John's Journal
Speed Pays Big Dividends For Eden Valley-Watkins11/17/2016
Speed thrills. And it helps when kids who can run like the wind can also throw a football and catch a football. That was the story Thursday for Eden Valley-Watkins. The Eagles defeated Maple River 46-13 in the Class 2A football state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium and will play either Barnesville or Caledonia in next week’s Prep Bowl.

Eden Valley-Watkins quarterback Reese Jansen completed 14 of 17 passes for 377 yards and five touchdowns. That’s nearly 30 yards per completion, with Matt Schindler, Greg Lux and Jacob Streit each catching four passes and combining for the five touchdowns.

“It was a nice effort,” said Eden Valley-Watkins Jon Thielen in the understatement of the day. “We came out and did some of the things we wanted to. Greg thought he could get over the top, Reese thought he could get over the top. We took some shots over the top and it paid off.”

The touchdown passes were from 72, 68, 12, 51 and 38 yards. The first one was a blockbuster, a Jansen-to-Schindler hookup less than three minutes into the game.

“We just didn’t anticipate that kind of sped,” Maple River coach Brian Schoneck said. “They got behind us and we didn’t have an answer for that. We could not match that kind of speed.”

Maple River quarterback Jeff Lewis completed eight of 18 passes for 56 yards and one score. Lincoln Arndt rushed 21 times for 92 yards, John Sonnek ran for a touchdown and Lewis hit Ethan Sindelir for a 14-yard touchdown.

Maple River held the ball for nearly 28 minutes, which was eight minutes longer than Eden Valley-Watkins. The total offensive yards told the story: 512 for Eden Valley-Watkins, 191 for Maple River.

“We thought coming in we probably had an advantage with our team speed,” Thielen said. “A lot of times this year we did. That’s why we run what we run. We keep them spread out.

“We try and get them moving, try and use our speed to our advantage. All summer long these kids are doing speed stuff, speed and strength training, just for that purpose.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 266
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,838
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Big Plays, Big Points For Benilde-St. Margaret’s 11/17/2016
If you enjoy rock ‘em sock ‘em make-the-scoreboard-sing football, there was a 30-second span in Thursday’s Class 4A state semifinal between Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Marshall that you would have relished.

I am not making any of the following sentence up: Three touchdowns were scored in those 30 ticks of the clock. I kid you not.

The score was Benilde 14, Marshall 13 in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium when bang! … Benilde’s Ricky Floyd broke through the line and sprinted 51 yards for a score. After the kickoff, zoom! … Marshall’s Trey Lance hit Nick Ektanitphong on a 63-yard touchdown pass. The ensuing kickoff was wow! … of course returned 93 yards for a score by Benilde’s Payton James.

The final score was Benilde 44, Marshall 34 and that’s pretty much how the game went.

“It was a game of big plays all night,” said Marshall coach Terry Bahlmann. “We knew Floyd was going to be a big factor. It was a back-and-forth game. They’re a good football team, they’re an explosive offense. There had to be a ton of yards for both teams.”

The coach was correct. The teams combined for 744 yards; 382 for the Benilde Red Knights (9-3) and 362 for the Marshall Tigers (11-1).

If there was a key point in the contest, it was probably in the third quarter. Floyd’s third touchdown of the night, a 34-yard run, gave Benilde a 35-28 lead. After a punt by Alex Houlihan pinned Marshall on the 1-yard line, Braeden Fitzgerald tackled the Tigers’ Jackson Lee in the end zone for a safety and 37-28 score. The free kick was returned by James 32 yards to the Marshall 35, and quarterback Will Whitmore capped a six-play drive with a one-yard TD run and 44-28 score as the third quarter ended.

How big was the safety?

“That was probably your turner right there,” said Benilde co-coach Jon Hanks. “We went up 10 points and we got the ball.”

Floyd, who finished with 32 carries for 273 yards, is a handful.

“If you don’t do the little assignments and he gets outside, he’s tough to tackle,” said Marshall linebacker Reese Winkelman (who also caught five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown). “He can really fly.”

Bahlmann said of the Red Knights, “They don’t drive the field on you, they just hit a big play.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 266
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,838
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Class 6A: Down To The Wire In A Game Of Inches 11/17/2016
After Totino-Grace defeated Blaine 21-20 on Thursday night at U.S. Bank Stadium, a member of the victorious Eagles defense made a profound statement about football, a game measured in yards but decided in much smaller increments.

“We know football can come down to one play, it can come down to inches,” said linebacker Charlie Waters, who led his team with eight tackles.

He was referring to the most critical stage of the game. Blaine scored with 59 seconds left in the fourth quarter to make it Totino 21, Bengals 20. Blaine went for two points and the win, with quarterback Connor Melton being sacked on the play.

“There was no doubt in our mind we were going to go for two,” said Blaine coach Tom Develice. “We were going to beat Grace. We were going with that play.”

Totino-Grace’s coverage, however, gave Melton no one to throw to.

“Yes, 100 percent, we knew they would (go for two),” Eagles coach Jeff Ferguson said. “We would, too. You’ve got to win or lose sometime.”

When these teams met in Week 5 of the regular season, Totino-Grace won 21-14. Thursday’s victory gave the top-ranked Eagles a record of 12-0 as they await the winner of Friday’s game between Eden Prairie and Champlin Park in next week’s Prep Bowl.

“This was a tough matchup,” said Ferguson, who spent 18 years as an assistant coach at Blaine. “They are really good. They have three really good weapons. Their quarterback is good, their protection is good, (running back) Chase Harper is good. Number 1 (receiver Byron Bynum Jr.) is good, 84 (receiver Kurtis Weigand) is a special player. They played really, really well. Credit to them. That’s a great coaching staff and a great football program.”

Harper carried 21 times for 99 yards and three touchdowns for the Bengals (9-3). Melton completed 22 of 39 passes for 286 yards. Totino-Grace’s Gayflor Flomo ran 17 times for 120 yards and Ivan Burlak rushed 18 times for 91 yards and a touchdown.

“The kids played hard,” Develice said. “It was 21-20 when 17 of 17 sportswriters didn’t give us a chance. The kids played their butts off. I’m proud of our kids.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 266
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,838
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Football State Semifinals At U.S. Bank Stadium11/14/2016
Here's the schedule of games this week...

11:30 a.m. Nine-Man/ Cleveland (12-0) vs. Cromwell-Wright (12-0)

2 p.m. Class 2A/ Maple River (10-2) vs. Eden Valley-Watkins (10-1)

4:30 p.m. Class 4A/ Marshall (11-0) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (8-3)

7 p.m. Class 6A/ Totino-Grace (11-0) vs. Blaine (9-2)

9 a.m. Nine-Man/ Grand Meadow (12-0) vs. Waubun (12-0)

11:30 a.m. Class 2A/ Caledonia (12-0) vs. Barnesville (11-0)

2 p.m. Class 5A/ Owatonna (9-2) vs. Elk River (11-0)

4:30 p.m. Class 4A/ Winona (10-1) vs. Rocori (9-3)

7 p.m. Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (10-1) vs. Champlin Park (8-3)

9 a.m. Class 1A/ Rushford-Peterson (11-1) vs. Browerville/Eagle Valley (9-3)

11:30 a.m. Class 1A/ Minneapolis North (11-0) vs. Wabasso (11-1)

2 p.m. Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (11-0) vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (11-1)

4:30 p.m. Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) vs. Pierz (10-1)

7 p.m. Class 5A/ Mankato West (11-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (11-0)

Tickets can be purchased in advance at and will be available at U.S. Bank Stadium all three days.

Ticket prices for the state semifinals as well as the Prep Bowl games on Nov. 25-26 are $14 for adults and $9 for students. Each ticket is good for all games that day.
State Volleyball: A 3A Championship Match For The Ages11/12/2016
Saturday’s Class 3A volleyball state championship match was something that will be remembered for a long time. If you were inside Xcel Energy Center watching Eagan and Champlin Park go at it hammer and tong in the final match of the volleyball season, you know what I’m talking about.

Here is a sample from my Twitter barrage during the match…

--I have been at every #mshsl state volleyball tournament for 15 years and I don't remember a crowd this large or a scene this exciting.

--Champlin Park sophomore Emma Schmidt goes up for a kill, senior teammate Sydney Hilley yells "Get on that!" Point Rebels.

--Timeout with Eagan leading 20-19 and the Champlin Park Show Band is playing Born to be Wild. This is fun. #mshsl

--Another timeout, Eagan leads Champlin Park 23-20 in first set. Eagan's big band playing We Are Family. Indeed we are. #mshsl

It was that kind of deal. Fun, exciting, thrilling. You get the idea.

The matchup was exactly what you want in a state title game. Eagan came in with a record of 30-1, and the Wildcats’ only loss was to Champlin Park in a tournament on the final day of the regular season. The Rebels were 31-2 with losses to Lakeville North and Hopkins.

Eagan came out on top this time, winning 3-1 to clinch its second consecutive championship and third in four years.

“It never gets old,” said Eagan coach Kathy Gillen. “Every tournament has a different feel and a different way to get to the finals.”

Gillen has been the Wildcats coach in two stints. She stepped down after 17 years in 2008 and returned before the 2011 season. She was inducted into the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014. Eagan won previous state titles in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2013 and 2015.

The Wildcats won the first set 25-20 Saturday before Champlin Park rallied to win the second set 25-17. The final two sets finished 25-21.

“It was a hard-fought match,” said Rebels coach John Yunker, whose team played in the championship game for the first time in school history. “We played them a couple weeks ago and it was very similar. They made a couple more plays than we did.

“Eagan’s a great team. They haven’t been challenged a whole lot this year because of their level of play.”

Each team was led by a player headed to a Big Ten volleyball team: Eagan’s Brie Orr will play at Iowa and the Rebels’ Hilley will go to Wisconsin.

Orr finished with 18 kills and 19 set assists, both team highs. Hilley, a force at the net, had a phenomenal 110 attacks and totaled 27 kills along with 18 digs.

“I didn’t even know I had that many swings,” Hilley said. “That’s a lot of swings. Every single time I took a swing they had a solid closed block. They got a lot of great touches on me.”

Class 1A
Fifth place/ Underwood defeated Kimball 3-0
Third place/ Tracy-Milroy-Balaton defeated Heritage Christian 3-0
Championship/ Mayer Lutheran defeated Caledonia 3-1

Class 1A Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team
Brenna Tinjum, Underwood; Bella Lien, Heritage Christian; Gabbie Gervais, Sydney Lanoue, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton; Madison Hucky, Olivia Tjernagel, Madi Beck, Mayer Lutheran; Madisyn Heaney, Adrianna Reinhart, Mariah Schroeder, Caledonia.

Class 2A
Fifth place/ Morris/Chokio-Alberta defeated Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 3-1
Third place/ Kenyon-Wanamingo defeated Kasson-Mantorville 3-0
Championship/ Maple Lake defeated Concordia Academy 3-0

Class 2A Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team
Karly Fehr, Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta; Peyton Suess, Kasson-Mantorville; Mara Quam, Megan Flom, Kenyon-Wanamingo; Brooke Weichbrodt, Anika Neuman, Erin Fallert, Concordia Academy; Amber Klug, Linsey Rachel, Brynn Paumen, Maple Lake.

Class 3A
Fifth place/ Prior Lake defeated Moorhead 3-1
Third place/ Lakeville South defeated Hopkins 3-0
Championship/ Eagan defeated Champlin Park 3-1

Class 3A Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team
CC McGraw, Prior Lake; Jasmyn Martin, Hopkins; Jenny Mosser, Halle Johnston, Lakeville South; Sydney Hilley, Izzy Ashburn, Champlin Park; McKenna Melville, Taylor Olstad, Brie Orr, Alyssa Doucette, Eagan.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 4,788
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn