John's Journal
Lourdes, Kasson-Mantorville Agree: Time Is Short As Playoffs Loom10/14/2012
It’s mid-October. And every football player, coach and fan in Minnesota knows what that means: Time is short. One game remains in the regular season, with Week 8 coming up this week, followed by the quick-hitting early playoff rounds and settling in for the parade to the Prep Bowl.

Time is short, and the Week 7 games whittled the number of unbeaten teams in our state. Seven teams suffered their first loss, leaving 31 undefeated teams remaining with one game remaining. The big Week 7 shocker came when second-ranked Edina won at No. 1 Eden Prairie 17-6 in a Class 6A game between Lake Conference neighbors.

For dramatics, big plays, a big crowd and absolute fun, no game was better Friday than the Hiawatha Valley League matchup of Kasson-Mantorville and Rochester Lourdes. Both teams walked onto the artificial turf at University Center in Rochester with 7-0 records and bragging rights on the line. The Lourdes Eagles are top-ranked in Class 3A and the Kasson-Mantorville Komets are No. 7 in Class 4A.

Both teams brought astounding point differentials: Lourdes’ six victories had come by an average score of 41-11, and Kasson-Mantorville’s count was 46-17. The total points scored Friday came close to each team’s average, but Lourdes scored first, scored again quickly and used an early 15-0 cushion to hold off the Komets 36-28.

The opening seven minutes went like this: Kasson loses 15 yards on fourth and nine … Lourdes needs only five plays before quarterback Mark Pagel runs 43 yards for a touchdown … Kasson loses a fumble on its next snap … eight plays later Griff Slightham scores on a four-yard run and the Eagles are in front 15-0.

Erase those touchdown and the Komets win 28-21. Unfortunately for Kasson-Mantorville, scoreboards don’t come with erasers.

“These are two good defensive teams,” Komets coach Ivan Kroulik said. “They were just better than us. You just admit that and you take your lumps.”

It was 15-8 at halftime, and Lourdes made another big statement to open the second half. The Eagles moved 74 yards in six plays, with Pagel covering the final 50 on one big run. It was 22-8, the rest of the game was even points-wise and the Eagles walked off the field carrying an 8-0 record and 500-watt smiles.

“We had a nice drive to go down and score,” Lourdes coach Mike Kesler said. “That was a great start, and we had talked about that. And the opening drive of the second half was almost 80 yards to get another score and set the tone for the second half. That was huge.”

Both teams play rugged defense but they are dissimilar on offense. Kasson-Mantorville is a no-huddle team that throws the ball a bit -- quarterback Riley Donovan completed 13 of 20 for 158 yards and two scores – while Lourdes is as run-oriented as they come. Six Eagles combined for 55 rushes, 340 yards and six touchdowns against the Komets, while Pagel completed the only pass he threw for 11 yards.

Pagel led his team with 18 carries for 118 yards and two scores, and Kasson’s Broc Berge ran 23 times for 128 yards and a touchdown.

The biggest defensive play of the night came with Kasson on offense … so you know how this ends. The Komets were stopped on fourth and one at the Lourdes 19 with 1:34 left in the third quarter, and the Eagles followed with a 30-yard touchdown run by Kane Carsten for a 29-15 lead. Boom. Another statement.

“They ran the bal,” Kroulik said. “We thought we were going to be able to stop them and they ran the ball well. We had a couple of turnovers that really hurt us. We came out in the second half strong, had the fourth and one and we didn’t get it; I thought that was one of the turning points of the game.”

Kesler said, “Our defense has been playing very well and we knew we were going to have our hands full. That’s a great Kasson program, which we have a lot of respect for. It’s a great rivalry. We made a big play.”

The final analysis included this common thread: That early 15-0 lead – even though a lot of football remained to be played -- was crucial for Lourdes.

“That was huge,” Pagel said. “To go into half with any kind of lead against a really good team, you’ve got to be able to do that. It’s really huge. You’ve got to have a lead against teams, you’ve got to hold them off. They came back later on, and we needed that cushion.”

And now we move on to Week 8. It’s a shortie, with a few games on Tuesday, the bulk of the contests on Wednesday and a handful on Thursday. After this week’s games, the section playoff pairings will be set and the second season will get underway.

Kasson-Mantorville’s hard-working boys were back at practice at 8 o’clock Saturday morning to begin preparing for a Wednesday home game against Stewartville. Lourdes will play at La Crescent the same night.

“With one game left we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Pagel said. “We’ve got to keep coming together, keep working hard. We’ve got a long ways to go.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 201
*Miles John has driven: 3,350
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Visiting Schools And Students, Talking About Journalism10/11/2012
I often tell people how much I enjoy my job. I’m a sports fan and a storyteller, so traveling around Minnesota and sharing positive stories of high school activities is a wonderful way to go.

Another part of my job is meeting high school students who are interested in journalism. Most of them have heard me tell the story of how I got started: my own high school English teacher, the beloved Mrs. White, gave me the opportunity to write about the teams in my school for our local weekly newspaper. That spark was lit when I was a sophomore in high school and it continues to burn brightly. It has taken me through college, through five newspaper jobs in three states and coverage of youth, amateur, college and professional sports.

One of my missions when I was hired by the MSHSL in March 2010 was creating a program to give young journalists opportunities similar to what I had when I was their age. Thus we have the MSHSL Student Media program, which is very similar to what I did as a teenager. I wrote stories for my local weekly paper; students who are part of this program write stories for their school’s page here on mshsl.org. (You can read about the program by scrolling to the bottom of mshsl.org and clicking on the "Student Media" link.)

This has been a great week for me, because I have spent a lot of time with aspiring journalists. On Monday I drove west on Interstate 94 to Monticello High School, where I met with a Mass Communications class taught by Robby McGuire. A few students walked into the classroom, saw me and asked, “Are you a sub?” No, I’m your guest speaker. I had a great time talking about journalism with the students and answering their questions.

I then met with three Monticello ninth-graders who are interested in the Student Media program. I talked with Tim Witzmann, Nathan Mayer and Parker Gorecki in the office of athletic/activities director Gary Revenig. The boys were enthusiastic as I explained how the program works, and I know we’ll see great things from them.

On Tuesday I attended the Minnesota High School Press Association state convention at the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Memorial Union. I was a workshop presenter, talking to a large number of students on “Sports Reporting From Preps to Pros.” We talked about the great and not-so-great things about the life of a sports reporter, whether the beat is high school or professional sports. The kids asked great questions and I encouraged them to keep in touch with me.

Another school visit was on my agenda Thursday. This time I went south on Interstate 35 to Medford. Most people who regularly travel on that stretch of I-35 probably know Medford as the home of a McDonald’s and an outlet mall. I had never driven into the town of Medford until Thursday. My route meandered through the small town to the school, located on the eastern edge of Medford.

It’s a great place, with K-12 students all attending school in the same modern complex built in 2003. Principal Jeff Sampson welcomed me before taking me to the classroom of English teacher Kelley Ungerecht. She teaches a specialized class called Media Writing, and the students are sophomore Tylor Holmquist, sophomore Benito Mora-Flores and junior Dakota Jones.

Since it was a small group, the students received some goodies (MSHSL pens and notebooks, etc.). I gave them Student Media credentials, which allow them free access to high school events when they are working as reporters. I showed them photos of students who have attended Timberwolves and Twins games with me as credentialed members of the media, and I explained how the Student Media program works. We also looked at John’s Journal, the MSHSL Facebook page and Twitter. The hour went very quickly.

Mr. Sampson then gave me a tour of the school. Medford is the home of the Tigers, and there are Tiger logos all over the place. One sign that doesn’t include a Tiger does carry these words: Respectful, Proud, Responsible. That pretty much says it all about Medford and the rest of the schools in our great state.

--To see photo galleries from Monticello and Medford, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 199
*Miles John has driven: 3,208
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Old Dutch High School Student Athlete of the Week10/9/2012
The winner of this week's award is Goodhue senior football player Dillon Huemann.

The senior had 233 yards rushing on 24 carries and scored five touchdowns in a 52-17 victory at Kenyon-Wanamingo on Friday. Dillon is a workhorse running back who averages 24 carries a game despite being only 5-8 and 140 pounds. He also starts at safety and only leaves the field for kickoffs.

Dillon is a team captain for the football team, as well as captain for basketball and baseball. Off the field Dillon has been involved in Youth Group, which serves as a community service and clean-up organization. He also has donated his time as a volunteer coach in football, basketball and baseball, helping out at camps, after-school practices and Saturday leagues. Dillon has been active in the school’s student leadership and mentorship programs, as well as helping our custodial staff an hour each day through student service.

Congratulations to Dillon and all of this season's winners!