John's Journal
An Area Meeting, Football News, Cross-Country Plans And Volleyball Rankings10/4/2011
Good morning again from the road. The MSHSL crew was in Rochester on Monday for an area meeting with administrators from that part of the state, and on this Tuesday morning we are back in the metro area for a similar meeting.

This gathering is taking place at Edinburgh Golf Course in Brooklyn Park (right). As often seems to be the case, there is an overflow crowd of administrators on hand to hear updates on issues that affect high schools in Minnesota. This is the last of eight area meetings this fall; similar meetings are held every spring, too. Meetings are held in St. Cloud or Brainerd, Mankato, Marshall, Fergus Falls, Thief River Falls, Chisholm, Rochester and the Twin Cities.

We have breaking news today on the football front. This news item was reported today by Tim Leighton of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

"Totino-Grace, a private high school in Fridley, will join the Northwest Suburban Conference for football beginning in 2012. The school announced today that it had received permission from the North Suburban Conference to accept an invitation to play football in the Northwest Suburban Conference."

It's another great day outdoors, and I'll take advantage of it by attending the Victoria Lions cross-country invitational today in Chaska. It's one of the last big meets of the regular season, and many of the top teams in the state will compete.

And we’ll end this dispatch with this week’s volleyball rankings, courtesy of the volleyball coaches association…

CLASS 3A
1. Blaine (14) 222
2. Lakeville North 192
3. Bloomington Jefferson 187
4. Eagan (1) 172
5. Shakopee 168
6. Lakeville South 161
7. Wayzata 140
8. Eden Prairie 121
9. Chanhassen 77
10. Centennial 44
Others: Waconia (34), Hill-Murray (24), Hutchinson (16), Andover (16), Eastview (7), Totino-Grace (5), Faribault (2), Cretin-Durham Hall (1)

CLASS 2A
1. Marshall (10) 164
2. Jackson County Central 146
3. Stewartville 129
4. Belle Plaine (1) 128
Jordan 128
6. Lesuer-Henderson 99
Kasson-Mantorville 99
8. Wadena-Deer Creek 89
9. Caledonia 85
10. Maple Lake 47
Others: Byron (27), Triton (6), NHREG (6), Esko (6)

CLASS 1A
1. Bethlehem Academy (6) 196
2. Canby (3) 183
3. Wabasha-Kellogg (3) 178
4. Mayer Lutheran 165
5. Southwest Christian (2) 154
6. Minneota 151
7. MACCRAY 100
8. Win-E-Mac 82
9. BBE 79
10. Nevis 67
Others: Ada-Borup (50), Hancock (25), Mabel-Canton (24), Lake of the Woods (15), Goodhue (7), Littlefork-Big Falls (7), Northern Freeze (4)
An Online Auction For A Great Minneapolis Cause10/4/2011
The Minneapolis public school system has been engaged in a fund-raising project to pay for artificial turf fields at Washburn and Patrick Henry High Schools, and an online auction is underway to assist the efforts.

The auction offers a wide array of items. Just to name a few: Gophers jerseys, restaurant certificates, cookware, manicure/pedicure, circular saw, fan packs, health and wellness basket, Lynx apparel, a suite for a Timberwolves game, Adrian Peterson autographed jersey, Wild tickets, oak rain barrel and much more.

Proceeds from this online auction will directly benefit the TEAM UP FOR TURF fundraising campaign. The online auction will end Saturday, Oct. 8. To view the auction items, copy and paste this web address into your browser:

http://www.32auctions.com/organizations/2083/auctions/2258?page=5
Father And Son And Son-In-Law: Football Is A Family Business10/3/2011
A familiar scene takes shape after every Minnetonka football game. Skippers head coach Dave Nelson kisses his wife Maureen, hugs his daughters Sarah and Ashley and picks up his grandchildren, Caroline and Riggins. Win or lose, it’s family time.

Family time for the Nelsons, however, can take place whenever football is on the agenda. That’s because two other members of the Minnetonka coaching staff have family ties: Dave’s son Jesse coaches running backs and son-in-law Josh Stephan (he’s married to Sarah) coaches defensive linemen.

Stephan is in his fourth season on the coaching staff and Jesse Nelson is a first-year assistant. Stephan played for Dave Nelson at Blaine and Jesse was a senior quarterback on Minnetonka’s 2004 Class 5A state championship team.

“It’s really special,” said Dave Nelson (pictured at right with Jesse). “It’s been fun with my son-in-law, and now with my son.”

The Nelson family athletic tree has deep roots in Minnesota. Dave’s father, Stan, was a Hall of Fame football coach at Anoka and is now a regular at Minnetonka games. The football facility at Augsburg College in Minneapolis is named after Edor Nelson, Stan’s brother. Dave’s brother Steve spent 14 years playing for the New England Patriots and his sister Cheryl is a member of the Augburg Hall of Fame and the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame.

Ten years ago (when Jesse was a sophomore in high school) Dave Nelson left Blaine – where his teams won one state title and were state runner-up three times – and went to Minnetonka. Jesse played football at Concordia College in Moorhead, was a graduate assistant coach at the University of South Dakota for one season and at the University of Minnesota for two years.

“He brings a lot,” Dave Nelson said of his son. “He was a graduate assistant so he brings a lot of good football knowledge and background. It’s not like he’s wet behind the ears; he’s a football coach and he’s made an impact here already.”

Like his father, Jesse teaches physical education at Minnetonka. He said he knew he wanted to become a coach “really early.”

“When I saw my dad and I saw the lifestyle and how much fun he has, I knew I had to be a part of it,” he said. “I’ve seen the effect he’s had on kids and the excitement he brings to a school and a community. I knew I had to be a part of that.”

Father and son spend time together during the school day as well as during football practice, meetings and games.

“I kind of remind myself every day how special this is,” Jesse said. “We teach the same class and after school we go to practice together with my brother-in-law. It’s unbelievable the amount of time we get to spend together, and the laughs. I’ll have great memories for the rest of my life.”

Dave Nelson was holding his granddaughter Caroline after a recent game as he talked about having his son join his coaching staff.

“There are many times during the day when I kind of pause and think, ‘This is really cool.’ I think it’s cool for him, too. Not many guys have their kids go into coaching, much less on the same staff. It’s really neat.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 43
*Miles John has driven: 3,581

--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
I Found Heaven, And It’s Homecoming Day In Lamberton, Minnesota9/30/2011
LAMBERTON – “John! John!” I was standing along Main Street in this southwestern Minnesota town early on this Friday afternoon, jotting something in my notebook, when I heard my name being called. “John! John!”

As I looked up, two little candy suckers were landing at my feet, tossed from a Homecoming parade float by Red Rock Central senior Katie Halter. I had met Katie earlier in the day when I spoke to a couple of classes at the home of the Falcons. Athletic director Bryce Pack, who had heard me talk about the MSHSL Student Sports Information directors program at a meeting in Marshall recently, invited me to visit with the students.

I was already planning to be in the area for a football game in Minneota (I’m sitting inside a Culver’s in Marshall as I write this; kickoff in Minneota is a few hours away) and I had a blast in Lamberton. Bryce saw me parking my car outside the school and waved at me from the door. He bought me lunch at the American Legion, and the lasagne special with a Diet Coke was stupendous.

One thought kept running through my head during my time in Lamberton: I hope all these wonderful, friendly people know how lucky they are to live in a town like this. I’m the first to admit that I love small towns, having grown up in a village very much like Lamberton. But being there on Homecoming, with all the excitement and fun, was very special.

Since it was Homecoming, the students, teachers and staff were all dressed in the school colors of black, red and silver. Some had their faces painted and wackiness prevailed … in a good way. I spoke with students about the Student SID program, showed them examples of the program from other schools via mshsl.org and talked a lot about writing, reporting, interviewing and other facets of journalism.

After lunch, the real fun began. Everybody got out of school in time for the 1 p.m. parade, which was a delight. Elementary students sat on the curbs and waited for their high school heroes to throw candy. Parents, grandparents and other assorted grownups sat in lawn chairs or on lawns. The town’s police officer led the parade in his squad car with lights flashing, and the parade ended with a local fire and rescue vehicle and an ambulance. In between were vehicles carrying the Homecoming royalty, the marching band, pickups pulling flat-bed trailers carrying various groups of students, and a couple of fire trucks. The football players piled onto a trailer of hay bales that was pulled by coach Isaac Jenniges in his truck; the team had great fun pelting their teachers with candy fastballs along the parade route.

It took exactly 12 minutes for the entire parade to pass by where I was standing, and it was one of the greatest 12-minute periods of my life.

My favorite float was a graveyard on wheels, with a pile of dirt and a large headstone that said “Greyhounds RIP” (Friday night’s opponent was the New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds).

Then came powder-puff football at the football field, which also serves as the baseball outfield. The senior girls played the freshmen, coming away with a resounding victory … just as a couple of senior girls had promised me earlier. Then the junior girls played the sophomores and on the fun went. The rest of the junior high and high school students sat in the home grandstand and the elementary kids sat across the field on the visitors bleachers. (Great cheer: “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! That’s the fifth-grade battle cry!”)

Football players filled the roles of referees, chain gang members and public-address announcers. No greater fun have I ever witnessed.

I had to depart before the powder puff games were finished, but Pack sent me out in style as we stood next to the concession stand: “Hey John, how about a Diet Coke for the road?”

Perfection.

--To see a photo gallery from Red Rock Central, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 43
*Miles John has driven: 3,439

--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
A Trip To Dassel-Cokato … Next Up: Red Rock Central And Minneota9/29/2011
After a Sunday-through-Wednesday journey through Fergus Falls, Thief River Falls, Grand Rapids and Chisholm, Thursday was a relatively quiet travel day for me. I spent some time at Dassel-Cokato High School, talking to a large group of students about the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program and telling tales from a life in journalism.

English teacher Brian Johnson organized the gathering, and I had a wonderful time with Brian and the students (that's them in the photo). They asked lots of good questions, and hopefully I came up with a few answers.

Friday will mark a return to the road in a big way. I’ll hit the highway around 6 a.m. and venture out to southwestern Minnesota for a school visit and a special event tied in with a football game. My morning stop will be Red Rock Central High School in Lamberton, where I will spend a couple of class periods visiting with students. It’s also Homecoming week at Red Rock Central, and I’m looking forward to the afternoon festivities.

Later Friday I’ll be at Minneota High School for a special ceremony before the Vikings face Fulda on the football field. For the first time, Minneota has won the MSHSL Challenge Cup, which will be presented to school officials just before kickoff.

The Challenge Cup is a year-long competition among MSHSL schools. Schools earn points for success in postseason athletic and fine arts events and the school earning the most points in each classification — A, AA and AAA — receives the traveling Challenge Cup. Minneota is the Class A winner for the 2010-11 school year. The other winners are Eden Prairie in Class AAA and Breck in Class AA.

Maybe I’ll see you on the highway … or at the gas pump!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 42
*Miles John has driven: 3,312

--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