John's Journal
Cretin-Derham Hall Adds to a Week 1 Football Theme9/3/2010
When the Cretin-Derham Hall football team participated in a scrimmage last Saturday at Hopkins, the worst happened. The Raiders’ top two running backs (plus a backup) went down with injuries, lending an air of uncertainty to Friday night’s season opener against Forest Lake at the University of St. Thomas.

But when all was said and done – and the reserves had gone out and run – the defending Class 5A state champions were just fine. With new faces seemingly everywhere in the lineup, Cretin had no trouble rolling past the Rangers 40-0.

On Thursday, I saw defending 1A champion Minneota defeat Adrian. Also this weekend, Totino-Grace ( last year’s 4A champ) defeated 5A Minnetonka, and Stephen-Argyle (nine-man), Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (2A) and New London-Spicer (3A) all won their first games of 2010.

Friday’s heroes for Cretin included sophomore running back James Onwualu (pictured at right), who rushed 27 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns, and junior quarterback Kevin Miley, another varsity rookie who completed 12 of 17 passes for 136 yards and three TDs. Junior Taylor Montero caught two of those scoring passes, adding to the youthful look of the Raiders.

The top-tier running backs, senior Andre Hunt and junior Kendrik Brewster, did not play. Hunt has had recurring knee problems and Brewster suffered a concussion last week. Their return to action will come soon enough, said Cretin coach Mike Scanlan.

“Their coming out will be next week (at White Bear Lake),” he said. “We got really banged up. We’re pretty deep at that spot.”

Miley is taking over for departed quarterback Mark Alt, who starred in last year’s Prep Bowl victory over Eden Prairie and now plays hockey at the University of Minnesota.

The Raiders lost two first-half fumbles but their defense was solid all evening, keeping Forest Lake backed up. The exceptional defensive effort negated opening-game mistakes made elsewhere.

“We had a lot of guys making their first start, there were a couple of mistakes, a couple of fumbles, wrong formations, forgetting to send somebody in motion. But that’s the way it goes,” Scanlan said. “I think Mark Alt was nervous in his first start, too.

“The sophomore running back, a kid who had never played before, did very well. I thought Miley played well, too.”

This may be the fastest defense Cretin has had in many years, which is a troublesome thought for the rest of the Suburban East Conference as well as Class 5A.

“Now, if we get somebody real big and powerful and they can go right at us, it may be problematic,” Scanlan said. “But until we find that, I think we can play with most people.”

SINCE CRETIN’S MOST famous graduate is Joe Mauer, this public-address announcement fit perfectly with Friday’s action: “This just in from the Twins game … The score is 1-1 and Joe Mauer has an RBI.”

The crowd was large for both teams, especially the student sections. Everybody had a good time, displayed great sportsmanship and the kids were more than happy to smile and scream whenever I pointed my camera in their direction. A few of them somehow ended up wearing MSHSL hats, which added a dash of style to the proceedings.

To get a taste for the action on the field and in the stands, check out the photo gallery (plus video of a Cretin touchdown) on the MSHSL Facebook page. The number of MSHSL Facebook fans is growing rapidly, so jump in and join us for the ride!

*Schools/teams John has visited: 33
*Miles John has driven: 1,599

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Game Night! It's Minneota at Adrian in Week 19/2/2010
The football season kicks off tonight and tomorrow, and there are great matchups almost everywhere you look around Minnesota.

I will begin the campaign in southwest Minnesota, where our Spotlight Game has Adrian playing host to Minneota in a rematch of last year’s Class 1A state championship game.

Minneota opened and closed the 2009 season against Adrian, winning 43-13 in Week 1 and taking home a 42-21 victory in the Prep Bowl at the Metrodome. But this is a new season, of course, and both teams lost some very talented players to graduation.

This one is shaping up as a battle of the ground games, and the winner will get a leg up in the Little Sioux Conference race.

I’ll be in one of the team's locker rooms tonight, providing a behind-the-scenes look at what takes place. I'll post a game report right here on the Journal later this evening and I'll also be shooting lots of photos and video at the game, which will be posted on the MSHSL Facebook page.

Have a great football weekend, everybody!

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Two Harbors High School: A Lesson in Saving a Life9/1/2010
Anyone can save a life, and the volleyball players at Two Harbors know that fact as well as anyone.

At practice last week, one of the Agates collapsed in the gym. There was no panic, because the team knew what to do. One day earlier, coach Brooke Chaffee had talked to the players about what to do in case of such an emergency. The team had planned to hold a mock emergency run-through, but that was not needed after they experienced the real thing.

“Just the day before, we had written down who was going to do what,” Chaffee said.” Last year our basketball team did a mock run-through, and we were planning to do that the following day. We didn’t have to do that.”

The player who collapsed had a history of seizures, but she had not experienced a seizure for a number of years. Nonetheless, the coaches and players knew exactly what to do.

“In the middle of practice she fell down,” Chaffee said. “We realized she was having a seizure and I ran over to her, said ‘Somebody call 911,’ and that’s really all we had to do. One of the girls went to her phone and called the ambulance. Another girl ran to get the AED (automated external defibrillator), others went to the front and back doors to meet the ambulance, because we didn’t know where they would come in. And somebody ran to get the principal. Everybody just kind of got things done.”

The player was taken to a local hospital and everything turned out fine. That isn’t always the case, but the MSHSL’s “Anyone Can Save a Life” program continues to play a vital role in helping schools prepare for such emergencies. The goals of the program -- a partnership between the MSHSL and the Medtronic Foundation – include educating school communities on the symptoms and risk factors of sudden cardiac arrest, and how to react in such situations.

“I can’t thank the High School League enough for developing this program and pushing this program,” said Two Harbors athletic director Scott Ross.

Ross was on hand in March 2005 when Jarrett Brenner of Grand Rapids collapsed and died during an all-star basketball game in Duluth. It was discovered that Jarrett had a heart defect that caused his death. No AEDs were available that day.

“Jarrett was 20 miles away from here, and that scares everybody,” Ross said. “You don’t have to convince the coaches how important this is.”

Two Harbors has implemented the Anyone Can Save a Life program through education and practice runs. All coaches at the school are required to take AED and CPR training, and that has also been expanded to game supervisors, ticket sellers, concession people and others affiliated with sporting events.

After last week’s volleyball incident, Ross said, “I told our other teams, ‘This is why we do it.’ This was the real deal. It makes you feel good to know there’s a plan there. Even then, you don’t know if things will go right. You hope they do.”

It was Chaffee’s first experience of this kind, and “It was kind of scary, because we were not expecting it. We talked about it the next day and I told everyone how proud we were that they executed it so well. They were like, ‘Now we know what to expect.’

“It’s scary, but if you have a plan in place, it makes it less scary. You can’t just send people places. I wasn’t thinking ‘This needs to happen and that needs to happen.’ Everything just happened.”

For more information, click on "Anyone Can Save a Life" on the right side of this page.

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
It’s Volleyball Night in Minnesota8/31/2010
Fall sports mania is about to hit full stride, with the volleyball, soccer, cross-country, girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming and diving seasons already underway. Football will join the fun Thursday and Friday and we won’t take a breath until after Thanksgiving.

I’ll be taking in my first volleyball competition of the season this evening, traveling to Shakopee to watch the three-time defending champion Sabers take on Eastview. Eastview is ranked third in the Class 3A coaches poll; Shakopee received some votes but not enough to crack the top 10.

Shakopee defeated Eastview in the 2008 state championship match and did the same in last year’s season opener. Eastview’s 2009 season ended with a loss to Burnsville in the Section 3 finals.

I’ll post a report from the match here later tonight, and throw a bunch of photos (and maybe video) on the MSHSL Facebook page.

I'll venture into the football universe in a big way later this week. On Thursday I'll be in southwest Minnesota for a game between Minneota and Adrian in Adrian. That's a rematch of last year's Class 1A Prep Bowl, won by Minneota.

Friday night will take me to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, where defending 5A champion Cretin-Derham Hall will open the season against Forest Lake.

It's sure to be a fun-filled week!
Shakopee Sends a Message: Rankings Mean Very Little8/31/2010
Shakopee and Eastview are in different conferences, but the two schools have developed an outstanding volleyball rivalry. And in Tuesday night’s season opener for both teams, a definite tone was set.

Shakopee capped a three-year string of Class 3A state championships with an undefeated season in 2009, but the graduation losses were substantial. The Sabers had several seniors a year ago who now play Division I volleyball, including 2009 Gatorade national player of the year Ashley Wittman, a three-year ball-pounding force for Shakopee and now a star for the University of Minnesota.

So it was probably no great surprise when the Sabers were not among the top 10 teams in the preseason Class 3A poll conducted by the volleyball coaches association. Eastview was No. 3; Shakopee received enough votes to place the Sabers 12th in the rankings.

Going into Tuesday night’s opener, the conventional thinking was that No. 3 should be able to beat a non-top 10 team. Not so fast, conventional thinkers…

Shakopee defeated the Lightning 25-18, 25-17, 14-25, 25-19 and made a strong statement that the Sabers are not going away.

“They’re not going to be a gimme, especially with their tradition,” said Eastview coach Becky Egan. “You can’t fight tradition; it doesn’t matter how many girls you lose. It’s disappointing I’m sure for them (to not be in the top 10) and at the same time I don’t like being No. 3 at the beginning of the season.”

(To see a photo gallery of the match, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.).

The biggest celebrity in the crowd was Wittman, who wore a Gophers shirt as she watched her former team. Early in the match, Shakopee athletic director John Janke had the quote of the night when he said to me, “This is a top 10 team against a team that’s looking for its identity, and that identity is standing over there in a Gophers shirt.”

Indeed, it was an interesting scene: Ashley Wittman was watching, like everyone else, to see what it’s like for Shakopee to play volleyball without Ashley Wittman.

If there were any doubts about the Sabers’ ability to come through with a victory, they peaked when Eastview won the third game.

“One of our goals is if we play a five-game match, we win it,” Sabers coach Matt Busch said. “I didn’t want to do that tonight. So I’m very proud of them for picking it up.

“(Eastview is) a really good team and they have a great program. This is a really big one for us. The girls knew they could compete, it was just getting through that mental hurdle. And with all these people wanting to see that continue, that was probably a big confidence builder for them.”

Even though the school year has not yet begun, the atmosphere Tuesday night had a postseason feel. The Shakopee student section was large and boisterous, with some of the boys decked out in bathrobes and slippers (I didn't ask for an explanation, but you can see a video of the crowd on Facebook). The music was cranked up during timeouts, with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” laying the groundwork for the fourth game.

This was the third year that Eastview and Shakopee have opened the season against each other. They also ended the 2008 season in the same fashion, with Shakopee defeating the Lightning.

“This was very telling,” Egan said. “You see glimpses of the athletic ability that we have and then you see glimpses of immaturity. You see glimpses of the competitiveness and the lack of competitiveness. You could tell what’s going to bite you in the butt and what’s going to help you win. So it was telling.”


--I tried to send a Twitter message (yes, technically a Tweet) containing a photo from the match and the news that Shakopee had won the first two games. The technology didn’t want to work from inside the gym, so I walked out to the school doors, stuck my smart phone outside and hit the “send” button again. Success!

--I ran into an old friend after the match when Don Murtha walked up and shook my hand. Don’s grandson Lydon Murtha was a football lineman at Hutchinson who went on to an outstanding college career at Nebraska, was drafted by the Detroit Lions and is now with the Miami Dolphins. Don has another talented grandchild, Ashley Murtha, playing volleyball at Eastview.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 29
*Miles John has driven: 1,140

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at