John's Journal
Some Decisions Made, Big Football Decisions To Come 12/5/2013
The MSHSL board of directors held a lengthy discussion about a proposal to revamp regular-season football at its meeting Thursday, with no decisions made as more information is gathered from schools.

The plan, called District Football Scheduling, would (as described in a previous installment of John's Journal) group teams into districts as a method to assist schools in filling their football schedules. Schools around the state have asked for assistance in fixing the problem, and a select committee developed the District Football Scheduling concept.

The board approved the dates for the 2015 Prep Bowl at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium. The Prep Bowl games will be played Nov. 13-14. The board had previously approved a move to TCF Bank Stadium for the Prep Bowl in 2014, with championship games to be played on Nov. 21-22, 2014.

Other football issues remain to be settled for 2015. Because the Prep Bowl will be played earlier than normal (due to TCF Bank Stadium availability), the board discussed several options pertaining to the regular-season format in 2015. They included the possibility of starting the season earlier, playing a seven-game regular-season (instead of the normal eight games) and an abbreviated playoff format. Board members want to gather more information before voting on a football plan for 2015; a vote is expected at the next meeting on Jan. 23.

The 2015 football season is a major issue, but scheduling problem will not be an issue in 2016 and thereafter, because the Prep Bowl will move into the new Vikings Stadium in 2016.

The board approved several other actions ...

--The placement of Benilde-St. Margaret's into the Metro West Conference and St. Thomas Academy into the Metro East.

--The 2014 state soccer tournament will be held at St. Cloud State's Husky Stadium, with semifinals and finals played Oct. 28-29-30. The 2015 state soccer semifinals and finals, also at Husky Stadium, will be played Nov. 3-4-5.

--An MSHSL partnership with the Minnesota High School Press Association.

--An expansion of varsity baseball rosters from 18 to 20 players.

Discussion items included a recommendation from the softball advisory committee that softball go from three classes to four classes. No vote was taken at the meeting. Another discussion item was a proposal from the Minnesota Academic Decathlon program to have it become affiliated with the MSHSL; no discussion was held and the item was withheld until the board's January meeting.
MSHSL Board To Discuss District Football Scheduling Proposal12/4/2013
The MSHSL board of directors will meet Thursday morning at MSHSL World Headquarters in Brooklyn Center, with a full agenda on the table.

The biggest headlines are likely to come from a proposed District Football Scheduling Plan that has been put together in an attempt to solve football scheduling issues that many schools face (details below). The board will not make a decision on the proposal Thursday; it is a discussion item only.

The board is expected to approve placement of two schools into conferences: Benilde-St. Margaret’s into the Metro West and St. Thomas Academy into the Metro East. State soccer tournament dates and a temporary site at St. Cloud State’s Husky Stadium for 2014 and 2015 also is on the agenda, as is a partnership with the Minnesota High School Press Assocation.

In addition, the board will vote on a request to increase the roster size for baseball teams and on state football tournament dates and sites for 2015.

The board has previously approved a move to TCF Bank Stadium for the Prep Bowl in 2014, with championship games to be played on Nov. 21-22, 2014. For 2015, TCF Bank Stadium is available for Prep Bowl games on Nov. 14-15, which may mean a shortened regular-season football schedule , an abbreviated playoff format for that season or other options.

Other discussion items include a proposal from the Softball Advisory Committee to move from three classes to four classes in softball, and a request to add Academic Decathlon as an MSHSL program.

The proposal for a District Football Scheduling Plan was put together by a special committee. The proposal -- which if approved by the board at its January meeting -- would be implemented for the 2015 football season. The proposal includes these possibilities …

--Scheduling groups would be created around the state, based on factors that include school size, geography, “like schools” and strength of programs. The groups should consist of at least 16 or more schools whenever possible. The minimum size of any group is 10 schools.

--A placement committee with representatives from all areas of the state would place schools into scheduling groups. Those decisions would be reviewed by the MSHSL’s Activities Director Advisory Committee and would have to be approved by the MSHSL board of directors.

