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Shakopee’s Hauger Erases All Doubts With Dominating Performance
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/29/2012 6:07:48 PM

After losing recently to a Minnesota runner for the first time in nearly four years, Shakopee cross-country star Maria Hauger responded in grand style at Saturday's Roy Griak Invitational. Click here to read John's Millea's story

Calm and Confident: A Tiger Turnaround
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/29/2012 11:12:26 AM

The Farmington football team is riding high, remaining undefeated with a victory over Chaska on Friday. Click here to read Brian Jerzak's story about the Tigers

Atmosphere Is Everything In Stillwater, Especially When The Ponies Win
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/29/2012 12:43:17 AM

Friday night’s Suburban East Conference contest between Mounds View and Stillwater had just about everything you could ask for in a high school football game. Such as …

--Atmosphere. Second-year Stillwater coach Beau LaBore has done a tremendous job that goes well beyond the X’s and the 0’s. Stillwater’s stadium is covered in school-color signage, the pregame atmosphere included first-rate music played on a great sound system (the in-game music included “Gangnam Style”), the students from both schools were into the game all the way through and there were ponies – two actual, live ponies ridden by young women – on the field before kickoff (as well as people who followed the horses with shovels).

--Injuries: Stillwater came into the game undermanned, with starting quarterback Nate Ricci and starting offensive linemen Danny Buege and Derrick Thingvold out with injuries. And running back Nick Anderson was wobbly at halftime after being hit hard on his final carry of the half, an unsuccessful play on fourth and goal at the 1. Later in the game he suffered an arm injury—his right arm was wrapped in tape – and yet he finished with 37 carries and 204 yards. Mounds View QB Mitch Fredrickson left the game with an injury late in the third quarter and did not return.

--Drama: Mounds View led 14-0 in the first quarter after short touchdown runs by Matt Harding and TJ Horn. Stillwater tied it 14-14 on second-quarter scores by Anderson and Trevor Tillett, who stepped in at quarterback. The only second-half scoring came with 54 seconds left in regulation, when French exchange student Danny Laudet kicked a 35-yard field goal; he had missed all five previous attempts this season, including two Friday. The game ended with Mounds View attempting a 43-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, but the Ponies blocked the kick and time ran out.

Final score: Stillwater 17, Mounds View 14. Each team now has a record of 4-1 and a share of first place in the Suburban East. Mounds View was No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press Class 6A rankings and Stillwater was No. 7.

So this game, and this result, were big.

“We had our best week of practice,” LaBore said. “Our players bought into a couple of things this week that were very important. We shared with them the (Gophers coach) Jerry Kill philosophy, ‘Next man up.’ We were a little beat up so we had to have guys step up. And those guys stepped up.

“Secondly, it was going to be a four-quarter game. Things weren’t going to go perfectly. There was going to be adversity but we were going to play football and play physical all game long. Both those things played out. You win football games on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And it was our best Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday all year.”

With Ricci nursing a bad ankle, a lot of the Friday night burden fell on Tillett, a junior. He managed the run-heavy offense nicely and completed four of 12 passes for 57 yards.

“Of course there’s pressure but my teammates picked me up all week long,” Tillett said. “Nate did a great job of leading me and it feels great to look at that scoreboard.”

Laudet was the game’s final hero, kicking the winner after missing from 51 and 54 yards earlier in the game.

“I screwed up a couple times, I missed two that I shouldn’t have missed,” he said. “I know I let my teammates down. But they all gave me a shot at the end. I just do what I do. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s an emotional high. It’s unreal.”

--View a photo gallery from the game at the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 95
*Miles John has driven: 2,801
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Student Media Day With The Twins: Given a Chance
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/26/2012 9:06:46 PM

(This article was written by one of the high school students who attended a Minnesota Twins game through the MSHSL Student Media program. Four students received media credentials for the Twins-White Sox game on Sept. 15 at Target Field.)

By Jared Rubado
Brainerd High School

When an MLB manager calls a person into his office, the outcome is 50/50. The player never knows the outcome, but he knows that he will be given a chance. The person could get the chance to impress the manager on the field, the chance to play for a different team, or even get second chances. It’s safe to say that you don't know what to expect when you walk through those doors. There were four of us, and from the beginning we knew exactly what we were getting into. We were given a chance. The chance of a lifetime.

My name is Jared Rubado, I am a junior at Brainerd High School. I am a part of the MSHSL Student Media program. My goal in life is to be a sports journalist for a website such as Grantland (ESPN), or a magazine such as Sports Illustrated. John Millea, our Student Media coordinator, set up an opportunity for four Student Media reporters to go to a Minnesota Twins baseball game. I was interested from the beginning, along with three other students across the state. In an email, John told us, “We will be on the field before the game, in the press box during the game and will observe postgame media interviews.” That alone would have been an amazing experience. Little did I know that I was in for way more.

I have been a Twins fan my whole life. I make the most out of every game I go to. I get to the game hours before the first pitch, just to get a glimpse of the pregame warmups. I have always seen kids get the chance to walk on the field themselves. I have envied them for years. When I got the news that I had been accepted for the Student Media day at Target Field, it was a dream come true. The Twins would be playing the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 15 at 12:10 in the afternoon.

I walked into the Target Field plaza at 9:45. The day was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. I met the other aspiring journalists and John at Gate 29. We waited 15 minutes until Chris Iles from the Twins corporate communications department (also our guide for the day), gave us our credentials. We left our parents behind with two free tickets to the game. As we walked in, our day had officially started.

Our first stop was the Twins clubhouse and we were escorted inside to the center of the players’ locker room. I personally had never seen a locker room so nice in my 16-year existence. We were allowed to have a private pregame interview with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire before the professional media came in. We asked our questions and listened to him talk about many different things. He talked about, baseball, college football and how he spends his off days. The most interesting thing was when he told us that if he had not gone into baseball, he would have gone into the military.

When the media came in, it was a bit daunting. They were nice, but they were there to do business. Their serious presence was overwhelmingly exciting for me, knowing that they get to do this on a day-to-day basis. It was then and there that I knew for sure that I was going to pursue a journalism career.

After the pregame interview, we went to lunch. We were introduced to the Fox Sports North crew. They were very relaxed, especially Bert Blyleven. He was cracking jokes left and right. We ate our lunches and then we were escorted onto the field. We couldn't go on the grass but we were allowed to observe from the backstop. When I looked into a fan’s eyes, I saw a bit of jealousy, I could only picture that’s what I have looked like when I looked at other field-goers from the stands.

It was time to take our seats in the press box. I have never seen such a perfect view of a sporting event in my life. We were seated on the far right of the press box. When I turned my head for the first time, I saw everybody that we had met during the day. The game started and I had never felt so comfortable at a Twins game before. The main rule of the press box is you are not allowed to cheer. I thought that would be difficult for me because I always cheer enthusiastically, but it wasn’t.

We watched for the first inning, but during the second inning we had a surprise. We were taken into the radio booth for the top half of the inning. Cory Provus was broadcasting the game and then, out of nowhere, he said our names on the radio. For the bottom half of the inning we were given the chance to talk to Terry Ryan, the Twins general manager. During games he carries a stopwatch to time various things such as delivery of the pitcher or the speed of baserunners. He explained, “In these last few weeks of a season, some players may be fighting for a spot on next year’s team.”

We returned to our seats in the press box for the rest of the game. The Twins were shut down by former Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano. They were down 4-0 until the seventh inning when Trevor Plouffe hit a two-run home run. The Twins were down 5-2 in the ninth inning. They got the bases loaded but were only able to get one run.

For our last event for the day, it was back to Gardy’s office for the postgame interview. We observed the reporters ask their questions once again. Then all of them filed out and we were alone with the manager for the last time. At that moment we didn’t know what he was going to say, but we know it had to do with chance.

Student Media Day With The Twins: We Will Never Forget
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/25/2012 8:27:01 PM

(These two articles were written by high school students who attended a Minnesota Twins game through the MSHSL Student Media program. The photos were taken by Zach Burnside.)

By JoNathan Chartrand
Chisago Lakes Area High School

On Saturday, Sept. 15 I joined the MSHSL's John Millea and three other student journalists who arrived early in the morning for a media day at Target Field in Minneapolis. After a quick get to know you, I was admitted with a full media credential into Gate 29.

From the gate we rode the elevator down to the belly of the beast. We first went to the Twins clubhouse and looked around; Kent Hrbek was chatting up a few current players. Then we got to interview skipper Ron Gardenhire. After the interview we watched the beat writers interview Gardy at his desk, more informal than I thought it would be.

Then we went from the clubhouse to the cafeteria, where we were fed a variety of items from bacon to salad to yogurt. As we were eating and watching College Gameday on ESPN, we all gathered for a picture, but sneaky Hall of Fame pitcher and Fox Sports North announcer Bert Blyleven added to the mix. He welcomed us with, “Good morning.” We then introduced ourselves. As we finished up eating, our guide informed us that a picture of us with Gardy was on the Twins Twitter account. Everyone quickly pulled out their phones to look.

We then traveled out on to the field for a more perspective view of it all; so large, from the stands it doesn’t seem so far, but from the plate to no-man's land in center field or the Jim Thome region of deep in the stands of left field it was breathtaking.

As the game was about to begin, we were escorted up to the press box to watch the game, but that wasn't the case. We watched the first inning, taking notes and pictures, but as the second inning rolled around we were once again on the move going into the Twins Radio Network booth, where Dan Gladden handed me his headset and I was hooked up to radio, LIVE. Cory Provus announced our presence in the booth to all the listeners and explained who we were and why we were there.

As the top of the inning wrapped up we traveled a long ways (three steps) into the Twins general manager's booth for an interview with Terry Ryan. We asked him about putting Joe Mauer on waivers. He responded with a no comment to the “top secret” status but said not to worry about his status as a Twin.

After returning to the press box to watch the rest of the game, we were the subject of many more pictures taken by John Millea. The Twins lost and we headed back to the clubhouse for Gardy’s post-game interview session; we didn’t get to ask questions this time, just observe. This activity closed out the day at the stadium for us. All four of us -- Jared, Zach, Nick and myself -- will never forget this day.

Gardenhire And Guillen Talk About ‘Spam’

By Zach Burnside
White Bear Lake High School

Before the game, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked if he missed coaching against former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

"Ozzie and I still talk on the phone and text each other about whatever,” Gardenhire said. “He can't speak English very well, and he definitely can't spell. I got a text a couple months ago and Ozzie said ‘What would you want for Spam’(Guillen was referring to Twins outfielder Denard Span).”

Francisco Liriano, the White Sox starting pitcher and former member of the Twins, allowed just a couple walks and no hits through the first six innings. Trevor Plouffe made a defensive gem to record the second out in the top of the seventh inning, and then when he came up to the plate in the bottom of the inning he smacked the first pitch he saw over the fence for a two-run homer to put the Twins on the board.

The Twins mounted the start of a rally in the bottom of the ninth, started by that guy Guillen wanted, “Spam.” The rally came to an end early, however, and the Twins fell to the White Sox 5-3.

The Northfield Raiders: A Community Team
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/24/2012 7:07:54 PM

The Northfield community always gets behind the Raiders' teams and students, and Friday nights are no exception. Click here to read more ...

Student Media Day With The Twins: An Unforgettable Experience
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/23/2012 11:07:41 PM

(This article was written by one of the high school students who attended a Minnesota Twins game through the MSHSL Student Media program. Four students received media credentials for the Twins-White Sox game on Sept. 15 at Target Field.)

By Nick Wagner
Ada-Borup High School

It is difficult to translate Saturday's MSHSL Student Media day with the Minnesota Twins into a story of finite words. Then again, the exact same program and its leader, John Millea, have taught its members how to put any unexplainable experience into words.

First off, many thanks are owed to John Millea, the MSHSL's media specialist who not only made the media day happen but started the growing Student Media program. John honored three others from the program with credentials: JoNathan Chartrand of Chisago Lakes, Zach Burnside of White Bear Lake and Jared Rubado of Brainerd.

Then there's Twins corporate communications manager Chris Isles. Chris worked closely with John and Twins corporate staff to make the day an obligated story to “tell the grandkids.”

Then again, who would give up the opportunity to share stories the day produced: a private meeting with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, meeting and shaking hands with Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven, a tour of the Twins clubhouse among players and a photographer's credential to position a person as close to the action as it gets.

I was fortunate enough to be able to shoot alongside team photographer Bruce Kluckhohn. Bruce went to Harvard. Yes, Harvard. How he ended up shooting for the Twins, Minnesota Wild and numerous top-shelf magazines still has me wondering if such an extraordinary career path could be duplicated. If so, sign me up!

It is not just the knowledge of creating a great photo that would land a job Bruce has, but also I think it is the little things done behind the scenes that sets one apart in the photographic field. Simply take into account Bruce's willingness to allow a 17-year-old to follow him around like a lost dog for a three-hour game.

Hanging around Bruce gave me the opportunity to shoot only where Twins photographers can: the photo well connected to the Twins dugout, which places a person and their camera an arm’s length away from the big leaguers. It was as sweet as the Double Bubble bubble gum the players chewed. I even got to be a part of pre-game rituals: knuckle touching with Twins infielder Jamey Carroll and shaking hands with first base coach Jerry White.

Reflecting back on the myriad nuances of the day John, Chris, Bruce and the Twins pleasured our program with will not soon be forgotten, nor will it ever. When I find myself applying for a job, I will be able to mark down this experience, and when I do, all the memories from the day will flourish; now time will only tell whether or not Harvard will have a place under the application's “Education” section.

Sportsmanship Is Important Focus In Suburban East Conference
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/20/2012 7:12:03 PM

The students walked into Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul on a sunny morning. They came from the 10 schools in the Suburban East Conference – 10 or 12 students from each school -- and their morning consisted of getting to know each other, to understand each other and have fun with each other.

If their morning pays off, attendees at Suburban East athletic events will go home with this thought: Wow, those students in the stands were great!

The SEC Sportsmanship Summit, which has been held for several years, brings together the so-called Super Fans along with team captains and cheerleaders from each school in the Suburban East: Cretin-Derham Hall, East Ridge, Forest Lake, Hastings, Mounds View, Park, Roseville, Stillwater, White Bear Lake and Woodbury. These are the students who lead their fellow students in chanting and cheering during games of all kinds; indoors, outdoors, on the field, on the ice, on the court.

The summit is a model for other conferences around the state and a discussion topic when Minnesota athletic directors gather. It’s a very good thing and more conferences should do this.

“I’m going to boast a little bit and say that I think we have the absolute best conference, not only in the metro but in the entire state,” Park athletic director Phil Kuemmel told the group. “And what we’re doing today is one of the reasons why I think we have the best conference in the entire state. It’s not just because we have good teams, but again I’m going to boast and say we have great ADs and administrators in this conference who want to do things like this to continually make things better.”

As the groups from each school arrived, each student was given a colored wrist band, corresponding to specific tables as a way to bring students from different schools together.

“You get to meet people who are just like you,” Forest Lake activities director Joel Olson said.

There was plenty of fun. The students played a game called “Giant, Wizard, Elf” which is much like “Rock, Paper, Scissors” but much more fun. There was a demonstration of a fan chant/dance called “Go Bananas!”

The meeting was led by MSHSL associate director Jody Redman and Cretin-Derham Hall faculty member Tom Cody, who also works with an organization called Top 20 Training. Redman and Cody guided wide-ranging discussions, all focused on helping the students understand how important their role is and how they can make a positive difference.

They talked about sportsmanship and treating people with respect …

--Just because a fan pays to attend a sporting event, they don’t have the right to act badly.

--Fans should focus on what they can control, including their behavior. They cannot control things like officials’ calls and players’ abilities.

Cody laughed about the common practice of students holding up newspapers as a way to ignore the introduction of the opposing team’s starting lineup.

“That’s so 1940s. Your grandma did that,” he told the students. “Let’s get clever if we’re going to be funny.”

The students learned about “mob think,” which is when people feel empowered when they are part of a large group. He used the example of a snowman on someone’s lawn; if one student walks past nothing will happen, but if a group of students walks past, that snowman is likely to be destroyed.

The students discussed behavior that goes over the line … and where that line is. Any kind of harassment clearly is over the line, but what about specific chants? This type of discussion gave the students things to think about when they are leading their fellow students in the stands.

“This is about being dignified and competitive,” Cody said.

As the meeting was winding down, the students realized that they are all alike even though they live in different areas, attend different schools and have different friends.

The meeting ended with students standing up and talking about what they had learned. Their comments included …

--“I met so many great people today.”

--“Everybody is really nice; we are opposing teams but we really welcome each other.”

--“This is our conference and we can do this together.”

At that point, pizza was delivered and a whole bunch of friends – old and new – sat together, talked and laughed.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 90
*Miles John has driven: 1,922
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

There’s No Stopping Sauk Rapids-Rice Runner Matt Kruger
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/18/2012 3:00:29 PM

Matt Kruger is a high school athlete. That’s the most important thing. It doesn’t really matter that the senior from Sauk Rapids-Rice runs on the junior varsity cross-country team. Or that he usually doesn’t finish among the leaders. Or that he is blind.

Matt Kruger is a high school athlete. A condition called retinitis pigmentosa may have gradually taken away his sight since he was young, but it’ll never get his determination or his desire to be part of the team.

“It’s important to him to be a part of something and a part of the school,” said Matt’s mother, Ann Kruger. “It’s been a very important part of his life.”

Matt also wrestles for the Storm, which seems a bit more understandable. But a blind runner, competing on cross-country courses that vary widely … that seems like a dangerous proposition. This is where Wade Cruser comes in.

Cruser, a former wrestling coach at Sauk Rapids-Rice, runs with Matt at most races (photo). They both hang onto a lanyard, which keeps them connected yet allows each to run freely. As they run, Wade guides Matt and tells him what to expect.

“I guess the way to put it is that I describe the course as best I can,” Cruser said at last week’s Lucky Lindy meet in Little Falls. “Today I was pretty much constantly trying to remind him, ‘OK, hills, hills, up and down, trust your footing,’ that type of thing.”

Other runners help Matt maintain his conditioning and fill in when Cruser can’t be at a competition. During practice, teammates grab the lanyard and take off alongside Matt. He views cross-country as a great way to stay in shape for wrestling, and he is indeed in great shape: lean, strong, muscular. He’s been running cross-country since seventh grade.

Yes, he occasionally falls while running. That’s something he takes in stride.

“This year it hasn’t happened but last year it was just about every meet,” Matt said. The result is “just like skinned knees and stuff.”

Sauk Rapids-Rice coach Marie Zeilenga said, “His mom, bless her heart, is totally accepting when he falls. That worries me, and he does fall. But he’s very confident in his running. It doesn’t even faze him.”

When Zeilenga (pictured helping Matt with his race number) became the Storm cross-country coach last season, she wasn’t worried about Matt’s ability to run, but keeping him safe was a concern.

“I’d say one of our biggest challenges as coaches right now is to fit him with the right person. Because there are limitations to what he’s doing but yet he’s totally capable. So it’s finding the right runner for him to make sure he’s safe out on the roads and out on the trails.

“It is a challenge and a blessing.”

Matt is a popular guy. His teammates greet him when they approach; “Hi Matt” is a common refrain around the Storm. And when he runs in a competition, it seems like nearly everyone watching calls him by name and shouts encouragement.

“Everybody knows who he is,” Cruser said. “There usually isn’t a section on the course where somebody isn’t yelling his name. He’s kind of a star.”

When the Luck Lindy race ended, other runners approached Matt and reached out to grab his right hand and shake it, telling him “Nice run” or “Good job.”

As Matt and Wade cooled down from their run, Ann approached with a bottle of Gatorade for each of them. The three chatted and laughed.

“He’s pretty quiet,” Ann said of her son. “At home he’s not so quiet. He will verbalize. He has expressed how it makes him feel good to be part of the team and do things like this.

“We are lucky. We really have an awesome school. They have really embraced him and we couldn’t ask for anything more. They are awesome at every level.”

Those good feelings go both ways. Matt’s coaches and teammates are there to support him and cheer for him, and Cruser is there when the starter’s pistol goes off.

“I enjoy coaching so I enjoy helping kids,” he said. “Matt wants to run, so let him run. He’s such a great kid, it’s hard to say no, it’s hard to not do anything you can for him.”

Matt Kruger is a high school athlete.

--To see a photo gallery of Matt in action, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 90
*Miles John has driven: 1,601
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

MSHSL Student Media Day With The Minnesota Twins
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/17/2012 11:34:02 AM

If you’ve seen the photo gallery on the MSHSL Facebook page, you already know what took place Saturday at Target Field. The Twins played the Chicago White Sox, with four members of the MSHSL Student Media program watching from the press box.

Actually, three students were in the press box and one was shooting photographs from field level, next to the Twins dugout. Yes indeed, it was an outstanding day.

The students attending the game were (from left to right in this photo) JoNathan Chartrand of Chisago Lakes, Nick Wagner of Ada-Borup, Zach Burnside of White Bear Lake and Jared Rubado of Brainerd. The Twins also provided their parents with tickets to the game at no charge.

Our group gathered at the Target Field media entrance at 10 a.m. – more than two hours before game time – and we were greeted by Chris Iles from the Twins corporate communications department (and a graduate of Eagan High School). After a quick elevator ride down a couple of floors, we were escorted into the Twins clubhouse, where Kent Hrbek was chatting with some of the current Twins.

Next was a private visit with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire in his office. He shook hands with the students and they asked questions; as the discussion went on, the topics ranged from baseball to college football to the military.

After that the students were served a fine pregame meal in the Twins dining room, where they all shook hands with Hall of Fame pitcher and Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven. Then came a trip to the field, where the grounds crew was preparing for the game.

From there the group was escorted to the press box. Like the rest ofTarget Field, the press box is among the finest in all of sports, and we had a great spot from which to watch the game. Although we didn’t stay in the press box the whole time …

That’s because we had other people to meet. The students were taken to the Twins Radio Network booth, where play-by-play announcer Cory Provus read their names and schools on the air. Analyst Dan Gladden handed his headset to JoNathan Chartrand, who sat in Dan’s chair for an inning.

The booth next door is where Twins general manager Terry Ryan watches the games, and that was the next stop. Ryan shook hands with the students, talked about what he looks for when watching baseball and answered questions from them.

After watching the remainder of the game from the press box, the students returned to Gardenhire’s office for his postgame session with the media. As the media members left, the students remained for another private chat with the manager. He asked them, “Did everybody have a good time today?”

The answer was easy. Thanks to the Minnesota Twins for an unforgettable experience.

--The students are writing about their experience, and their stories will be posted here on John's Journal.

--See more photos on the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 80
*Miles John has driven: 1,667
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Lakeville North Football Team Plays Defense, Too
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/15/2012 1:42:34 PM

Lakeville North is known for scoring lots of points, but the Panthers are solid on defense. Click here to read about North's victory over Eastview

A Lesson In DeLaSalle Victory: Always Be Ready
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/14/2012 11:39:13 PM

Reid Travis, the starting quarterback at DeLaSalle, is a physical specimen who stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 240 pounds. The multi-talented junior is being recruited by Division I colleges in both football and basketball.

Billy Hart is a 5-foot-11, 165-pound sophomore backup quarterback for the Islanders. And in DeLaSalle’s wacky and wild 35-28 victory at St. Croix Lutheran on Friday night, guess which quarterback was the hero?

Yes, this was one for the little guy. Hart threw touchdown passes of 70 yards to Aaron Warren and 53 yards to Jareid Combs in the fourth quarter, with the second score clinching the decision between teams ranked No. 1 in Class 4A (DeLaSalle) and No. 1 in 3A (defending state champ St. Croix Lutheran).

The Tri-Metro Conference game in West St. Paul had a little of everything: turnovers, penalties, big plays and key moments. Travis was ejected in the third quarter for throwing a punch after being tackled along the sideline. In stepped Hart, with St. Croix Lutheran leading 20-13.

“We came through with a gutty performance,” Islanders coach Sean McMenomy said. ”Reid getting thrown out kind of fired up the guys, and they said, ‘Hey, we can do it on our own and show what DeLaSalle football is all about. We’ll buckle down and do whatever it takes to win.’ ”

On Hart’s first snap he handed off to Chris Williams, who raced 63 yards for a touchdown. The kick by Andrew Ajaluwa made it 20-20 heading into the fourth quarter. DeLaSalle (3-0) went ahead 27-20 on Hart’s 70-yard hookup with Warren, but the Crusaders (2-1) responded when Lincoln Hochmuth threw to Cody Sticha on a 9-yard fade route; St. Croix went ahead 28-27 when Jackson Goplen ran in the two-point conversion.

The Crusaders stopped DeLaSalle on fourth-and-four and St. Croix had the ball on the Islanders’ 24 with 3:40 left. But then – turnover/big play – the Crusaders fumbled and DeLaSalle recovered. Shortly thereafter, Hart found Combs for the final touchdown of the night, then the same pair connected for the two-point conversion.

Everything was sealed when GeVelve Gandy, who had scored the first touchdown of the game on a 30-yard run, intercepted a Hochmuth pass with 61 ticks remaining.

So Billy Hart, where you nervous?

“Just a little bit,” he said. “But all summer I was in a passing league with these guys.”

Aha, there’s a big piece of the winning formula. While Travis was busy with summer basketball, Hart was the guy running the offense during summer passing league action.

“He’s the one who throws all summer long, so he’s had plenty of reps throwing it and it obviously showed tonight,” McMenomy said. “He’s fearless. He’s our workhorse in JV, he came in and he was fearless tonight.”

Hart said he didn’t see the play that took Travis out of the game.

“No, not really. They said, ‘Just be ready.’ I got the call because they said Reid was out. I just had to step up and be a player.”

And in the the young quarterback’s view, what was the biggest play of the game? Surely he would choose either of his two long scoring passes, right? Wrong.

“It was my first handoff, to Chris, when he scored the touchdown,” Hart said. “That really turned the momentum around.”

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

*Schools/teams John has visited: 80
*Miles John has driven: 1,529
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Winning Is Fun, But The Team Comes First In Shakopee
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/13/2012 8:15:07 PM

The biggest cross-country news of the young season was delivered at last week’s Titan Invitational in Montgomery. The headline: “Maria Hauger Finishes Second.”

This was newsworthy because the Shakopee senior and three-time Class 2A state cross-country champion had not lost in Minnesota since the state meet of her eighth-grade year. The surprise came via talented Blake junior Clare Flanagan, who finished 18 seconds ahead of Hauger in Thursday’s 4,000-meter race. Flanagan is the defending state champion in Class 1A

As I talked with Hauger after the race, she expressed great respect for Flanagan and a knowledge that the season has barely begun. A year earlier in Montgomery – the only race where the two stars (pictured here; Hauger in red) have competed against each other -- Hauger had finished more than a minute ahead of Flanagan. Hauger’s time Thursday was 14 minutes, 13.3 seconds, her slowest in two years.

“She’s really gotten better,” Hauger said of Flanagan. “Whatever she did over the summer, good job.

“It just motivates me more. I’m not slowing down, right now I’m really in the high-mileage stage. Once I start dropping down I think my times will get better.”

But there is more to this story than who reached the finish line when. There’s no doubt that being a successful athlete is important to Hauger, but her role as a teammate is equally as important. Hauger and fellow seniors Alli Lynch and Winona Rachel have been team leaders for years now, since they were eighth-graders and helped Shakopee finish sixth at the Class 2A state championships. The Sabers have finished eighth, 11th and and fourth at state in the last three years.(Pictured, left to right, are Rachel, Hauger and Lynch.)

“We have three seniors and they’re all fabulous,” said coach Mark Neu. “All three were state entrants, all three were on the team when we went to state the first time, the second time, the third time, the fourth time.”

Hauger is the undisputed star, the rarely beaten runner who gets all the publicity. But beyond the headlines, the story of the Shakopee seniors is very special.

“It’s a team,” Neu said. “Team first. That’s our philosophy. Maria’s job is to get that number one finish. And she tries not for herself but for her team. Winona’s job is to beat the No. 2 on the next team, and that’s how they do this.”

In the 24-team girls varsity race in Montgomery, Shakopee won the team title. Hauger finished second, Winona was sixth, eighth-grader Tess Misgen was 10th, Lynch was 24th and junior Alyson Walker was 50th. The Sabers finished one precious point ahead of second-place Prior Lake, so every last step by every runner was important.

“I get emotional about it, but this is a group of three seniors that has done it together,” Neu said. “I say that all the time but it always comes out ‘Maria this and Maria that’ … because she’s one of the best in the state, ever. But it’s a team. Maria has meant a lot to the school, to the city, she’s meant a lot to me. I have the utmost respect for all three of those girls. They never don’t give their all; practice, school, family, friends. I don’t know how they do it.”

During the 2011-12 school year, the Sabers’ top five runners combined for a grade-point average of 3.98.

“They’re not just running, they do it all,” Neu said. “They have given me more than I give them.”

Misgen, the youngest member of the varsity squad as an eighth-grader, said the older girls were instrumental in her decision to try cross-country. Misgen didn’t know who Hauger was until two years ago.

“I saw her once at a basketball game and I decided I wanted to try it and see how good I would do,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was going to be like. And I love having someone to look up to on my team. She tries so hard to do good and I want to be like her and try just as hard, because she gives it her all.

“I like being able to run with someone like that, too, because not very many people get a chance to run with someone on that high level. She always gives advice, and oftentimes I’ll go up to her for even more.”

People watch Hauger and her teammates run and finish strong, but it’s what happens behind the scenes that is a true testament to the Sabers’ team-first attitude.

One more example: The captains traditionally clean the bus when the team returns to Shakopee from competitions. But Hauger, Lynch and Rachel didn’t need to be named captains to take on that responsibility; they’ve been cleaning the bus since they were in eighth grade.

“Maria, Alli and Winona have cleaned that bus every day since the first race,” Neu said. “Maria wins the state championship, she cleans the bus. That’s the kind of kid she is.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 58
*Miles John has driven: 1,609
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Big School, Small Town: Osseo And Nevis Share The Fun
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/12/2012 3:11:19 PM

Before last weekend, it was a pretty safe bet that most of the volleyball players from Osseo High School could not find the town of Nevis on a Minnesota map. But after spending some time in Nevis, the Orioles know all about the community of less than 500 people. Most of all, they know all about “Nevis Nice.”

Osseo High School’s enrollment is close to 2,000 students and Nevis has fewer than 150, so being in Nevis – for much more than a volleyball match – was special for the Orioles. As Osseo coach Bill Quan explained, “Nevis opened its arms and put us first.”

The weekend included both teams coming together for pizza, a hayride, a football game, a bonfire, breakfast and finally a volleyball match.

The Orioles arrived in Nevis – which is east of Detroit Lakes and Park Rapids – Friday afternoon. They held a brief practice before going to their accommodations at the In-We-Go Resort. The teams had pizza together and then everybody climbed aboard a hayride into town. (Nice touch: the tractor pulling the flatbed trailer covered with hay bales was orange; Osseo’s colors are orange and black.)

“All the girls rode on the hayride a few miles into town, through our huge downtown, which only took a few seconds,” said Nevis volleyball coach Stephanie Hanson. The haywagon then circled the football field.

The volleyball teams sat together and watched the football game. They even formed a tunnel for the Nevis Tigers football team to run through before the game and at the start of the second half. They cheered, they laughed, they talked.

“Our girls were missing our school’s biggest football game of the year vs. Maple Grove,” Quan said. “But they talked about how much fun they were having in Nevis and they were getting text updates from our game. They were sure happy they were up in Nevis.”

The trip began taking shape a few years ago when Quan chatted with a man from Nevis at a tournament in Moorhead. That man was Karl Carlson, Hanson’s father. The teams played in Osseo last year, though the Tigers were not able to arrive in time for a lot of pre-match festivities.

Nevis (currently ranked fourth in Class 1A) is a burgeoning volleyball power, placing fifth at the Class 1A state tournament in 2009 and finishing second at state last season. Osseo has been to the 3A state tourney seven times, most recently in 2008.

On Saturday afternoon Nevis defeated the Orioles 3-1, with game scores of 25-23, 24-26, 26-24, 25-16. The junior varsity and ninth-grade teams from both schools also competed against each other.

“I think this year’s Nevis team is better than last year’s,” Quan said. “They’ve got four or five girls who can put the ball down, their defense is much improved and their role players have really stepped it up. They’ve got a lot of tools.”

Quan said the weekend highlight for his players might have been the hayride to and from the football game.

“The girls were singing and talking. As soon as I told the girls there was going to be a hayride to the football game, they were really excited. A lot of them hadn’t done that before. It was a great experience for our girls.”

After the Nevis football team defeated Floodwood 28-6, the volleyball players from both teams got back on the haywagon and returned to the resort. They sat around a bonfire roasting marshmallows and s’mores and sharing stories. On Saturday morning they gathered again for breakfast at the North Wind Café in downtown Nevis. Then came volleyball in the afternoon, followed by goodbye hugs and waves.

Everybody involved went home with wonderful memories, and the Nevis volleyball players went home with something fashionable. Quan gave all of them Osseo volleyball T-shirts … which the Tigers proudly wore to school on Monday.

“It was fun, a great experience,” Hanson said.

Quan said, “Nevis was more than welcoming. It was amazing what they did for us. I think I shook hands with people from the community for about half an hour after the match.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 58
*Miles John has driven: 1,609
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Coaches Association Announces Hall Of Fame Inductees
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/12/2012 10:55:06 AM

The Minnesota State High School Coaches Association is honored to announce its Hall of Fame inductees for 2012.

The seven inductees have accumulated impressive success in the sports they have coached. They have reached a pinnacle of coaching success that ranks them in a very special status and exemplifies the greatness of Minnesota high school coaches.

The 2012 inductees are …
*Carolyn Hummel, Lakefield and Jackson County Central volleyball
*Dave Hylla. Proctor football
Bill Quenette, Moorhead basketball
Buz Rumrill, Glencoe-Silver Lake football
Tom Saterdalen, Bloomington Jefferson boys hockey
Gary Schuler, Warren Alvarado Oslo/Fergus Falls
*Will be inducted posthumously

The coaches will be inducted at the annual Hall of Fame and awards banquet on Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Crown Plaza River Front Hotel in St. Paul. A social hour will start at 5:30 p.m. with the banquet to follow. Family, friends and former players are invited to attend. Tickets may be purchased for $25 by contacting the MSHSCA offices at 218-8947-6796 or Jim Baker at 651-357-2937.

Please join us in celebrating a great honor for these most deserving coaches who exemplified what it means to be called "Coach."

The MSHSCA will also recognize all the 2011-12 championship coaches as well as all Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year winners.

Thinking Back To Eleven Years Ago This Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/11/2012 9:41:10 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High School Sports Can Help The Healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Named To Basketball Coaches Hall Of Fame
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/10/2012 12:18:16 PM

The Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association has named four men who will be inducted into the MBCA Hall of Fame this October. The purpose of the MBCA Hall of Fame is to give special recognition to the people of Minnesota who have made significant contributions to promote high school basketball in the state via their achievements and service.

The 2012 inductees are:
· Franz Boelter – Bethlehem Academy
· Ron Causton – St. Paul Highland Park
· Don Roberts – Simley
· Bruce Young – Long Prairie-Grey Eagle

The induction ceremonies will be held at the MBCA Hall of Fame Luncheon on Sunday, October 28th, 12:00 p.m., at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis.

Franz Boelter became the head boys basketball coach at Bethlehem Academy in 1984 and will begin his 29th season this November at the helm of the Cardinals program. Franz's high school coaching career began as a head basketball coach and assistant volleyball coach at Medford High School in 1978. During his 28-year tenure at Bethlehem Academy, his teams have won 14 Gopher Conference titles and Section Championships in 1993, 1994, 2002, and 2009. His 1993 Cardinals finished as Class A State Runner-Up, and a return trip to the State Tournament the following year netted them a third place finish. Franz is a member of the 500 wins club with an overall record of 580-265. Coach Boelter has multiple Section Coach of the Year awards and was honored as State Class A Coach of the Year in 1993. He also served on the MBCA Executive Board as a Section Representative for over 20 years and is a past MBCA President. In addition to his success on the basketball court, Coach Boelter has also experienced great success on the volleyball court, establishing Bethlehem Academy as one of Minnesota's elite volleyball programs. He has led the Cardinals to five State Championships and four State Runner-Up finishes in the past ten years, as well as being named to the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2008.

Ron Causton spent the first ten years of his coaching career, 1962-72, at Murray H.S. in St. Paul. In an unusual transition in 1966, Causton gave up his head wrestling coach duties and became the head basketball coach at Murray. He led his Murray teams to three conference titles and a 1972 Region Championship and State Tournament appearance. At the conclusion of the 1971-72 school year, he moved to St. Paul Highland Park and promptly guided the Scots to the 1973 St. Paul City title. During his 16 seasons at Highland Park, his squads won four conference titles and earned Region championships resulting in State Tournament appearances in 1975 and 1977. Ron was an active member in the early years of the MBCA and aided in creating the “Hoop Scoop” communication for member coaches. He also served as a member of the Region 4 committee and is a member of the Highland Park and Mancinis’ Halls of Fame. In addition to coaching boys basketball he also coached wrestling, baseball, football, and girls basketball (2 years at Johnson H.S.). Coach Causton retired from coaching with an overall record of 311-172 as a varsity boys basketball coach.

Don Roberts’ coaching career began in 1954 in Lake Crystal, MN. He spent five years coaching in Lake Crystal before he moved to Inver Grove Heights as a math teacher, assistant basketball coach, and defensive coordinator for the football team (a position he held until his retirement). He became the head hoops coach in 1964 and led the Simley program until his retirement in 1987. His 1974 Spartans team won the Region 1 Tournament and finished as consolation champions in that year’s State Tournament. His 1985 squad finished as Section 1 runners-up. Don was also one of the early leaders of the MBCA and like fellow inductee, Coach Causton, was a driving force in the creation and distribution of the Hoop Scoop communication for member coaches. He was also actively involved at the regional and state levels with initiatives promoting and improving basketball. After retirement from Simley, he continued his involvement in sports by serving as an assistant basketball coach and assistant football coach at Bethel College from 1987-1999. Coach Roberts is a member of the Simley High School Athletic Hall of Fame and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Hall of Fame.

Bruce Young has coached boys basketball at Long Prairie/Long Prairie-Grey Eagle H.S. for 20 years and just completed the 33rd season of a coaching career that began at Bellingham H.S. in 1972. He guided teams to seven conference titles and led Long Prairie/LP-GE teams to Section titles and State Tournament appearances in 1991, 1998, 1999, 2001, and 2002. The 1991 Long Prairie State entrants won the consolation championship and the 1998 LP-GE squad battled their way to a State Tournament second place finish. Bruce’s coaching achievements earned him recognition from his peers as the recipient of three Section Coach of the Year awards and honors as the State Class AA Coach of the Year. During his career he has also served as a coach at Round Lake, Baldwin, WI, New Richland, and Braham. After a seven year hiatus from boys basketball, including one year as girls coach, he returned to lead the Thunder program in 2009 and continues in that position today. In addition to coaching basketball, Bruce has coached football and served in the role of Athletic Director. Coach Young is a member of the 500 win club and has compiled an overall record of 506-282.

Park Football’s Reason to Believe
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/8/2012 10:23:26 PM

Park High School ended a lengthy football losing streak in Week One and “We have a full team of believers right now,” said coach Darin Glazier. Click Here to read about the Wolfpack.

Big Plays, Big Turnovers And A Great Night For Football
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/8/2012 12:28:04 AM

While the football teams from Edina and Totino-Grace were warming up Friday night at Totino-Grace in Fridley, T-G coach Jeff Ferguson walked up to me on the sideline, nodded toward the Edina Hornets and said, “Do you notice any tendencies, John?”

This was clearly my chance. After decades of writing about high school football, here was a coach – one who has won multiple state championships and produces top-notch teams year after year – asking me … no, begging me … for advice.

“Oh yes, I definitely see a tendency,” I replied with confidence. “Look at their socks. They don’t match.” The Hornets wore white socks and black socks, high socks and low socks. I discovered this fact by using my highly trained football eye. Glad to help, coach.

Enough joking around. This was an intriguing matchup and the first time Edina and Totino-Grace had met on the football field. The Eagles, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, defeated 6A Edina 15-12 in a game that started out in a slow burn and finished on a high wire. “It was kind of two immovable objects there for a while,” Ferguson said afterwards.

Turnovers made the difference, as is often the case. Midway through the first quarter Edina lost a fumble, and on the next play Totino-Grace quarterback A.J. LaPanta threw 38 yards to Charlie Miller for a touchdown. As the immovable objects went back and forth, Edina’s Patrick Le Corre kicked two 30-yard field goals, making it T-G 7, Edina 6 in the third quarter.

Edina missed another scoring chance late in the third when a long pass on fourth-and-short flicked off the fingers of a receiver. Hornets coach Reed Boltmann rightfully pointed something out to his receiver: “God gave you two hands! Use ‘em!” To which the young man who had not caught the football yelled back as he stretched one hand outward, “It was way the (expletive) out here!”

Edina kept pounding the rock and finally took the lead with 7:29 left in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Mark Handberg, who was chased by the Totino-Grace defense all evening, broke free from a tackle and threw 19 yards to the end zone, where Marly Allison made a nice catch and got his feet in before falling out. It was Edina 12, Totino-Grace 7.

After Totino-Grace lost a fumble, Edina returned the turnover favor when the Eagles’ Michael Waters intercepted a Handberg pass at the Edina 33. A few plays later, Kai Barber rushed up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown, LaPanta threw to Mason Kaliszewski for the two-point conversion and Totino-Grace was back on top, 15-12, with 3:44 to go.

The sealant was applied was with 67 seconds remaining when Eagles sophomore Ben Mezzenga picked off a Handberg pass. Game, set, match.

Boltmann told his players that they had let the Eagles off the hook.

“I thought we did,” he said. “I thought we had the second half in hand there after we pick up the fumble. But we don’t get a play in in time and then we fumbled the ball, an interception and it kind of took the wind out of our sails.

“I thought we did enough to give ourselves a chance. There were some woulda, coulda, shouldas in that game. But they made the plays when they needed to and we didn’t. We’ve got to find a way to finish and that’s why we practice every day.”

The interceptions by Waters and Mezzenga seemed a little unlikely before the game began. Waters is a backup who was filling in for a missing teammate and Mezzenga had been sick all week with a virus and muscle aches.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” Ferguson said. “We had some guys that were out and not playing and some guys that stepped up big. Michael Waters made a big interception and Ben Mezzenga didn’t practice this week. He comes back today and got a big interception. It was a total team effort.”

Totino-Grace improved to 2-0 after beating Coon Rapids 48-6 last week. The Eagles are a new team in the Northwest Suburban Conference this season, moving from the North Suburban.

Edina, which is in the new Class 6A, is 2-1. The Hornets opened with a Zero Week contest, defeating Holy Angels 28-14 and a week ago the Hornets beat Andover 24-23 after trailing 14-0 in the first quarter. Edina was on the cusp of the 6A top 10 this week, falling a few votes short of the No. 10 spot.

No matter the rankings or the outcome, Totino-Grace is a wonderful place to watch a football game. The facilities are great, the Eagles students are loud and proud, the home stands were filled to overflowing and hundreds of folks stood around the fence that circles the field. The weather was perfect, too.

Both teams face tough tests next week, with Totino-Grace going to Anoka (2-0) and Edina hosting Lakeville South (1-1).

If the coaches need any advice about the opponents’ socks, I’m here to help.

--Photos from the game can be seen on the MSHSL Faceboo page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 58
*Miles John has driven: 1,307
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

A Special Moment As Two Teams Come Together
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/7/2012 10:11:39 AM

There was a very special moment Thursday after a volleyball match between Byron and Kasson-Mantorville.

On Tuesday, 17-year-old Byron senior Deianerah “Deej” J. Logan lost her life in an automobile accident. At the end of Thursday’s volleyball game, the players from Byron and Kasson-Mantorville came together and shared a moment in prayer for DeeJ and her family.

It was a very touching moment to see two big rivals come together and support each other at such a difficult time.

--This item and photo have been posted on the MSHSL Facebook page, eliciting a tremendous response. Go to MSHSL on Facebook.

Familiar Names Atop Football Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/5/2012 10:50:57 PM

The No. 1 teams in the Associated Press high school football rankings are Eden Prairie in Class 6A, Totino-Grace in 5A, DeLaSalle in 4A, St. Croix Lutheran in 3A, Caledonia in 2A, Dawson-Boyd in 1A and Edgerton-Ellsworth in Nine-Man.

Eden Prairie, St. Croix Lutheran, Caledonia, Dawson-Boyd and Edgerton-Ellsworth all claimed state championships last season.

To see all the rankings in all classes, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

Dream Weaver: Hall Of Fame Coach Is Back In Action
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/5/2012 3:39:11 PM

When a team, any team, goes through three head coaches in three years, it’s usually a bad sign. That kind of turnover often means there is turmoil afoot.

At Lakeville North, where the volleyball program has its third head coach in as many years, that is not the case. Milan Mader coached the Panthers for 35 years and retired after winning the Class 3A state championship in 2010. His successor in 2011 was Steve Willingham, a longtime assistant to Mader who led the team to the state title match and a narrow loss to Eden Prairie. Willingham then moved across town to become the head coach at Lakeville South.

When Walt Weaver -- who spent 31 years at Apple Valley, took 13 teams to state, won two state championships and was among the original inductees into the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1996 -- came out of retirement to direct the Panthers this season, it seemed too good to be true.

“At first I didn’t believe it,” said Lakeville North junior outside hitter Alyssa Goehner. “When I found out he was our head coach, I almost cried.”

Goehner -- who was named the best sophomore player in the nation last season by prepvolleyball.com -- already was familiar with Weaver. As a coach in the Northern Lights program he has worked with many of the top players in Minnesota, including Goehner. Before she was even in high school, Weaver helped her develop into one of the most intimidating hitters in the nation.

“He worked with me three years ago, every Wednesday out of his own time,” she said. “He would put me on a box and do reps after reps after reps. I can tell you he’s the reason why I get 25 kills a match (as she did Tuesday in a 3-1 victory at Owatonna). He’s the reason for everything.”

Lakeville North improved to 2-0 this season with its victory at Owatonna. Owatonna sophomore setter Kaylea Ahrens, who played for Weaver in the Northern Lights program, described him as “very technical in the way he does things. In practice he makes sure everything is perfect. He’s calm and he’s a great coach.”

The Lakeville North job seemed like a natural fit for Weaver, who has lived in Lakeville for 25 years and had two daughters play volleyball for the Panthers. Walt and Tracey Weaver’s youngest child, Cassie, is a junior volleyball player at Concordia University in St. Paul; the Golden Bears have won the last five NCAA Division II national championships. Their daughter Lindsey, who played at Luther College in Iowa and graduated last spring, is now teaching in Japan.

Without the juggling that was involved in watching two daughters play college volleyball in two states, Weaver had enough time to devote to coaching at Lakeville North.

“When they asked, I was honored to take the job,” he said. “I’m having fun doing it. The team is a phenomenal group of kids, so that part is fun. There are high expectations from everybody; the community and the administration and the players. They’re a group that has a lot of experience.”

Weaver is not a demonstrative coach. He stands quietly on the sideline during matches, offering advice and support to his players.

“He’s not the sort of coach who’s yelling, he’s more like that calm presence,” said Goehner (No. 4 in photo at left). “He doesn’t give out many high fives, so when you get a high five from Walt, it’s like ‘Oh my gosh.’ Or when you see his little chuckle from the side, you know you’ve done something right.”

With a smile, Weaver explains it like this: He has the best view in the gym.

“I figured the best deal about this for me is I have the best seat. I can sit here and watch. I don’t have to buy a ticket and I can stand right on the court and nobody yells at me and I can see the whole thing.”

Lakeville North will carry the No. 1 ranking in Class 3A into this weekend’s Molten Southwest Minnesota Challenge tournament in Marshall. With many of the state’s top teams in all classes in the field, the results should offer a glimpse into what the rest of the season may hold.

Goehner says the Panthers’ goals are clear.

“Probably our main goal is to get better as a team,” she said. “It’s not about the 10 individuals. It’s working together on and off the court. If we can play as a team throughout this whole year and work together, hopefully we can get another state championship.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 25
*Miles John has driven: 1,224
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Old Dutch Student-Athlete of the Week: Wayzata's Connor Olson
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/5/2012 8:35:04 AM

Connor Olson, a sophomore cross-country runner at Wayzata, was the individual champion at Saturday's prestigious Columbus Invitational in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Running against top competition from Minnesota and Wisconsin, Olson's victory came by a razor-thin margin over Stillwater senior and then-top-ranked Minnesota runner Wayde Hall. Olson's time was 15 minutes, 34.9 seconds with Hall finishing in 15:35.0.

Connor paced Wayzata to the team championship, with Stillwater a close second. In this week's 2A rankings, Olson rose from No. 5 to No. 1.

As the inaugural recipient of the Old Dutch High School Student Athlete of the Week award, Olson was recognized on WCCO-AM 830 Tuesday evening during the “Sports To The Max” show with Mike Max and Wednesday morning during “The WCCO Morning News With Dave Lee.”

Nominations for the award close each Monday at noon; athletes can be nominated by sending an email to MSHSL media specialist John Millea at jmillea@mshsl.org

Nominations should include the following … --Student’s name, school and grade. --Athletic accomplishments during the past week. Please offer detailed statistics. --Information about the student’s academics and/or community involvement. --If possible, include a phone number where the student can be reached (student’s cell phone is best) and a school photo of the student (the type of photo used in school yearbooks or graduation photos).

Two Years After Tornado, Wadena-Deer Creek Celebrates New Beginning
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/4/2012 11:05:02 AM

WADENA – When the Wadena-Deer Creek volleyball team played its first home match of the season last week, it really didn’t feel like a home match. This was understandable, since the Wolverines had only practiced in their new gym twice and had never competed there.

The key word in Wadena is “new.” As in brand new. Shiny new. Spectacularly new.

We all remember June 17, 2010, when an F4 tornado roared through Wadena. It was a miracle that no one was killed, but the devastation was centered on the high school and surrounding area. The school was flattened. Between that day and now, a transformation has occurred, with a new middle/high school now completed and ready for this week … the first week of a new school year and the first week that everybody can finally put the tornado behind them.

“If you go around town, there are not really a lot of signs left that something like that happened,” said volleyball coach Sue Volkmann. “It’s pretty much cleaned up and back to Wadena again. This is kind of the final phase, because everybody’s school is the centerpiece of their community.”

This centerpiece is a model for a modern school: lots of sunlight streaming through large windows, geothermal heating and cooling, 41 high-tech classrooms, terrazzo flooring and lots of other fabulous touches.

A couple hours before the Wolverines opened the volleyball season against Moorhead on Thursday, a workman was installing the number “600” above the school’s main entrance, signifying the address on Colfax Avenue Southwest. Another was attaching a sign outside an office suite that said “Administration.”

For the last two years, school officials, staff and students made do with what they had. High school classes were held at Minnesota State Community and Technical College and Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School. It was an awkward and crowded situation, where an elementary classroom has been turned into a weight room and wrestling mats, boxes of textbooks and other supplies lined the hallways.

The volleyball team played its home matches in the gym at the elementary school, with fans sitting on folding chairs for part of the season before bleachers were installed.

“We adjusted and everybody was very flexible, we did the best we could and got everything going,” activities director Norm Gallant told me as we stood in the new school. “Fifteen months ago this was a flat, gravel lot and now we’re in the building and it’s been an unbelievable process.

“Our coaches and our kids just did a super job,” said Gallant, who began his job as activites director two days before the tornado struck. “We had what we had and we made the best of it. We had a couple of really good years.”

The new school, paid for mainly by insurance with additional money coming from FEMA, includes a community safe room; it is in essence an auxiliary gymnasium with extremely thick walls designed to withstand winds up to 275 miles per hour.

As fans entered the school for Thursday’s volleyball match, they saw a few minor final touches that had not yet been completed. Handmade signs marked restrooms, concession stand workers were figuring out new equipment, a workman was fine-tuning a drinking fountain, some new chairs for the cafeteria/commons area were still partially wrapped in plastic.

The volleyball team was finally playing in its new gym and using its new locker room. That was no small victory, because in the elementary school the volleyball team had used a choir room as its locker room.

When I asked the team captains about their new locker room, Sydney Schissel said happily, “There’s a bathroom.” Caitlin Volkmann said, “We have lockers and mirrors.” To which Schissel added, “And no piano.”

I can’t speak for the girls locker room, but the gym is spectacular. The floor consists of more than 14,000 two-inch maple strips pieced together, and the floor is surrounded by 1,284 blue bleacher seats, 20 basketball hoops and a running track circling the space above the seats. Banners marking achievements of Wolverines teams and athletes through the years hang from the walls, adding history to the new space.

“The gymnasium turned out better than I ever could have imagined,” Gallant said. “It is absolutely georgeous. Everything is very modern and clean, basically the way we wanted it.”

For the volleyball team – which is ranked sixth in Class 2A and defeated Class 3A Moorhead 3-1 – just having a new home is special.

“It’s awesome. It’s ours, finally,” said Emily Miron. “It doesn’t seem real, almost. Just being here, it’s almost not like a home game yet. But pretty soon we’ll get used to it.”

Schissel called it “unreal. It’s unbelievable, thinking back to everything we went through. It’s crazy to be here now. It’s exciting.”

The Wolverines have played in the last four state volleyball tournaments, winning the 2A championship two years ago. The goal of this year’s team – which lost only two seniors from the 2011 squad – is to make it five consecutive trips to state.

Miron summed up the feelings of everyone at Wadena-Deer Creek when she said, “I think it’s going to be a really great year.”

And that sentiment goes far beyond volleyball.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 23
*Miles John has driven: 1,126
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Hangin’ In The Pit At Eagan High School On A Friday Night
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/1/2012 6:57:05 PM

Click here to read about the Prior Lake-Eagan football game and go inside The Pit, Eagan's student cheering section.

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