John's Journal
Richie Olson, Coach Of 1960 Edgerton Basketball Team, Has Died9/6/2013
The architect of Edgerton’s historic 1960 one-class state boys basketball title, coach Richie Olson of Virginia, Minn., died Thursday from injuries he suffered in a fall last week north of Virginia, his brother, Floyd, told the Duluth News Tribune. Olson was placed on a respirator and never recovered. He was 76.

Olson was only 23 years old when he was hired to coach the Flying Dutchmen before the 1959-60 season.

Read more about Olson's death by clicking here.
Hurry Up: Dimke Sets The Pace For Blaine Volleyball Team 9/4/2013
Lydia Dimke is in a hurry. The Blaine High School senior volleyball star is in a hurry to get to the net, where she smacks and blocks the ball with authority. She is in a hurry to get under a pass and set the ball for her teammates to pound. She is in a hurry to get into position to dig the ball, after which she often is at the net for a kill.

The 6-foot-2 Dimke did all that and more Tuesday night at Minnetonka, where the Bengals defeated the Skippers 28-26, 25-22, 25-22 in a non-conference matchup of top 10 teams. Blaine (2-0), which finished third at the state tournament last season, is No. 3 in this week’s Class 3A rankings. The top two are defending state champ Lakeville North and Chaska. Minnetonka is No. 6.

Dimke (pictured) finished Tuesday’s match with 14 kills, 17 assists and eight digs. Her final season of high school volleyball will end shortly before her high school days, because she will graduate early. If all goes well, the Bengals will play their final matches of the season in the Nov. 7-9 state tournament at Xcel Energy Center, and Dimke’s final day of high school will be Nov. 26.

Having committed to play volleyball at Purdue University, she will begin classes there in January. Yes, she’s in a hurry.

“I had to take a few online classes just to make sure I get all the credits done,” she said with a smile. “Other than that, it’s easy. Just don’t fail.”

Tuesday was also Lydia’s final first day of school at Blaine, which she admitted was kind of weird.

“I’ve never really been the oldest and I’ve always looked up to people,” she said. “But it’s kind of rewarding knowing that the younger kids look up to you now. It’s kind of cool.”

Lydia has always looked up to her sister Sydney, who is a 5-11 sophomore volleyball player at the University of South Dakota. Lydia now is one of 10 seniors on the Blaine team, but the roster is a mix of experience and newcomers; eight of the 14 varsity players did not see action in last year’s state tournament.

“Many of our kids in key spots are new and aren’t very experienced, and they’re really showing great poise,” Bengals coach Celeste Gorman said. “Honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised by the level of ball that they’re playing, I really am. The mental toughness is definitely key for this team.”

The Bengals have plenty of size, with 6-1 senior Jessica Jorgensen, 6-foot senior Brooke Christenson and 5-11 junior Taylor Morgan at the net. Jorgensen and Morgan each had six kills against Minnetonka, defensive specialist Ellen Anderson had 15 digs and setter Rebecca Hawkins had nine digs.

For the Skippers (6-2), 6-1 senior Hannah Weidner (13 kills), 5-9 senior Mikaela Purnell (11) and 5-10 junior Caroline Shelquist (10) led the attack. Ninth-grader setter Isabelle Aragon-Menzel had 33 assists and senior Laura Herman finished with 21 digs.

Tuesday’s match could have gone differently if not for the Bengals’ ability to close out a very close first game. Minnetonka held a 24-21 lead after a kill by Purnell and had three game points, but Blaine rallied in a game that had 15 ties and six lead changes.

“Game one could have gone either way and I thought Blaine played great at the end,” said Skippers coach Karl Katzenberger. “Plain and simple, I think both teams are state tournament teams and I think Blaine deserved to win tonight because they played better.”

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

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 24
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 1,368
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn
Congratulations To 2013 Hall Of Fame Inductees9/4/2013
Several high school Halls of Fame have announced their upcoming inductees, and here’s a rundown…

--The Minnesota State High School Coaches Association will induct six individuals into its Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Crown Plaza Riverfront Hotel in St. Paul.

The inductees are:
--Matt Shetka, New Prague, Girls Golf and Gynmastics
--David Barnum, Crookston, Track and Field
--Sandra Boss, Owatonna, Gymnastics and Track and Field
--Bill Bauman, North Branch, Boys Basketball
--Robert Stewart, Mounds View, Cross Country/Track and Field
--Milan Mader, Lakeville North, Volleyball and Gymnastics


--The Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association has named four men who will be inducted into the MBCA Hall of Fame. The induction ceremonies will be held Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis.

The inductees are:
--Laurin Carroll, Luverne
--Vern Johnson, Grygla-Gatzke
--Ken Novak Jr., Hopkins
--Bob Vaughan, Braham


--The Minnesota Girls Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame will induct eight individuals Oct. 11 at the Schwan Center in Blaine.

The inductees are:
--Dave Palmquist, South St. Paul
-- Chuck Scanlon, Apple Valley
-- Tim Morris, Eden Prairie
--Bob May, pioneer
--Jane Ring, pioneer
--Tom Maeckelbergh, pioneer
--Charlie Stryker, SPA/Visitation
--Brano Stankovsky, Blake

Congratulations to all!
Football Friday: Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Takes A Big BOLD Step8/31/2013
GROVE CITY – Falcon Field, home of the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City football team, was a pretty peaceful place when I pulled into the parking lot late Friday afternoon. The only sound was music being played over the first-rate stadium sound system, advising listeners to do the Macarena. The next tune was “Fishin’ in the Dark.” Two ACGC cheerleaders walked nearby, one of them barefoot, and they were singing along and smiling as they sang together.

There were many more hometown smiles to come as the evening went on. This was Week 1 of the football season, and the opponent was BOLD (as in Bird Island, Olivia, Lake Lillian District). The ACGC and BOLD school districts are neighbors, so people on both sides of Falcon Field have friends and relatives on the other side.

You can be sure that the BOLD Warriors fans had been reminding their Falcon friends about what took place in last season’s first game: BOLD 34, ACGC 0. The Warriors went on to have an exquisite season, getting to the Class 2A state semifinals before suffering their only loss in a two-point game to eventual state champion Caledonia.

Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City rebounded nicely from that opening rout, putting together a 9-3 season and falling to eventual 1A state champ Mahnomen in the state semifinals. So as the fans arrived at Falcon Field – ACGCers sitting on the home-side bleachers in front of a roomy three-story press box and BOLDers strolling around the track to the opposite side – memories of the Metrodome (and hopes for another trip in November) were fresh.

And, oh, what a setting for a football game. Cornstalks rise behind the visitors sideline, as does an old grain silo in the distance. Until the sun set, the BOLD fans had to shield their eyes from the brightness, but after dark it was perfect. It’s that kind of scenery, coupled with enthusiastic fans and hard-working athletes, that make small-town football in Minnesota so special.

Surely it’s early, but this may have been the game of the year in the West Central Conference. The league’s coaches had predicted that BOLD (with eight returning starters on offense) and ACGC (six starters back on offense and five on defense) would finish as the top two in the conference, so there was definitely something on the line.

And then the game began like this: BOLD lost a fumble on its second play from scrimmage; ACGC lost a fumble on its first play; BOLD lost a fumble on the first play of its second possession; ACGC fell short on fourth down; BOLD lost another fumble. A theme had, uh, been set. By the end of the game, the Warriors had fumbled the ball six times and lost five of those boo-boos.

The Warriors – whose roster is peppered with boys who played on the 1A state championship baseball team last spring – had six possessions in the first half, ending with four fumbles, an interception, a 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Trent Athmann and a 21-yard field goal by Nick Kubesh.

Early on, ACGC seemingly had trouble adjusting to the Warriors’ strategy of “Here, take the ball, please.” But by halftime the Falcons had done enough to grab control of the game. After one of those BOLD fumbles, Alex Pankratz sprinted around the right side for a five-yard score, and after the next BOLD giveaway, Maverick Whitcomb scored from five yards. A short TD pass from Derek Dengerud to Mitchel Macik gave the Falcons a 21-10 halftime lead.

(We interrupt this game report for a culinary review: There is a heck of meal served at halftime on the second floor of the press box in Grove City. The officials and workers – plus a lucky visiting scribe – filled paper plates with pork sandwiches, pickles, chips and fun size candy bars. And don’t even get me started on the soft-serve ice cream in the concession stand.)

The second half was dominated by ACGC, particularly by David Kinzler. He returned a blocked field goal 64 yards for a touchdown and caught an 86-yard pass from Dengerud for the Falcons’ final points. Dengerud also threw to Taylor Larson for a 37-yard touchdown. Final score: ACGC 41, BOLD 16.

The postgame numericals were pretty even. ACGC had 10 first downs to BOLD’s nine, and BOLD rushed for 190 yards to 108 for ACGC. But those five lost fumbles for the Warriors made things too easy for the hometown team.

In a postgame debriefing, ACGC coach Terry Karlsgodt remembered some key specifics about last year’s big loss to the Warriors.

“We threw five interceptions,” he said. “We came out in that game and we thought we were going to be some kind of pro-style passing offense. The next week, we went back and I think maybe we threw twice.”

That’s been the tradition at Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City: Throw the ball a handful of times but move it mostly on the ground behind strong, mobile linemen. The Falcons don’t do any football-specific training in the summer, much less take part in any passing leagues.

“We don’t pass, anyway,” Karlsgodt said with a chuckle, “so what would we do at a passing league?”

Karlsgodt has seen a lot in his 39 years coaching the Falcons. And his experience doesn’t even rank at the top of the staff because his three paid assistants are no rookies, either. Doug Torgerson has been on staff for 43 years, Jeff Tanner for 36 and Mike Maurer for 29. That’s a total of 147 years of experience among those four coaches. And among the nine men who are volunteer coaches, Michael Bolton has been doing it for 18 years. Heck, even team videographer Bernie Pelstring has been on the job for two decades.

Friday’s victory by the Falcons ended a four-year losing streak against BOLD.

“They seemed to kind of have our number,” Karlsgodt said. “Normally we have a hard time going up and down the field like we did tonight. It was a wild game. But we talk about these home run plays. We score and right away they come back; that’s what happened to us so many times when we play these guys. But we came up with some big home runs of our own tonight, which really was important for our confidence when you’re playing a team that you’ve had kind of the worst of it.”

Sometimes, however, the worst of it strolls around to the other side of the field.

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

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 22
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 1,308
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn
Week 1 Football: Hutchinson, Becker, Overtime And Lots Of Fun8/30/2013
HUTCHINSON – On a glorious opening night of the football season, the most difficult moment Thursday evening – at least for the spectators -- might have been the national anthem. The Hutchinson band played a stellar version, but the sun was parked low in the sky, directly behind the American flag at S.R. Knutson Field. A few thousand people can be excused for squinting.

The hardest part of the night for the football players from Becker and Hutchinson was twofold: Dealing with the heat and dealing with each other. The non-conference game was not an exercise in precision, with turnovers and dropped footballs abounding, and by end of the night Hutchinson had earned a 16-13 victory in overtime. Oh yes, the heat ... and another word that starts with H.

Hutch assistant coach David Larson told the Tigers in their postgame gathering, “Maybe you didn’t believe us about hydration. You do now.”

I considered Thursday’s game the No. 1 event of Week 1. Hutchinson is coming off a Class 4A state championship, which included a 28-24 victory over Becker in the state semifinals at the Metrodome.

The Title Town excitement in Hutch is something to see. Students were tailgating in the parking lot, they stood as one in the stands throughout the game, all wearing black, the band was fantastic, railbirds watched from the fence that circles the field. There is a burgeoning effort to install artificial turf, more bleachers and a new press box at the historic old football grounds before next season, and this kind of excitement means striking while the iron is hot.

There was one odd sight when the teams came out to warm up. Becker was wearing its blue uniforms, which it normally wears for home games. Seemed strange, and there were several explanations ... from the Hutch faithful.

Possibility No. 1: Becker coach Dwight Lundeen wanted Hutch to wear their white jerseys so it would be harder to disguise the football’s whereabouts from the Bulldogs.

Possibility No. 2: Lundeen is superstitious and when his team loses he doesn’t want to wear the same color in the next game, even if it’s a season later.

Possibility No. 3: Becker has ordered new white jerseys but they hadn’t all been delivered in time for Thursday’s game.

When I interrogated Lundeen -- who is the only head coach Becker has known since the football program began in 1970 – about the Great Uniform Mystery, his statement was that not all the white jerseys had arrived, and the old white jerseys didn’t match the pants the Bulldogs were wearing. Case closed, I think.

Both teams are different this year, particularly at quarterback. Hutchinson’s new QB is junior Marcus Hahn, who threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Juergensen on Thursday and did the placekicking. The Bulldogs used senior Zach Zimmer, junior Michael Veldman and sophomore Andrew Stanger at quarterback.

But there were some similarities to last year’s state semifinal game, especially in Hutch running back Tory Adams. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior carried 18 times for 147 yards vs. Becker last year, and on Thursday he ran 20 times for 140 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown to cap the game’s opening drive.

Becker trailed 7-0 before it had touched the ball, and it appeared that the Tigers had set a firm tone with the impressive 60-yard drive. But no. The Bulldogs defense firmed up, the Hutch defense did the same and the contest turned into a hot-weather game of attrition.

Several times, Hutch running back Robbie Grimsley (who wears No. 5 and therefore is called RG5), left the game with leg cramps. But RG5 never stopped coming back in, a testament to the toughness on both teams.

After Stanger intercepted a pass deep in Becker territory in the second quarter, he finished the ensuing drive by throwing – on fourth down from the 5 -- a touchdown pass to Eric Blomgren to make it a 7-7 game.

At halftime, Lundeen – who ranks third on the state’s career victory list – told his team, “That was a pretty good first half. We’re not questioning your effort, but we have to take care of the ball better … the ball’s a little slippery and so are your arms. Hang on to it tight.”

The Bulldogs’ defensive plan for the second half was to shut down Hutch’s running game and make Hahn throw. The first part of that formula never came to fruition; Hahn attempted only eight passes all night, completing four and being picked off three times.

Each team scored a fourth-quarter touchdown, with Hahn throwing to Juergensen and Stanger throwing to Blomgren again. And both teams missed the extra-point kicks after those scores, sending the thing to overtime with a 13-13 tie.

Hutch had the first possession, getting four plays from the 10-yard line. They went like this: RG5 ran for 5, fumbled handoff (loss of a yard), fumbled snap ( loss of two yards), field goal by Hahn.

Becker’s overtime script: Bobby Lee run loses a yard, incomplete pass thrown by running back Josh Nohner, pass to Blomgren moves the ball to the 8 … and on the final play of the game, a pass was intercepted by Hutch’s Adam Elliott.

Thus ended two hours and 30 minutes of sweat, emotion, great plays, sloppy plays, excitement and fun.

“You hung in there and you hung in there,” Hutchinson coach Andy Rostberg said to his players as they took a knee in an end zone. Now, tomorrow …”

Yes, tomorrow. There are a whole bunch of tomorrows to come. The season has just begun. In grand style.

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

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 20
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 1,088
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn