John's Journal
Anoka Tornadoes, Blaine Bengals: The Rivalry Continues 9/8/2016
Anoka High School and Blaine High School have a lot in common. They are among five high schools in the sprawling Anoka-Hennepin school district and they are only seven and half miles apart in the north metro. Anoka has an enrollment of 2,043 and Blaine has 2,555 students.

Historically the Anoka Tornadoes are truly old school, with a tradition that dates to 1880. The Blaine Bengals’ history goes back to 1972 … which to current students probably seems like the dark ages.

Needless to say, teams from these two institutions are great rivals and athletes from one school know athletes from the other. Often they were teammates in youth sports.

That was the set-up Thursday evening for a Northwest Suburban Conference boys soccer game at Anoka’s Goodrich Field. The stadium, built in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project, oozes history from its lush natural grass playing surface to stone walls on the perimeter and off into the old neighborhood outside the fences.

In 2014, Anoka graduate Garrison Keillor wrote a letter to the editor of the Anoka County Union, describing a football game at Goodrich. He wrote: “Last Friday, I drove up to Anoka for the Anoka-Coon Rapids football game and sat in the bleachers about 10 feet below the pressbox where, as a 14-year-old kid, I sat and wrote up the games for the Anoka Herald.

“Goodrich Field looks so much the same as it did back then and off to my right was a student cheering section, about 300 strong, distinguished by wearing odds and ends of white, white shirts, headbands, caps, one boy in a white off-the-shoulder toga, tossing white streamers, setting off white smoke bombs – a solid block of high spirited goofiness and tumult and swaying and dancing in the stands – in their whiteness, the opposite of goth, more like moths fluttering at a porch light, and so utterly different from the self-conscious solemnity of the Fifties teenager.”

There was no large student section on hand for Thursday’s 5 p.m. boys soccer game. The spirit displayed on the field, however, was clear. These teams gave each other everything they had. Which was no surprise; Anoka is the two-time state champion of Class 2A boys soccer, and Blaine has been one of the teams standing in the Tornadoes’ way en route to the state tournament. A year ago, Anoka edged the Bengals 3-2 in section play.

“It’s always a personal game, playing Anoka,” said Blaine junior goalkeeper Jonathan Coello. “Our team’s always fired up playing these guys.”

The score Thursday matched the 2015 section game, but with the roles reversed. A goal by Giovanni Podesta with a little more than six minutes to play was the decider as the Bengals won 3-2. Anoka’s goals were scored by Blake Perry and Thomas Ryan; Brett Huver and Brandon Olson got the first two for Blaine.

Ryan gave the Tornadoes a 2-1 lead early in the second half. A penalty-kick goal by Olson made it 2-2 with 16:05 to play, followed by Podesta’s heroics. The Bengals celebrated at the final horn, and rightfully so.

“These are the games you get against them,” said Anoka coach Pete Hayes. “Two rivals that are very physical. They came out on the winning end today.”

Anoka’s record is 3-2; the Tornadoes lost to Minneapolis Washburn 4-0 in their season opener. That game was a rematch of last year’s state semifinals, which Anoka won 2-1. Blaine is 5-1, losing to Andover 3-1.

“These are two evenly matched teams but I’ll tell you, they have some weapons,” Blaine coach Berry Arrowsmith said. “They’re a good team.”

After Podesta’s go-ahead goal, the weight of the world fell on Coello to keep Anoka out of the net.

“Honestly, I’ve just got to trust my defense,” he said after making 10 saves. “They did great tonight. They cleared the ball well. I trust them. And everything that comes near me, I try to own the six-yard box and keep it out of there.

“It’s always personal (playing Anoka), especially when they kicked us out last year,” he said. “We know guys on this team; it’s always fun to play them but it’s always physical, too.”

If there is a rematch in 2016, it will come in the Section 7 playoffs. And this much we know: Both teams will be ready.

“It’s early,” Hayes said. “Like I told Berry, ‘You can have this one. We want the next one.’ That’s the one that counts.”

--To see a photo gallery from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 30
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 1,418
John’s Top Five Concession Items
1. Buffalo bison burgers
2. Stillwater hot dogs
3. Lakeville South hot dogs
4. Bethlehem Academy hot dogs
5. Anoka hot dogs
John’s Top Five Concession Items
1. Buffalo bison burgers
2. Stillwater hot dogs
3. Lakeville South hot dogs
4. Bethlehem Academy hot dogs
5. Babbitt ice-cold Diet Coke
NFL Quarterbacks To MSHSL Coaches: Bollinger and Bouman 9/4/2016
Brooks Bollinger and Todd Bouman have much in common, even if they have met only briefly. Both are former NFL quarterbacks and both spent time with the Vikings. And both are Minnesota high school football coaches.

Bollinger, 36, is in his first year as the head coach at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul. He was the head coach at Hill-Murray in Maplewood in 2011, leading the Pioneers to the state semifinals before joining the University of Pittsburgh as an assistant coach. He came to Cretin-Derham Hall as the quarterbacks coach last year and was named head coach when Mike Scanlan stepped down this winter.

Bouman, 44, is in his third year as the head coach at Buffalo High School. He was an assistant with the Bison for part of the 2007 season, leaving in October when he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The two coaches made plenty of stops during their NFL careers. Bollinger played with the New York Jets, Vikings, Dallas and Detroit between 2003 and 2009, and Bowman was with the Vikings, New Orleans, Green Bay, Jacksonville, St. Louis and Baltimore between 1997 and 2010.

Bollinger, who told me “I maybe met Todd once,” had a memorable debut with the Raiders on Thursday night at Lakeville South. Cretin-Derham Hall trailed 14-0 in the third quarter before rallying for a 19-14 victory. The final two touchdowns came on desperation passes of 43 and 48 yards, the second in the final minute.

Bouman’s team also won its season opener, beating Willmar 47-20 on Friday night in the first game played at Buffalo’s spectacular new stadium. Among the stars for the Bison was Bouman’s son Aidan, a lefthanded-throwing freshman quarterback who completed 13 of 27 passes for 209 yards and five touchdowns.

Both coaches saw their share of high points as players. Bollinger, a North Dakota prep star at Grand Forks Central, was a four-year college starter at Wisconsin and was part of the Badgers’ 2000 Rose Bowl victory over Stanford. Bouman was an all-state athlete in football and basketball and went to state in track at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in southwest Minnesota. In three years as the starting quarterback at St. Cloud State he passed for 4,354 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Players sometimes ask the coaches about their time in the NFL, and the two don’t mind telling an occasional story.

“It’s harder to impress kids anymore,” Bollinger said. “They care for about 10 minutes and then they just want to know if you’re a good coach. They’ll get a story here and there: ‘What about this guy? What about that guy?’ But most of the time they’re looking at you like, ‘Oh, stop with these stories.’ ”

Rather than talk about the old days, the coaches love working with their players and teaching lessons about football as well as life off the field.

“I enjoy watching kids, from the time they’re freshmen until they’re seniors and they graduate,” Bouman said. “I always say I was lucky enough to do what I did for many years, but I had absolutely wonderful, great high school coaches and it was just a dream of mine to give back to high school kids what I got.”

Family ties also are important to Bollinger and Bouman. One of Bollinger’s assistant coaches is his father, Rob, a former assistant coach at the University of North Dakota. For Bouman, coaching his son is just the latest chapter in a family tradition.

Prior to becoming head coach of the Bison, he spent four years as an assistant coach to his brother Troy at Pipestone High School. Troy’s son Boyer was the Arrows’ starting quarterback for three of those seasons, “so I got to be around that situation and experience that, which was a lot of fun,” Todd Bouman said.

The 2016 season will continue this week with Buffalo playing at Monticello and Cretin-Derham Hall meeting Woodbury at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. The coaches will continue working with their players, knowing what’s important.

“I’m a high school coach because I was fortunate to have an unbelievable high school coach who made a huge impact on my life,” Bollinger said. “I obviously have a passion for this game, but more importantly a passion for passing that on and trying to use this game to impact kids in a positive way and help them become better men. That’s what we’re focused on.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 26
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 1,253
John’s Top Five Concession Items
1. Buffalo bison burgers
2. Stillwater hot dogs
3. Lakeville South hot dogs
4. Babbitt ice-cold Diet Coke
5. Prior Lake popcorn