John's Journal
The search is on for the next Old Dutch Athlete of the Week!10/27/2013
We've been on a great run with this outstanding award. Who will be this week's winner? See all the details by clicking here.

Hawks On The Rise: Chaska’s Football Fortunes Have Changed10/26/2013
Until Saturday I had never been to a football game at Chaska High School. In fact, I don’t recall ever watching a Chaska football team play anywhere – home or road -- in all my years of covering high school sports in Minnesota.

And there was probably a simple reason for that: Chaska has not been known as a football power. This season, however, that has changed in a big way.

The Hawks defeated Northfield 28-0 Saturday in the Class 5A Section 2 playoff semifinals, and they will host Mankato West on Friday with the winner advancing to the state tournament. Chaska has played in the state football tourney exactly once, and that was in 1974 (the Hawks were the Class A runner-up).

That’s a pretty long dry spell, but the 2013 Hawks look like they are up to the task of creating more history. They are 9-0 and ranked second in 5A behind Owatonna. Fifth-ranked Mankato West, which beat Chanhassen 33-22 Saturday, has lost only once this season, a 24-21 Week 3 defeat against Owatonna in a game that ended with the Huskies kicking a field goal on the final play.

The ascension of Chaska to the upper ranks of Class 5A lends credence to something I’ve been saying all season: 5A is the most interesting and most balanced class in football this season. Eden Prairie is the head-and-shoulders favorite to win the Class 6A state title, but 5A is anybody’s guess with teams like Owatonna, Chaska, No. 3 Brainerd, No. 4 Rogers (all are unbeaten) and others in the mix.

Lambert Brown was hired as Chaska’s head coach four years ago. The 2000 graduate of White Bear Lake High School was an assistant at White Bear and the head coach at Fridley before going to Chaska. He took over a football program that had gone 5-4 in 2004 and 2005 and didn’t have another winning record until last season.

Brown's first two teams had records of 4-6 and 1-8 before the Hawks kicked it up a notch with a 6-4 finish a year ago. The players who were in ninth grade when he arrived are now seniors, and that’s part of the formula that is coming to fruition.

“I think we’ve always had great kids,” Brown (pictured) said after Saturday’s game. “There have been kids here who I’ve enjoyed coaching, that work hard. More than anything, I think you look at the kids who are seniors now, and our staff has had them since they were freshmen, and they believe in our philosophy.

“We’ve been preaching the same things and it takes a special group to say, ‘We’re going to buy in to what you’re doing, and we’re going to make this part of who we are, and it’s not just for show.’ And they have really done that and they’ve come together and they play hard.”

The Hawks are not known for flashiness; they are more of a work-ethic team, with discipline, teamwork and preparation playing big roles in their success. They took advantage of five Northfield turnovers and field position in Saturday’s win; Kolby Seiffert ran for touchdowns of 5 and 56 yards in the first quarter, Justin Arnold threw to Brandon Thies for a 22-yard score in the third quarter and Matthew Witthus scored on a 4-yard run for the final points. The second and fourth touchdowns were set up by interceptions.

Speaking of flashiness, you should see Chaska’s uniforms. The Hawks could almost be mistaken for the Oregon Ducks. They have three different jerseys (a yellowish-gold that they wore Saturday, along with purple and white) as well as wings painted on their helmets and sprouting from their shoulders. It’s a great look, especially when it's in conjuction with a quality team.

“We’ve tried to keep our expectations pretty high, and we found that our kids have the ability to rise to those things,” Brown said. “A lot of the kids have had a lot of experience and they’ve gained a lot of knowledge of the game and how to play it. We kind of went into this hoping to keep this clicking, thinking if we could keep from having injuries and if we could get the guys to buy into our philoshophy we were going to do pretty well.

“I feel pretty dang lucky to be here, to be able to coach the kids I get to coach every day. Life is good.”

--To see a photo gallery from the Chaska-Northfield game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited:105
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,516
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Congratulations To Girls Tennis Champs; Looking Ahead To Soccer10/25/2013
Friday was the day that girls tennis players and teams shoot for all season long. It was the day when state championships in singles and doubles were decided. Here are results from the championship matches …

--In an all-Breck Class 1A doubles final, Patricia Zhao and Sunny Tang beat Grace Zumwinkle and Kendall Kozikowski 7-5, 6-2.

--Kylie Boyer and Kate Rosenow of Rochester Mayo won the 2A doubles crown by defeating Helen Klass-Warch and Zoe Klass-Warch of St. Paul Central 6-2, 6-2

--Sonya Das of St. Paul Academy repeated as the 1A singles champion, beating Danielle Gannon of Holy Family Catholic 6-0, 6-1.

--In the 2A singles final, Edina's Caitlyn Merzbacher defeated defending state champion Summer Brills of Mounds View 1-6, 6-2, 7-5.

In team competition earlier this week…

--In Class 1A, Breck defeated Rochester Lourdes 6-1 in the title match. Staples-Motley finished third with a victory over St. James, and Foley defeated Providence Academy in the fifth-place match.

--In Class 2A, Edina won its 17th consecutive team title, defeating Minnetonka 5-2 in the championship match. Finishing third was Rochester Mayo with a victory over Prior Lake, and in the fifth-place match St. Cloud Tech defeated Mahtomedi.

Tournaments in other fall sports are also in full swing. Football, cross-country and volleyball section tournaments are ongoing, and the state soccer tournament quarterfinals concluded Friday night. Here’s how things look…

State Soccer Tournament

Wednesday’s games
Class 2A girls quarterfinals
At Park High School
Burnsville 3, Andover 0
Lakeville North 1, Mahtomedi 0
At St. Cloud State
Eden Prairie 2, Mounds View 1
Minnetonka 3, Elk River 0

Thursday’s games
Class 2A boys quarterfinals
At Chisago Lakes
Andover 2, Minneapolis Southwest 1
North St. Paul vs. Prairie Seeds Academy
At Park High School
Eastview 2, Owatonna 1, overtime
Edina vs. Elk River

Class 1A girls quarterfinals
At St. Cloud
Blake 3, Sartell 0
Totino-Grace 1, Hill-Murray 0
At St. Louis Park
Mankato West 5, La Crescent 2
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 1, Duluth Denfeld 0

Friday’s games
Class 1A boys quarterfinals
At St. Louis Park
St. Paul Como Park 2, Waseca 1
Sartell 1, Rochester Lourdes 1
At Chisago Lakes
Hill-Murray 1, Totino-Grace 0 (shootout)
Waconia 5, Hermantown 0

State Soccer Tournament Semifinals
At the Metrodome

Monday’s Games
Class 1A Girls
8 a.m./ Blake vs. Totino-Grace
10 a.m./ Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Mankato West

Class 1A Boys
Noon/ St. Paul Como Park vs. Sartell-St. Stephen
2 p.m./ Waconia vs. Hill-Murray

Class 2A Boys
4 p.m./ Andover vs. North St. Paul
6 p.m./ Edina vs. Eastview

Tuesday’s Games
Class 2A Girls
Noon/ Burnsville vs. Lakeville North
2 p.m./ Eden Prairie vs. Minnetonka

State Championship Games
Thursday at the Metrodome
10 a.m./ Class 1A girls
12:30 p.m./ Class 1A boys
3 p.m./ Class 2A girls
5:30 p.m./ Class 2A boys

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited:103
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,448
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Congrats to Barnesville's Michael Strand, Old Dutch athlete of the week10/24/2013
The senior running back had an outstanding game for the undefeated Trojans against West Central Area. He carried the ball six times for 212 yards and five touchdowns, and caught a pass for 32 yards and another touchdown … all in the first half. In the second half Michael returned a punt for a touchdown, his eighth punt return for a TD of his career, which is one shy of the state record.

Michael finished the regular season with 70 carries for 1,215 yards (an average of more than 17 yards per carry) and 23 rushing touchdowns. He has a total of 30 touchdowns this season, which is even more impressive considering he has carried the ball only five times in the second half all season. He has helped Barnesville compile a 9-0 record this season, and the Trojans have not lost a regular-season game in five years. Michael has been a football letter winner since eighth grade.

He is number one in his class with a 3.998 GPA. He also is involved in basketball, track, baseball and is the president of the local philanthropy and youth group through the John Barry Foundation. Michael is involved in choir and is active in his church.

Congratulations to Michael Strand for being this week's Old Dutch High School Athlete of the week!
Girls Tennis And Girls Soccer Take State Tournament Stage 10/23/2013
Wednesday was a big day for state tournament action, with team champions crowned in girls tennis and state quarterfinals beginning in soccer with four Class 2A girls games. The rest of the week will continue to be action-packed, with singles and doubles competition Thursday and Friday in the state tennis tournament, more state soccer quarterfinals those same days, and section football tournament games on Friday and Saturday. Cross-country and volleyball section competitions are also underway, making this one of the busiest weeks of the year.

In the Class 1A girls tennis tourney, Breck defeated Rochester Lourdes 6-1 in the title match. Staples-Motley finished third with a victory over St. James, and Foley defeated Providence Academy in the fifth-place match.

In Class 2A tennis, Edina won its 17th consecutive team title, defeating Minnetonka 5-2 in the championship match. Finishing third was Rochester Mayo with a victory over Prior Lake, and in the fifth-place match St. Cloud Tech defeated Mahtomedi.

The state soccer tourney opened Wednesday with two quarterfinal games at Park High School and two games at St. Cloud State’s Husky Stadium. At Park, top-seeded Burnsville beat Andover 3-0 and No. 4 seed Lakeville North beat Mahtomedi 1-0.

And at St. Cloud State, the other half of the Class 2A girls state soccer bracket was played. In those quarterfinals, Eden Prairie beat No. 2 seed Mounds View 2-1 and No. 3 seed Minnetonka beat Elk River 3-0.

Thursday will be the busiest day of the state soccer quarterfinals, with four Class 2A boys games on tap and four games involving Class 1A girls.

The 2A boys games at Chisago Lakes will be between Minneapolis Southwest and Andover, and North St. Paul and Prairie Seed. At Park High School, it will be Edina vs. Elk River and Eastview vs. Owatonna.

In 1A girls Thursday, it will be Blake vs. Sartell and Totino-Grace vs. Hill-Murray at St. Cloud State, along with Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Duluth Denfeld and La Crescent vs. Mankato West at St. Louis Park.

The state soccer quarterfinals will conclude Friday evening with Class 1A boys games at St. Louis Park and Chisago Lakes. At St. Louis Park it will be St. Paul Como Park vs. Waseca and Sartell vs. Rochester Lourdes. At Chisago Lakes it will be Waconia vs. Hermantown and Hill-Murray vs. Totino-Grace.

The first round of the Class 6A football section playoffs will be held Friday, and the rest of the classes will play their section semifinals on Saturday.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 99
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,268
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn