John's Journal
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
Who Will Be Old Dutch Athlete of the Week? And Team Of The Week?11/10/2013
Nominations are open for the Old Dutch Athlete of the Week award, as well as a new honor: the Old Dutch Team of the Week! Read all the details by clicking here.
State Volleyball: The Miracle Of Martin County West 11/9/2013
The volleyball season ended for Martin County West in Saturday’s Class 1A fifth-place match at the state tournament. The Mavericks – whose school is in Sherburn, between Fairmont and Jackson near the Iowa border – lost to Nevis at Xcel Energy Center, but the 2013 season has a lot more meaning to the team than that.

The way it started is what everyone will long remember. On the afternoon of the season’s first scheduled match on Aug. 26, junior outside hitter Taryn Tumbleson, -- beginning her third season as a member of the starting lineup -- was driving from the family farm to the school, where she would catch the bus for the season opener at Fairmont.

She never made it. Taryn’s Ford Explorer went off the gravel road and rolled over several times. When I asked about her injuries this week, she said, “Eleven broken ribs, a compression fracture in my back, a few other minor injuries, a real bad concussion.”

The match was cancelled. Taryn (pictured here with her teammates during pregame introductions at state) was airlifted from the Fairmont hospital to a hospital in Rochester, where she was in intensive care. It’s no wonder that Taryn did not play at all this season, but her simple presence, the fact that she was able to rejoin the team and watch from the bench – even if she wasn’t wearing her number 12 jersey – was something to behold.

“She’s a walking miracle,” said Mavericks coach Mary Sussenguth. “And miracle is an understatement.”

When Taryn was late catching the bus, the Mavericks began making phone calls. “Her mom had just gotten to the scene and was pretty panicky,” Sussenguth said. “They didn’t know what was going to happen. They really didn’t.”

Taryn still wears a back brace, but not full-time. She was in street clothes at the state tournament, introduced with her teammates before each match and watching from the bench.

“It’s been really humbling for me,” she said. “Just the change of view, getting to watch my teammates play, trying to help them out while I’m not on the court. But it’s definitely a different view from the bench. And I wish I was out there, but I’m so glad that I’m here and that I can be on the bench.”

She hopes to resume her basketball career this winter, and by spring she should be back on the Mavericks track team. Last spring she teamed with Hailey Holtz, Haley Jensen and Libbie Lange to finish second at state in the Class 1A 4x100 relay.

“She’s been our motivator,” Sussenguth said. “She’s been the reason for us to keep going and being strong. We have a team word every year, and it was 'strong' this year. It could not have been more fitting.

“She works so hard and she’s incredibly athletic. She had a back injury during her freshman year and we had to try and limit her then. And she’s tough to limit. The last two weeks she’s gotten to practice a little more, and she’s still got it. We’ve told her, ‘You’re going to come back, step in and not miss a beat.’”

Taryn’s accident, survival and recovery have provided many lessons for the Mavericks, Sussenguth said.

“She brings that focus and that intensity, and we missed that right away. We told the girls, ‘This is a great lesson to learn in life. Things are going to happen and we’ve got to keep moving forward.’ ”

Martin County West has now played at state two years in a row. If all goes well next season, the Mavericks will be back at state and Taryn Tumbleson will be back on the court.

“Next year, definitely,” she said with a smile.

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHES

CLASS 1A/ Southwest Christian beat Fillmore Central 25-22, 25-17, 25-16
The Stars, who were state runners-up last year, won their first state title in their third trip to the tournament. Fillmore Central had defeated Southwest Christin 2-0 in a tournament during the regular season, but the Stars were nearly unstoppable Saturday.

Mackenzie Horkey led Southwest Christian with 17 kills, 22 digs and three ace serves, and Rachel Carlin had 34 assists. Fillmore Central’s Taylor Case had nine kills and 17 digs, and Morgan Malley had19 assists and eight digs.

CLASS 2A/ Marshall beat Hill-Murray 25-13, 25-19, 25-16

The Tigers won their third straight state title and finished the tournament with three 3-0 victories. The state record for consecutive titles is five by Armstrong from 1980 to 1984. Marshall is the fourth team to win three in a row (Tracy-Milroy 1994-96, Central Minnesota Christian 1998-2000 and Shakopee 2007-09.

In the title match, Marshall’s Kenzie Beekman had 25 kills and 15 digs, Sydney Griffin had 25 assists, and Hannah Bennettt (22), Stephanie Baker (13) and Rachel Sanow (11) combined for 46 digs). Hill-Murray’s Marisa Franco had 23 digs and Hannah Angeli had 15 assists.

CLASS 3A/ Eagan beats Delano 25-13, 27-29, 26-24, 21-25, 15-12
In a back-and-forth battle that went to the wire, the Wildcats won their fifth state title and first since 2003. Delano was the tournament’s giant killer, coming to state as the smallest among 96 schools in 3A. Eagan’s Taylr McNeil (36) and Brie Orr (20) combined for 56 kills, while Orr also had 39 assists and 15 digs. For Delano, Shelby Seurer had 26 kills and 19 digs, Kristin Kreklow had 57 assists and Alex Wittinger had 18 kills.

THIRD-PLACE MATCHES

1A/ Minneota beat Win-E-Mac 26-24, 25-11, 25-8

2A/ Fergus Falls beat Kasson-Mantorville 25-15, 26-28, 25-22, 25-23

3A/ Osseo beat Eden Prairie 25-20, 25-14, 28-26

FIFTH-PLACE MATCHES

1A/ Nevis beat Martin County West 25-19, 26-24, 25-13

2A/ Belle Plaine beat Dassel-Cokato 25-16, 25-8, 25-12

3A/ Rochester Mayo beat Moorhead 25-22, 25-15, 25-22

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

1A/ Megan Norby, Nevis; Shelby Kaster, Win-E-Mac; Taylor Reiss, Megan Larson, Minneota; Mackenzie Horkey, Abby Palkert, Rachel Carlin, Southwest Christian; Taylor Case, Morgan Malley, Tori Peterson, Fillmore Central.

2A/ Mariena Hayden, Belle Plaine; Brooklyn Lewis, Hailey Busch, Kasson-Mantorville; Briana Rasmussen, Laura Gaustad, Fergus Falls; Kennedy Fabian, Rachel Kueppers, Hill-Murray; Sydney Griffin, Kenzie Beekman, Hannah Bennett, Marshall.

3A/ Anna Winter, Rochester Mayo; Ashley Brueggeman, Eden Prairie; Megan Pekarek, Christina Boe, Osseo; Kristin Kreklow, Shelby Seurer, Alex Wittinger, Delano; Taylr McNeil, Kelly Madison, Brie Orr, Eagan.

--To see photo galleries from the state volleyball tournament, go to the MSHSL Faceboook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 15 for the state volleyball tournament, 22 for the fall state tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited:155
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,828
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn