John's Journal
For Father And Son, Prep Bowl Memories To Last A Lifetime11/15/2013
Owatonna High School football teams have played in three Prep Bowls, finishing as the state runner-up each time. The Huskies will get another crack at a state championship on Nov. 30 at the Metrodome, meeting the winner of Saturday night’s Class 5A semifinal between Brainerd and Chaska.

The first Owatonna team to get to the Prep Bowl was the 1982 squad. Doug Wanous, then in 11th grade, was the starting center on that team, which lost to Stillwater 34-27. That ’82 squad has lived in local lore for all these years as the team that set the bar for every team since then.

Doug Wanous was a very proud man Friday afternoon after the Huskies defeated St. Michael-Albertville 27-7. He’s an English teacher at the school and coaches the offensive line. Wanous posed for a photo with his son Luke -- a senior tight end and linebacker – as they celebrated a special father-and-son experience.

Doug played in the very first Prep Bowl held in the Metrodome and Luke will play in the last one before the building is torn down.

“It’s kind of a beautiful thing,” Doug said.

Owatonna lost to Totino-Grace 49-21 in last year’s 5A Prep Bowl. So Friday’s victory gives Luke some bragging rights; two Prep Bowls to his father’s one.

“I have not stopped hearing about it, ever since I was born,” Luke said with a giant smile. “He’s always been, ‘Oh, my class in ’82…’ Guess what? I’m back to back, I’ve one-upped him.”

And Doug couldn’t be more proud.

“The cool thing is, I’ve taken Luke to the semifinal games here since he was in third grade. This is really where he’s learned the game of football. We’d be able to look at various techniques, various defenses, various offenses and personnel. This dome is a pretty special place to both of us.”

Luke led the Huskies (12-0) with seven tackles Friday and also broke up a pass. The Owatonna defense held St. Michael-Albertville (10-2) to 49 rushing yards. The Huskies’ Aaron Peterson carried 30 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns and Ian Langeberg completed nine of 12 passes for 85 yards and a score. St. Michael-Albertville’s Jackson Greenwaldt completed nine of 24 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s unbelievable,” Luke said of returning to the Prep Bowl. “This is what we’ve been working for our whole lives, since when we started playing as little kids.”

With Doug’s athletic background and the strong Owatonna sports traditions, Luke was all but destined to be a part of it.

“The ’82 dome team was always talked about,” Doug said. “That was what our community kind of rallied around. And so Luke had no choice but to be inundated into that community.

“To see him experience this is really a wonderful thing. Somebody said to me, ‘I hope things work out for your son,’ and I said ‘It already has.’ ”

BACK TO BACK FOR GRAND MEADOW

The Grand Meadow Superlarks played in the Prep Bowl a year ago, losing to Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley in the nine-man championship game. Looking at that senior-dominated team, any thoughts of back-to-back appearances seemed a little like whimsy. That’s because the Superlarks gathered for the 2013 season with only three returning starters.

But here they are, a high school with only 94 students and a football team with only 24 players in uniform, back in the Prep Bowl. The Superlarks defeated Kittson County Central 21-7 in Friday’s semifinals.

Grand Meadow (12-1) will meet Underwood (10-3) in the championship game on Nov. 29. Underwood advanced to its first Prep Bowl with a 34-20 win over Ely on Thursday.

Is it miraculous that Grand Meadow is back in the Prep Bowl? No, it’s heart.

“We have a lot of inexperienced guys out there,” said Grand Meadow coach Gary Sloan. “I think the kids are just playing with a lot of heart.”

Last year’s Metrodome experience is certainly a factor, because playing in the big stadium for the first time often produces a deer-in-the-headlights scenario.

“I think (last year’s experience) was important,” Sloan said. “Even the guys that maybe didn’t play last year, they got the experience of being around the sideline, doing all the fun things that go with it. We talk about not letting the game be bigger than you, and I think the kids are up to the challenge.”

The Grand Meadow-Kittson game may have set a record for mileage between two high school opponents in the Metrodome. Kittson County Central is in Hallock in northwest Minnesota and Grand Meadow is in the southeastern part of the state. They are 500 miles apart.

Due to the distance, the Grand Meadow coaches weren’t able to scout the Bearcats in person.

“We had two games from them on video, and my coaches did a really good job of putting together a scouting report,” Sloan said. “Kittson’s got a heck of a good team; I wouldn’t want to play them again.”

Grand Meadow was led by Landon Jacobson (pictured), who rushed 33 times for 202 yards and a touchdown. Kittson quarterback Drew Olsonawski completed 15 of 27 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown.

CLASS 2A/ CHATFIELD 41, HAWLEY 21

The Gophers scored the game’s first 28 points and advanced to the Prep Bowl, where they will meet the Minneota Vikings. Jacob Neis was the offensive star for Chatfield, carrying 26 times for 233 yards and four touchdowns. Alex Brandt rushed 15 times for 155 yards and the Gophers (12-1) finished with 484 total yards on the ground.

Hawley (10-2) quarterback Jordan Harms completed eight of 22 passes for 168 yards, with Ben Ellefson catching two passes for 103 yards.

CLASS 4A/ HOLY ANGELS 33, DELASALLE 21

After going 3-5 in the regular season, Holy Angels (7-5) extended its postseason winning streak to four games by defeating the Islanders (10-1). The Stars will play in the Prep Bowl on Nov. 29 against Hutchinson (12-0), which beat Delano 35-9 on Thursday.

Connor Moriarty rushed 23 times for 122 yards for the Stars and Danny Hoffman completed eight of 13 passes for 93 yards and a TD. Connor McCarthy ran for two touchdowns. For DeLaSalle, Chris Williams ran 28 times for 156 yards.

CLASS 6A/ EDEN PRAIRIE 47, TOTINO-GRACE 22

The Eden Prairie Eagles advanced to their third consecutive Prep Bowl with a dominating victory over the Totino-Grace Eagles. After a 7-7 first quarter, two-time defending champ Eden Prairie took control with 27 points in the second quarter. Eden Prairie (11-0) will meet Rosemount (11-1) in the Prep Bowl on Nov. 29.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--My favorite football semifinal nicknames: 1. Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks, 2. Hawley Nuggets, 3. Grand Meadow Superlarks, 4. Proctor Rails.

--My favorite mascots: Harley the Husky from Owatonna and Clarkthe Superlark from Grand Meadow.

Thursday’s Results
Nine-man/ Underwood 34, Ely 20
Class 2A/ Minneota/Lincoln HI (12-0) vs. Maple Lake (8-4)
Class 4A/ Hutchinson 35, Delano 9
Class 6A/ Rosemount 35, Roseville 28

Friday’s Results
Nine-man/ Grand Meadow 21, Kittson Central 7
Class 2A/ Chatfield 41, Hawley 21
Class 5A/ Owatonna 27, St. Michael-Albertville 7
Class 4A/ Holy Angels 33, DeLaSalle 21
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 47, Totino-Grace 22

Saturday’s Games
9 a.m.: Class 1A/ Dawson-Boyd (11-1) vs. Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (12-0)
11:30 a.m.: Class 1A/ Mahnomen (12-0) vs. Bethlehem Academy (9-3)
2 p.m.: Class 3A/ Proctor (9-2) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (9-2)
4:30 p.m.: Class 3A/ New London-Spicer (9-2) vs. Rochester Lourdes (10-1)
7 p.m.: Class 5A/ Brainerd (11-0) vs. Chaska (11-0)

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 9 for the state football tournament, 30 for the fall state tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited:165
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,164
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Basketball News: Bob McDonald Will Coach One More Season11/15/2013
There was breaking news Friday night when Chisholm boys basketball coach Bob McDonald, who has more victories than any coach in state history and ranks No. 1 in the nation among active coaches, announced that he will retire after the 2013-14 season.

McDonald, 80, will retire after 59 years as a head coach. He has been the Bluestreaks coach since 1961-62. Before that he coached for four years at McGregor and two at Barnum. He has 994 career victories.

Chisholm will open the season next Friday, Nov. 22, with a home game against North Woods.
Noah Way: Underwood Gets To Prep Bowl With Star On Sideline11/14/2013
Noah Thompson, a 2,000-yard rusher from Underwood, left Thursday’s nine-man state semifinal game against Ely with eight minutes to play. At the time, Underwood held a seven-point lead and the outcome was up for grabs.

Having Thompson watching from the Metrodome sidelines was not optimal for the Rockets. He had carried the ball 239 times this season for 2,107 yards and 20 touchdowns. When he left Thursday’s game with an injury, he had rushed 31 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns.

The good news for Underwood: The Rockets went on to a 34-20 victory and their first berth in the Prep Bowl.

Thompson was hurt while playing defense; the helmet of Ely’s Mark Heiman slammed into his left bicep. The result was a bruise, a painful bruise.

“It hurt right away,” Thompson said. But a little pain is nothing new for the 5-foot-7, 157-pound junior. When I inquired if he had ever been injured before, he ran down the list.

--He broke his right thumb six weeks ago but didn’t miss any games while playing with a cast on his hand.

--He suffered a left knee injury early in the season.

--He injured his back playing softball last summer. “It still hurts,” he said.

More good news for the Rockets (10-3): They won’t play in the Prep Bowl for more than two weeks, which should give Thompson time to heal. They will meet the winner of Friday’s game between Kittson Country Central (12-0) and Grand Meadow (11-1) on Nov. 29.

Thompson isn’t the Rockets’ only weapon. Quarterback Adam Creek ran 15 times for 129 yards and Matt Biegler and Dylan Kalenze both ran for touchdowns. Kalenze’s score, a 13-yard burst, sealed the victory with 54 seconds left in the game.

Louis Gerzin led Ely (12-1) with 25 carries for 170 yards and a score, and quarterback Sean Jordan completed 10 of 15 passes for 99 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown strike to Michael Lah. Mark Heiman scored a rushing TD for the Timberwolves.

A HAPPY METRODOME REUNION

At the state football semifinals a year ago, I was walking behind one of the Metrodome end zones when someone in the bleachers hollered, “Hi John!” I looked up at a young man sitting in the second row and said, “Do I know you?” He smiled a big smile and said, “No, but I read your journal.”

It was Austin Buysse, who was then a junior at Minneota. The Vikings’ 2012 season had ended with a loss to Dawson-Boyd in the Class 1A Section 5 championship game.

We had a reunion on Thursday, and this time Austin (pictured) wasn’t sitting in the stands. The 6-foot-4, 175-pound senior threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score as Minneota/Lincoln HI (13-0) defeated Maple Lake (8-5) 50-24 in the Class 2A semifinals.

Austin said that as he watched the games a year ago, he was hoping the Vikings would be on the field this season.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “I’ve been coming to the games here every year in high school, and to finally play here is like a dream come true.”

Footnote: Austin is one of five people named Buysse on the Minneota roster. Brock, Leo and student manager Brant are his first cousins, and Joe is a more distant cousin. Brock Buysse had a touchdown run Thursday and Leo had six tackles.

HUTCHINSON RETURNS TO PREP BOWL

Hutchinson defeated Delano 35-9 in the Class 4A semifinals, as the Tigers (12-0) attempt to repeat as state champions. The game was close into the third quarter, after a safety brought Delano (10-2) within 21-9 of Hutchinson. But Hutchinson scored two touchdowns in the fourt quarter to lock up the victory.

Hutch quarterback Marcus Hahn was the game’s leading rusher, carrying six times for 121 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder. He also threw a 13-yard TD pass to Jake Wendland.

ROSEMOUNT OUTLASTS ROSEVILLE

In an entertaining, back-and-forth 6A semifinal, Rosemount (11-1) recorded a 35-28 victory over Roseville (9-3). The victory was the 11th in a row for the Irish, who lost to Wayzata in double overtime in the season opener.

Dimitri Williams led Rosemount with 15 rushes for 135 yards, plus a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown. Roseville quarterback Jacques Perra completed 22 of 34 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns.

Thursday’s Results
Nine-man/ Underwood 34, Ely 20
Class 2A/ Minneota/Lincoln HI 50, Maple Lake 24
Class 4A/ Hutchinson 35, Delano 9
Class 6A/ Rosemount 35, Roseville 28

Friday’s Games
9 a.m.: Nine-man/ Kittson Central (12-0) vs. Grand Meadow (11-1)
11:30 a.m.: Class 2A/ Hawley (10-1) vs. Chatfield (11-1)
2 p.m.: Class 5A/ St. Michael-Albertville (10-1) vs. Owatonna (11-0)
4:30 p.m.: Class 4A/ DeLaSalle (10-1) vs. Holy Angels (6-5)
7 p.m.: Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (10-0) vs. Totino-Grace (9-2)

Saturday’s Games
9 a.m.: Class 1A/ Dawson-Boyd (11-1) vs. Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (12-0)
11:30 a.m.: Class 1A/ Mahnomen (12-0) vs. Bethlehem Academy (9-3)
2 p.m.: Class 3A/ Proctor (9-2) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (9-2)
4:30 p.m.: Class 3A/ New London-Spicer (9-2) vs. Rochester Lourdes (10-1)
7 p.m.: Class 5A/ Brainerd (11-0) vs. Chaska (11-0)

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 4 for the state football tournament, 26 for the fall state tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited:165
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,116
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Congrats to St. Croix Lutheran's Aaron Zoellner, Old Dutch athlete of the week11/13/2013
The senior wide receiver/defensive back had a stellar game for the Crusaders against Glencoe-Silver Lake in the Class 3A state quarterfinals. Read more by clicking here.
Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s: Small School, Big Football Dreams 11/12/2013
SLEEPY EYE – If you’re reading this after 7:30 a.m., you’re too late. You’ve already missed football practice at Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s, where the Knights are preparing for a 9 a.m. state semifinal game Saturday against Dawson-Boyd at the Metrodome.

Practicing from 5:30 to 7:30 in the morning is not the normal workout time for the Class1A Section 2 champions, but the Knights know how to work with what they have. And what they have on the team are 70 percent of the boys in grades nine through 12, plus a strong desire to be in Class 1A even though their enrollment would allow them to play nine-man football.

The school has only 113 students, which makes it the smallest school playing Class 1A football (enrollments listed for cooperative schools only list the enrollment for one school). Their enrollment would put them near the middle of the schools that play nine-man football. But St. Mary’s has always played with 11 boys on the field.

“To me, I think if you’re able to play 11-man football, you play 11-man. That’s how the game is designed,” said fourth-year head coach Brent Kucera. “The number in my head is if you can have more than 30 players on your team in grades nine through 12 year after year, then you play 11-man.”

This year’s team has 40 players, and they have rolled to a 12-0 record and their third consecutive appearance in the state tournament. Before their current run, the Knights’ only trips to state came in 1979 and 1988.

The Knights’ average score this season is 33-10. Their biggest scare came in a 20-14 triple-overtime victory over New Ulm Cathedral in Week 5. They beat the Greyhounds 41-26 in the Section 2 championship game, then held off Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity 20-14 last week in the state quarterfinals.

Dawson-Boyd (11-1) is also a tournament-tested team; the Blackjacks (enrollment 140) were the 1A state champs in 2011 and reached the state semifinals last year.

St. Mary’s has risen in football prominence since Kucera took over. From 2004 to 2009, the Knights finished above .500 only once (7-3 in 2005). Kucera’s first team in 2010 went 3-6, followed now by three state tournament appearances.

“The program wasn’t in the best shape,” he said. “The confidence wasn’t there. We had a good class that kind of helped pull us out of it, and it’s just been going on since then.”

The Knights use the running game to set up the passing game, and their leading rusher is David Surprenant, who has carried 200 times for 1,195 yards. Quarterback Brandon Helget and running back Jaden Wait have combined for another 1,345 rushing yards and Helget has thrown for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Two-way lineman Andrew Steffl, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound senior, said, “Our line has put in a lot of hard work in the offseason, and I think it’s showing this year. It matters quite a bit that we’ve put in time in the weight room and it definitely helps a lot.”

Defensively, St. Mary’s has allowed only six first-quarter points all season.

“Our defense is great this year. That’s one thing that’s improved,” said tight end/defensive end Mike Hirsch. “Offensively we have a lot more weapons we can use. We have a strong run game which can open up the pass, which is always available.”

This year’s senior were sophomores the last time the Knights played in the Metrodome, and they’re hoping that experience from 2011 will pay dividends on Saturday.

“It’s a great feeling to go back there,” said wide receiver/cornerback John Brandl. “That experience is definitely going to help us this year, coming around the second time. Walking in there is crazy. You don’t realize how big it is when you’re watching games.”

The long football postseason run doesn’t have any downside, although it is putting a damper on the Knights’ boys basketball team. Practice began Monday, and all but two of the basketball players are still playing football. They’re out there in the early mornings this week.

"We’ve got to get used to being alert in the morning,” Kucera said, looking ahead to playing indoors on Saturday. “To me it’s exciting because we’re the smallest 11-man team in the state. We’re proving a point. It’s pretty amazing.”

FOOTBALL STATE SEMIFINALS AT THE METRODOME

Thursday’s Games
11:30 a.m.: Nine-man/ Ely (12-0) vs. Underwood (9-3)
2 p.m.: Class 2A/ Minneota/Lincoln HI (12-0) vs. Maple Lake (8-4)
4:30 p.m.: Class 4A/ Delano (10-1) vs. Hutchinson (11-0)
7 p.m.: Class 6A/ Rosemount (10-1) vs. Roseville (9-2)

Friday’s Games
9 a.m.: Nine-man/ Kittson Central (12-0) vs. Grand Meadow (11-1)
11:30 a.m.: Class 2A/ Hawley (10-1) vs. Chatfield (11-1)
2 p.m.: Class 5A/ St. Michael-Albertville (10-1) vs. Owatonna (11-0)
4:30 p.m.: Class 4A/ DeLaSalle (10-1) vs. Holy Angels (6-5)
7 p.m.: Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (10-0) vs. Totino-Grace (9-2)

Saturday’s Games
9 a.m.: Class 1A/ Dawson-Boyd (11-1) vs. Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (12-0)
11:30 a.m.: Class 1A/ Mahnomen (12-0) vs. Bethlehem Academy (9-3)
2 p.m.: Class 3A/ Proctor (9-2) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (9-2)
4:30 p.m.: Class 3A/ New London-Spicer (9-2) vs. Rochester Lourdes (10-1)
7 p.m.: Class 5A/ Brainerd (11-0) vs. Chaska (11-0)

--To see a photo gallery from Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s, go to the MSHSL Faceboook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 22 for the fall state tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited:157
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,068
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn