John's Journal
A Coach Tells His Team: ‘This Has Gotta Be Fun’9/20/2013
Through many years of writing about high school activities, I often have been fortunate enough to go behind the scenes. Sometimes that means I’m standing on a practice field or court as a team goes through a workout. And sometimes I am inside a locker room as a coach says a few final words to the team before a contest begins.

Every time I step inside a high school locker room and listen to a coach talk to athletes, I have the same thought: If every parent, grandparent and fan of this team could be here, they would realize how lucky their children are. I have listened to dozens of pregame talks by dozens of different coaches in different sports. The messages are similar, because our coaches realize what is most important. Yes, winning is definitely part of the equation. But the coaches who truly understand the life lessons that they are teaching rarely even use the word “win” in pregame talks.

Earlier this football season, I was behind the scenes with the Farmington High School football team a few minutes before kickoff. The Tigers gather in the school’s weight room before home games, where they sit and listen to coach Mark Froehling’s final instructions. Froehling’s words are similar to what other coaches say to their athletes; this is just one example of many such talks. I happened to record audio from inside the weight room, and Froehling has granted me permission to publish his words.

Please read this coach’s words, understand his message, and realize how important our coaches and teachers are to shaping the lives of our young people ... who are in great hands.

Here is what Farmington football coach Mark Froehling told his team …

“We’ve got to be ready to play. I want to see effort and I want to see execution, right away. Let’s be moving out there, let’s get this thing going at our pace, not at their pace. Let’s dictate the pace, let’s run ‘em out of gas and take care of business, fellas. We’ve got to withstand any initial surge they might have.

“We know how to face adversity. This is football, gentlemen. There is always going to be adversity, nothing’s going to be perfect. There are going to be things we’ll have to overcome. Let’s not pretend that nothing bad’s never going to happen. We’ve just got to be prepared for it; how are we going to react to it? It’s a sign of the character of this team. And we know what kind of character we have, right? We know we can handle anything if we handle it together, can’t we?

“We’ve got to be able to play this one play at a time, right? Whatever happened on the last play, do we really care about that? No. Does it really matter what the next play is, the play after the one that’s being played right now? No. Will you please give me great focus on that play? Work your technique, do your job; you know your buddy’s counting on you to be focused right then, don’t you? He needs you. We all need each other, and let’s be sure we’re all taking care of our friends out there on the football field.

“Let’s show respect for our opponents tonight by the way we play the game. Every time we walk out on that field, we’re going to respect the game and make sure that we’re playing good, tough Tiger football. Gentlemen, let’s bring it in here and take a knee. What a beautiful night for the game of football, right fellas! This has gotta be fun, and let’s be thankful for being able to be here.”

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 68
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,455
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn

Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week: Carter McCauley, Owatonna9/19/2013
Owatonna High School senior Carter McCauley had an outstanding week for two different Owatonna teams, helping the soccer team win two games and kicking a game-winning field goal on the final play in the biggest football game of Week 3.

In an 8-2 soccer victory over Albert Lea, Carter moved from his normal position as goalkeeper and scored one of the Huskies’ goals in the Big 9 Conference victory. Two days later he recorded the shutout in goal and had nine saves as the Owatonna soccer team defeated Mankato West 3-0. It was his third shutout and sixth victory of the soccer season.

Carter capped his big week by kicking a 38-yard field goal on the game’s final play, lifting top-ranked Owatonna to a 24-21 victory at second-ranked Mankato West in a matchup of Big 9 Conference teams and the top two teams in the Class 5A rankings.

Carter, who also is a star on the Owatonna baseball team, is one of the top students in his class, excels in math and science and hopes to study biochemistry in college.

Congratulations to Carter McCauley for being this week's Old Dutch High School Athlete of the week!
Perham Cross-Country: Enjoy The Journey And Have Fun9/16/2013
LITTLE FALLS – It can be difficult to wrap your head around the accomplishments of the Perham High School cross-country teams. The boys have been to the Class 1A state meet for 11 years in a row, with four state titles and five second-place finishes. The girls have qualified for state 10 consecutive years with two runner-up finishes. And that’s just the varsity teams.

Add in all the junior varsity and junior high runners for the Yellowjackets, and then attempt to wrap your arms around that entire group and get them all into one single photo. It’s not easy, but I managed to snap such a photo during last week’s 48th annual Lucky Lindy Invitational at Little Falls Country Club. The photo included 70 runners and three coaches wearing Perham yellow and black and big smiles.

The section titles, the state appearances, the state championships mean one thing. The number of kids who take part in cross-country at Perham means something else. It means coach Jeff Morris and his assistants – his wife Kay Morris and Brent Hanson – are doing more than telling runners how to run. The climate is inclusive and family-oriented, with equal does of training, fun and togetherness. It’s an outstanding example of what school activities can mean to a community and its students.

“I started building a philosophy around trying to create a culture for kids,” said Jeff Morris, a North Carolina native who coached for two years in that state before coming to Perham in 2002 (Kay is a Verndale native). “The two big things I want the kids to learn is that hard work is really hard and you need to have a positive mental attitude. If you do those two things you’ll enjoy the journey and have fun.”

When Morris arrived in Perham the cross-country program was small in numbers but with one outstanding runner. Gabriele Anderson was a junior on Morris’ first team, and she had three top eight finishes at state before running for the University of Minnesota and going on to become a professional distance runner.

The year before Morris arrived, the boys had finished last in their section meet; in his first year there weren’t enough girls to fill out a varsity team during the regular season. But in 2002 the boys went to state, beginning their 11-year run that continues today. In 2003 the girls qualified for state and have been back every year since. Two Yellowjackets have claimed individual state titles: Kevin Lachowitzer in 2006 and Maddie McClellan in 2009.

At last week’s Lucky Lindy meet, the Perham boys finished first by a wide margin over runner-up Bemidji and third-place Hopkins; both are 2A teams, as were the teams that finished fourth through ninth. Perham’s Keeghan Hurley was the individual champion in a course-record time of 15 minutes, 36.9 seconds. Sam Carlson of Bemidji finished second, followed by Perham’s Billy Beseman and Jayden Cullen. The Perham girls placed seventh, with ninth-grader Brynna Covington the top Yellowjacket in 20th place.

In the cross-country coaches association Class 1A rankings, the Perham boys are No. 1 and the girls are No. 4. Hurley is No. 2 among boys individuals, Cullen is No. 6 and Ben Sullivan is No. 11.

The Perham boys were honored as last season’s National High School Coaches Association Division II national champions; the division is for schools with enrollments of fewer than 500 students. The St. Cloud Cathedral boys team finished fourth in Division II; on the girls side Esko finished seventh. The rankings are based on computer power rankings.

That’s just further validation that the Yellowjackets are one of the state’s – and the nation’s – top cross-country programs. But again, what’s happening in Perham goes far beyond winning and losing.

“Being on the team and all of the girls always having my back, I always know that I’m not only running for myself but also for my teammates and my coaches and for my family, and that they’re all supportive,” said senior Lizzie Fudge. “I would never choose anything over cross-country and my team

“My girls definitely know how to push me and make me work as hard as I can, and that will definitely be a life skill.”

Hurley, who finished fifth at last year’s state meet, said, “This team is very family-oriented and we do support each other. And I think every team says it’s a family. I think the main thing with Perham cross-country is we try to maximize everyone’s gift. Whether it’s from junior high all the way up to the number one runner, if you have a dream we’re going to get you to it. We give you that chance. And with coach Morris and coach Kay, they help you all the way through.

“We expect the best. You go out and you give 100 percent, no matter what. And the dreams are so much higher; it’s not just make state, we expect to win state. We shoot big. We’ve been going for national titles now.”

The all-inclusive nature of the program extends beyond junior high students. There is a cross-country program for fifth- and sixth-graders, which Jeff Morris described as “lots of running games, lots of fun stuff.”

Morris, whose job titles in the school district also include math teacher and tech integrationist, maintains a first-class web site (www.perhamxc.com) for the cross-country program. The words atop the site are “Yellowjacket CC … You run … We fly…”

“They feel like this is a place where they can dream big, they’ll always be supported, they truly have fun,” Morris said. “At the end of the season we’ll have kids say it went too fast.”

--To see a Perham cross-country photo gallery, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 67
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,106
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn
Nominations Are Open For Old Dutch High School Athlete Of The Week9/15/2013
In partnership with Old Dutch and WCCO-AM 830, the MSHSL is proud to announce the Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week award. The Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week honors Minnesota high school athletes for their contributions as athletes, students and community members.

Honored athletes will be recognized on WCCO-AM 830 every Thursday evening during the "Sports To The Max" show with Mike Max and every Friday morning during "The WCCO Morning News With Dave Lee." Winners of the award will not only be honored live on-air at WCCO-AM 830 and online by the MSHSL, but they will also receive a commemorative plaque for this recognized achievement.

Old Dutch is the proud to recognize the Quality that lives within each of these honored athletes.

Athletes can be nominated by emailing MSHSL media specialist John Millea at jmillea@mshsl.org

Nominations should include the following ...
--Student's name, school and grade.
--Athletic accomplishments during the past week. Please offer detailed statistics.
--Information about the student's academics and/or community involvement.
--A photo of the student.
A Big Game And A Big Kick … Even For The QB Who Couldn’t Watch9/14/2013
MANKATO – Owatonna quarterback Ian Langeberg, who threw for three touchdowns Friday night, was on the bench and averting his gaze during the game’s final play against Mankato West. Huskies kicker Carter McCauley was lining up a 38-yard field goal. If he makes it, Owatonna wins. Miss and the Big 9 Conference game goes to overtime between the two highest-ranked football teams in Class 5A: No. 1 Owatonna and No. 2 West.

There was plenty of drama, however, even before the kick sailed off into the night. First, West called a timeout. No surprise there, it’s the old “ice the kicker” theory. Make him think about it too much. Make a little doubt creep into his mind. And then came the unthinkable … Owatonna called a timeout. Yes, the Huskies iced their own kicker.

Holder Ty Sullivan had noticed that something was missing. Specifically, the Huskies were missing a player. Only 10 of them were on the field.

“We subbed out our entire PAT team this year to try and shore it up and one of the kids forgot he was on it,” Huskies coach Jeff Williams explained. “So I iced my own kicker.”

No matter. After the dueling timeouts, long snapper Tyler Vogt whistled the ball to Sullivan and McCauley boomed that baby through the posts. Owatonna wins 24-21.

“It didn’t really faze me or anything, it was more a time to get focused, I guess,” McCauley said of the double icing. “I was focusing on my target, I wasn’t thinking about the crowd or anything.”

Now, back to Langeberg. The senior had an exceptional night, throwing touchdown passes of 40 yards to Sullivan, 11 to Sam Fenske and 10 to Luke Wanous. But as the kicking team lined up, the quarterback couldn’t look. And that had nothing to do with a lack of confidence in McCauley.

“Carter’s awesome,” Langeberg said. “He’s worked hard at that for the last couple years. I have complete confidence in the guy. I did not watch it, though. I was just looking at the ground. I felt everybody around me stand up and our side just go crazy. It was crazy.”

Crazy good. For Owatonna certainly, but also for the Scarlets and their giant crowd of fans. The sportsmanship on both sides of the field was exceptional; I heard no grumbling from the West fans, one of whom said to another as they left picturesque Todnem Field, “That was a heck of a game.”

In fact, it was nearly two different games. Owatonna ran a wide-open spread offense in the first half (passing for 219 yards) but switched to a power game in the second. West ran only 19 plays in the second half, thanks to the Huskies’ clock-killing attack (and 30 plays).

“We have the spread concept and we have a power concept and there’s a bleed-in between,” Williams said. “The pendulum kind of swung toward the power game. I had a nice talk with our O line coach, Doug Wanous, at halftime, and he said we need to go off tackle and get outside on these guys. We were still able to throw the ball pretty effectively, I thought, but we started to control the line of scrimmage in the second half and that made all the difference.”

The biggest play of the game – pre-field goal – was a turnover. West was on the Huskies 6-yard line late in the first quarter when a shotgun snap bounced around and was recovered by Owatonna lineman and future Minnesota Gopher Andrew Stelter. It wasn’t long until Langeberg threw to Sullivan for the 40-yard score and 7-0 Huskies lead.

The Scarlets tied it 7-7 when Ryan Schlichte hit Will Claussen for a 40-yard score late in the first quarter, and the same duo hooked up for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left in the first half, putting West in front 14-7 at the break.

Owatonna put together a powerful drive in the third quarter, running the ball with authority. The Huskies tied it 14-14 when Langeberg dropped back, escaped pressure, scrambled and hit Fenske from the 11.

The Huskies flexed those same muscles on their next drive, which was kept alive when Andrew Petersen ran for five yards on fourth down at the West 20. The go-ahead score came on the 10-yarder from Langeberg to Luke Wanous, making it Owatonna 21, West 14 as the third quarter ended. West’s Schlichte capped the Scarlets’ next drive with a 1-yard quarterback draw for a score, and it was 21-21.

Schlichte completed 14 of 26 passes for 170 yards. Claussen caught six of those passes for 102 yards and the two touchdowns.

McCauley began getting loose and going through his warmup routine when the Huskies got the ball with two and a half minutes to play. After the double icing, he did his job.

“Right when I hit it, I knew it was in,” he said.

In last season’s Class 5A state quarterfinals, Owatonna beat Mankato West 28-0. Should the Huskies and Scarlets meet again this season it will be in the Prep Bowl.

Langeberg, in keeping with his decision to not watch McCauley’s kick, does not want to even speak of the state championship game.

“We don’t like to talk about that very much,” he said. “It’s a long ways away, a lot of things have to happen right for us to get there.”

--To see a photo gallery from the Owatonna-Mankato West game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 67
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,106
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn