John's Journal
A Night Of History And Memories for Blake, St. Paul Academy10/6/2011
Mike Brown hasn’t witnessed every football game played between St. Paul Academy and Blake in the last 100 years, but the former SPA player, coach and athletic director has been to a lot of them.

“I’ve seen every SPA game since 1960,” Brown told me Thursday evening before the two schools marked the 100th anniversary of the rivalry at Blake. This year’s game was the 86th in the series, with Blake holding a 56-23-6 edge before Thursday.

Brown, who now serves as SPA’s assistant athletic director, graduated from the school in 1960. He didn’t stray too far, never missing a game while he attended Hamline University or since. SPA and Blake played every year from 1917 until 1975, then met 10 times between 1976 and 1997. The first game was held on Nov. 3, 1911.

“These have always been good games,” Brown said. “And these have always been fun games.”

Brown smiled as he told me about the 1963 season, when an SPA math teacher scouted every one of Blake’s games until the season ended with the annual SPA-Blake contest. Blake came in undefeated, but SPA’s preparation turned the tide and the Spartans got the big win.

“We always practiced for 20 or 30 minutes every day all season just for the Blake game,” Brown said.

Thursday’s contest oozed history. Former football players joined the current players on the field for the introduction of starting lineups, and honorary captains were at midfield for the coin toss. Representing Blake were Tom Heffelfinger (Class of 1966), whose family tree goes back to grand uncle F. Peavey Heffelfinger, who played in the 1911 game, and Howard McMillan III (1976), whose grandfather, Howard Sr., also played in 1911. For SPA, honorary captain Phil Fitzpatrick (1963) is the grandson of 1911 player Philip Wright Fitzpatrick, and Rick Magnuson (1990) is linked to great uncle Everett Griggs, who was on the field in 1911.

The 2011 teams wore throwback jerseys; Blake wore brown jerseys, modeled after the Bears’ look of the 1950s, and the SPA Spartans wore white jerseys with blue on the shoulders, which was the uniform in the 1960s.

Blake retro jerseys were available via a silent auction on Spirit Plaza, with bids starting at $100. Spirit Plaza is the main entrance to William J. Glenn Field and Gordy Aamoth Jr. Memorial Stadium. Aamoth, a captain of the 1987 Blake football team, was killed in one of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001 and a twisted piece of beam from the towers is embedded in concrete at Spirit Plaze.

“I think this shows (the current players) that they are part of history and that there’s a lot of history before them,” second-year Blake coach John Coatta said. “One thing we’re trying to do, being a fairly new staff and rebuilding a program, is show them how important it is not only to their families today but how many Blake alums wake up Saturday morning and the first thing they think is, ‘Hey, how’d Blake do?’ It makes an impact on these kids that it’s bigger than they are.”

The final score Thursday was Blake 49, St. Paul Academy 8. The Bears improved to 2-4 on the season and the Spartans are 0-6. But as Coatta said, some things are bigger than the now.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 45
*Miles John has driven: 3,608

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Football Rankings And Some Big Football Games This Week10/5/2011
We are in Week 6 of the eight-week football regular season, and the list of unbeaten teams has been winnowed each week. That list will shrink even more this week, which features some marquee matchups between undefeated Top 10 teams.

In the biggest game in Class 5A, No. 4 Lakeville South and No. 5 Lakeville North – they are the only unbeaten teams in the South Suburban Conference -- will meet at North.

Several games pit Top 10 teams from different classes: Hutchinson (ranked seventh in Class 4A) will play at Glencoe-Silver Lake (No. 1 in 3A), Shakopee (No. 8 in 5A) is at Holy Angels (No. 8 in 4A) and No. 2-3A Holy Family Catholic (No. 2 in 3A) is at St. Thomas Academy (No. 2 in 4A).

In Class 1A, the big game pits No. 5 Southland at No. 9 Fillmore Central in a matchup of 5-0 teams. And in Nine-Man, top-ranked Edgerton/Ellsworth will play host to No. 4 Hills-Beaver Creek.

As we prepare for another big week of games, here are the latest Associated Press football rankings …

1 (1) Eden Prairie (5-0)
2 (2) Wayzata (5-0)
3 (3) Cretin-Derham Hall (5-0)
4 (4) Lakeville South (5-0)
5 (6) Lakeville North (5-0)
6 (7) Mounds View (4-1)
7 (8) Anoka (4-1)
8 (9) Shakopee (5-0)
9 (5) Minnetonka (4-1)
10 (10) Osseo (4-1)
Others receiving votes: Owatonna, Totino-Grace

1 (1) Mankato West (5-0)
2 (2) St. Thomas Academy (5-0)
3 (3) South St. Paul (5-0)
4 (4) Rogers (5-0)
5 (5) Bemidji (5-0)
6 (6) Delano (5-0)
7 (7) Hutchinson (5-0)
8 (8) Holy Angels (5-0)
9 (9) Marshall (5-0)
10 (10) Spring Lake Park (4-1)
Others receiving votes: Detroit Lakes, Hermantown, Hill-Murray, Rocori, Mahtomedi

1 (1) Glencoe-Silver Lake (5-0)
2 (2) Holy Family Catholic (5-0)
3 (3) St. Croix Lutheran (5-0)
4 (4) Plainview-Elgin-Millville (5-0)
5 (6) Stewartville (4-1)
6 (5) Zimmerman (5-0)
7 (7) Montevideo (5-0)
8 (8) Fairmont (4-1)
9 (10) St. Cloud Cathedral (5-0)
10 (NR) Pequot Lakes (4-1)
Others receiving votes: Rochester Lourdes, Minneapolis Washburn, Albany, De La Salle, Foley

1 (1) Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (5-0)
2 (2) Moose Lake-Willow River (5-0)
3 (3) Pierz (5-0)
4 (4) Barnesville (5-0)
5 (5) Norwood-Young America (5-0)
6 (7) Blue Earth Area (5-0)
7 (6) Caledonia (4-1)
8 (8) Hawley (5-0)
9 (9) BOLD (5-0)
10 (NR) Osakis (5-0)
10 (10) Jackson County Central (4-1)
Others receiving votes: none

1 (1) New Ulm Cathedral (5-0)
2 (3) Mahnomen (5-0)
3 (4) Adrian (5-0)
4 (5) Dawson-Boyd (5-0)
5 (6) Southland (5-0)
6 (8) Le Center (5-0)
6 (7) Braham (5-0)
8 (NR) Fertile-Beltrami (5-0)
9 (NR) Fillmore Central (5-0)
9 (9) Deer River (5-1)
Others receiving votes: Goodhue, Minneota/Lincoln HI, MACCRAY, Ogilvie, Kimball

1 (1) Edgerton/Ellsworth (5-0)
2 (3) Ada-Borup (5-0)
3 (4) Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (5-0)
4 (6) Hills-Beaver Creek (5-0)
5 (5) Ulen-Hitterdal (5-0)
6 (7) North Woods (5-0)
7 (8) Spring Grove (5-0)
8 (9) Onamia (5-0)
9 (2) Nicollet (4-1)
10 (10) Eagle Valley (5-0)
Others receiving votes: Wheaton, Nevis, Climax/Fisher
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…

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)

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)

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:
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.”

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

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