John's Journal
Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame Selections9/9/2014
The Minnesota State High School Coaches Association is honored to announce its Hall of Fame Selections for 2014. The coaches will be inducted at the annual Hall of Fame and awards banquet on Oct., 11 at the Minneapolis Marriott West Hotel in St. Louis Park. The social hour will start at 5:30 p.m. with the banquet to follow. Family, friends and former players are invited to attend. Tickets may be purchased for $30 by contacting the MSHSCA offices at (218) 8947-6796 or Jim Baker (651) 357-2937.

The four Hall of Fame inductees have accumulated impressive success in the sports they have coached. They have reached a pinnacle of coaching success that ranks them in a very special status and exemplify the greatness of Minnesota High School Coaches.

--Geri Dirth has served as the head girls track and field coach since 1980 at Apple Valley high school The Apple Valley girls track and field teams collected 15 state championships under Geri’s guidance.

--William Frantti is often called the Central Minnesota Hockey Godfather. Bill started coaching hockey in 1955 at St. Cloud Tech and continued in that capacity for 30 years. Bill continued serving in several leadership areas in promoting the growth of hockey in the state of Minnesota

--John Eberhart served as the girls tennis coach in Pine City from 1976-2000, winning many conference championships and six section championships on his way to compiling a record of 280-92. John has received numerous coaching awards, including induction into the Pine City Hall of Fame, the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame and the George Haun award from the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association.

--Zigurds “Ziggy” Kauls served as the head boys basketball coach at Mounds View from 1968 -2012. During that time Ziggy’s teams won 11 conference championships and made 12 state tournament appearances. Mounds View compiled a record of 739-357 during Ziggy’s 45 years. Coach Kauls is currently enshrined in five Halls of Fame: the Hamline University Hall of Fame, the Mounds View High School Hall of Fame, The Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, The Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame and the Forest Lake High School Hall of Fame.

Please join us in celebrating a great honor for these most deserving coaches who exemplified what it means to be called "Coach"

Family, friends, and former players are invited to attend. For ticket information contact Jim Baker, Hall of Fame Banquet coordinator (phone 651-357-2937 or email

The MSHSCA will also recognize all 2012-13 championship coaches as well as all Coach of the year and Assistant Coach of the year winners.
District Football Plan A Hit In Southwest Minnesota 9/8/2014
When district football comes to Minnesota next year, it will mean big changes in regular-season scheduling. Each team has been placed into one of 18 districts, with districts able to break down their teams into sub-districts in order to make scheduling easier.

(Key point to remember: Nothing will change in regards to the postseason. Teams will remain in sections, as has been the case for years, and the section system will continue for postseason play.)

In many areas of the state, the switch from conferences to districts won’t be a big change, and the Southwest district is in that category. The Southwest will consist of 18 teams, with most of them coming from two current conference. Southwest district schools have made the decision to split into two divisions, largely along conference lines.

There were skeptics about district football among those schools, but the plan has proved to be a sensible move.

“I was an opponent of it because we had a good strong conference and lots of rivalries,” said Springfield coach Paul Dunn. “It appears that’s going to remain, so I’m very happy with that.”

The Southwest district will consist mainly of teams that currently are members of the Little Sioux and Southern Minnesota conferences. The current Little Sioux teams are Adrian, Canby, Dawson-Boyd, Lac qui Parle Valley, Lakeview, MACCRAY, Minneota, Murray County Central, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton. The Southern Minnesota Conference teams this fall are Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, Cedar Mountain/Comfrey, Martin County West, Minnesota Valley Lutheran, New Ulm Cathedral, Sleepy Eye, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s, Springfield, Red Rock Central and Wabasso.

The Southwest district will include those teams, with these exceptions: MACCRAY and Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart will play nine-man football in the 9 West district and Martin County West will play in the South Central district. One additional team in next year’s Southwest district is Ortonville (currently in the Pheasant Conference).

“Our district is unique because for the most part they took two conferences and combined them, and that’s how we split our district up,” said Minneota coach Chad Johnston. “From that standpoint there’s not a lot of change. The big difference is the terminology; instead of saying we’re part of the Little Sioux Conference, now we’re part of a sub-district. Our conference schedule really won’t change.”

Not surprisingly, there was plenty of trepidation about district football before the plan for 2015 was announced in early June. But once coaches and others saw the plan and their individual district lineups, that fear of the unknown dissipated.

“For the most part we’re a 1A district,” Johnston said. “From that standpoint, there were not a lot of big changes. That’s always the magical question, the uncertainty.”

Dunn said, “For us, it turned out as good as it could have.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 22
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 1,826
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Nominate Your Favorites For Old Dutch Athlete/Team Of The Week9/5/2014
In partnership with Old Dutch and WCCO-AM 830, the MSHSL is proud to sponsor the Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week award for the third consecutive year. The Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week honors athletes for their contributions as athletes, students and community members.

We also honor a Team of the Week. The Team of the Week will be recognized on WCCO AM 830 every Tuesday morning on "The WCCO Morning News With Dave Lee."

Honored individual athletes are recognized on WCCO-AM 830 every Thursday evening during the "Sports To The Max" show with Mike Max and every Friday morning during "The WCCO Morning News With Dave Lee." Winners of the award will be honored live on-air at WCCO-AM 830 and online by Old Dutch and the MSHSL.

Old Dutch is the proud to recognize the Quality that lives within each of these honored athletes.

Athletes and teams can be nominated by anyone by sending an email to MSHSL media specialist John Millea at

Nominations for athletes should include the following ...
--Student's name, school and grade.
--Athletic accomplishments during the past week. Please offer detailed statistics.
--Information about the student's academics and/or community involvement.
--A photo of the student.

Nominations for teams should include a summary of what the team accomplished during the week and a team photo or school logo.
On Both Sides Of The Border, The Harvest Bowl Is King8/31/2014
WAHPETON, N.D. – There are border towns and there are Border Towns. If humans who had no knowledge of state lines but owned the ability to ignore signage drove around Wahpeton and Breckenridge, Minnesota, they would think it was one village.

The boundary between the two towns and two states is easy to miss. The Red River is little more than a meandering creek here. The meandering lends itself to the local golf course, the Bois de Sioux Golf Club, where the front nine is in North Dakota and the back nine is in Minnesota.

So yes, these towns – and the people who inhabit them – are very closely linked. This relationship is exemplified when the football teams from the two high schools face each other in what is known as the annual Harvest Bowl.

“When the stands are packed and there’s all this excitement, it’s a really big thing for both our communities,” said Chad Fredericksen, the athletic director and head football coach for the Breckenridge Cowboys. Frederisksen said this as we were standing on the Wahpeton Huskies’ home field at North Dakota State College of Science before Friday’s game, the latest chapter in a rivalry that began in 1920.

To say the rivalry game is important to these communities would be an understatement. The football players grew up together playing on youth sports teams and they often hang out with each other. Their fans are easily recognized in the stands wearing Wahpeton purple and Breckenridge green. Some marriages are a Husky-Cowboy mix, and a common t-shirt carries the colors of both schools and the words “Border Battle.”

“That green and purple clashes,” smiling Wahpeton athletic director Mike McCall said to two young ladies, one from each school, as they hugged before kickoff.

Friday’s game went the way of the Huskies, who were 10-2 last season and were the state runner-up in North Dakota’s Class AA. Wahpeton came away with a 28-6 victory, the Huskies’ fourth in a row over the Cowboys. Wahpeton’s Carson Zarak threw long touchdown passes to Mike Poppen and Blaze Irwin, Isaac Erickson ran 20 yards for a score and Thomas Nelson fell on a teammate’s fumble as the ball rolled into the end zone. Breckenridge scored on a 78-yard pass from Nathan Blaufuss to Zarek Reiff.

The winner of the annual football games takes home the shiny Harvest Bowl trophy, which is topped with a golden football and sponsored by the Cargill corporation. The Cowboys and Huskies usually meet in the first or second game of the season, and a crowd estimated at 3,000 people filled the stadium Friday. The schools take turns hosting the game, and two years ago ticket sales were worth nearly $10,000 for Wahpeton High School.

