John's Journal
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
Celebrating the Old Dutch Team and Athlete of the Week11/27/2013
This week's awards center on girls swimming and diving, with Team of the Week honors going to Wayzata High School and Athlete of the Week honors going to Mankato West's Danielle Nack. Read more by clicking here.
Prep Bowl XXXII: Farewell To The Metrodome11/27/2013
Friday and Saturday will be historic as the Prep Bowl closes the books on the MSHSL fall sports season. Prep Bowl XXXII will be the official farewell to the Metrodome as the home of state championships in high school soccer and football. The Metrodome will be demolished at the conclusion of the Vikings' season, to be replaced by a new stadium on the same site that is scheduled to open in 2016.

For the 2014 and 2015 football seasons, the Prep Bowl will be held outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. State semifinals in those two years will be played at various sites, similar to the current state quarterfinals. State soccer semifinals and championship games will be played at St. Cloud State's Husky Stadium in 2014 and 2015, with football and soccer returning to the great indoors when the new stadium opens in 2016.

This week's Prep Bowl action will begin at 10 a.m. both days, with four state championship games played Friday and three Saturday. All games will be televised live by KSTC Channel 45, and all games will be webcast by prep45.com; the cost is $4.97 each day to view the webcasts.

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)
The Coach Is The Story In Chisholm, But Don't Forget The Players11/25/2013
CHISHOLM -- Amid all the hoopla of Bob McDonald's 59th and final season as a boys basketball coach, as well as his nearness to 1,000 career victories, something important can easily be forgotten. His players.

Is there a team in the state that feels more pressure than the Chisholm Bluestreaks? The team needs to win six games in order for McDonald to reach 1,000 wins. He took 994 victories into Friday's season opener against visiting North Woods, and his career victory total remains at 994 going into Tuesday's home game against Virginia.

North Woods beat the Bluestreaks 67-56 in Roels Gymnasium, the bandbox that has been the scene of countless historic moments. The Grizzlies used three-point shooting, quickness and hustle to beat the taller, more experienced Bluestreaks. Darnell Goggleye hit three three-point shots and had 21 points for North Woods, while Aaron Musburger led Chisholm with 27 points and Mitch Rusten had 13.

After the game, I talked with Musburger and Rusten about being seniors on McDonald's last team.

"There's a lot more pressure, I guess, to win," Musburger said. "We definitely don't want to underachieve."

Goal No. 1 for the players is to get their coach to 1,000 victories, said Rusten.

"We want to get it out of the way as early as possible and not have to worry about it any more."

As one of the locals told me before the game, this season could be called The End of The World Tour, "because the world must be ending if Bob isn't going to be coaching anymore."

McDonald remains one of the best-dressed coaches in the game, wearing a suit and tie ... just as his players do on game days. Before Friday's game he chatted with fans and shook hands, wearing a smile. He may pose for more photos than anyone in Minnesota this winter, because everywhere he goes people want to snap a picture. At different times Friday he was asked to stand with young Chisholm students as their parents took photos that will be treasured for a generation or more.

Bob's wife Carol and sister Darlene sat two rows behind the Chisholm bench Friday -- they sit there for every game -- and their third-row seats were at the top of the bleachers on the court level. There are no seats on one end and one side of Roels Gymnasium, with a balcony wrapping around the opposite end and side.

Behind the scorer's table is a small room that is equal parts equipment room, trainers room, snack room and inspiration room. The doors and walls are adorned with handmade signs, courtesy of the coach. One sign is headlined "Some Pertinent Sayings" and includes these words: "Depend on the rabbits foot if you will, but remember, it didn't work for the rabbit."

Other signs are specific to team goals, training rules and even what to wear on your head: "Baseball caps do not constitute cold weather headgear. Show some class and be a good example."

The Bluestreaks' mood was downcast after the loss to North Woods. McDonald spent a long time in the locker room with his team afterwards.

Rusten said, "We've got to do a better job of protecting against transition and guarding the perimeter. We gave up too many wide open shots and they knocked them down. Credit to them."

McDonald did not do much smiling during the game. After the final horn, he said, "This reminds me of a movie: Nightmare on Elm Street" He was, however, smiling as he spoke.

He smiled and shook hands with all the players and coaches from North Woods, complementing them on their victory. After McDonald emerged from the locker room, I asked him about the pressure his players face this season. He has never mentioned 1,000 wins to his team, but he knows they feel pressure and he wishes they didn't.

"I've been around a long time and they don't have to placate me in any way," McDonald said. "I know what they're capable of. I mean, with this outfit, six games to me is zilch. Why put all the eggs in one basket and six games, when you're playing 26? They don't realize that and they're in a hurry. It affects them.

"I'm thankful I have kids like that. But they don't owe me anything. I think it's grand that they're playing for me. They don't have to bow to me and think they have to placate every little whim."

The players know their coach is a legend, they know how long he's been coaching and they know how rare 1,000 career victories is; according to the National Federation of State High School Associations record book, only 12 boys basketball coaches in the nation have reached 1,000.

"Obviously he's been doing the same things for 59 years and they've been producing results," Rusten said. "We've got to do what he says and listen to him and not try and question him. Because he's obviously forgotten a lot more about basketball than we will ever know.

"It's an honor to be on his last team."

--To see a photo gallery from Friday's game in Chisholm (including the back-room signs), go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 219
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,732
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn