KASSON – A few minutes before kickoff between Rochester Lourdes and Kasson-Mantorville on K-M’s spectacular football field Friday night, I was standing between the west end zone and a bank of bleachers, directly in front of the KoMets band. Suddenly, I heard a young voice yelling from the stands, “John! John! I found it!”
This was puzzling at first. Who are you and what have you found? But as I scanned the faces I saw a trumpet player wearing a big grin. Brianna Griffin is also a member of the KoMets girls soccer team. The team had wrapped up practice shortly after I arrived at the field, and I had Tweeted a team photo. Brianna had found the photo on Twitter and wanted to let me know.
That’s just one snapshot from a memorable evening and a memorable autumn of football. With one game remaining in the regular season – most of the Week 8 contests will be played Wednesday night – and the postseason nearly at hand, my trip to Kasson was right in line with my other joyous football journeys in 2012. Oh, the places I’ve been and the teams I’ve seen: Cannon Falls, Blue Earth, Hutchinson, Becker, Jackson County Central, St. Louis Park, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, BOLD, Mankato West, Owatonna, Northfield, Farmington, Two Harbors, Esko.
Friday’s game was a big one in the new Southern Football Alliance Red Division.
Lourdes came in with a record of 5-1 and the No. 2 ranking in Class 3A behind Belle Plaine; Kasson-Mantorville was 6-0 and No. 3 in 4A behind Hutchinson and South St. Paul.
The human stars of Friday’s game – three-year-old KMTelecom Stadium is in its own right a star and a showplace – were a senior and a ninth-grader. Lourdes senior tailback Kane Carstens came into the game with a season total of 372 yards. He put that number to shame in the Eagles’ 36-20 victory over the KoMets: 26 carries, a school-record 312 yards and five touchdowns. His TDs came on runs of 30, 6, 85, 62 and 35 yards, which adds up to 218 yards on those carries alone.
“We knew this was going to be an intense game and we all came out flying,” said Carstens, who did everything short of defeating gravity Friday. His lead blocker was his identical twin brother McKay Carstens, and these boys know how to motor. At the 2012 Class 1A state track meet, the Lourdes foursome of Brian Williamson, Adam Wade, Kane and McKay Carstens sprinted their way to a state championship. The relay team didn’t require any blocking, but on Friday the quick-footed Lourdes offensive line did a bang-up job against a large defensive line from Kasson-Mantorville.
“He’s a great back and he’s got great speed,” Lourdes coach Mike Kesler said of Kane. “He’s been close a lot this year, but he’s kind of been bottled up. His brother’s lead blocking for him, so how neat is that? Those guys get through and they’re not going to catch them.”
The freshman star for the KoMets was quarterback Brady Berge, who also knows how it feels to be a state champion in another sport. As a seventh-grader, Brady won a Class 2A state wrestling title at 106 pounds. Last season he placed third at state at 132.
Berge, who is listed at 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds, scored all three touchdowns for the KoMets on Friday with runs of 19, 2 and 3 yards. He finished with 35 carries for 205 yards and completed 10 of 21 passes for 95 yards. Senior Collin Ripley began the season at quarterback for K-M but was injured in the second game. That’s when Berge was promoted; Ripley now plays on defense.
All those rushing attempts and contact by the Eagles’ speedy defense had to take a toll on Berge. Early in the third quarter, Brady rolled left and was tackled on the Lourdes sideline. He stayed on the ground as athletic trainers from both teams tended to him. Shortly after K-M coach Broc Threinen reached the scene, Brady was up and walking … and talking.
“By the time I got over there, he was already saying, ‘I’m good coach, I’m good coach, I’m good coach,’ ” Threinen said. “He’s just an absolute competitor. On our walk off, the first thing he said was, ‘I think if I run it, we’re good to go.’ I was like, ‘I don’t even know if you’re good to play yet’ and he was already talking about the next play. He’s just an unbelievable kid and a competitor, no doubt.”
Lourdes has now defeated the KoMets five years in a row, and they will not meet again in 2013 since they are in different classes. A year ago, Lourdes beat Kasson-Mantorville 36-28 in Week 7 and the Eagles played all the way to the 3A Prep Bowl before losing to Blue Earth Area. Kasson-Mantorville rebounded from that defeat a year ago and reached the 4A state quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champ Hutchinson.
“The same type of thing happened last year, and then we got on a pretty good run and played some good football towards the end of the year,” said Threinen, who was promoted from assistant coach this season after the retirement of 24-year time head coach Ivan Kroulik.
Lourdes will close the regular season against Cannon Falls on Wednesday in Rochester and Kasson-Mantorville will play at Byron.
A few other tidbits from Friday’s game …
--This all-points-bulletin Tweet was issued around mid-day Friday from someone at Kasson-Mantorville: “Want to be one of our smoke guys tonight?” This had nothing to do with tobacco or meat, but with the KoMets’ pregame ceremony. As is often seen at college or NFL games, the KoMets run onto the field before home games accompanied by white smoke. I posed this pregame question to K-M activities director Kyle Huneke: “Where are the smoke machines?” He chuckled a bit and informed me of an ingenous method for creating “smoke” … they use fire extinguishers. Beautiful.
--Kasson-Mantorville might have the most experienced concession-stand crew in the state if not the nation. Some of the folks working the stand have been doing so since 1978.
--I had the pleasure of sitting next to and chatting with the crew from a website (kometsathletics.com) that is the voice of the KoMets. Kent Harffman does a great play-by-play job and Chad Reiss is a wonderful analyst. I was down on the field before kickoff when Kent leaned out of the pressbox window and hollered, “Hey John! We’re ordering pizza, what kind do you like?” Kent interviewed me at halftime and we talked about the great things that occur during high school activities. And great things always happen at Kasson-Mantorville.
--To see a photo gallery from the game between Rochester Lourdes and Kasson-Mantorville, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 78
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 3,837
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn