John's Journal
Father And Sons: A Family Celebration For Grand Meadow11/13/2015
Celebrating a perfect season and Grand Meadow’s third consecutive Nine-Man football state championship, Superlarks coach Gary Sloan briefly became emotional after his team defeated Underwood 34-20 Friday in the opening game of Prep Bowl XXXIV at the University of Minnesota.

He choked up a bit as he talked about his twin sons Tyler and Trevor, who had just completed their senior season. The coach’s feelings, however, also centered on the rest of the seniors, boys who have grown up with each other and each other’s families.

“When you’re in a small town like Grand Meadow it’s not just seeing the kids at the football field,” Sloan said. “These kids have grown up coming to my house, coming to my sons’ birthday parties, and my kids going to their place for birthday parties. And it does make it extra special to me personally.”

The football family ties in Grand Meadow include senior quarterback Michael Stejskal, who completed 12 of 19 passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns Friday. His father Deke and uncle Anthony are two of the three assistant coaches along with Aaron Myhre.

Trevor Sloan is a 6-foot-3, 192-pound lineman and team captain who had five tackles against Underwood. Tyler is a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder who is listed as a kicker on the roster. In truth, Tyler’s playing career ended in the third game of his sophomore season when he suffered his third concussion.

Unable to play, Tyler transformed into a de facto member of the coaching staff. He became a master at breaking down film of opponents and playing quarterback on the scout team in practice. This season he took over the scouting reports, too. His dad prepared the scouting report before the season opener against Lanesboro, but Tyler did that job for the rest of the season, including before the Prep Bowl.

“Tyler is such a big part of our team,” Gary Sloan said. “He watches more film than I do, and I’m serious. On the sidelines he’s making suggestions to me all the time and I’m doing what he says.”

The postgame celebration was pretty special for the Sloans. Gary’s other child, sophomore daughter Allison, was on the field. When the state championship trophy was presented to the Superlarks, it went right to Tyler. He carried it with pride, posing for photos with the rest of the team and reaching up into the stands for handshakes.

“For me personally, this one means a lot,” said a proud father.


The Warriors captured their sixth state title since 2007 and first since 2012. A 26-point second quarter, which included two short touchdown runs by Sam Stemper, gave Caledonia a 33-point lead at halftime. Owen King threw four touchdown passes, two each to Alex Goergen and Colton Lampert. Stemper rushed 20 times for 172 yards and King completed 13 of 20 passes for 207 yards.


The Bulldogs repeated as state champions, scoring 14 points in each of the first two quarters against the Packers. Becker’s Andrew Stanger threw for a touchdown and ran for one, and Gabe Dertinger had two rushing scores. South St. Paul quarterback Dan Pietruszewski ran 1 yard for a touchdown and threw 11 yards to Austin Brandecker for a score. Coach Dwight Lundeen’s career record is 342-145-3; he has been the Bulldogs coach since he started the program 47 years ago.


Prince Kruah scored the tying touchdown on a 4-yard run with 24 seconds to play and the extra point gave the Orioles their first football state title. Osseo scored on the game’s opening drive as Malik Gaillard threw to Damario Armstrong for a 51-yard touchdown. East Ridge led 10-7 at halftime after Grant Ryerse kicked a 36-yard field goal and Otumus Payemanu hit Sam Schiller for a 23-yard score. A 41-yard field goal by Ryerse put the Raptors in front 13-7 midway through the third quarter. Osseo’s winning drive covered 71 yards in 16 plays. Kruah ran 43 times for 189 yards.


Saturday’s championship matches are set for Xcel Energy Center. In Class 3A it will be Prior Lake vs. Eagan, in 2A it will be Belle Plaine vs. Concordia Academy-Roseville, and in 1A it will be Bethlehem Academy vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.

In Friday’s semifinals…

--Class 3A/ Prior Lake defeated Roseville 3-0 and Eagan beat Champlin Park 3-1.

--Class 2A/ Belle Plaine beat Stewartville 3-1 and Concordia Academy-Roseville beat Rocori 3-0.

--Class 1A/ Bethlehem Academy beat Heritage Christian 3-1 and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown beat Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 3-1.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 266
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,753
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
State Volleyball Update: Class 3A Semifinals Are Set11/12/2015
The Class 3A quarterfinals were the first order of business Thursday during the state volleyball tournament at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. The top four seeds in 3A all advanced to Friday's semifinals; the quarterfinals in Class 1A and 2A followed.

Here is a Class 3A quarterfinal recap...

Prior Lake 3, Hopkins 0/ The top-seeded Lakers, at state for the first time in history, played the part of the team to beat with their victory over the Royals. Prior Lake (27-4) rarely trailed, falling behind the Royals (17-14) 1-0 in the first set and 3-2 in the third set. Ella Francis had 11 kills and 13 digs for Prior Lake and Ellie Veldman had 37 assists. For Hopkins, Jasmyn Martin had 12 kills, Tara Lee had 21 assists and Lauren Ortiz had 11 digs.

Roseville 3, Moorhead 1/ Fifth-seeded Moorhead (26-5) won the first set before the fourth-seeded Raiders (24-6) rallied to take the next three and advance to Friday’s semifinals against Prior Lake. Roseville’s Alivia Garbe had 24 kills and 16 digs, Bre Maloney had 41 assists and 12 digs, Sara Hain had 13 kills and Haley Kauth had 17 digs. Moorhead’s Kenna Taylor had 24 kills and 13 digs, Britta Hanson had 25 assists, and Kortney Carney had 19 assists and 13 digs.

Champlin Park 3, North Branch 0: The third-seeded Rebels (28-4), who finished fifth at state last year, reached the semifinals with their victory over the Vikings 24-6). Sydney Hilley and Jenae Alderson had nine kills each for Champlin Park, Izzy Ashburn had 11 assists, and Alderson and Kaitlyn Weimerskirsch each had six digs. For North Branch, Morgan Coleman had 14 assists, Cianna Selbitschka had four kills and seven digs, and Courtney Selbitschka had four kills and six digs.

Eagan 3, Rochester Mayo 1: The second-seeded Wildcats (26-4) had to battle against the Spartans (27-3) in advancing to face Champlin Park in the semifinals. Brie Orr had 17 kills, 23 assists and 15 digs for Eagan, Kennedi Orr had 16 assists and Ally Murphy had 12 kills. For Mayo, Kate Holtan had 15 kills and 19 digs, Anna Winter had 13 kills and Lexie Lang had 39 assists.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,705
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
For Sebeka, The First Time Is The Third First Time 11/12/2015
Sebeka’s trip to the Class 1A state volleyball tournament added an extra exclamation point to a fall season that has been spectacular for the town of 693 souls that’s located between Brainerd and Detroit Lakes.

Three fall sports teams made it to state this year, the first time in history for each. The football and cross-country teams are cooperative squads with Menagha under the banner of United North Central.

The football team went 9-3 and reached the Class 2A state semifinals before losing to Pipestone, which will meet Caledonia in Friday’s state championship game.

In cross-country, the United North Central girls team placed 13th at last Saturday’s Class 1A state championships at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

And in volleyball, unseeded Sebeka fell to second-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 3-0 in Thursday’s Class 1A state quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center. The Trojans will meet Ada-Borup in Friday’s consolation bracket.

FOR ADA-BORUP SENIOR Morgan Miller, playing in a state tournament is nothing new. She and her Cougars teammates lost to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in Thursday’s Class 1A quarterfinals. Morgan, who also is on the Ada-Borup basketball and track teams, has now played in nine state tournaments.

In fact, she has been to every state tournament in her three sports since her freshman basketball season; three in hoops, three in track and now two in volleyball.

The Fargo Forum’s Chris Murphy wrote about Morgan on Thursday. Ada-Borup volleyball and track coach Ruth Hayden told him, “That is amazing. Not many can tell their kids that story.”


--In Class 3A, the top four seeds all advanced to Friday’s semifinals. Top seed Prior Lake defeated Hopkins 3-0, second-seeded Roseville held off fifth-seeded Moorhead 3-1, second-seeded Eagan defeated Rochester Mayo 3-1 and third-seeded Champlin Park beat North Branch 3-0. The semifinal matchups will be Prior Lake vs. Roseville and Eagan vs. Champlin Park.

--The high seeds also advanced in Class 1A. No. 1 seed and defending champion Bethlehem defeated Cook County 3-0, second-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton beat Sebeka 3-0, No. 3 seed Waterville-Elysian-Morristown beat Ada-Borup 3-0 and fourth seed Heritage Christian Academy of Maple Grove beat Verndale 3-1. In Friday’s semifinals it will be Bethlehem Academy vs. Heritage Christian and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.

--In the Class 2A quarterfinals, top seed Belle Plaine beat Perham 3-0, second-seeded Concordia Academy-Roseville beat Hermantown 3-0, No. 3 seed Rocori beat Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta 3-2 (in the day’s only match that went to a fifth set) and fourth seed Stewartville beat Hill-Murray 3-1. Friday’s semifinal matchups are Belle Plaine vs. Stewartville and Concordia vs. Rocori.

Championship matches in all three classes will be played Saturday.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 258
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,705
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Prep Bowl XXXIV Schedule11/12/2015
At the University of Minnesota

Friday, Nov. 13
10 a.m.: 9-Man/ Underwood (13-0) vs. Grand Meadow (13-0)
1 p.m.: Class 2A/ Pipestone (13-0) vs. Caledonia (13-0)
4 p.m.: Class 4A/ South St. Paul (11-1) vs. Becker (12-0)
7 p.m.: Class 6A/ Osseo (9-3) vs. East Ridge (11-1)

Saturday, Nov. 14
10 a.m.: Class 1A/ Minneapolis North (12-0) vs. Minneota (13-0)
1 p.m.: Class 3A/ Jackson County Central (10-2) vs. Pierz (12-0)
4 p.m.: Class 5A/ St. Thomas Academy (11-1) vs. St. Michael-Albertville (11-1)
An Early Hockey Challenge Is Something To Build On 11/10/2015
The high school hockey season is a long one. Girls teams began practicing on Oct. 26 and the season will culminate with the 2016 state championship games on Feb. 20. In between are 17 weeks of practices, games and lessons.

Those games at the end of the season will be played under the brightest lights and heaviest glare of attention. But the games played early on are just as vital, setting the tone for what is to come.

Case in point was Tuesday night’s game between Blake and Hill-Murray at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood. This was a match between heavyweights: Hill-Murray, playing its season opener, is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A and owns the last two state championships. Blake, playing its second game after beating Cretin-Derham Hall 4-1 on Saturday, is ranked No. 1 in Class 1A and won state championships in 2013 and 2014 before falling to Thief River Falls in last season’s title game.

The verdict Tuesday was straightforward. Hill-Murray scored power-play goals in the first and second periods and added an even-strength goal before giving up one to Blake with 14 seconds remaining in the third. The final was Pioneers 3, Bears 1 and both teams came away with lessons that can be carried forward.

“It’s kind of a typical first game of the year,” said Hill-Murray coach Bill Schafhauser. “It’s a little frazzled at times but there’s something to be said for learning how to win and it doesn’t have to be fancy sometimes.”

Both teams are loaded with high-end talent. Jac Kaasa had a goal and an assist for Hill-Murray, and Laura Anderson and Kate Smith also scored. Carly Bullock scored the late goal for the Bears.

Bullock will play college hockey at Princeton along with teammate Sylvie Wallin. Blake’s Lucy Burton will play at Yale, as will a teammate who has not yet made that news public.

Mekenzie Steffen, who had an assist for the Pioneers, will play at Wisconsin and fellow defender Kenzie Prater will play at Quinnipiac.

The shots-on-goal in the game were dead even at 23 apiece and both coaches came away impressed with the competition.

“I saw Hill-Murray play a very disciplined game,” said Blake coach Shawn Reid. “They are tough, they’re great defensively, they block tons of shots, it’s hard to generate any offense. And the couple times we did generate offense, they had a great goalie (senior Mari Johnson).”

Schafhauser said of the Bears, “They have great skill. Over the last couple of years they’ve beaten us in overtime in some really good games. It could have easily gone that way again. We had some really good goaltending. It’s a good start.”

Afterwards, the coaches talked to their teams about this fact: it’s a long season, one game is just one game, and there is much to learn.

“That’s exactly what we said,” Reid said. “We don’t need to overreact to this. It’s one game against a very good team and what we need to do is find lessons in that. What can we learn and how can we improve?”

Schafhauser said of his players, “They never gave up. It was frustrating at times. I know a lot of them understand the level that they’re used to and it just doesn’t happen overnight. That’s when you kind of lean on your seniors. We have kind of a new experience this year with nine seniors; we’ve never had that many. And we had some young kids today who were a little overwhelmed. But they’re good players and it’s just going to take a little bit of time.”

Time? Oh, there’s plenty of time.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 234
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 5,665
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn