served as the principal at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School since 2004.
Previously, he was the principal at Sauk Centre High School from 1999-2004. He
began his career in education in 1988 as a mathematics instructor and coach with
positions at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School, Cosmos High School and Mitchell (S.D.)
Middle School.

A graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., Martens has held numerous
leadership roles, dating to 2005. He served as president of the MSHSL’s board of
directors during the 2015-2016 school year and has had leadership roles with the
Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals.

“I am extremely proud of the work done by the selection committee,” said board of directors president Dave Swanberg. “The work was thorough, intentional and professional. Erich
Martens was selected because of his growth mindset, calm demeanor and his ability to
bring people together to work toward a common goal.”

Martens will take over for Dave Stead, the longest-serving executive director in MSHSL
history. In August, Stead announced he will transition to a senior staff role. The start
date for Martens is to be determined.

"I believe it is imperative that the League continue the traditions on which it has been
built, and at the same time be intentional about innovation and creativity,” Martens said.
“We need to continue to work with our member schools to provide great opportunities
and look for ways to grow new programs and also increase the diversity of leadership within our organization to reach all schools and represent all students."



Minneota Quarterback Alex Pohlen Has Seen It All
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/18/2017 6:17:24 PM

No matter where life takes Alex Pohlen, he will forever be the answer to a trivia question: Can you name the only Minnesota high school football player who played in the Metrodome, TCF Bank Stadium and U.S. Bank Stadium?

Alex is the man. The senior quarterback from Minneota added U.S. Bank Stadium to his travelogue on Saturday when the Vikings defeated Mayer Lutheran 54-21 in the Class 1A state semifinals. They will face Wabasso in Prep Bowl XXXVI next Saturday.

Now in his fourth year as a starter, Pohlen (pictured) took a few snaps as an eighth-grader in 2013 when Minneota beat Maple Lake during the state semifinals in the Metrodome. As a first-year starter in 2014 he guided the Vikings to a Prep Bowl victory over Dawson-Boyd at TCF Bank Stadium and they won another title in 2015, beating Minneapolis North at TCF Bank Stadium.

Minneota did not make it to state last season, losing to Wabasso in the Section 5 playoffs (Wabasso moved to Section 3 this fall). That loss to the Rabbits is the only defeat Pohlen has seen; his record as the starting quarterback is 49-1.

The opportunity to play in a big-league stadium even once is very special, and nobody in Minneota takes these things for granted.

“We’ve kind of talked as a staff about the privilege we’ve had to be able to coach in three great facilities,” said Vikings head coach Chad Johnston. “What a great career and what a wonderful experience for him to be able to play in three great facilities like this.”

Pohlen completed 15 of 19 passes (with one interception) for 210 yards and four touchdowns Saturday. He hit Cole Sanow for scores of 22 and 16 yards, Thomas Hennen for a 20-yard touchdown and Brant Buysse for a 32-yard TD. Alex also ran twice for 17 yards, punted once, kicked six extra points and kicked off four times. Oh, he also played defensive back.

“It couldn’t get any better,” he said. “Especially after last year, being a senior and coming back here for the state final, we’re excited.”

Pohlen, who had shoulder surgery after his sophomore season, has grown and matured, Johnston said.

“We tend to try to groom some young kids, and it just worked with the age gap that he was going to be our man as a freshman,” the coach said. “He’s come a long ways. I think his shoulder surgery affected him a little bit physically last year.

“When you think about what we do in terms of the passing game and the running game, he has not been sacked very much, he has not made too many mistakes throwing interceptions. One of the better things he’s done this year, and you saw it today, instead of taking a sack he’ll take off and scramble and get some yards.”

The young man who has seen it all will play his final game right where he wants to be, in a big stadium with his friends.

“I’m pretty fortunate to be able to say I did that,” Alex said, “and to play here in a state championship game is pretty sweet.”

An Incredible Year For Ada-Borup/Norman County West

Before the football season began, expectations – at least on the outside – were not very high for the Cougars of Ada-Borup/Norman County West. One preseason poll predicted they would finish sixth in Class 1A Section 6, and here they were Saturday in the state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.

A 21-13 loss to Wabasso dampened the enthusiasm a bit, but the Cougars had an amazing season considering the circumstances of where it all began. Last season, Ada-Borup and Norman County West fielded separate nine-man football teams, but dwindling numbers spurred the two schools to form a cooperative team this fall (as in volleyball and cross-country, too).

So not only did they have to make the adjustment from nine-man to 11-man football, they had to merge two programs into one.

“To jell together like we did and make the state semifinals is pretty incredible,” said coach Paul Tinjum. “For the kids to buy into the team aspect from two different schools, it was a phenomenal season.”

Senior Isaiah Walz, who had a game-high 9.5 tackles Saturday, said, “It was a great season. We had a ton of fun.”

With football season over, the two schools will now field their own basketball teams.

Tournament Tidbits

--Pierz senior Cohlton Boser had a busy weekend. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium, he caught a touchdown pass, intercepted a pass and led Pierz with 10 tackles as the Pioneers defeated Jordan 55-26 in Class 3A. He also played the role of the Beast in the school production of “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday night and will do the same Sunday afternoon (he’s pictured with his sister Talyre).

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

MSHSL Football State Semifinals

At U.S. Bank Stadium


Thursday, November 16


Nine-Man: Spring Grove 27, Stephen-Argyle 7

Class 2A: Caledonia 49, Paynesville 16

Class 4A: Holy Angels 26, Winona 22

Class 6A: Eden Prairie 26, Maple Grove 0


Friday, November 17

Nine-Man: Nevis 44, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 16

Class 2A: Pipestone 28, Moose Lake/Willow River 6

Class 5A: Elk River 51, Apple Valley 40

Class 4A: Cloquet 40, South St. Paul 21

Class 6A: Minnetonka 17, Cretin-Derham Hall 14


Saturday, November 18

Class 1A: Wabasso 21, Ada-Borup/Norman County West 13

Class 1A: Minneota 54, Mayer Lutheran 21

Class 3A: Pierz 55, Jordan 26

Class 3A: St. Croix Lutheran 45, Pequot Lakes 7

Class 5A: Owatonna 56, Brainerd 28


Prep Bowl XXXVI

At U.S. Bank Stadium

Friday, November 24


10 a.m.: Nine-Man/ Spring Grove (13-0) vs. Nevis (11-1)

1 p.m.: Class 2A/ Caledonia (12-0) vs. Pipestone (12-1)

4 p.m.: Class 4A/ Holy Angels (11-1) vs. Cloquet (12-0)

7 p.m.: Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (12-0) vs. Minnetonka (11-1)



Saturday, November 25

10 a.m.: Class 1A/ Minneota (13-0) vs. Wabasso (13-0)

1 p.m.: Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (12-0) vs. Pierz (12-0)

4 p.m.: Class 5A/ Owatonna (11-1) vs. Elk River (11-1)





Committee Recommends Erich Martens as MSHSL Executive Director
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/18/2017 11:17:05 AM

After an extensive selection process, a selection committee has strongly
recommended that Erich Martens be hired as the next MSHSL Executive Director.
Longtime executive director Dave Stead has announced that he will transition to a
senior staff role on Feb. 1. Martens, a former high school coach and MSHSL Board
of Directors president, is the principal at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School.

The selection committee said in a statement: “Erich Martens’ credentials are impressive
as his interviews. We strongly believe he is an excellent choice to lead the
MSHSL. He has been offered the position of Executive Director subject to full
Board of Directors approval, and he enthusiastically accepted the position.”

Martens was named Minnesota High School Principal of the Year in 2013 by the
Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals and was named Central
Minnesota's Principal of the Year in 2012. Martens attended St. John's University
and St. Cloud State University. He worked as a math teacher before becoming an
administrator. He's been the principal at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School for more
than a decade.

The Board of Directors will hold a Special Meeting at the MSHSL office in Brooklyn Center at 9 a.m. on Monday, November 20, 2017 to act on the
recommendation of the Selection Committee to hire the next Executive Director of the MSHSL.



Spring Grove Takes Advantage Of Its Chance
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2017 9:18:20 PM

Spring Grove is a Nine-Man football team from Section 1, and anyone who pays attention to such things knows all about Section 1 football because of another team. The Grand Meadow Superlarks won the Nine-Man state championship in 2013. And 2014. And 2015. And 2016.

In 2017, however, the Spring Grove Lions are the champions of Section 1, and with Thursday’s 27-7 victory over Stephen-Argyle in the state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium, they will play for a state championship on Nov. 24. They will take a 13-0 record into that game against the winner of Friday’s semifinal between Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (10-2) and Nevis (10-1).

Spring Grove made previous trips to state in 2003 and 2011. The 2017 season has been special from the get-go; the Lions defeated Cleveland 52-51 in overtime in Week 1, beat Grand Meadow 33-20 in Week 7 (and 40-17 in the section playoffs) and got to state with a 36-35 nail-biter over Cleveland in the section title game.

Dueling with Grand Meadow for section titles has been an almost yearly tradition, so the Lions are very pleased to be standing where they are today.

“We were so close for so many years and we had a lot of talented teams, just like we do this year,” said Spring Grove coach Zach Hauser. “You have to give a lot of credit to Grand Meadow for what they’ve done all these years.”

The Lions are obviously a talented team, with a marquee player in quarterback Alex Folz. When the 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior was 13 years old, he was the Punt, Pass and Kick national champion in that age group. Against Stephen-Argyle (11-2) he ran 29 times for 175 yards and four touchdowns while completing 17 of 23 passes (with one interception) for 214 yards.

“It’s getting pretty routine for Alex to have these types of performances,” Hauser said. “They’re pretty special, though. … Everything’s clicking right now for Alex and hopefully it is again next week.”

Folz said everything is happening because of the team.

“This is definitely the best feeling I’ve ever had,” he said. “This is a great team, we’re all together. I’m having the funnest season I’ve ever had.”

Class 2A: Fantastic, Priceless Season For Paynesville

The Paynesville Bulldogs knew they were facing a tall task against Caledonia in the Class 2A semifinals. The Warriors are the clear powerhouse in 2A, winning state titles in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Thursday’s result was a 49-16 Caledonia victory, but that did little to dampen the enthusiasm that has been with Paynesville all season. The Bulldogs (9-3) reached the state semifinals for the first time since 1979, and this season was special.

“Our community has loved it,” said coach Max Meagher. “They’ve been behind us all year and these are easy kids to root for. It’s fantastic. It’s priceless.

“I love our kids and I’ll go to battle with them every single day. I’m proud of the season we’ve had. I can’t say enough about the character of our team.”

Asked about Caledonia (12-0), Meagher chuckled a bit and said, “That’s a level of a football team that we haven’t seen this year. And we’ve seen some good ones. Caledonia is put together; those kids are physically sound and tough across the board. It’s a great football program and a great team.”

Class 4A: Holy Angels Holds off Winona

In a back-and-forth game that wasn’t decided until the final minutes, Holy Angels advanced to the Prep Bowl with a 26-22 victory over Winona.

The Stars led 19-14 before Winona scored on a 31-yard pass from Riley Bosteter to Ethan Ringo to take a 22-19 lead with 7:35 left in the game. Joseph Heimbold’s third touchdown of the game for Holy Angels (11-1), a 23-yard run with 3:50 remaining, provided the game’s final points. Dan Jonsgaard scored two touchdowns for the Winhawks (11-1).

“It was a battle,” said Winona coach John Cassellius. “It was what we talked about a lot. We knew coming in it was going to be a great game. We figured it would be down to the wire and that’s what happened.”

Class 6A: Montero Is The Man For Eden Prairie

Antonio Montero carried the load for Eden Prairie, scoring two touchdowns and kicking two field goals and two extra points as the Eagles (12-0) defeated Maple Grove 26-0.

Montero’s scoring made it 20-0 in the fourth quarter before D.J. Johnson ran 19 yards for a touchdown. The Crimson ended the season with a record of 8-4.

Tournament Tidbits

--During the third quarter of the game between Spring Grove and Stephen-Argyle, video replay officials in a stadium skybox looked at replays after a fumble. The ball had been awarded to Spring Grove’s defense, but the call was reversed after video was checked. This was the very first time in the nation that video replay was used during a high school football game, and of course someone in the press box complained: “This is taking too long.”

--The referee in the Eden Prairie-Maple Grove game, Jason Berg, is also a college football official. He wore the white cap when St. Thomas and St. John’s played in front of 37,355 fans at Target Field this season. Berg is the principal at Farmington High School.

--Names on the Stephen-Argyle Storm football roster include Yutrzenka, Szczepanski, Safranski, Pietruszewski, Gerszewski, Neuschwander, Kazmierczak and Chwialkowski.

--Quote of The Day: “That’s what high school football’s all about. You come out and you battle with your buddies.” … Winona coach John Cassellius.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

MSHSL Football State Semifinals
At U.S. Bank Stadium

Thursday, November 16

Nine-Man: Spring Grove 27, Stephen-Argyle 7
Class 2A: Caledonia 49, Paynesville 16
Class 4A: Holy Angels 26, Winona 22
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 26, Maple Grove 0

Friday, November 17
9 a.m./ Nine-Man: Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (10-2) vs. Nevis (10-1)
1:30 a.m./ Class 2A: Pipestone (11-1) vs. Moose Lake/Willow River (7-5)
2 p.m./ Class 5A: Apple Valley (10-1) vs. Elk River (10-1)
4:30 p.m./ Class 4A: South St. Paul (9-2) vs. Cloquet (11-0)
7 p.m./ Class 6A: Minnetonka (10-1) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (8-2)

Saturday, November 18
9 a.m./ Class 1A: Wabasso (12-0) vs. Ada-Borup/Norman County West (12-0)
11:30 a.m./ Class 1A: Mayer Lutheran (11-1) vs. Minneota (12-0)
2 p.m./ Class 3A: Jordan (9-3) vs. Pierz (11-0)
4:30 p.m./ Class 3A: St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pequot Lakes (9-2)
7 p.m./ Class 5A: Owatonna (10-1) vs. Brainerd (9-2)



Class 1A Wrestling Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2017 1:21:57 PM

From The Guillotine

Class 1A Teams
1. Zumbrota-Mazeppa (1)
2. Frazee (8)
3. West Central Area/Ashby/Brandon-Evansville (6)
4. Kenyon-Wanamingo (2)
5. Goodhue (1)
6. Sibley East (4)
7. Minneota (3)
8. Blue Earth Area (2)
9. Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (5)
10. Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena (7)
11. Westfield (2)
12. LPGE-Browerville (5)
Lean and Mean
Ottertail Central (6), Canby (3), Tracy-Milroy-Balaton/Westbrook-Walnut Grove (3), Fosston/Bagley (8), Staples-Motley (6), Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (5), Badger/Greenbush-Middle River (8), Maple River (2), Royalton/Upsala (7), Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (4)



Class 2A Wrestling Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2017 1:21:26 PM

From The Guillotine

Class 2A Teams
1. Kasson-Mantorville (1)
2. Simley (1)
3. Scott West (2)
4. Foley (6)
5. Perham (8)
6. Grand Rapids (7)
7. Hutchinson (2)
8. Waconia (2)
9. Litchfield (6)
10. Totino-Grace (5)
11. Fairmont/Martin County West (3)
12. Worthington (3)
Lean and Mean
Annandale/Maple Lake (6), Delano (2), Detroit Lakes (8), Pierz (8), Princeton (7), South St. Paul (4)



Class 3A Wrestling Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2017 1:20:59 PM

From The Guillotine

Class 3A Teams
1. Apple Valley (2)
2. Anoka (7)
3. Prior Lake (2)
4. St. Michael-Albertville (5)
5. Willmar (8)
6. Shakopee (2)
7. St. Francis (7)
8. Albert Lea Area (1)
9. Owatonna (1)
10. Forest Lake (7)
11. Cambridge-Isanti (7)
12. Stillwater Area (4)
Lean and Mean
Mounds View (4), Faribault (1), Hastings (3), St. Cloud Tech (8), Sartell-St. Stephen (8), Coon Rapids (7), New Prague (2), Minnetonka (6)



Class 1A Boys Hockey Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2017 12:09:27 PM

From Let's Play Hockey

Class 1A
1. Hermantown 0-0-0
2. St. Cloud Cathedral 0-0-0
3. Orono 0-0-0
4. East Grand Forks 0-0-0
5. Mahtomedi 0-0-0
6. Breck 0-0-0
7. Alexandria 0-0-0
8. Greenway 0-0-0
9. Delano 0-0-0
10. Monticello 0-0-0
11. Sartell-St. Stephen 0-0-0
12. Warroad 0-0-0
13. Luverne 0-0-0
14. Northfield 0-0-0
15. St. Paul Academy 0-0-0
16. Virginia/Mountain Iron-Bruhl 0-0-0
17. Hibbing/Chisholm 0-0-0
18. St. Paul Johnson 0-0-0
19. Rochester Lourdes 0-0-0
20. Totino-Grace 0-0-0

(Class 2A rankings released next week)



Class 1A Girls Hockey Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2017 12:08:19 PM

From Let's Play Hockey

CLASS 1A
1. Breck 1-1-0 1
2. Warroad 0-0-0 3
3. Delano/Rockford 1-0-0 4
4. Red Wing 3-0-0 6
5. East Grand Forks 2-0-0 5
6. St. Paul United 0-2-0 2
7. Proctor/Hermantown 1-0-0 8
8. Alexandria 1-0-0 7
9. Thief River Falls 2-0-0 10
10. Hutchinson 0-0-1 9
11. South St. Paul 2-0-0 12
12. Orono 1-1-0 13
13. New Ulm 2-0-0 14
14. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 0-2-0 15
15. Hibbing/Chisholm 1-0-0 16
16. Mound Westonka 0-2-0 11
17. Duluth Marshall 0-1-0 18
18. Fergus Falls 1-0-0 20
19. Mahtomedi 0-2-0 19
20. Rochester Lourdes 1-1-0



Class 2A Girls Hockey Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2017 12:07:38 PM

From Let's Play Hockey

CLASS 2A
1. Edina 1-0-0 1
2. Blake 3-0-0 2
3. Hill-Murray 1-1-0 3
4. Blaine 1-0-0 5
5. Forest Lake 0-0-1 7
6. Centennial 1-0-0 10
7. Eden Prairie 1-1-0 4
8. Maple Grove 1-1-0 6
9. Elk River 1-0-1 8
10. Minnetonka 0-1-1 9
11. Brainerd/Little Falls 1-0-0 13
12. White Bear Lake 0-0-1 12
13. Cretin-Derham Hall 1-1-0 11
14. Farmington 0-0-0 14
15. Grand Rapids/Greenway 1-0-0 16
16. Roseau 0-0-0 15
17. Eagan 2-0-0
18. Lakeville South 0-1-0 17
19. Lakeville North 1-0-0
20. Andover 2-0-0



Danny Lilya: Moose Lake/Willow River's Inspirational Athlete
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/15/2017 12:07:14 PM

One of the most inspiring athletes in Minnesota history will be on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium this week during the football state semifinals. Danny Lilya is a junior at Moose Lake/Willow River; the Rebels will meet Pipestone at 11:30 a.m. Friday in a Class 2A game.

Earlier this year Danny received the National Spirit of Sport Award from the National Federation of State High School Associations, the governing body for high school activities in all 50 states (below is a photo from the awards ceremony at the NFHS convention in Providence, Rhode Island; Danny is with his parents, Dan and Sheryl, and NFHS executive director Bob Gardner).

Danny has been the subject of many stories in newspapers, on TV and online. My favorite story about Danny was written in September 2016 by Louie St. George of the Duluth News Tribune. Here is Louie’s story…


Moose Lake sophomore doesn’t let spinal defect keep him from football team

By Louie St. George
Duluth News Tribune
Sept. 8, 2016

MOOSE LAKE — One by one, the Moose Lake-Willow River football team spilled from its spartan locker room Wednesday, players slicing shortcuts through the lawn and toward the practice field, some 50 yards away.

Not Danny Lilya.

The 15-year-old Moose Lake sophomore propelled his wheelchair along the raindrop-splotched sidewalk — left, right, then right again — which led to a strip of pavement flanking the field. From there, he watched the Rebels prepare for tonight's home game vs. Elk River, Minn.-based Spectrum. His involvement typically comes later in practice, when he, Nick Wegge and Tyler Mehrkens work on point-after-touchdown kicks.

Lilya is the holder. Confined to a wheelchair most of his life, he is — at first glance — the unlikeliest of contributors for one of Minnesota's premier prep programs.

"I used to play recess football with my friends at school, but I guess I never thought that I'd actually be on the varsity team," Lilya, born with a broken back stemming from a congenital spinal defect, said on an overcast afternoon.

But there he was in last week's season-opening rout of rival Barnum, wheeling onto the field four different times to corral Mehrkens' snaps and set them up for Wegge, the kicker. The first two attempts fizzled; the next two were good.

Danny, wearing his apple-red No. 28 jersey, black face paint applied liberally, held from his knees. His wheelchair was moved about 20 yards behind the play by one of the game's officials, Dan Johnson. Keeping the laces out proved difficult. Danny's father, Dan Lilya, gave him grief for that.

An excited Danny Lilya bounced around on his knees after the first successful kick sailed through the uprights. A year ago, he saw game action for a down or two late in the regular-season finale vs. Hermantown. This was different, though. This was a scoring play.

"I was pretty excited because I've been watching them for years and years — ever since I was in kindergarten — and to finally be on the team and go out there during a scoring play was just amazing," Danny said.

MLWR coach Dave Louzek long has embraced an everybody-is-welcome mantra.

"I remember a few years ago he said there's always going to be a spot on the Rebel football team for Danny, whether we have to carry him onto the bus and put him into his seat or whatever," the elder Lilya recalled.

And how couldn't your heart swell?

Mehrkens says the Rebels don't treat Danny any differently. He's an integral part of the team, a teenager prone to the same "shenanigans with his buddies," according to his dad, and one who loves sports. His favorite subject in school is shop class.
"He may look different — he's got wheels for legs — but he's still just a regular person to us,"
Mehrkens, a junior, said.

Said Wegge, a senior: "I think it's cool because it shows other teams and other people, maybe someone else who has a disability, it might make them want to join and feel a part of a team."

It was Danny's idea at the end of last fall to be the holder. He was seeking an expanded role. Louzek was receptive. The Rebels cleared it with Barnum's coaching staff, plus the officiating crew, ahead of last week's contest. Louzek told the Bombers to rush as they normally would. Because of Danny's limited range of motion, Mehrkens has to be spot-on with his snaps. They're getting better.

Despite 166 victories and 11 Section 7AA titles in 18 years at MLWR, Louzek's is not a win-at-all-costs mentality. He stresses inclusiveness.

"I think a lot of kids that maybe don't quite fit that normal athletic mold do find a place here because we as coaches really emphasize the importance for these kids to accept everybody," Louzek said.

"We talk a lot about how everybody is important to this team, that everybody has a role on this team, and so over the years the kids have an understanding that if they come out for Rebel football, they're going to be welcomed. And we do find a way to make it meaningful for them."

Danny spoke decisively and matter-of-factly Wednesday while his nearby teammates, emanating a smell so distinct to anyone who's ever been around frequently used and seldom-washed football practice gear, continued to carve up their already-brown field. He firmly shook a reporter's hand.

Danny plays football for the same reasons others do. He loves the sport, relishes the camaraderie and grew up cheering for MLWR.

And he likes being active — an offshoot, perhaps, of spending much of his first two years in a body cast thanks to numerous spinal-reconstruction surgeries.

Aside from football, Danny is a talented and nationally competitive sled hockey player. He's the youngest member of the Minnesota Wild's adult sled team by about 10 years. He also competes with a wheelchair softball squad out of Brooklyn Park, Minn.

"We really haven't given him the option of not being active," Dan Lilya said. "There have been a lot of times where you want to as a parent ... you're looking at a child who has a disability and he can't keep up with the other kids, but you have to just try and pull back and let him try to figure out a way to make things work. I won't deny it: There have been a number of times both his mom (Sheryl Lilya) and I have sat there and had tears in our eyes.

"You want to reach down and grab him and pick him up, but you know that you're not always going to be there to do that."

Dan Lilya served in four of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces (all except the Navy). It opened the door for his son to recently be named Military Child of the Year by the United Heroes League, formerly known as Defending the Blue Line. He will be recognized at the Camo Gala on Sept. 17 at Target Field.

Danny Lilya doesn't use his wheelchair as an excuse. It's a lesson no Rebel can learn in a playbook.

"It's a good experience for the rest of the kids on the team to have that understanding," Louzek said. "In society, we all have different strengths, we all have different things that we can offer to make things better. For these kids that are able-bodied to work right alongside a kid in a wheelchair, I think is a great experience for them to see that, yeah, everybody does have things that they can offer and contribute to a team."



Mr. Football Award Finalists Announced
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/14/2017 6:15:04 PM

Finalists for the 2017 Mr. Football Award have been announced by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association (MFCA). The Mr. Football Award is sponsored by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and the Minnesota Vikings.

The Mr. Football Award was first presented in 2004, with the first winner being Nick Mertens of East Grand Forks High School. The 2016 Mr. Football Award winner was Wade Sullivan, Lakeville North.

The 2017 Mr. Football Award will be presented at the Mr. Football Banquet on Sunday, December 10th at 10 a.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Minneapolis Park Place Hotel (1500 Park Place Blvd., Minneapolis, Minnesota, 55416).

The 11 finalists for the 2017 Mr. Football Award (in alphabetical order) are:

Ronald Audette, Elk River, T/TE/DL
Ty Barron, Minnetonka, RB/REC/DB
Michael Empting, Alexandria, QB/DB
Isaac Hennen, Minneota, RB/REC/DB
Preston Jelen, Prior Lake, RB-R/PR/S
Owen King, Caledonia, QB
Conner Knoepfle, Andover, QB
Carter Kopet, Cleveland, QB/DB
Antonio Montero, Eden Prairie, LB/RB/K/P
Spencer Rolland, Apple Valley, OL/DL
Brevyn Spann-Ford, St. Cloud Tech, WR/TE/LB

Mr. Football Award Criteria:

· Nominee must be a graduating senior.
· Nominee’s head coach must be a current member of the MFCA.
· Nominee must not have any MSHSL violations.
· Each player must be nominated by their Sub-District/MFCA representative, after being selected by the coaches in each Sub-district.

Previous winners of the Mr. Football Award:

2016 – Wade Sullivan, Lakeville North
2015 – J.D. Spielman, Eden Prairie
2014 – Robbie Grimsley, Hutchinson
2013 - Jeffrey Jones, Minneapolis Washburn
2012 - Bridgeport Tusler, Osseo
2011 - Philip Nelson, Mankato West
2010 - Peter Westerhaus, Holy Family Catholic
2009 - Zach Vraa, Rosemount
2008 - Varmah Sonie, Apple Valley
2007 - Michael Floyd, Cretin-Derham Hall
2006 - Blake Sorensen, Eden Prairie
2005 - Matt Carufel, Cretin-Derham Hall
2004 - Nick Mertens, East Grand Forks



This Week's Football State Semifinals
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/13/2017 5:27:56 PM

At U.S. Bank Stadium

Thursday, November 16

11:30 a.m./ Nine-Man: Spring Grove (12-0) vs. Stephen-Argyle (11-1)
2 p.m./ Class 2A: Caledonia (11-0) vs. Paynesville (9-2)
4:30 p.m./ Class 4A: Winona (11-0) vs. Holy Angels (10-1)
7 p.m./ Class 6A: Maple Grove (8-3) vs. Eden Prairie (11-0)

Friday, November 17
9 a.m./ Nine-Man: Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (10-2) vs. Nevis (10-1)
11:30 a.m./ Class 2A: Pipestone (11-1) vs. Moose Lake/Willow River (7-5)
2 p.m./ Class 5A: Apple Valley (10-1) vs. Elk River (10-1)
4:30 p.m./ Class 4A: South St. Paul (9-2) vs. Cloquet (11-0)
7 p.m./ Class 6A: Minnetonka (10-1) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (8-2)

Saturday, November 18
9 a.m./ Class 1A: Wabasso (12-0) vs. Ada-Borup/Norman County West (12-0)
11:30 a.m./ Class 1A: Mayer Lutheran (11-1) vs. Minneota (12-0)
2 p.m./ Class 3A: Jordan (9-3) vs. Pierz (11-0)
4:30 p.m./ Class 3A: St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pequot Lakes (9-2)
7 p.m./ Class 5A: Owatonna (10-1) vs. Brainerd (9-2)



The Pressure And The Joy Of An Unbeaten Season
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/11/2017 8:32:04 PM

Maple Lake senior hitter Brynn Paumen spoke for everybody on the team after the Irish completed an undefeated volleyball season with a repeat title Saturday, defeating North Branch 3-0 in the Class 2A state championship match at Xcel Energy Center.

“I think it’s super difficult. It’s almost unheard of,” she said. “It’s amazing. It’s something that’s not common, I’m sure. I’m glad we ended the way we did.”

Difficult. Unheard of. Amazing. Yes, yes and yes. The Irish capped a 36-0 season and will begin the 2018 campaign riding an overall 44-game winning streak dating to last year. Amazing.

“I think every game was a challenge because we won state the previous year,” Brynn said. “Every single team we played this year brought their best game each time.”

That was sure the case Saturday. North Branch (29-4) has a high-powered offense led by dynamic 5-foot-10 sophomore Cianna Selbitschka, who is thunderous at the net. She had 14 kills in 49 attempts as the Maple Lake front line barricaded the hitting zones with 20 fingers at a crack, with a second line of defense that was all over the court.

“They were real efficient at closing the block and penetrating over the net,” Vikings coach Mike Selbitschka said. “When we did get around the block, they were really good at digging. We knew we had to find some type of fingers and it wasn’t going to be many fingers, but we had to have balls ricochet around the court. Kudos to them, they are a very well-coached team, a real defensive team. They do not let balls hit the floor.”

Linsey Rachel had 20 kills and 11 digs for the Irish, Amber Klug had 17 assists and Ella Kiebel had 14 assists. Mollie Scheiber had 10 digs. North Branch’s Haley Hadrava had 27 assists and Katelyn Berg had 12 digs.

Big Hands And 3-0 Sweeps For Crusaders

Mayer Lutheran, which lost only nine sets all season, swept through the Class 1A state tournament with a trio of 3-0 victories, culminating with a 3-0 victory over Minneota in the championship round.

After her team won back-to-back titles (and the school’s third championship overall), coach Joelle Grimsley was asked to describe her feelings.

“Awesome. A relief. A huge relief. I’m proud,” was how she summed it up.

The Crusaders (32-2) were dominant at the net, with an attack percentage of .393 to Minneota’s .079. Mayer Lutheran’s block had a lot to do with what Minneota was unable to do.

“We talked a lot about blocking schemes last night and today; big, huge hands,” Grimsley said.

Madi Beck (17), Sophia Heuer (13) and Madison Hucky (13) combined for 40 of Mayer Lutheran’s 49 kills. Hucky added 27 assists, Heuer had 19 digs and Lauren Wandersee had 19 assists. For Minneota, Lydia Sussner had 13 kills, Morgan Kockelman had 26 assists and Abby Hennen had 18 digs.

Mayer Lutheran’s only defeats this season came against Eagan and Maple Lake, which played for state titles in their classes. The Crusaders roster is heavy with seniors who contributed to two state championships. The story is a little different for Minneota, which will lose only one senior (Jennifer Krog) from the state runner-up team.

Lakeville North Was ‘Super Prepared’

What’s past is not prologue, especially in athletics. Eagan had defeated Lakeville North twice during the regular season without losing a set, but the Panthers only looked ahead, not behind, before Saturday’s Class 3A state championship match.

The result was a 3-1 victory for Lakeville North (31-2) over the defending state champion Wildcats (30-2). North won the first set 25-20, Eagan took the second set 25-21, and it was all North after that, 25-20 and 25-23. The Wildcats could get nothing going on a night when they didn’t play their best and North did.

“We were super prepared,” said North senior Elizabeth Juhnke. “Everyone walked in and bought in. We were going 100 percent the whole time, not giving up on a single ball. It was just relentless defense.”

Eagan coach Kathy Gillen, whose team played in its fifth consecutive title match, said, “If we played each other 10 times we might split 5-5, or maybe 6-4. And it’s tough to beat a team three times. I’ve always said that. They just played loose and fun and we played very reserved, timid.”

Juhnke, a 6-foot hitter who can jump and pound, had 24 kills for North, 15 digs and 36 serve receives. Macy Winter had 10 kills, Amelia Wherland had 26 assists and Amanda Burger 21 assists. Eagan senior McKenna Melville (playing in her final high school game for her mom/coach) had 14 kills and 17 digs. Ninth-grader Kennedi Orr, who has already committed to the University of Nebraska, had 13 kills and 18 assists. Kelley Johnson had 19 assists.

Tournament Tidbits

--Sweetest Moment: After Wadena-Deer Creek lost to Bethlehem Academy in the Class 1A third-place match, senior Casey Volkmann embraced her coach in a tear-filled hug. Her coach is also her mother, Sue Volkmann.

--Heard from an exuberant fan: “C’mon girls, shake it off! Give ‘em the business!”

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A:
Ellianna Wiertsema, New Life Academy; Meredith Sutton, Cook County; Casey Volkmann, Wadena-Deer Creek; Mary Campbell, Bethlehem Academy; Lydia Sussner, Morgan Kockelman, Natalee Rolbiecki, Minneota; Madi Beck, Madison Hucky, Sophie Heuer, Mayer Lutheran.

Class 2A: Peyton Suess, Kasson-Mantorville; Emma Benz, Ellie Koontz, Holy Angels; Cianni Selbitschka, Sophie Linder, Haley Hadrava, North Branch; Brynn Paumen, Amber Klug, Linsey Rachel, Mollie Scheiber, Maple Lake.

Class 3A: Izzy Ashburn, Sami Hilley, Champlin Park; CC McGraw, Maddy Bremer, Prior Lake; Macy Winter, Elizabeth Juhnke, Kennedy Brady, Lakeville North; Ellie Husemann, Kennedi Orr, McKenna Melville, Eagan.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

State Volleyball Tournament
At Xcel Energy Center

Saturday’s Results

Class 1A

Fifth place: New Life Academy defeated Cook County 3-0
Third place: Bethlehem Academy defeated Wadena-Deer Creek 3-0
Championship: Mayer Lutheran defeated Minneota 3-0

Class 2A
Fifth place: Kasson-Mantorville defeated Roseau 3-0
Third place: Holy Angels defeated Marshall 3-0
Championship: Maple Lake defeated North Branch 3-0

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



State Volleyball Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/11/2017 8:12:57 PM

Class 1A: Ellianna Wiertsema, New Life Academy; Meredith Sutton, Cook County; Casey Volkmann, Wadena-Deer Creek; Mary Campbell, Bethlehem Academy; Lydia Sussner, Morgan Kockelman, Natalee Rolbiecki, Minneota; Madi Beck, Madison Hucky, Sophie Heuer, Mayer Lutheran.

Class 2A: Peyton Suess, Kasson-Mantorville; Emma Benz, Ellie Koontz, Holy Angels; Cianni Selbitschka, Sophie Linder, Haley Hadrava, North Branch; Brynn Paumen, Amber Klug, Linsey Rachel, Mollie Scheiber, Maple Lake.

Class 3A: Izzy Ashburn, Sami Hilley, Champlin Park; CC McGraw, Maddy Bremer, Prior Lake; Macy Winter, Elizabeth Juhnke, Kennedy Brady, Lakeville North; Ellie Husemann, Kennedi Orr, McKenna Melville, Eagan.



State Volleyball Results
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/11/2017 8:11:42 PM

At Xcel Energy Center

Saturday’s Results

Class 1A

Fifth place: New Life Academy defeated Cook County 3-0
Third place: Bethlehem Academy defeated Wadena-Deer Creek 3-0
Championship: Mayer Lutheran defeated Minneota 3-0

Class 2A
Fifth place: Kasson-Mantorville defeated Roseau 3-0
Third place: Holy Angels defeated Marshall 3-0
Championship: Maple Lake defeated North Branch 3-0

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



Conference Call In Class 3A Volleyball
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/10/2017 8:12:08 PM

One of the great many great things about volleyball is that there is no clock. The game is decided by points without constraints over how long it takes. That fact makes two sets of numbers from Friday’s Class 3A state semifinals quite remarkable.

The numbers are 56 and 63. As in minutes. When top-seeded and defending state champion Eagan defeated Prior Lake 3-0 in the semifinals at Xcel Energy Center, the match was over in 56 minutes. And when Lakeville North defeated Moorhead 3-0 in the second semifinal, it took 63 minutes.

The speed of those matches is in direct correlation to the level of play and the league in which the two winners compete. Eagan and Lakeville North come from the South Suburban Conference, as does Prior Lake, meaning three teams from that league were among the four state semifinalists. This is not a new thing.

On Saturday, Eagan will play in its fifth consecutive state championship match. The Wildcats won titles in 2013, 2015 and 2016, finishing second to Chaska in 2014.

In the 12 state tournaments since 2006, teams that are now in the South Suburban have filled 14 of the 24 championship-match slots. Two South Suburban teams have met in the finals three previous times since 2006: Eden Prairie beat Lakeville North in 2011, Lakeville North beat Eden Prairie in 2012, Eagan beat Prior Lake in 2015.

And there’s this: With the exception of Chaska’s championship in 2014, South Suburban teams have won every 3A title since 2010.

“I believe that grinding out so many of our conference matches really prepares you for postseason,” said Lakeville North coach Jackie Richter, whose team lost to Eagan twice during the regular season. Eagan beat the Panthers 3-0 during conference play and 2-0 in a tournament. Lakeville North’s record is 31-2.

Eagan is 30-1, with the loss coming against Lakeville South in conference play. The Wildcats’ semifinal victory over Prior Lake – which has seniors who will play volleyball at Minnesota (CC McGraw) and Michigan (Kayla Bair) – was something to see.

“Overall I think this is about as well as we can pass and play defense,” said Eagan coach Kathy Gillen. “I think they executed the game plan about as well as they can.”

Prior Lake coach Mike Dean said, “We knew we had a heck of a team on the other side of the net that we were going against. I think what we saw is that Eagan is really, really strong. Hats off to them. They’re a fantastic team.

“They don’t give you anything and they go back and rattle off three, four, five in the blink of an eye.”

Cheering For Their Neighbors

The North Branch volleyball team was inside the Xcel Energy Center for Friday’s first match at 9 a.m., even though the Vikings didn’t play until the last semifinal match of the day at 7 p.m. They sat together in the stands to watch their friends from nearby Forest Lake face Hopkins in Class 3A consolation play; the Vikings even led some of the cheers for the Rangers. In the evening’s Class 2A semifinals, North Branch defeated Marshall 3-0. While that match was taking place, guess which team was in the stands, cheering for the Vikings? You got it, the Forest Lake Rangers.

Tournament Tidbits

--In the Class 1A semifinals, defending state champion Mayer Lutheran (31-2) defeated Wadena-Deer Creek 3-0. Mayer Lutheran’s two losses this year came against Maple Lake and Eagan, which will also play for state championships today.

--Minneota owns one Class 1A volleyball state title and the Vikings will play for another one Saturday against Mayer Lutheran. Their championship came in 2006, when one of the players was named Hayley Hennen. She’s now Hayley Fruin (pictured) and she’s the first-year head coach of the Vikings. Minneota defeated Bethlehem Academy 3-0 in Friday’s semifinals.

--Maple Lake enters the final day of the volleyball season as the only undefeated team in the state. The Irish (35-0) will meet North Branch in the Class 2A championship and try to win their second consecutive title. Their overall winning streak is 43 in a row.

--Quote of the Day: “The game is about a ball and it has to stay off the floor. And that’s unpredictable” … Maple Lake coach Marty Kiebel.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

State Volleyball Tournament
At Xcel Energy Center

Class 3A Semifinals

Eagan defeated Prior Lake 3-0
Lakeville North defeated Moorhead 3-0

Class 1A Semifinals
Mayer Lutheran defeated Wadena-Deer Creek 3-0
Minneota defeated Bethlehem Academy 3-0

Class 2A Semifinals
Maple Lake defeated Holy Angels 3-0
North Branch defeated Marshall 3-0

Saturday’s Schedule
(Times are approximate, based on length of earlier matches)

Class 1A

Fifth place: Cook County vs. New Life Academy, 9 a.m.
Third place: Wadena-Deer Creek vs. Bethlehem Academy, 11 a.m.
Championship: Mayer Lutheran vs. Minneota, 1 p.m.

Class 2A
Fifth place: Kasson-Mantorville vs. Roseau, 11 a.m.
Third place: Holy Angels vs. Marshall, 1 p.m.
Championship: Maple Lake vs. North Branch, 3 p.m.

Class 3A
Fifth place: Hopkins vs. Champlin Park, 9 a.m.
Third place: Prior Lake vs. Moorhead, 3 p.m.
Championship: Eagan vs. Lakeville North, 5 p.m.



Trip To State And A Bright Future For Ada-Borup/NCW
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/9/2017 6:27:26 PM

Jim Lee wasn’t fully expecting his volleyball team from Ada-Borup/Norman County West to reach the Class 1A state tournament this year. After all, the Cougars were a No. 5 seed in the Section 8 tournament, and that makes for a tough road to the Xcel Energy Center. But here they were Thursday, competing in the big show.

This is Lee’s second year at the helm, and good things sometimes come to those who don’t have to wait very long.

“Usually you can’t get to state this fast,” Lee (pictured) said after his team fell to Wadena-Deer Creek in the quarterfinals. “The girls played so well in that section tournament; they believed.”

Lee is no rookie coach. He was the head coach at Waconia, a Class 3A team, for 20 years before taking over in Ada last season. His Wildcats made it to state once (2010) while competing in section tournaments against some of the top big-school teams in Minnesota. He knows how to build a program, and that process is on the ground floor with the Cougars.

“I would say the difference is that I have not had these girls for as long a time period,” he said. “I think it’s very important in any program when you can develop the young kids, and they get up to the varsity level and they’ve had you in the classroom, they’ve had you on the courts, they know what to expect. Now I’m kind of trying to train them in the middle of the process. There have been some seasons in the past when I’m just sitting there and it’s like I don’t have to say anything; they know what to say and they know what to do.

“I’m thinking if I had them when they were younger they would be doing these things by now. That’s the big difference. It’s not the caliber of the girl, it’s not the height or anything like that; I just haven’t had them in the program enough right now, that’s the biggest thing.”

One of the downsides of being far from the Twin Cities and its many schools is spending evenings scouting other teams in outstate Minnesota. Ada is 45 minutes from Moorhead, and Lee makes lots of long drives to see other games. “So I’m getting home at midnight, one o’clock sometimes. It’s well worth it, but it makes for longer nights.”

One of the advantages of being in a small school (the building in Ada houses kindergarten through 12th grade) is getting to know young students. Lee teaches business classes, and he likes seeing elementary students in the cafeteria and other spots around school.

“And that’s fun,” he said. “I can talk to them and they get to know me even before they get to ninth grade. Which is incredible. When you think about it, I’m where I want to be. The question is how many years is it going to take before these young girls, the third-, fourth-graders, get up there? Because when they get to the varsity level, it’s going to be ‘zing.’ ”

Cook County Coach Says Goodbye

Pam Taylor has been the volleyball coach at Cook County in Grand Marais for 35 years, and she is ending her career with a trip to state. The Vikings fell to top-seeded Mayer Lutheran 3-0 in Thursday’s Class 1A quarterfinals and will have at least one more consolation-round match before the season ends.

The Vikings rode a 17-match winning streak into the state tournament, and Taylor (pictured) has reveled in it.

“I just enjoy being with the kids,” she said. “It’s just a sport that I love. I’m going to miss it but my arm’s wearing out, my knees are wearing out. It’s time to let somebody younger take over.”

Assistant coach Marlene Webster will become the head coach next season.

Famine Is Over For Spuds

Moorhead played in the very first state volleyball tournament in 1974 and the Spuds have been a regular participant ever since. The 2017 event is their 23rd appearance, but getting past the quarterfinals has been an obstacle.

That made Thursday’s 3-2 victory over Champlin Park in the Class 3A quarterfinals important, because it put Moorhead in the semifinals for the first time since 1996 and ended an 0-7 streak of quarterfinal defeats.

Moorhead won a state title in 1988 and placed second in 1981, 1985, 1986 and 1996.

Forest Lake Makes Most Of Return To State

When the Forest Lake Rangers defeated Grand Rapids in the Class 3A Section 7 championship match, it was big news. The Rangers have only been to state once before, in 2002.

Junior Ava Schmoll said, “Everyone was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what just happened?’ We’ve been talking about going to state, we’re all so close and super good friends, and we’re like family to each other. We’re kind of in awe that we’re here.”

The Rangers had a tough draw in the quarterfinals, where they lost to top-seeded and defending state champion Eagan 3-0. That didn’t do much to dampen the team’s enthusiasm.

“We put that in perspective,” said 21-year veteran coach Sherri Alm. “We’re one of eight schools and somebody’s got to play them.”

Best Band Moments

--The Eagan band played The Imperial March (also known as Darth Vader’s theme) during a timeout while the Wildcats defeated Forest Lake.

--The Bethlehem Academy band played Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” (from 1970!) during the Cardinals’ Class 1A victory over Pine River-Backus.

Best Mascot

--Ronnie the Ranger from Forest Lake (see Twitter for a photo).

Most Well-Rounded Team

The Roseau volleyball team is filled with multi-sport athletes. Three members of the squad were on the hockey team that went to state last year, four were on the Rams’ state championship basketball team, three have competed in the state track meet and one has been to state in golf.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

State Volleyball Tournament
At Xcel Energy Center

Class 1A Quarterfinals

Mayer Lutheran defeated Cook County 3-0
Wadena-Deer Creek defeated Ada Borup/Norman County West 3-0
Minneota defeated New Life Academy 3-0
Bethlehem Academy defeated Pine River-Backus 3-1

Class 3A Quarterfinals
Eagan defeated Forest Lake 3-0
Prior Lake defeated Hopkins 3-0
Lakeville North defeated Stillwater 3-0
Moorhead defeated Champlin Park 3-2

Class 2A Quarterfinals
Maple Lake defeated Kenyon-Wanamingo 3-0
Holy Angels defeated Kasson-Mantorville 3-2
Marshall defeated Roseau 3-0
North Branch defeated Watertown-Mayer 3-0



From Two Schools, ‘Band Of Brothers’ Ran For Each Other
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/6/2017 6:59:50 PM

When the 2017 cross-country season started with the first practice on Aug. 14, some introductions were in order for the team from Mountain Lake Area. Along with the usual array of returning athletes were three boys who don’t attend Mountain Lake High School and had never competed in cross-country.

After some handshakes and “Hi, how ya doin’?” greetings, the boys got to work. Coach Kyle Blomgren directed their training as the Wolverines hit the country roads of southwest Minnesota, putting in miles as the season approached.

The season ended Saturday with an astonishing result: The Wolverines qualified for the Class 1A state championship meet in Northfield.

This was not a typical situation. The three newcomers – to the team as well as the sport – are students at Red Rock Central in Lamberton, which is a 45-minute drive from Mountain Lake. Driving distance was much less of a factor, however, than the boys’ driving desire to run as members of a team.

Early last summer, inquiries were made between Red Rock Central and Mountain Lake: Would it be possible to form a cooperative team so the Red Rock Central boys interested in cross-country could get an opportunity? Blomgren works as a starter during track season and he had seen the RRC boys compete during the spring. And Blomgren, who didn’t get the chance to compete in high school cross-country because his school didn’t have a team, didn’t want the same thing to happen to the boys.

“I wanted to see what these kids could do as runners,” Blomgren said. “Our administrators got tougher, the boards approved it, and we worked out an agreement. I’ll tell you, it’s been nothing but a blessing to all involved.”

It’s definitely been a unique situation. Because of the distance between the schools, the Red Rock Central runners didn’t make the long journey for every practice. The entire team was together for hard, long workouts, while the RRC trio stayed home on days when the runners had shorter recovery runs.

The three runners from Red Rock Central – Logan Pankonin, Nathan Runck and Dalton Piotter – were excited when the cooperative agreement was approved.

“When we got the news that we were going to have cross-country, I was really excited about it,” Pankonin said. “Going into the season I thought we’d be OK but I didn’t really think we were going to go to state. The state meet is a big thing, it’s been a great season, getting to know new people and have a connection. I can call these people my family. It was complete strangers getting together for the first time and being able to bond.”

That was the beauty of the whole thing: Making new friends, training with them, competing with them while wearing the same uniform and making memories that will last a lifetime.

Qualifying for the team state championships is not a regular occurrence for the Wolverines. That had happened only four times in Mountain Lake history prior to this fall; in 1976, 1978, 1979 and 1991.

The Wolverines finished 14th among the 16 teams that ran Saturday. Piotter led the seven-man contingent with a 50th-place finish among 176 runners, Runck was 53rd, and Ryan Blomgren (the coach’s son) was 100th. Other competitors for the team were Emilio Garcia Dela Cruz, Josiah Gardiner, Emmanuel Fentanez and Pankonin.

“I told them late last July that the beauty of cross-country isn’t racing, it’s spending time with your teammates,” Kyle Blomgren said. “If my son had to list his best friends, some of them would be from Red Rock.”

Pankonin said all the miles – the miles driving between the schools as well as all those training miles on foot – were part of the process, as well as the team’s success.

“The first few weeks we had to drive to Mountain Lake every day,” he said. “Once the school year got started it was once or twice a week, and we had meets every week. We just wanted to have a team, we didn’t really care about the distance.”

Before leaving for the state meet, the Wolverines were honored at a pep fest. The unique nature of the team was mentioned there.

“We talked at our pep fest about how these nine guys started out as strangers and molded themselves into a band of brothers,” Kyle Blomgren said.

Pankonin said, “The state meet is a big thing, and it’s been a great season to get to know new people and have a connection. I can call these people my family. It was complete strangers getting together for the first time and being able to bond as a team. It’s been pretty great.”

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Two For Two: Steiger Edges Dahlberg In Class 1A Rematch
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2017 5:54:07 PM

NORTHFIELD – Matt Steiger of Le Crescent and Declan Dahlberg don’t compete against each other until the state cross-country championships, and for two years running they have put on quite the dramatic finishes.

Last year, when they were juniors, Dahlberg and Steiger careened toward the finish line together before Dahlberg leaned forward to win the Class 1A title by two one-hundredths of a second ahead of Steiger.

In the rematch Saturday at St. Olaf College, the same two runners went stride for stride over the same home stretch. This time, Steiger won the sprint to the line by eight-10ths of a second over Dahlberg. (Photos from 2016, left, and 2017, right.)

Afterwards, they leaned on each other and expressed complete respect for each other.

“There’s one thing: sprint as hard as you can,” Steiger said. “Don’t leave anything out there.

“I just kept working hard throughout the season. Make sure you do the workouts, get enough recovery and then put it all on the line in this race.”

In the understatement of the day, Dahlberg said, “It was a good finish. It’s happened before, and they kind of go either way.”

Perham won the boys title (as well as the girls title) with a team score of 188. Next were St. James (148), Mankato Loyola/Cleveland (154), Lac Qui Parle Valley (172) and North Shore (175).

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Wolfgram Repeats As 1A Cross-Country Champion
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2017 5:50:08 PM

NORTHFIELD – One of the four races during Saturday’s state cross-country championships held just a little more intrigue than the others. The Class 1A girls field was led by two previous state champions; they led the pack to the finish, with a young upstart carrying a familiar last name also in the mix.

Tierney Wolfgram, a freshman from Math & Science Academy in Woodbury, won the championship for the second year in a row. Finishing directly behind Wolfgram were sisters from Winona Cotter. Seventh-grader Lauren Ping was second and freshman Grace Ping – the 2015 state champ – placed third.

The Ping family lived in Utah last year before returning to Winona. When Grace won the 2015 state crown, she was pegged as a threat to match the five titles won by Dawson-Boyd/Lac qui Parle Valley’s Carrie Tollefson from 1990 to 1994. Her season in Utah ended that possibility, but now Wolfgram – with two state titles already and three seasons to go – could match Tollefson’s record.

“My race strategies are just to run,” Wolfgram said. “I always say that I run my races backwards, starting out way too fast and then slowing down. But in this race I think I did pretty even splits, which was good.

“It feels really good. I’ve really worked this season and my work has paid off. The beginning of the season wasn’t going how I wanted it to go, but I really just started visualizing and that really helped me.”

The biggest surprise in Saturday’s race was Lauren Ping finishing ahead of her older sister. Lauren had never beaten Grace before.

“She’s just always been a good runner and I’ve always wanted to be just as good as her,” Lauren said.

Grace Ping said she has been dealing with health throughout the fall season.

“I’ve had a pretty frustrating season just because at the beginning I had gotten my ferritin (a protein that stores and releases iron) checked and it was low. And then I got that up and my (right) leg started hurting. It felt better today so hopefully I can be healthy for postseason (national) races.”

Perham won the team race with a score of 86, edging Winona Cotter (87) by a single point. Next were Annandale (131), Stewartville (137) and Fairmont (165) in the top five.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



One More Step: Wayzata’s Hussein Reaches The Top
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2017 5:48:53 PM

NORTHFIELD -- Wayzata senior Khalid Hussein took the biggest single stride of his cross-country career Saturday, running to the Class 2A boys state championship one year after placing second on the 5,000-meter course at St. Olaf College.

Hussein’s time of 15 minutes, 22.6 seconds was nearly 20 seconds faster than his time in 2016, and it gave him a nine-second cushion over Roseville junior Acer Iverson, who was second. Rosemount junior Luke Labbatt burst free from a pack at the finish to claim third with a half-second margin over Andover senior Tom Brueckman.

“My legs felt good, my body felt good,” Hussein said, shivering just a bit. “The cold doesn’t affect me in races, just after the races.”

He said he struggled with a knee injury during the spring track season, which made winning a state title one year after placing second even sweeter.

“It’s been a great journey,” he said. “I was kind of injured in track season but I managed to get healthy for this cross-country season. I was trying to get my knee right. It’s all thanks to my coaches and my family.”

Iverson made an even bigger leap from 2016, when he finished 20th at state. He stayed with Hussein most of the race.

“I carried the speed out as long as I could as we wrapped around back to the finish, but somewhere in there he found that chase energy, I guess, and got me,” Iverson said. “I definitely wanted to finish first, but I’m happy to be second.”

Wayzata also took home the boys team title for the second year in a row. The Trojans had a score of 37, with Stillwater second at 79, followed by Edina (107), White Bear Lake (136) and Mounds View (193) in the top five.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



No Matter The Conditions, Washburn’s Covert Wins
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/5/2017 5:47:38 PM

NORTHFIELD – On the warmest day of the cross-country season as well as the biggest day of the country season, Minneapolis Washburn junior Emily Covert proved herself to be the best in Minnesota.

Covert, who placed eighth at state last year, captured the Class 2A title Saturday on a gloomy, chilly damp day. That provided a nice bookend to her previous 2017 signature victory at the late-September Roy Griak Invitational, where she won against a field of runners from across the country.

The Griak was held in sunny, hot and humid conditions, making for a rugged race. Covert wasn’t deterred, winning with a seven-second margin over 2015 Class 1A state champ Grace Ping of Winona Cotter; Farmington’s Anna Fenske, the 2016 Class 2A state champion, was third at the Griak.

Covert was the strongest runner again Saturday at St. Olaf College, finishing more than four seconds ahead of Fenske, now a freshman. Sophomore Emma Atkinson of Wayzata was third, followed by Edina senior Emily Kompelien and Lakeville South sophomore Brianne Brewster.

“I was feeling really good,” Covert said. “I knew we were set up for a good time because those runners are so strong. I just wanted to stick with them and hold throughout the race. It felt like my race. I felt like I was running my own race.

“Griak was a lot warmer. I feel like I have to prepare myself for these conditions with my warmup and everything. It did give me confidence, but I knew that Anna Fenske would be right there with me, and everyone else.”

Fenske’s time of 17 minutes, 34.8 seconds was faster than her winning time from a year earlier (17:41.5), but she couldn’t push past Covert.

“One of my goals was to defend the title, which didn’t happen, but Emily’s a really great runner so I’m happy with getting second,” Fenske said.

This is the third year that girls have run 5,000 meters (moving from 4,000 in 2015), and Covert’s time of 17 minutes, 30.1 seconds was the fastest over that distance in those three years at state.

In the team competition, Atkinson’s finish helped Wayzata end Edina’s two-year reign as state champions. The Trojans had a team score of 51 and Edina was second at 72, followed by St. Michael-Albertville (102), Willmar (144) and Forest Lake (150) in the top five.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Playing To The End, Eagan Wins Championship
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/2/2017 8:57:39 PM

All season long, the Eagan girls soccer team has finished practice in the same way: Going hard and never stopping until the whistle blows.

“In practices, if we don’t go to the last play we have to go and run,” Wildcats goalkeeper Megan Plaschko said Thursday after her team defeated Maple Grove 2-1 on a goal with six seconds remaining in the Class 2A state championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“It’s put into us right away that you play until the last whistle blows,” she said. “Our team knows that six seconds is a lot of time and that’s more than enough time for a goal.”

That was certainly the case in the biggest game of the year. Eagan (17-2-2) had a corner kick as the clock wound down; the kick by Grace Sjoberg came down in front of the goal, where Ellen Pagois headed the ball in.

Eagan won state titles in 2014 and 2015. Maple Grove (19-3) played at state for the first time.

“I’m just super proud of everything this group accomplished,” Maple Grove coach Ben LeVahn said. “To come in with poise, having not been in the state tournament and playing our way through, that was big for this group. The season is beyond a success.”

The shots were nearly even, with Eagan getting 10 and Maple Grove nine. Plaschko made three saves, as did Crimson keeper Sarah Cortez.

--Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team: Sophia Boman, Edina; Linnea Yacovella, East Ridge; Alli Jenkins, Andover; Rheanna Zerna, St. Michael-Albertville; Emma Risteau, Anna Steel, Lakeville North; Eva Bruer, Samantha Dietrick, Wayzata; Megan Plaschko, Molly Busch, Kayla Vrieze, Lauryn Roszak, Eagan; Mia Omar, Meredith Haakenson, Zyah Alam, Lexi Miller, Maple Grove.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Wayzata Boys Finish As Unbeaten State Champions
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/2/2017 5:52:27 PM

Wayzata capped an unbeaten season with a 2-0 victory over Stillwater in the Class 2A boys soccer state championship game Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The game was a rematch of last year’s title contest, which Stillwater won by the same score.

After a scoreless first half, the Trojans (19-0-2) scored in the 54th minute. With a lengthy pass from Aditya Bhati, Patrick Weah put the ball into the right side of the net. In the game’s final minute, Weah got the assist on a goal by Ethan Wagner.

The Ponies finished with a record of 18-2-2.

--Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team: Jack Armitage, Lakeville North; Logan Weller, Prior Lake; Parker Jamison, Apple Valley; Till Konczak, Mounds View; Jack Gleckler, Jack Dorholt, Maple Grove; Nolan Friday, Zach Madill, Duluth East; Walter Smith, Erik Williams, Patrick Weah, Stuart Sain, Wayzata; Fred LeClair, Max Stauffer, Daniel Muths, Spencer Scott, Stillwater.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Metrodome Plan Pays Off For Mahtomedi Girls
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/2/2017 2:56:08 PM

Mahtomedi has a strong pedigree in girls soccer, and the Zephyrs added another chapter Thursday with a 2-1 victory over Orono in the Class 1A state championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mahtomedi (17-3-2) has won seven titles in eight trips to the state final.

The Zephyrs did not make it to U.S. Bank Stadium a year ago, when the state semifinals and finals moved to the new facility. But they made many trips to the Metrodome when it was the state soccer site, and coach Dave Wald used some lessons learned in those days this time around. He dug out the pregame warmup plan the team used at the dome and used it in the new digs.

“We had a Metrodome warmup, in order to get the kids ready,” he said. “Some of them played at St. Cloud State (which hosted the tournament while U.S. Bank Stadium was under construction) two years ago, but this is a different stage.”

The game was scoreless until the 63rd minute, when Mahtomedi’s Abby Schultz scored from short range off an assist from Megan Clements. Orono tied it on a penalty kick by Maddie Loder with 14:25 to play. The winning goal came when Grace Padelford scored from 40 yards out, with the ball hitting the post and going in.

Orono (19-1-3) was the state champ in 2014 and finished second in 2015.

“Give credit to Mahtomedi today,” Loder said. “Those goals were really great goals, they were tough to stop. We gave it all we had.”

Mahtomedi finished with 14 shots to seven for the Spartans. Zephyrs goalkeeper Megan Lisowy made one save and Orono’s Clare Gagne had five.

“Hats off to Mahtomedi,” said Orono coach Erin Murray. “Clair had an awesome game. Their goals? I don’t know of many goalies in the state that could stop those ones.”

--Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team: Emma Schmitz, Rochester Lourdes; Mel Lobitz, Mankato West; KK Haug, Blake; Ali Beard, Bemidji; Mercedey Harper, Emerson Dronen, North Branch; Samantha Burke, Katherine Jones, Visitation; Abby Shultz, Audrey Sexson, Megan Clements, Sonia Meyer, Mahtomedi; Sarah Johnston, Megan Marzolf, Anna Tesar, Sadie Koltes, Mahtomedi.

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In A Game Of Inches, Totino-Grace Comes Out On Top
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/2/2017 1:00:45 PM

When the boys soccer teams from Totino-Grace and St. Thomas Academy played to a 2-2 overtime tie in the final game of the regular season, a tone had been set. When they met at U.S. Bank Stadium Thursday morning to decide the Class 1A state championship, the rematch was almost as close as the original.

Totino-Grace (19-1-1) claimed its second state title with a 1-0 victory over the Cadets (16-2-3), with the goal coming on a header by Steevenson Lamarre off an assist by Collin Matzoll eight minutes into the game. And that, as they say, was that.

“Noel and I were talking before the game,” said Eagles coach Bill Vance, referring to Cadets coach Noel Quinn. “I said that sometimes the state tournament is the great equalizer. Which means it’s harder to score and to find those moments. If you score the first goal and the opponent doesn’t score, you’ll win the game.”

St. Thomas Academy, which was trying to win a second consecutive state championship, finished with 13 shots on goal to 10 for the Eagles. The shutout went to Totino-Grace keeper Philip Ronza; he and STA’s Jack Killian each had three saves.

“Totino-Grace defended really well and they put a lot of players in and around their box,” Quinn said. “It’s just the way it goes sometimes in a final, everybody’s a little tense. We needed something to go our way and it didn’t happen.

“Obviously (the season) was great. We were in the final for the second year running and we wanted to win the whole thing again. We won our conference and we won our section, we wanted to win the final. It’s a great season.”

Vance said, “It’s a game of inches. Today, St. Thomas Academy didn’t get some of those inches and Totino-Grace did. It was exciting. It wasn’t pretty but we feel great to come out with the W.”

--Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team: Chameng Xiong, St. Paul Harding; Silas Hess, Bemijdi; Chris Cerda, Sander Diaz, Worthington; Mooday Wah, Kevin Ortiz, Austin; Lonyjera Okal, Spencer Overturf, Guyvenson Mohs, Orono; Christian Babo, Alex Tsobanakis, Logan Davis, St. Thomas Academy; Amanuel Bird, Herbert Endeley, Collin Matzoll, Totino-Grace.

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