John's Journal
Class 1A Volleyball Rankings9/16/2019
From the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

1. Minneota (14) - 238
2. Kenyon-Wanamingo (1) - 211
3. Mayer Lutheran (1) - 210
4. Medford - 186
5. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown - 180
6. Mabel-Canton - 163
7. Caledonia - 131
8. Carlton - 104
9. Henning - 95
10. Barnesville - 59
Others Receiving Votes: Kittson County Central - 35, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton - 17, New Life Academy - 13
Teams only appearing on one ballot: Adrian, Canby, Fosston, Greenway, MACCRAY
From Nine to Eleven, History Is Made In Underwood 9/16/2019
UNDERWOOD – Chuck Ross, who has been coaching football in Underwood longer than any of the current players have been alive, was a happy man as he stood before a semi-circle of Rockets – the entire varsity roster of 28 boys -- under a full moon a little past 9 p.m. on Friday the 13th.

"That was the first 11-man game ever played on Underwood soil and you guys did exactly what you needed to," Ross said following a 44-8 victory over the Roseau Rams that gave the home team a 3-0 record.

There was no sorcery at work, no witchcraft, no lucky talismans. Just rock-ribbed football based on a tradition of small-town pride and success. And this was indeed a history-making night for the Rockets in their first home game with 11 players on the field. Underwood has been a nine-man football powerhouse, going to state seven times between 1992 and 2015 with Prep Bowl losses to Grand Meadow in 2013 and 2015.

“We've been Nine-Man forever,” Ross, who is in his 22nd season as head coach, had said in a phone conversation a couple days earlier. Long ago, football was a six-man game in Underwood before the nine-player version came into vogue, and beginning this season the school enrollment has bumped the Rockets into 11-man football and Class 1A for the first time.

The game with Roseau was not only historical in Underwood, but it may have completed a four-game series unlike any other in Minnesota history. Beginning with the final game last season (a 12-0 section final loss to Verndale), the Rockets' last four opponents have come from, in order, Nine-Man, Class 1A, Class 2A and Class 3A.

They opened this season with a 46-6 win at 1A Lake Park-Audubon, followed by a 44-18 Week 2 victory at 2A Frazee and Friday’s triumph over 3A Roseau. The remainder of the regular-season opponents will be three teams from Class 1A and two from Class 2A.

“When we started the season I guess we all really didn't know what to expect,” said senior running back Zane Swanson. “I mean, we've been playing nine-man our whole lives. But we all really like it and we transitioned really well into 11-man. I think everything's clicking.”

That was certainly the case Friday night on a field that had been successfully widened from the nine-man width of 40 yards to 53 yards for 11-man. This project involved yanking sawed-off wooden poles out of the Otter Tail County ground and moving them back; a hole has been drilled near the top of each pole to accommodate a rope line that serves as a security perimeter … as if any locals would ever rush the field in anger.

Much more common behavior is how Rockets’ scoring plays are celebrated: by the honking of horns from fans sitting in their vehicles on a small berm overlooking the visitors’ side of the field, a fantastic field that is enhanced by a sharp new scoreboard this year and play clocks behind each end zone.

“Every time you run into somebody, they say they’re proud of what the guys have done so far,” said Ross, who works with three varsity assistant coaches. “We’ve had a lot of support here for football in Underwood.”

Underwood led 16-0 after the first quarter vs. Roseau, with senior quarterback Nik Gardin running for touchdowns of 39 and five yards. He added another touchdown before halftime as the Rockets led 30-8. Tim DeVaney, Chase Janu and Slade Moore scored in the second half. Roseau’s touchdown came on an 11-yard run by junior Ben Olson, a wrestler who went to state last season.

Multisport athletes are the norm in Underwood, with Ross saying nearly all the football players either wrestle or play basketball in the winter. On the football field, the challenge at most small schools is finding enough players to build depth. And adding two more starting positions in the 11-player game is another hurdle. It’s not rare for nine or 10 Underwood players to start on both sides of the ball.

“I really don’t think there’s a huge difference, football still comes down to blocking and tackling,” Ross said. “Right now our biggest problem is finding two extra linemen that we usually don’t have.”

Roseau, which finished 4-6 last year and is 1-2 in 2019, also faces the challenge of having enough athletes; the current team has 37 players.

“To build the program, that's the big thing,” said Rams coach Matt Heddan. “We don't have a high turnout of kids and obviously we need more. We have a lot of young guys this year.”

An additional challenge for Roseau, a Canadian border town, is travel. To play at Underwood, for example, the Rams spent seven hours on a school bus. “And we pass a lot of schools we can compete with that are either a different class or even in our class,” Heddan said.

Ross said having enough athletes, and athletes who can play multiple positions, is crucial to success.

“The formula is you've got to have numerous kids learn a couple different positions,” he said. “That's a big part of it. We've got guys that can play the line and they can play running back. And then the other part is, you’ve got to try to get as many kids out as you can. All of our coaches are in the school and they're constantly saying, ‘Hey, you should be out for football.’ That's the biggest part.”

Underwood will face a stiff test this week when Ada-Borup comes to town. The Class 1A Cougars (2-1 this season) have been to the state playoffs six times in the last decade.

This is Week 4 and the midpoint of the regular season. If there were issues in moving to 11-man football, Underwood is putting them in the past.

“I'm really proud of the team, because if you saw the first two weeks of practice it was pretty ugly, and how far we've grown and overcame, adjusted to everything,” said senior Wyatt Thorson. “I'm very proud of that.”

Gardin said having 11 Rockets on the field now seems natural.

“There was so much hype surrounding it, like everybody was thinking we'd be probably struggling,” he said. “And I think it helps because we've all been playing together since third or fourth grade and we've all stuck together. So I think that helps out. It's still football. We're not overthinking it.”

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

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

Class 2A Girls Tennis Individual Rankings9/15/2019
From the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association.

1 Nicole Copeland (12) Edina
2 Karin Young (10) Eastview
3 Zoe Adkins (10) Maple Grove
4 Delaney Schurhamer (12) Woodbury
5 Nicole Snezhko (12) Robbinsdale Armstrong
6 Selah Stibbins (10) Washburn
7 Aili Hietala (11) Duluth East
8 Sarah Shabaz (9) Minnetonka
9 Nicole Ridenour (10) Roseville
10 Annika Munson (8) Mahtomedi
Class 2A Girls Tennis Team Rankings9/15/2019
From the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association.

1 Edina
2 Minnetonka
3 Mounds View
4 Rochester Mayo
5 Lakeville South
6 Mahtomedi
7 Elk River
8 Rochester Century
9 Eden Prairie
10 Burnsville
Class 1A Girls Tennis Team Rankings9/15/2019
From the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association.

1 Blake
2 Breck
3 Rochester Lourdes
4 Virginia
5 Litchfield
6 Blue Earth Area
7 St. James
8 Pequot Lakes
9 Minnewaska
10 Thief River Falls