--Districts would be realigned every two years to make adjustments for enrollment changes, changes in nine-man schools, changes in cooperative programs and changes due to programs being dropped, school consolidations, etc.

--A guideline is that the enrollment difference in any group should be no more than a ratio of 2-to-1, and when possible the ratio would be less than 2-to-1.

--All schools would be able to provide information to the placement committee, including important rivalries, willingness to play against larger schools, travel issues or a willingness to travel further for a competitive schedule.

--Class 6A would follow the same plan as other classes, and some Class 5A teams may be included in groups with 6A teams based on enrollment and geography.

--Each school must play all eight of its regular-season games within its district. The only exceptions are districts with an odd number of schools. In that case, Zero Week games may be used to provide a full schedule or games could be scheduled against out-of-state teams.

--Each district would create schedules for teams in the district. Districts may create conferences or other sub-groups within the district for scheduling purposes.

--The section playoff format would remain the same as it is currently, with section seeding based on regular-season results.

The board meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Channeling History: Owatonna Takes Home A Title 11/30/2013
For the unbiased football fan -- by which I mean anyone whose outerwear doesn't carry the words "Owatonna" or "Huskies" -- the sentimental favorite to win the final high school sporting event in the Metrodome was Brainerd football coach Ron Stolski.

After all, the guy has been a high school head coach for 53 years and has more victories (354) than any coach in Minnesota history. Stolski was one of the architects of the current playoff system, which began in 1972 and became an occupant of the Metrodome when the place was shiny and new in 1982. So it would have been fitting to see Brainerd take home its first state football championship in Saturday's Class 5A Prep Bowl.

But the story is Owatonna, and the Huskies' first-ever state football title is all the more deserving of accolades. Brainerd was playing in its first Prep Bowl and Owatonna had played in four and lost in four. Furthermore, Owatonna played in the first indoor Prep Bowl in 1982 and closed the building with a 24-0 victory over Brainerd on Saturday on the final prep game under the big roof.

Huskies coach Jeff Williams, who was a senior at Rochester John Marshall in 1982, said, "It was 32 years in the making, I guess, and to be able to close out the dome for high school football with a W is pretty cool."

Here's another link from 1982 to 2013: Owatonna senior Aaron Peterson -- who rushed 35 times for 183 yards and two touchdowns Saturday -- is the grandson of the late Jerry Peterson, who was the Huskies coach from 1966-96. Stolski, in fact, was good friends with Jerry Peterson.

"My grandpa coached the 1982 Dome team," Aaron said. "And to be able to come back and say a Peterson was on the first Owatonna team to win a state championship means a lot. I'm so proud to be here."

Owatonna took control of the game quickly. The Huskies' opening drive covered 80 yards in 16 plays and took nearly six minutes off the clock. Peterson capped it with a 3-yard scoring run. He scored on a 1-yard run early in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead ... and the tone was set. Owatonna's defense was solid throughout, holding Brainerd to eight first downs and 89 rushing yards. The Huskies had 369 total yards and they went 7-for-7 on fourth-down conversions.

Last season, Owatonna lost to Totino-Grace 49-21 in the 5A Prep Bowl; Totino-Grace moved up to 6A this season. Before last season, Owatonna's most recent Prep Bowl came in 1998, and Williams talked about the change in attitude at the dome, and throughout the season.

"I don't think they necessarily enjoyed this experience as much as they enjoyed last year," he said. "This year was just all business. There wasn't any wow factor or the little tickle in the back of your neck when we came out of the tunnel into the dome. It was just business for these kids. I'm really happy they're getting to experience winning the last one."

Stolski (pictured) had been flooded with good luck messages during the two weeks between the state semifinals and the Prep Bowl. But he stressed after Saturday's game that this enterprise isn't about him. It's about his team.

"I really appreciate all the well-wishers, I really do," he said. "But honestly, we've won a lot of games, and to pick one over the other ... we've had some great wins. I wanted this, honestly, for our coaches and our kids. But for me, I'm way past it. Honestly.

And he said he'll be back next season, his 54th.

"We're going to coach next year and we're going to bring a bunch of kids along again."

MAHNOMEN: AT HOME IN THE DOME

If any football team is particularly sad to see the Metrodome go, it's the Mahnomen Indians. They have made the dome their second home over the years, and on Saturday they won their second consecutive Class 1A state championship with a 46-13 victory over Dawson-Boyd.

No high school team in the state has played in more Prep Bowls than the Indians, who have done so 13 times. And Saturday's title was their eighth, along with five state runner-up finishes. Their previous championships came in 1980, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998 and 2012.

Mahnomen's last loss came against Dawson-Boyd in the 2011 Prep Bowl by a 35-20 score. The Indians have not lost since then, with Saturday's victory extending their streak to a current state-best 28 in a row. (The state record for consecutive wins is 76 by Stephen-Argyle from 2003 to 2008).

More numbers cast a bright light on how dominant Mahnomen has been this season. In 14 games, the undefeated Indians outscored their opponents 638-57; that's an average score of 45-4 ... with eight shutouts.

Saturday's game was largely the Pavek and Lefebvre Show, with sophomore quarterback Tom Pavek rushing 24 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns and classmate Kody Lefebvre scoring two TDs on the ground and leading his team with eight tackles.

Dawson-Boyd quarterback Joey Lee set two Prep Bowl records with 51 pass attempts and 27 completions. The previous records were 44 by Ryan Hulke of Nicollet in 1999 and 26 by Chris Meidt of Minneota in 1987.

Blackjacks receiver Michael Lee (Joey's cousin) set a Prep Bowl record with 12 receptions, topping the record of 11 receptions by Eric Hennen of Minneota in 1987. Dawson-Boyd also set a team record for pass attempts with 52; the previous mark was 46 by Nicollet in 1999.

POINTS, POINTS AND MORE POINTS

In the Class 3A Prep Bowl, there were touchdown runs of 68, 67, 35, 48 and 69 yards. There were touchdown passes of 52, 35 (three times), 37 and 28 yards, plus a kickoff return of 64 yards for a score.

The result of that dynamite-enhanced indoor track meet was a 48-44 victory for St. Croix Lutheran over New London-Spicer. It was the Crusaders' second state title in three years.

The 92 total points set a Prep Bowl record. The previous mark was 91 (Triton 70, Luverne 21, 2A in 2006, and Cromwell 49, Lanesboro 42, nine-man in 2010). The teams also combined for 971 yards, with St. Croix Lutheran gaining 572 and New London-Spicer 399.

"There are so many aspects to the game of football and you saw them all today," said Crusaders coach Carl Lemke. "Passing, running, kicking. It's just an exciting time to be around football."

Hans Klingenschmitt led the Crusaders with 22 carries for 177 yards and a touchdown and Trever Koester ran 20 times for 139 yards and two scores. David Ponath completed five of six passes for 155 yards and three TDs.

"We knew they were a really explosive team and they would be tough to contain," Ponath said. "But we knew if we did our jobs and just executed we would hopefully win."

New London-Spicer's Ryan Vraa completed five of 11 passes for 125 yards and three touchdowns, while Adam Essler rushed 21 times for 194 yards and two scores.

This question was posed to Lemke: Was there a sense that the last team to score would win?

"That says it all. We were hoping we could hang on."

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--I issued my 20,000th Tweet on Saturday, and it held special significance in relation to the end of the Metrodome. Follow @MSHSLjohn to see it.

--Total Prep Bowl attendance was 31,848, the largest total since 2008 and a great way to go out at the Metrodome.

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 45 for the fall state tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 219
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,822
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Good Morning From The Metrodome And Prep Bowl XXXII11/29/2013
The last weekend of high school football in the Metrodome is underway. We’re starting the day with the nine-man state championship game between Grand Meadow and Underwood, two teams that have never won a state football title.

We will continue with three more games today, followed by three games on Saturday as we wrap up 32 years in the Metrodome.

The games are being televised by KSTC Channel 45 and webcast on a pay-for-view basis by prep45.com.

Follow me on Twitter @MSHSLjohn for scoring updates, photos and assorted ramblings from the Prep Bowl.

PREP BOWL MATCHUPS

Friday
10 a.m.: Nine-man/ Underwood (10-3) vs. Grand Meadow (12-1)
1 p.m: Class 2A/ Minneota (13-0) vs. Chatfield (12-1)
4 p.m.: Class 4A/ Hutchinson (12-0) vs. Holy Angels (7-5)
7 p.m.: Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (11-0) vs. Rosemount (11-1)

Saturday
10 a.m.: Class 1A/ Dawson-Boyd (12-1) vs. Mahnomen (13-0)
1 p.m.: Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (10-2) vs. New London-Spicer (10-2)
4 p.m.: Class 5A/ Brainerd (12-0) vs. Owatonna (12-0)

RG5's Big Day Leads To Repeat State Title For Hutchinson11/29/2013
Robbie Grimsley is a junior running back for the Hutchinson Tigers who wears jersey number 5. Take his initials, his number and think of NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III -- also known as RG3. Thus, Grimsley is RG5.

RG5 had a red-letter day Friday in the Class 4A Prep Bowl. He carried the ball only three times in the first quarter, but he scored touchdowns on all three plays: 76 yards, 57 yards and a Prep Bowl-record 92 yards for a one-period total of 225. The defending state champion Tigers led 21-0 after the opening quarter, 35-0 at halftime and cruised to a 49-7 victory over Holy Angels.

Grimsley finished the game with six carries for 261 yards and the three TDs. It was an amazing performance that will long be remembered in Prep Bowl lore. But to Hutchinson coach Andy Rostberg, it was no big whoop.

"It didn't surprise me," the coach said. "Robbie's a good back and he's been doing that all year for us, long runs. And he's a game-breaker. He doesn't need much of a crack to shoot through there, and we were giving him some cracks. And if he gets out there in the secondary, it's usually over."

Grimsley's cohort in the backfield, senior Tory Adams, rushed 19 times for 147 yards and his own three scores (plus a punt return for a touchdown). That combination was lethal.

"I'm just really excited," said RG5. "The O line played a great game, they made it really easy for Tory and me to run. And the defense got a shutout until the end. It was overall a great effort by the whole team."

Grimsley was accepting no personal credit, either.

"I can't put that all on me," he said. "The O line made huge holes and it was just a track meet from there. The only thing I was thinking was, 'Run as fast as you can and don't let anyone catch you.' "

Last year Hutchinson beat Holy Family 67-7 in the Prep Bowl. Combine that with Friday's score and the total is 116-14. The Tigers have won 26 games in a row.

RG5's Prep Bowl didn't begin very auspiciously; he fumbled the opening kickoff and Holy Angels recovered. Rostberg mentioned that fact in the locker room at halftime.

"I told him, 'There isn't a worse way to start a game than fumbling the opening kickoff.' "

He made up for it.

GRAND MEADOW'S PURPLE PRIDE

It can be hard to understate the importance of Metrodome experience in the Prep Bowl. Teams that come to the big dome for the first time -- in the state semifinals -- often are a little intimidated by the sheer vastness of the arena. For Grand Meadow, Friday's nine-man state championship game was further proof that Metrodome experience can pay off in a big way.

A year ago the Superlarks were the state runners-up, losing to Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 40-22 in the Prep Bowl. This time around, Grand Meadow rolled to a 28-6 victory over Underwood, a team that was playing in its first Prep Bowl. And for everyone in the southeastern Minnesota town, the title was big, big stuff.

"You can't even imagine," said coach Gary Sloan (pictured hugging quarterback Trenton Bleifus), whose career victory total now stands at 150. "Grand Meadow's a great football town and we've had a lot of success but this has been the one thing we haven't been able to do. And now we've done it."

Grand Meadow, which was the Class C runner-up in 1987, has now won the school's first state title in any sport. The Superlarks have only three seniors on their 24-man roster, so there may be more of the same in the future.

"I think we've got really mature kids," said Sloan. "Even though we're young, I think we're real mature and I don't think we play like we're young. I'm just so proud of these guys, and our whole community, the way they all support us. It's unbelievable."

Bleifus ran for two short touchdowns and threw to Blake Olson for a 36-yard score in the victory. Bleifus completed 10 of 20 passes for 111 yards and Landon Jacobson rushed 28 times for 123 yards and a touchdown. Underwood scored in the fourth quarter when Adam Creek threw to LeRoy Hauge for a 32-yard TD.

A FOURTH TITLE FOR CHATFIELD

Chatfield played a strong defensive game in defeating Minneota/Lilcoln HI 17-7 in the Class 2A Prep Bowl. Minneota was held to 62 rushing yards while quarterback Austin Buysse completed 20 of 33 passes for 204 yards. But Chatfield held the Vikings out of the end zone until Buysse hit Jaff Gladis from 16 yards in the final seconds.

Jacob Neis led the Gophers with 24 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown. Nate Skare scored on a 3-yard run and kicked a 19-yard field goal for Chatfield.

Chatfield and Minneota are two of the state's storied football programs. Chatfield has been to the state playoffs eight times and won back-to-back-to-back Class C state titles from 1994 through 1996. Minneota, which is making its 11th appearance, had a similar run of three consecutive Class C championships in 1986, 1987 and 1988.

EAGLES COMPLETE BIG-SCHOOL THREEPEAT

Eden Prairie won its third consecutive big-school state title with a 28-7 victory over Rosemount in the Class 6A game. The Eagles were 5A champs in 2011 and 6A winners last season. Eden Prairie outgained the Irish 403 yards to 157, with Anthony Anderson rushing 19 times for 165 yards and a touchdown.

DOWN MEMORY LANE FOR 1996 CHATFIELD PLAYER

In 1996 Matt Sogla was a member of the Chatfield football team that defeated Hawley 12-7 in the Class C Prep Bowl for the Gophers' third consecutive state championship. In that game, a 64-yd Hawley touchdown pass with less than three minutes to play was negated by an illegal procedure penalty. Sogla was the defensive back who gave up the touchdown, and he was quite relieved when it was called back.

"My teammates were saying there was a penalty on the play and it was coming back," Sogla recalled. "Talk about going from utter devastation to complete relief. At that moment and until in the locker room, I was never aware what the penalty was for. But at the time, it didn't matter because we still had to stop Hawley from scoring the rest of the game. Although I intercepted the game's final pass, I was still in shock by what could have happened. I found it difficult to celebrate. The locker room was fairly quiet as compared to in the previous years. We left everything on the field that early afternoon."

Matt, who is now a high school football official, came to the Prep Bowl to watch the 2013 Chatfield Gophers. With him was his wife Carolyn and his 6-year-old daughter Madison -- who wore her dad's old high school jersey.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Grand Meadow's seniors lost only one game wearing their purple jerseys, and the underclassmen have never lost while wearing purple. "We feel pretty good when we put those on," said Sloan.

PREP BOWL XXXII

Friday
Nine-man/ Grand Meadow 28, Underwood 6
Class 2A/ Chatfield 17, Minneota 7
Class 4A/ Hutchinson 49, Holy Angels 7
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 28, Rosemount 7

Saturday
10 a.m.: Class 1A/ Dawson-Boyd (12-1) vs. Mahnomen (13-0)
1 p.m.: Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (10-2) vs. New London-Spicer (10-2)
4 p.m.: Class 5A/ Brainerd (12-0) vs. Owatonna (12-0)

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 40 for the fall state tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 219
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,777
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn