John's Journal
Everybody Wins When Perspective Is Proper 11/16/2019
Gratefulness. Appreciation. Pride.

Win or lose, those were prominent themes during three big days of high school football at U.S. Bank Stadium. The state semifinals, 14 games in all from Thursday morning to late Saturday night, are always an amalgam of tiny schools from tiny towns and great big schools from great big towns and everything in between.

It's no surprise that the winners were thrilled and the losing teams were disappointed. But if someone eavesdropping on Saturday's postgame interview sessions had been confused about who won or who lost, it would have been understandable.

One coach ended a lengthy opening statement with these words: "I'm going to walk out of here and go talk to my kids with my head high because they deserve it."

That was Browerville-Eagle Valley's Wayne "Ribsy" Petermeier. His Tigers lost to BOLD 56-7 in Class 1A but he seemed for all the world like a coach whose team had just won. And they had … maybe not on the scoreboard but in more important ways.

“I couldn't be prouder of a group of kids,” Petermeier said. “At the beginning of the year we weren't even supposed to be in the top four in our district. You know, they were talking about a whole bunch of other teams and 'watch out for this team’ and ‘watch out for that team’ and not once was our name in any of those thoughts. And we just kept getting better and better and better. We had a group of seniors that didn't play a whole lot last year and they stepped up and they just played outstanding. I couldn't be prouder of a group of kids that gave everything they had.

“At the beginning of this year our mantra was to be committed. Be committed to the team, be committed to yourself, be committed to the guy next to you and be committed in school. And they took that to heart. Every one of our kids got better in the classroom. Every one of them got better on the football field.”

A few hours later, a winning coach was nearly brought to tears when asked about the team’s clinching of a long-dreamed-of Prep Bowl berth. The coach was Chad Gimbel of Blooming Prairie, which defeated Ada-Borup 41-0 and will meet BOLD in the state championship game on Nov. 29.

This is the fourth time an Awesome Blossoms team coached by Gimbel has been to the state playoffs, but this will be their first appearance in the Prep Bowl. Gimbel stopped to gather himself when talking about the significance of that achievement.

“I've been doing this for 23 years and this is our fourth time so it’s a big breakthrough with this group of guys, and that's awesome,” he said. “It’s a great group of senior leaders and stuff but, you know, as a coach and player that’s been through it for so many years, to finally break through and get that opportunity; that's a huge step for us and for our program, and for our kids. I'm super happy that they get to experience this, because I haven't gotten to this point in 23 years so hopefully they take the message that this is quite a step and not everybody gets to do this.”

Before Gimbel became coach, Blooming Prairie also went to the state playoffs three times in the 1970s and once in the 1980s. The current Blossoms are aware of what came before them.

“This isn't just our accomplishment,” said senior Jarrett Larson. “This is for all the great football players before us that have carried on the Blossom way, taught us tradition, taught us how to play Blossom football the right way.”

Dassel-Cokato plays with a purpose

The Chargers of Dassel-Cokato, who defeated Annandale 24-14 in Saturday’s Class 3A semifinals, know about loss. And that knowledge has nothing to do with football.

Two years ago Jacob McDonald, a multi-sport athlete, died from a freak peanut allergy incident. His classmates are now seniors and they have his No. 34 jersey with them on the bus, in the locker room and on the bench.

“He was a terrific leader,” said senior Sanders Asplin. “That's why he's our honorary captain this year. He’s been an inspiration for all of us to play our hardest, because you never know what could happen.”

Chargers coach Ryan Weinandt said his team has learned lessons about facing adversity.

“We have been in these (close) games before, and these guys have shown a ton of resiliency,” he said. “This group went through a lot and showed a ton of resiliency. We've kind of seen the worst and we know losing a football game isn't that. We've learned that no matter what happens, we're going to stick together and we're going to fight, and they’ve got to believe.”

Girls state swimming and diving

--Visitation won the Class 1A girls swimming and diving state title Saturday at the University of Minnesota Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center. The Blazers scored 318 points, followed by Hutchinson with 250 and a tie for third between Delano and Sauk Centre at 145. New 1A state meet records: 50 freestyle, Grace Hanson, Hutchinson, 22.79 (tied previous record); 100 backstroke, Emma Kern, Delano, 54.95; 400 freestyle relay, Hutchinson, 3:26.4.

--In Class 2A, Edina won the team state title with 344 points, followed by Minnetonka at 305, Eden Prairie at 205 and Wayzata at 189.

Football State Semifinals At U.S. Bank Stadium

9-MAN/ Hancock 65, Mountain Iron-Buhl 32
2A/ Minneapolis North 55, Paynesville 32
4A/ SMB 22, Hutchinson 16
6A/ Champlin Park 31, Lakeville North 21

9-MAN/ Mountain Lake Area 45, Win-E-Mac 6
2A/ Caledonia 43, Barnesville 12
5A/ Chaska 34, Coon Rapids 14
4A/ Rocori 48, Winona 24
6A/ Wayzata 28, Lakeville South 14

1A/ BOLD 56, Browerville-Eagle Valley 7
1A/ Blooming Prairie 41, Ada-Borup 0
3A/ Dassel-Cokato 24, Annandale 14
3A/ Pierz 20, Jackson County Central 14
5A/ St. Thomas Academy 53, Elk River 16

At U.S. Bank Stadium

Friday, November 29
10 a.m. Class 1A: BOLD vs. Blooming Prairie
1 p.m. Class 2A: Minneapolis North vs. Caledonia
4 p.m. Class 4A: SMB vs. Rocori
7 p.m. Class 6A: Champlin Park vs. Wayzata

Saturday, November 30
10 a.m. Nine-Man: Hancock vs. Mountain Lake Area
1 p.m. Class 3A: Dassel-Cokato vs. Pierz
4 p.m. Class 5A: Chaska vs. St. Thomas Academy

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Two Jobs, Two Schools, Two Trips To State11/15/2019
Aaron Cook wore the red, white and blue colors of the Win-E-Mac Patriots during Friday's Nine-Man football state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. During Saturday's Class 1A semifinals he will wear the red and black of the Ada-Borup Cougars.

Cook, 32, was on the sideline as Win-E-Mac's head coach. He will be in the stands as Ada-Borup's interim superintendent. He is a busy man.

"It's been a little crazy, with a lot of time on the road," said Cook, who lives in Erskine (that's the E in Win-E-Mac, along with Winner and McIntosh) and drives about 50 miles to Ada and back each day.

He was named Ada-Borup's superintendent earlier this year; he's in the process of completing certification for the job (thus the "interim" label). He previously was finance/business manager for both schools along with working as athletic director at Win-E-Mac.

He's a Win-E-Mac graduate who has been the Patriots' head football coach for three years. The trip to the state tournament is their first since 1991.

"It's been a lot of fun for Win-E-Mac," he said after the Patriots lost to Mountain Lake Area 45-6 Friday. "The school support, the community support has been great. The firetruck escorts out of town for the section championship, the state quarters, the state semis. Fans were on buses that left today at three in the morning to get down here, so the community support has been absolutely awesome and it's been a fun ride.

"We told the guys to really relish the moment and have fun with it; it's not something you get to do every day. Every state tournament appearance should be treated like this, even if you're a school that goes more often than we have; even if you're a school that goes more often, you've got to cherish it. It's a new group of kids each year. You've got to have fun with it. And then the community's been absolutely amazing, the school's been amazing with the support we've had. So kudos to everyone back in the Win-E-Mac area. It's been a fun ride."

Class 2A: Caledonia 43, Barnesville 12

Quarterback Noah King led the Warriors by completing 13 of 25 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for two scores. Caledonia will meet Minneapolis North in the Prep Bowl on Nov. 29.

Caledonia, which has won state titles every year since 2015, extended its winning streak to 67 games. The state record is 76 by Stephen-Argyle from 2002 to 2008. A Prep Bowl victory would give Caledonia five titles in a row, matching Stephen-Argyle's record.

Caledonia and Barnesville met in last year’s Prep Bowl, with Caledonia winning 21-0.

The Warriors have a reputation based on strength and speed, and Trojans coach Bryan Strand said they prepared for the Warriors’ speed by practicing against what he called "college speed."

Strand’s son Michael just finished his senior football season at Minnesota State Moorhead. Michael and some other athletes, including former basketball players, from his school met the Warriors at the Fargodome to work out.

"They came out and just ran routes against us,” Bryan Strand said. “They ran routes for about an hour and 20 minutes. When something went wrong, we fixed it. But we weren’t as tired then as we were today. I thought we battled the pass pretty well in the first half. As the game went on, as they wore us down, we just tuckered out.”

Class 5A: Chaska 34, Coon Rapids 14

Nic Snuggerud scored on a 97-yard pass from Grif Wurtz to open the scoring and kicked 52- and 23-yard field goals as the Hawks advanced to the Prep Bowl against the winner of Saturday’s Elk River-St. Thomas Academy game. Stevo Klotz scored on runs of 36 and 6 yards for Chaska.

The record for the longest field goal in state history is 55 yards by Dan Salzgeber of New London-Spicer in 1999.

Class 4A: Rocori 48, Winona 24

Quarterback Jack Steil accounted for more than 300 yards of offense and five touchdowns in powering the Spartans into a Prep Bowl matchup with SMB on Nov. 29. Steil, who will play baseball at the University of Nebraska, rushed 19 times for 168 yards and five touchdowns. He also completed eight of 12 passes for 134 yards.

Class 6A: Wayzata 28, Lakeville South 14

The unbeaten Trojans advanced to Prep Bowl XXXVIII, where they will meet Champlin Park on Nov. 29. Champlin Park defeated Lakeville North 31-21 on Thursday night. Christian Vasser led Wayzata with 44 rushing attempts for 269 yards and three touchdowns.

Officially bowing out after 40 years

Referee Dave Lundquist of Woodbury worked his final football game Friday -- the Class 6A semifinal between Wayzata and Lakeville South -- after 40 years. He posted this message on Facebook: “I have decided to step aside and let some younger people take over. I have been so blessed to spend every Fall Friday night with my best friends. Although some of the faces changed through the years, the memories I have will last a lifetime. I will miss the kids, but mostly I will miss the guys and girls who also wore the stripes out there with me.”

Hutchinson relay teams sets state meet record

During Friday’s preliminaries of the Class 1A swimming and diving state championships at the University of Minnesota, Hutchinson’s 400 freestyle relay team set a new 1A state meet record. The quartet of Grace Hanson, Madison Witte, Haley Farrell and Lexi Kucera finished in 3:27.06.

Football State Semifinals At U.S. Bank Stadium

9-MAN/ Hancock 65, Mountain Iron-Buhl 32
2A/ Minneapolis North 55, Paynesville 32
4A/ SMB 22, Hutchinson 16
6A/ Champlin Park 31, Lakeville North 21

9-MAN/ Mountain Lake Area 45, Win-E-Mac 6
2A/ Caledonia 43, Barnesville 12
5A/ Chaska 34, Coon Rapids 14
4A/ Rocori 48, Winona 24
6A/ Wayzata 28, Lakeville South 14

1A/ BOLD (12-0) vs. Browerville-Eagle Valley (10-1), 9 a.m.
1A/ Ada-Borup (10-1) vs. Blooming Prairie (11-0), 11:30 a.m.
3A/ Annandale (11-1) vs. Dassel-Cokato (9-3), 2 p.m.
3A/ Pierz (12-0) vs. Jackson County Central (11-0), 4:30 p.m.
5A/ Elk River (11-1) vs. St. Thomas Academy (10-1), 7 p.m.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Nine-Man Teams Combine For Nine Seniors 11/14/2019
The football teams from Hancock and Mountain Iron-Buhl have just enough combined seniors to field a baseball team. Nine-Man teams are always small in numbers, but for the Owls and Rangers to extend outstanding seasons all the way to the state semifinals – and for Hancock to the Prep Bowl in two weeks – with a total of nine seniors is a measure of their talent and commitment.

The Hancock Owls (13-0), who have six seniors on a 28-player roster, defeated the Rangers 65-32 in the first of 14 semifinals to be played through Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mountain Iron-Buhl (10-2) has three seniors among 26 players (including 12 freshmen and two eighth-graders).

"Everybody counted us out all year because we were so young; we have three seniors, three juniors and only one of those juniors starts," said MIB coach Dan Zubich. "We've got freshmen and sophomores who start."

The Rangers, who also lost in the semifinals last year, cannot be counted out a year from now and beyond based on their youth and big-game experience. Hancock, on the other hand, had never played at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Owls last played in the state football tournament in 1990.

Hancock's Tyler Timmerman had a big day with five touchdowns Thursday, running 22 times for 240 yards and three touchdowns and also scoring on a 61-yard pass and a 75-yard kickoff return. Tyler's father was a running back on the Owls' 1990 team.

After Thursday's game, Tyler was asked to put what has happened into words. His reply: "It means everything. It's the best experience of my life with my friends."

The feeling was similar for the Rangers (10-2) despite the loss. Senior running back Dillon Drake, who ran for 101 yards and a touchdown, called advancing to the state semifinals two years in a row "sort of a dream come true.”

Class 2A: Minneapolis North 44, Paynesville 32

The Polars (12-0) trailed 18-14 at halftime but outscored the Bulldogs 30-14 in the second half to advance to the Prep Bowl for the first time since 2016, when they won the Class 1A title.

North's Terrance Kamara rushed 30 times for 205 yards and four touchdowns. Paynesville’s Grady Fuchs completed 15 of 24 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.

Both teams lost in last year’s state semifinals; Caledonia beat Paynesville 40-6 and North defeated Barnesville 34-20. Caledonia went on to beat Barnesville 21-0 in the Prep Bowl and those two teams will meet again in Friday’s other 2A semifinal.

Class 4A: SMB 22, Hutchinson 16

SMB, which is a cooperative program with students from St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy and Blake, outlasted Hutchinson in a game between unbeaten teams. Defending state champion SMB is averaging 38 points per game and the Tigers’ average is 40, but the defenses dominated.

Jalen Suggs carried 20 times for 88 yards and completed 16 of 27 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns for SMB. Hutchinson was led by Tyler Schiller, who rushed 25 times for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Class 6A: Champlin Park 31, Lakeville North 21

The Rebels knocked off the defending state champions by taking a 21-0 first-half lead and maintaining control the rest of the way.

Champlin Park’s Jaice Miller completed 20 of 32 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 37 yards and two touchdowns. The Rebels will play in the Prep Bowl for the first time since 2002.

Quote of the day

Minneapolis North coach Charles Adams, asked about this year’s two-week time period between the semifinals and Prep Bowl, referred to players who also play basketball for Hall of Fame North coach Larry McKenzie: “I'm not a fan of it. I’ve already got a fight with Coach Mackenzie for all these dudes that play basketball. So Lord forgive me, I don't know how I'm going to figure that out because he's the big dog over there.”

Football State Semifinals At U.S. Bank Stadium

9-MAN/ Hancock 65, Mountain Iron-Buhl 32
2A/ Minneapolis 44, Paynesville 32
4A/ SMB 22, Hutchinson 16
6A/ Champlin Park 31, Lakeville North 21

9-MAN/ Win-E-Mac (12-0) vs. Mountain Lake (12-0), 9 a.m.
2A/ Barnesville (12-0) vs. Caledonia (12-0), 11:30 a.m.
5A/ Coon Rapids (8-3) vs. Chaska (10-1), 2 p.m.
4A/ Rocori (9-2) vs. Winona (11-0), 4:30 p.m.
6A/ Wayzata (11-0) vs. Lakeville South (10-1), 7 p.m.

1A/ BOLD (12-0) vs. Browerville-Eagle Valley (10-1), 9 a.m.
1A/ Ada-Borup (10-1) vs. Blooming Prairie (11-0), 11:30 a.m.
3A/ Annandale (11-1) vs. Dassel-Cokato (9-3), 2 p.m.
3A/ Pierz (12-0) vs. Jackson County Central (11-0), 4:30 p.m.
5A/ Elk River (11-1) vs. St. Thomas Academy (10-1), 7 p.m.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Another Chapter In Minneota’s Championship Story 11/10/2019
Hayley Fruin will be the first person to tell you that she's a very fortunate coach. She has been in charge of the Minneota volleyball team for three years, and the Vikings recorded their second consecutive Class 1A state championship on Saturday.

Their 25-19, 25-19, 25-20 victory over Waterville-Elysian-Morristown capped a spectacular 33-3 season; the Vikings’ only loss to a Class 1A team came at the hands of BOLD in a tournament, with the other defeats against Class 3A teams
Northfield and New Prague.

The 2018 and 2019 titles aren’t the only Minneota state championships Fruin has had a hand in. When the Vikings won their first volleyball title in 2006 she was a member of the team.

And here’s something that portends well for Year 4 of the Haley Regime: The Vikings will return in nearly full force in 2020. The only senior who played significant minutes in the tournament was Morgan Hennen, with classmates Reese Gillund and Madison Sorenson providing strong competition in practice and great bench support.

"I've had Morgan on my team for four years,” said Fruin, who coached the B squad before becoming head coach. “She started on the B squad my first year and I give her a lot of heck because we're related, but she's a great kid. We’re going to miss her.

“Madison Sorensen is just a big goofball and I love that kid. She’s always providing so much energy to this team and I think that can go unnoticed; people don't realize how much the bench plays into it. And then we have Reese and she's doing the same thing. Everybody knows their role and everybody bought into it. And I know for a senior it might be hard if you're not playing, but those two kids, day in and day out, they're giving it their all in practice and making these kids better, and also on the bench when we're a little bit exhausted, they're always yelling and cheering for the next point.”

Stewartville outlasts North Branch in 2A

Stewartville won its fifth state title and first since 2014 with a five-set victory over defending champion North Branch in Class 2A. Both teams played five sets in Friday’s semifinals and the Tigers came out on top Saturday 20-25, 25-19, 25-16, 23-25, 15-12.

Wayzata Claims 3A Title

The final match of the volleyball season was emblematic of the state tournament, a five-set marathon that went back and forth before Wayzata defeated Eagan 25-20, 14-25, 21-25, 25-19, 16-14 for the Class 3A championship. Of the six semifinals and three championships matches during the state tournament, five of the nine went to five sets in one of the most exciting tourneys in memory.

The title was the first for Wayzata, which was the state runner-up in 2009 and 2010. Eagan, losing for the only time all season, was playing in its 12th state championship match. The Wildcats have now been the state runner-up for three years in a row.

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A: Claire Vekich, Greenway; Emma Kniefel, Kinsey Cronin, Medford; Toryn Richards, Ellie Ready, Delaney Donahue, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown; McKenna Yost, Abby Hennen, Natalee Rolbiecki, Morgan Hennen, Minneota.

Class 2A: Mikayla Coops, Morgan Kruger, Belle Plaine; Kira Fallert, Concordia Academy; Logan Sherman, Marshall; Lily Welch, Erin Lamb, Kaitlyn Prondzinski, Stewartville; Paige Sheehan, Cianna Selbitschka, Paige Peaslee, North Branch.

Class 3A: Halle Wolfe, Lakeville North; Skyler Germann, Minnetonka; Lauren Stenman, Jenna Rubbelke, North St. Paul; Elizabeth Helmich, Olivia Johnson, Sophie Jesewitz, Wayzata; Abby Moe, Sienna Ifill, Kennedi Orr, Eagan.

Saturday’s Matches

Class 1A
Fifth place: Greenway defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 25-17, 25-21, 25-18
Third place: Medford defeated Fosston 25-16, 25-16, 25-17
Championship: Minneota defeated Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 25-19, 25-19, 25-20

Class 2A
Fifth place: Marshall defeated Watertown-Mayer 25-19, 25-21, 25-15
Third place: Belle Plaine defeated Concordia Academy 26-28, 17-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-9
Championship: Stewartville defeated North Branch 20-25, 25-19, 25-16, 23-25, 15-12

Class 3A
Fifth place: Lakeville North defeated St. Louis Park 25-23, 25-20, 21-25, 25-18
Third place: North St. Paul defeated Minnetonka 25-22, 23-25, 25-19, 25-9
Championship: Wayzata defeated Eagan 25-20, 14-25, 21-25, 25-19, 16-14

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
This Week’s Football State Semifinals At U.S. Bank Stadium11/10/2019
9-MAN/ Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Hancock, 11:30 a.m.
2A/ Paynesville vs. Minneapolis North, Thursday, 2 p.m.
4A/ SMB vs. Hutchinson, 4:30 p.m.
6A/ Lakeville North vs. Champlin Park, 7 p.m.

9-MAN/ Win-E-Mac vs. Mountain Lake, 9 a.m.
2A/ Barnesville vs. Caledonia, Friday, 11:30 a.m.
5A/ Coon Rapids vs. Chaska, 2 p.m.
4A/ Rocori vs. Winona, 4:30 p.m.
6A/ Wayzata vs. Lakeville South, 7 p.m.

1A/ BOLD vs. Browerville-Eagle Valley, 9 a.m.
1A/ Ada-Borup vs. Blooming Prairie, 11:30 a.m.
3A/ Annandale vs. Dassel-Cokato, 2 p.m.
3A/ Pierz vs. Jackson County Central, 4:30 p.m.
5A/ Elk River vs. St. Thomas Academy, 7 p.m.