John's Journal
A Gatorade Bath, Sweet Caroline And Some Football History11/4/2011
After the Prior Lake marching band played pregame music by John Philip Sousa and halftime tunes by Michael Buble, after the home crowd sang and swayed to “Sweet Caroline” and after Lakers football coach Matt Gegenheimer had been drenched with Gatorade, the party was well under way.

This was a party of historic proportions, too. Until the completion of Friday night’s 27-7 victory over Eastview in the Class 5A Section 3 title game, Prior Lake had never qualified for the state football playoffs. In the postgame glow, I asked the soaking-wet Gegenheimer a simple question: Can you explain how this feels?

“When you start coaching you have a vision of something, and this is what it is,” he said. “I’m truly happy for these kids. When they always tell you you’ve got a special group of kids, you know it. And that’s what’s happened with these guys.”

Gegenheimer has been coaching the Lakers for six years, and the process of building a program to this level is not easy or quick. The goal from the very beginning is to get to state, and the Lakers will now meet Totino-Grace in the state quarterfinals next Friday inside the Metrodome at 8 p.m.

“It’s a process is what it is,” Gegenhemer said. “The first couple of years it’s getting everything in line with boosters and youth programs. Our strength program, we really took that over and that’s kind of the biggest thing that’s made a difference in our program, the weight training and the strength of our kids.”

The Lakers (8-3) were indeed strong against Eastview (5-6) in a game between South Suburban Conference teams that did not meet in the regular season; Prior Lake finished third in the conference and Eastview was seventh.

Eastview had been a surprise team of the postseason. After a 3-5 regular season, the Lightning (seeded fourth in the section playoffs) defeated Burnsville and Rosemount in the postseason; last week’s 49-13 thumping of top-seeded Rosemount was an eye-opener. Second-seeded Prior Lake was 5-3 in the regular season, losing to Wayzata, Rosemount and Lakeville North. The Lakers beat Bloomington Jefferson and Bloomington Kennedy to reach the section final.

The Lakers’ victory Friday was methodical. They were stopped by Eastview at the 1-yard line early in the game, and in the second quarter a 26-yard run by Jack Johnson and a 30-yard pass from Nick Rooney to Nick Hart moved the ball to the Lightning 5. Johnson scored from the 1 to put the Lakers ahead 7-0.

Eastview tied it 7-7 with 63 seconds to go in the first half when Ryan Reger threw a short pass to Amari Kennedy and Kennedy turned it into a 55-yard score.

After stopping Eastview on downs at the Prior Lake 16 early in the third quarter, the Lakers pulled ahead 13-7 on a 38-yard run by Arends. Jack Kaiser scored on a 10-yard run early in the fourth period for a 21-7 score and the verdict was sealed for good when Rose ran into the end zone from 1 yard with 5:46 to play.

Gegenheimer was dumped with Gatorade in the final minutes, and after the clock ran out the teams shook hands and lined up for the presentation of section championship and runner-up trophies. This was a formal affair … until the winner’s trophy was handed to the Prior Lake captains. That’s when the Lakers students exited the grandstand and stormed the field. It was wonderful fun. (You can see postgame video and a photo gallery at the MSHSL Facebook page.)

Friday was a grand evening for outdoor football; in fact it was my last outdoor football game of the season. Having witnessed 17 football games this fall, I will be inside the Metrodome for next Friday’s 5A quarterfinal doubleheader. The first game, at 5 p.m, will be between Cretin-Derham Hall and Lakeville North, followed by Prior Lake vs. Totino-Grace.

But first, we have some other activities to enjoy. The state cross-country championships will be held Saturday in Northfield and the state volleyball tournament will begins its three-day run at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.

How much fun is this?

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 123
*Miles John has driven: 4,744
*Diet Coke Count: 1 for the day, 23 for the fall tournaments

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Soccer Champions Are Crowned In The Metrodome11/3/2011
Thursday was Championship Soccer Day at the Metrodome, where four state titles were decided. All four games were close and well-played as the Benilde-St. Margaret’s boys (Class 1A), Blake girls (1A), Eden Prairie boys (2A) and Wayzata girls (2A) captured gold.

Two scenes stood out for me Thursday. One was Eastview boys coach Scott Gustafson (right) breaking with tradition ever so slightly during the postgame presentation of medals and trophies. Gustafson shook the hand of every Eden Prairie player, manager and coach after they received their medals. That was a very genuine gesture of sportsmanship.

The other scene has to be witnessed to be believed. Go to the MSHSL Facebook page and watch the video of Benilde-St. Margaret’s Haley Jerabek executing a throw-in. In most cases, players simply stand on the sideline and throw the ball with two hands. But not Haley. As the ball sits on the turf, she runs toward it and performs a flip; she grabs the ball as her hands swing down, then flicks it high in the air as she plants her feet. It is way cool.

Here are the game reports …

1A BOYS/ BENILDE-ST. MARGARET’S 3, PRAIRIE SEEDS ACADEMY 1

The Red Knights (19-3-1) capped off a championship season by handing Prairie Seeds its first loss of the season. The defending state champion Lycans finished with a 19-1-2 record.

Jake Horton gave Benilde-St. Margaret’s a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute and Prairie Seeds’ Carlos Boquin – who missed the state quarterfinals and semifinals because of eligibility issues – tied the score in the 14th minute. Second-half goals by Carter Eckerline and John Mulvahill secured the victory for the Red Knights. Winning goalkeeper Kevin Lebahn made seven saves and the Lycans’ Betzabet Valle stopped three shots.

There were 26 fouls on each team and Prairie Seeds’ Ibrahim Keita was red-carded in the 78th minute.

The quote/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s goalkeeper Kevin Lebahn: “They have a lot of talented players. Our defense was great.”

All-tournament team/ Jake Collins, Mankato West; Julian Garcia-Delaney, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton; Hayden Speaks, Sartell-St. Stephen; Ben Braman, St. Paul Academy and Summit School; Will Elder, Jack Convery, James Armstead, Rochester Lourdes; John Mulvahill, Brendan Schember, Paul Graupner, Jake Horton, Benilde-St. Margaret’s; Oscar Cendejas, Ismaila Jome, Adama Keita, Roberto Dominguea, Prairie Seeds Academy.

1A GIRLS/ BLAKE 1, BENILDE-ST. MARGARET’S 0

Grace Boatman scored with an assist by Hannah Randolph in the final minute of the first half to life the Bears (21-1-0) past Benilde-St. Margaret’s (18-1-3). The Red Knights outshot Blake 10-7, including 6-3 in the first half, but couldn’t get past Bears keeper Maddy Crawford. She made four saves and Benilde keeper Mikayla Coulombe had five saves.

The quote/ Blake coach Paul Menge: “We try to run our forwards across the field rather than straight up and down to create things for their defense to think about. And I think basically what you saw was Grace coming across on a diagonal and we played it over to her. We practice switching and crossing the ball a lot, and it paid off.”

All-tournament team/ Chloe Bachman, St. Peter; Marissa Ricci, South St. Paul; Caitlin Lilly, Esko/Carlton; Stina Haave, Bemidji; Hannah Anderson, Meredith Rolfs, Rochester Lourdes; Abigail Welle, Jennifer Nickasch, Totino-Grace; Mikayla Coulombe, Dana Buckhorn, Peggy Renier, Kelly Pannek, Benilde-St. Margaret’s; Nicole Kozlak, Korlekuor Akiti, Grace Boatman, Lydia Sutton, Blake.

2A BOYS/ EDEN PRAIRIE 3, EASTVIEW 1

Eden Prairie led 1-0 into the late stages of the game before tacking on two quick goals and handing Eastview its first loss of the season. Medo Youssef put the Eagles (16-3-3) on the board in the fourth minute and the score remained 1-0 until Natalio Blanche and Michael Vuolo scored less than a minute apart in the final minutes. Mathew Gweh scored for the Lightning (20-1-1) in the final minute.

Eden Prairie outshot Eastview 17-7 and Eagles keeper Alex Dewey made just one save behind a solid defense. Eastview goalkeeper Sam Rueles made three stops.

The quote/ Eden Prairie’s Medo Youssef: “I think I did pretty good in the middle, just controlling the field and everything. Last week I didn’t control the midfield in the second half very well, so I had to come back and help my team win today.”

All-tournament team/ Derek Herman, Rochester Mayo; Julian Ocampo, North St. Paul; Jason Scheeler, Blaine; Connor Iverson, Anoka; Pat Enright, Alex Niederloch, Maple Grove; Liban Ayanle, Mohamud Abdi, Minneapolis Southwest; Sam Ruelas, Mathew Gweh, Mike Bonderud, Joe Karam, Eastview; Alex Dewey, Roman Derevyanko, Natalio Blanche, Abdur Omar, Eden Prairie.

2A GIRLS/ WAYZATA 2, BURNSVILLE 1 (SHOOTOUT)

The last game of the soccer season was the most suspenseful, with Wayzata and Burnsvile playing through 20 minutes of overtime and into a shootout before the Trojans came away with the victory. It was 1-1 at the end of regulation and through two overtimes, and Wayzata won the shootout 4-3. The winning goal was scored by Chelsey Ulrich in the sixth round of penalty kicks.

Burnsville sophomore Alyssa Blahnik broke a scoreless tie early in the second half, scoring on a breakaway and recording the 50th goal of her career. Wayzata tied it in the 59th minute on a goal by Kiana Nickel.

Goalkeeper Meghann Rudolph of Burnsville (17-5) made 11 saves and Mara Dougherty of Wayzata (18-2-2) had seven saves.

The quote/ Wayzata coach Tony Peszneker: “After we went through our top five (penalty kickers) I said, ‘Who wants to go next?’ We have a top five and a next five and I asked who’s ready to shoot. (Chelsey Ulrich) stepped up and volunteered.”

All-tournament team/Kellie McGahn, Eastview; Emily Erickson, Woodbury; Britney Monteon, Blaine; Kaitlin Beckman, Anoka; Simone Kolander, Breanna Sollie, Lakeville North; Jenna Roering, Megan Lenz, Centennial; Mara Dougherty, Katie Schulz, Kylie Schwarz, Kiana Nickel, Wayzata; Alyssa Blahnik, Meghann Rudolph, Tiana Khamvongsa, Hannah Freden, Burnsville.

--This is a busy time, with section titles being decided in volleyball and football and the state cross-country meet set for Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield. I was at a section volleyball semifinal doubleheader at Lakeville South on Wednesday night, at soccer Thursday, I’ll be at a 5A football section final between Eastview and Prior Lake on Friday night and at the cross-country meet bright and early Saturday.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 121
*Miles John has driven: 4,719
*Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 22 for the fall tournaments

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Soccer State Championship Lineup Is Set11/1/2011
Minnesota’s high school sports focus will be on the Metrodome Thursday, when four state champions will be crowned on the soccer field. Semifinals in Class 1A and 2A for girls and boys were held at the Dome on Monday and Tuesday, setting up the biggest day of the season.

Thursday’s action will begin at 8 a.m. with the Class 2A boys third-place game, followed by four state championship contests. Here is a look at the matchups…

CLASS 1A BOYS, 10 a.m.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s (18-2-1) vs. Prairie Seeds Academy (19-0-2)
--Second-seeded Benilde has plenty of championship history, winning state titles in 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2006. The Red Knights have allowed only eight goals all season.
--Top-seeded Prairie Seeds is the only defending champion still playing this season. The Lycans have recorded 11 shutouts, outscoring their opponents 137 to 13.

CLASS 1A GIRLS, 12:30 p.m.
Blake (20-1-0) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (18-0-3)
-- Blake junior Natalie Sill has the hot hand after scoring a goal and assist in the No. 2 seed Bears’2-0 semifinal win over Rochester Lourdes.
--Top-seeded Benilde is balanced, with five players who have scored double-digit goals.

CLASS 2A BOYS, 3 p.m.
Eden Prairie (15-3-3) vs. Eastview (20-0-1)
--Third-seeded Eden Prairie was led by sophomore Abdul Omar’s two goals in a 2-0 semifinal win over Maple Grove.
--Junior Mayhew Gweh is the offensive leader for top-seeded Eastview. He scored both goals in a 2-1 state quarterfinal win over Rochester Mayo and did the same in Tuesday’s 2-0 semifinal victory over Minneapolis Southwest.

CLASS 2A GIRLS, 5:30 p.m.
Burnsville (17-4-0) vs. Wayzata (17-2-2)
--Sophomore Alyssa Blahnik was the semifinal hero for unseeded Burnsville, getting three goals and two assists in a 5-2 win over Centennial.
--Fourth-seeded Wayzata knocked off top-seeded and previously unbeaten Lakeville North in the semifinals, surviving a scoreless regulation and two 10-minute overtimes before winning a shootout 5-3.

Tidbits From The Metrodome
--The largest crowd of the semifinals was from Maple Grove, with high school students paying five dollars to ride a fan bus. Info on the school website said “All students riding the fan bus must ride the bus to and from the event. The bus will depart the Dome at approximately 1:30 p.m. to return to MGSH.” Timing is not everything, because at 1:30 p.m. the game still had 25 minutes remaining in regulation. I bet the students were really disappointed, too.

--First mention of you know what/ 11:57 a.m.: “Hey John, how many Diet Cokes today?” (Answer below.)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 109
*Miles John has driven: 4,659
*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 17 for the fall tournaments

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Hanna’s Hope: The Source Of Inspiration At Rochester Lourdes10/31/2011
It wasn’t easy for the members of the Rochester Lourdes girls soccer team to be upbeat after losing in the state semifinals Monday at the Metrodome. In fact, Monday wasn’t the best day for the Lourdes boys soccer team, either, because they also lost in the semifinals.

But whenever anybody at Lourdes is looking for a little upbeat inspiration, all they have to do is have a chat with Hanna Hughes.

“I have never seen Hanna with a frown on her face,” Lourdes senior defender Rachel Saltness said of her teammate and classmate. “Every day she has a smile on her face and she makes the best of every situation.”

Hanna watched Monday’s Class 1A state tournament games from a wheelchair. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in April 2010 and her right leg and pelvic area were amputated a couple months later. But if anybody has seen her without a smile and some positive encouragement, they’re awful hard to find.

“Hanna is an absolute delight to be around,” Eagles girls soccer coach Sarah Groven said. “She is the sweetest person, she lights up the room every time she comes in. This has been probably tough for her, not to be able to play in the Metrodome, but she has been an integral part of our team since before she was diagnosed.”

A popular item around the school are purple wristbands that say “HANNA’S HOPE.” The Eagles wore them proudly Monday.

Hanna is a top student who was the junior class president last year, is student body president this year and recently was named Homecoming queen. School administrators made sure Hanna and her friend/teammate Kelly Melhorn had the same class schedule this year, so Kelly could help Hanna navigate around school in her wheelchair.

“She definitely is a lot of inspiration,” Kelly (left) said. “When she comes to our games I know that having her there helps inspire the whole team. We know she wants to be out there with us. Honestly, she has such a good attitude about the whole thing that I don’t think anyone else could do what she does on a day-to-day basis. That inspires the team right there.”

Hanna, in turn, credits her friends and teammates for keeping her on a positive track.

“They keep me upbeat,” she said. “They’re great friends. I tell them every game, ‘Play for me because I can’t play.’ They do a great job.”

MONDAY’S SEMIFINAL GAME REPORTS …

1A boys/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 1, St. Paul Academy and Summit School 0: The game-winner came 6:10 into the second half when Jake Horton drilled an unassisted shot into the net for his 13th goal of the season. Goalkeeper Alex Leiter earned the win, making three saves.

1A boys/ Prairie Seeds Academy 2, Rochester Lourdes 1 (overtime): Adama Keita beat Lourdes junior goalkeeper Will Elder to the ball and tapped it into the net 3:52 into the extra period. Prairie Seeds and Benilde will meet in the title game Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Metrodome.

1A girls/ Blake 2, Rochester Lourdes 1: Natalie Sill scored a goal and had an assist as the Bears advanced to Thursday’s championship game. Maddy Crawford earned the win in the net, making three saves on 10 shots by the Eagles.

1A girls/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 3, Totino-Grace 0: Dana Buckhorn, Peggy Renier and Kelly Pannek scored for the Red Knights. Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Blake will decide the state championship Thursday at 12:30.

2A girls/ Burnsville 5, Centennial 2: Sophomore Alyssa Blahnik scored three goals and had two assists as the Blaze moved into Thursday’s state championship game.

2A girls/ Wayzata 1, Lakeville North 0 (shootout): After a scoreless regulation and two 10-minute overtimes, Wayzata won the shootout 5-3 to advance to the championship game vs. Burnsville on Thursday.

Coming up Tuesday/ Boys 2A semifinals between Maple Grove and Eden Prairie at noon and Eastview and Minneapolis Southwest at 2 p.m., as well as third-place games in 1A girls (8 a.m.), 1A boys (10 a.m.), 2A girls (4 p.m.).

INCOMING TWEET OF THE DAY (HALLOWEEN CATEGORY)…

“Early returns coming in on tonight's costume count: 12 witches, 5 zombies and 3 John Millea's. I've started to hand out Diet Coke to those.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 103
*Miles John has driven: 4,610
*Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 14 for the fall tournaments

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Lakeville North 24, Lakeville South 1410/30/2011
Here's a report from one of Saturday's Class 5A football playoff games, written by a talented young journalist.

It's A Football Town