Wahpeton has a population of 7,853 and a high school enrollment of 385 students; Breckenridge’s numbers are 3,386 and 234. That’s a total of more than 11,000 residents, and the annual football game is the biggest thing in town(s).

“For these communities, this is an absolutely huge game,” McCall said. ‘The rivalry maybe isn’t as fierce as it once was, but it’s a very spirited rivalry. Both communities come together and it’s a fun rivalry.”

Earlier this year, there were a few doubts about the future of the Harvest Bowl. With Minnesota going to a new district football format in 2015, fears arose that Breckenridge’s schedule would not have a spot for the game with Wahpeton. But the MSHSL’s district placement committee -- made up of coaches and administrators from around the state – ensured that Breckenridge would have room on its schedule to allow the rivalry to continue.

If the rivalry had ended, “I think it would be very hard for both communities to handle,” McCall said. “You’ve got a river separating the two of you and you can’t play each other? When you talk about ticket sales and everything else that goes on, seeing this game go away would be a very hard financial hit for both of us.”

Fredericksen said, “We’re so fortunate that the High School League was able to maneuver it and allow us to keep this game going. It’s worked out, we can’t ask for anything more.

“This game is something that our communities come together on. They really pride themselves on this. The atmosphere for these guys to play in; for a small town to have this kind of opening-date atmosphere, it’s just outstanding.”

--To see a photo gallery from Friday’s Harvest Bowl, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 20
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 1,408
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Bethlehem Academy Volleyball Is Team To Beat In Class 1A8/27/2014
The volleyball team from Bethlehem Academy in Faribault wins state championships on a regular basis, and when the Cardinals don’t win they generally finish second. Check out this consistency: Class 1A state titles in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012, and state runner-up finishes in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.

This year’s team may be the best one Bethlehem Academy has ever had. The Cardinals, who are ranked No. 1 in the 1A coaches poll, opened the season with a 25-17, 25-12, 25-20 victory at Lakeville North on Tuesday night. North is not ranked in 3A, but as Bethlehem Academy coach Franz Boelter said afterward, “I don’t care how good we’re supposed to be, if you look past somebody they’re going to smack you with a two by four.”

The Cardinals are talented, experienced and deep. The lineup includes 2013 All-State selection Payton Nutter and All-State honorable mention picks Lauren Mathews and Maddie Strodtman. When you add Payton Schultz -- who missed most of last season because of an injury – and others, the team’s depth is something rarely seen on the small-school level.

“Once we can get some continuity going here, this is a group with a lot of flexibility to do some different things that we’ve never been able to do before,” said Boelter. “Sometimes Schultz and Nutter will flip sides, and in almost every rotation we can do that and take advantage of mismatches.”

Boelter is in his 23rd season as Bethlehem Academy’s volleyball coach. He also coached the boys basketball team for 36 years before resigning from that after last season. He is a Minnesota Hall of Fame coach in both sports and has a combined total of 1,124 victories; 613 in boys basketball and 511 in volleyball. He works as the school’s director of advancement, and he said those duties conflicted more with basketball than volleyball.

“I never anticipated I’d go 36 years,” he said of coaching basketball. “There were really two big factors. One was with most of our volleyball seasons extended to the point that they are, I was going into basketball season exhausted and I didn’t feel like I could prepare as well and I didn’t feel I had the energy that I wanted to have. And you do that for a few years in a row and it starts to catch up, it’s like you never catch your breath.

“The other thing is that in my advancement job, our busiest time is from early November to the end of April, and that’s the whole basketball season. It was just time. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it and loved all the kids I’ve worked with, but it was just time.”

He said he has no plans to step back from coaching volleyball.

“Let’s see if they’ll keep me on for a while. I’m having fun, I’m enjoying it. When coaching is part of your fiber, it’s nice to be able to hang on to one of them.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 17
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 925
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn