John's Journal
A Lesson In DeLaSalle Victory: Always Be Ready9/14/2012
Reid Travis, the starting quarterback at DeLaSalle, is a physical specimen who stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 240 pounds. The multi-talented junior is being recruited by Division I colleges in both football and basketball.

Billy Hart is a 5-foot-11, 165-pound sophomore backup quarterback for the Islanders. And in DeLaSalle’s wacky and wild 35-28 victory at St. Croix Lutheran on Friday night, guess which quarterback was the hero?

Yes, this was one for the little guy. Hart threw touchdown passes of 70 yards to Aaron Warren and 53 yards to Jareid Combs in the fourth quarter, with the second score clinching the decision between teams ranked No. 1 in Class 4A (DeLaSalle) and No. 1 in 3A (defending state champ St. Croix Lutheran).

The Tri-Metro Conference game in West St. Paul had a little of everything: turnovers, penalties, big plays and key moments. Travis was ejected in the third quarter for throwing a punch after being tackled along the sideline. In stepped Hart, with St. Croix Lutheran leading 20-13.

“We came through with a gutty performance,” Islanders coach Sean McMenomy said. ”Reid getting thrown out kind of fired up the guys, and they said, ‘Hey, we can do it on our own and show what DeLaSalle football is all about. We’ll buckle down and do whatever it takes to win.’ ”

On Hart’s first snap he handed off to Chris Williams, who raced 63 yards for a touchdown. The kick by Andrew Ajaluwa made it 20-20 heading into the fourth quarter. DeLaSalle (3-0) went ahead 27-20 on Hart’s 70-yard hookup with Warren, but the Crusaders (2-1) responded when Lincoln Hochmuth threw to Cody Sticha on a 9-yard fade route; St. Croix went ahead 28-27 when Jackson Goplen ran in the two-point conversion.

The Crusaders stopped DeLaSalle on fourth-and-four and St. Croix had the ball on the Islanders’ 24 with 3:40 left. But then – turnover/big play – the Crusaders fumbled and DeLaSalle recovered. Shortly thereafter, Hart found Combs for the final touchdown of the night, then the same pair connected for the two-point conversion.

Everything was sealed when GeVelve Gandy, who had scored the first touchdown of the game on a 30-yard run, intercepted a Hochmuth pass with 61 ticks remaining.

So Billy Hart, where you nervous?

“Just a little bit,” he said. “But all summer I was in a passing league with these guys.”

Aha, there’s a big piece of the winning formula. While Travis was busy with summer basketball, Hart was the guy running the offense during summer passing league action.

“He’s the one who throws all summer long, so he’s had plenty of reps throwing it and it obviously showed tonight,” McMenomy said. “He’s fearless. He’s our workhorse in JV, he came in and he was fearless tonight.”

Hart said he didn’t see the play that took Travis out of the game.

“No, not really. They said, ‘Just be ready.’ I got the call because they said Reid was out. I just had to step up and be a player.”

And in the the young quarterback’s view, what was the biggest play of the game? Surely he would choose either of his two long scoring passes, right? Wrong.

“It was my first handoff, to Chris, when he scored the touchdown,” Hart said. “That really turned the momentum around.”

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

*Schools/teams John has visited: 80
*Miles John has driven: 1,529
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Winning Is Fun, But The Team Comes First In Shakopee9/13/2012
The biggest cross-country news of the young season was delivered at last week’s Titan Invitational in Montgomery. The headline: “Maria Hauger Finishes Second.”

This was newsworthy because the Shakopee senior and three-time Class 2A state cross-country champion had not lost in Minnesota since the state meet of her eighth-grade year. The surprise came via talented Blake junior Clare Flanagan, who finished 18 seconds ahead of Hauger in Thursday’s 4,000-meter race. Flanagan is the defending state champion in Class 1A

As I talked with Hauger after the race, she expressed great respect for Flanagan and a knowledge that the season has barely begun. A year earlier in Montgomery – the only race where the two stars (pictured here; Hauger in red) have competed against each other -- Hauger had finished more than a minute ahead of Flanagan. Hauger’s time Thursday was 14 minutes, 13.3 seconds, her slowest in two years.

“She’s really gotten better,” Hauger said of Flanagan. “Whatever she did over the summer, good job.

“It just motivates me more. I’m not slowing down, right now I’m really in the high-mileage stage. Once I start dropping down I think my times will get better.”

But there is more to this story than who reached the finish line when. There’s no doubt that being a successful athlete is important to Hauger, but her role as a teammate is equally as important. Hauger and fellow seniors Alli Lynch and Winona Rachel have been team leaders for years now, since they were eighth-graders and helped Shakopee finish sixth at the Class 2A state championships. The Sabers have finished eighth, 11th and and fourth at state in the last three years.(Pictured, left to right, are Rachel, Hauger and Lynch.)

“We have three seniors and they’re all fabulous,” said coach Mark Neu. “All three were state entrants, all three were on the team when we went to state the first time, the second time, the third time, the fourth time.”

Hauger is the undisputed star, the rarely beaten runner who gets all the publicity. But beyond the headlines, the story of the Shakopee seniors is very special.

“It’s a team,” Neu said. “Team first. That’s our philosophy. Maria’s job is to get that number one finish. And she tries not for herself but for her team. Winona’s job is to beat the No. 2 on the next team, and that’s how they do this.”

In the 24-team girls varsity race in Montgomery, Shakopee won the team title. Hauger finished second, Winona was sixth, eighth-grader Tess Misgen was 10th, Lynch was 24th and junior Alyson Walker was 50th. The Sabers finished one precious point ahead of second-place Prior Lake, so every last step by every runner was important.

“I get emotional about it, but this is a group of three seniors that has done it together,” Neu said. “I say that all the time but it always comes out ‘Maria this and Maria that’ … because she’s one of the best in the state, ever. But it’s a team. Maria has meant a lot to the school, to the city, she’s meant a lot to me. I have the utmost respect for all three of those girls. They never don’t give their all; practice, school, family, friends. I don’t know how they do it.”

During the 2011-12 school year, the Sabers’ top five runners combined for a grade-point average of 3.98.

“They’re not just running, they do it all,” Neu said. “They have given me more than I give them.”

Misgen, the youngest member of the varsity squad as an eighth-grader, said the older girls were instrumental in her decision to try cross-country. Misgen didn’t know who Hauger was until two years ago.

“I saw her once at a basketball game and I decided I wanted to try it and see how good I would do,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was going to be like. And I love having someone to look up to on my team. She tries so hard to do good and I want to be like her and try just as hard, because she gives it her all.

“I like being able to run with someone like that, too, because not very many people get a chance to run with someone on that high level. She always gives advice, and oftentimes I’ll go up to her for even more.”

People watch Hauger and her teammates run and finish strong, but it’s what happens behind the scenes that is a true testament to the Sabers’ team-first attitude.

One more example: The captains traditionally clean the bus when the team returns to Shakopee from competitions. But Hauger, Lynch and Rachel didn’t need to be named captains to take on that responsibility; they’ve been cleaning the bus since they were in eighth grade.

“Maria, Alli and Winona have cleaned that bus every day since the first race,” Neu said. “Maria wins the state championship, she cleans the bus. That’s the kind of kid she is.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 58
*Miles John has driven: 1,609
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Coaches Association Announces Hall Of Fame Inductees9/12/2012
The Minnesota State High School Coaches Association is honored to announce its Hall of Fame inductees for 2012.

The seven inductees have accumulated impressive success in the sports they have coached. They have reached a pinnacle of coaching success that ranks them in a very special status and exemplifies the greatness of Minnesota high school coaches.

The 2012 inductees are …
*Carolyn Hummel, Lakefield and Jackson County Central volleyball
*Dave Hylla. Proctor football
Bill Quenette, Moorhead basketball
Buz Rumrill, Glencoe-Silver Lake football
Tom Saterdalen, Bloomington Jefferson boys hockey
Gary Schuler, Warren Alvarado Oslo/Fergus Falls
*Will be inducted posthumously

The coaches will be inducted at the annual Hall of Fame and awards banquet on Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Crown Plaza River Front Hotel in St. Paul. A social hour will start at 5:30 p.m. with the banquet to follow. Family, friends and former players are invited to attend. Tickets may be purchased for $25 by contacting the MSHSCA offices at 218-8947-6796 or Jim Baker at 651-357-2937.

Please join us in celebrating a great honor for these most deserving coaches who exemplified what it means to be called "Coach."

The MSHSCA will also recognize all the 2011-12 championship coaches as well as all Coach of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year winners.
Big School, Small Town: Osseo And Nevis Share The Fun 9/12/2012
Before last weekend, it was a pretty safe bet that most of the volleyball players from Osseo High School could not find the town of Nevis on a Minnesota map. But after spending some time in Nevis, the Orioles know all about the community of less than 500 people. Most of all, they know all about “Nevis Nice.”

Osseo High School’s enrollment is close to 2,000 students and Nevis has fewer than 150, so being in Nevis – for much more than a volleyball match – was special for the Orioles. As Osseo coach Bill Quan explained, “Nevis opened its arms and put us first.”

The weekend included both teams coming together for pizza, a hayride, a football game, a bonfire, breakfast and finally a volleyball match.

The Orioles arrived in Nevis – which is east of Detroit Lakes and Park Rapids – Friday afternoon. They held a brief practice before going to their accommodations at the In-We-Go Resort. The teams had pizza together and then everybody climbed aboard a hayride into town. (Nice touch: the tractor pulling the flatbed trailer covered with hay bales was orange; Osseo’s colors are orange and black.)

“All the girls rode on the hayride a few miles into town, through our huge downtown, which only took a few seconds,” said Nevis volleyball coach Stephanie Hanson. The haywagon then circled the football field.

The volleyball teams sat together and watched the football game. They even formed a tunnel for the Nevis Tigers football team to run through before the game and at the start of the second half. They cheered, they laughed, they talked.

“Our girls were missing our school’s biggest football game of the year vs. Maple Grove,” Quan said. “But they talked about how much fun they were having in Nevis and they were getting text updates from our game. They were sure happy they were up in Nevis.”

The trip began taking shape a few years ago when Quan chatted with a man from Nevis at a tournament in Moorhead. That man was Karl Carlson, Hanson’s father. The teams played in Osseo last year, though the Tigers were not able to arrive in time for a lot of pre-match festivities.

Nevis (currently ranked fourth in Class 1A) is a burgeoning volleyball power, placing fifth at the Class 1A state tournament in 2009 and finishing second at state last season. Osseo has been to the 3A state tourney seven times, most recently in 2008.

On Saturday afternoon Nevis defeated the Orioles 3-1, with game scores of 25-23, 24-26, 26-24, 25-16. The junior varsity and ninth-grade teams from both schools also competed against each other.

“I think this year’s Nevis team is better than last year’s,” Quan said. “They’ve got four or five girls who can put the ball down, their defense is much improved and their role players have really stepped it up. They’ve got a lot of tools.”

Quan said the weekend highlight for his players might have been the hayride to and from the football game.

“The girls were singing and talking. As soon as I told the girls there was going to be a hayride to the football game, they were really excited. A lot of them hadn’t done that before. It was a great experience for our girls.”

After the Nevis football team defeated Floodwood 28-6, the volleyball players from both teams got back on the haywagon and returned to the resort. They sat around a bonfire roasting marshmallows and s’mores and sharing stories. On Saturday morning they gathered again for breakfast at the North Wind Café in downtown Nevis. Then came volleyball in the afternoon, followed by goodbye hugs and waves.

Everybody involved went home with wonderful memories, and the Nevis volleyball players went home with something fashionable. Quan gave all of them Osseo volleyball T-shirts … which the Tigers proudly wore to school on Monday.

“It was fun, a great experience,” Hanson said.

Quan said, “Nevis was more than welcoming. It was amazing what they did for us. I think I shook hands with people from the community for about half an hour after the match.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 58
*Miles John has driven: 1,609
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Thinking Back To Eleven Years Ago This Week9/11/2012
I’ll always remember where I was on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I had an appointment to speak to a class at Bloomington Jefferson High School, and I turned on the radio at home as I was getting dressed for the day.

There was talk of something bad happening in New York City. I turned on the TV in the kitchen and saw a big black smoldering hole in the side of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. A plane had apparently struck the building, but nobody knew anything more than that. Before long another aircraft blasted into the other twin tower.

I drove to Bloomington Jefferson, arriving a few minutes early. I listened to the radio in the car for as long as I could and then walked into the school and was escorted to the room where the Sports Literature class was meeting. There were televisions in the classrooms, but because of construction work in the school none of the TVs were working. I told the class everything I had learned from listening to the radio, and then we were all in blackout mode.

After the class period ended, I drove to the Star Tribune building in downtown Minneapolis. Like everyone else in the newsroom, I watched the scenes on television. The Pentagon was on fire … a plane had apparently gone down in Pennsylvania.

Fast-forward a few years and I was back at Jefferson, writing about a memorial stone that had been installed at the school in honor of former Jaguars quarterback Tom Burnett, who died when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. I also wrote about former Blake linebacker Gordy Aamoth, who died in one of the twin towers on Sept. 11. The stadium at Blake now bears his name and a twisted beam from the World Trade Center is on display at the stadium.

In the Sept. 14, 2001, edition of the Star Tribune, I wrote a column under the headline “High school sports can help the healing.” I had spoken with people at Colorado’s Columbine High School as well as Osceolo High School in Wisconsin, where a traffic accident had claimed twin brothers a few weeks before Sept. 11. That column seemed to resonate with readers at the time, and to this day people occasionally will mention it to me. I have heard from a few people who say they saved that column, and they read it every day as Sept. 11 comes around. That is equally touching and humbling.

Here is that column as it appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sept. 14, 2001…

High School Sports Can Help The Healing

In the horrible wake of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, all after-school activities were canceled Tuesday in the Jefferson County (Colo.) School District. This didn't surprise Ed Woytek, the athletic director at Columbine High School.

The day's events hit Columbine hard, especially the senior class. They were freshmen on April 20, 1999, when two students shot and killed 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

"Our coaches and all of us are on kind of a fine line, especially with what happened here previously," Woytek said.

Columbine still is recovering from that day. Recovery also is an ongoing process in Osceola, Wis., where twin brothers Eric and Aaron Kipp, 18, died in a car accident on the way to football practice 30 days ago.

With thousands of innocent people presumed to have perished this week, what do you say? How do you heal? Maybe it's best to listen to the kids. That's among the lessons learned at Columbine and Osceola.

"Pretty much all of them are saying to us, 'We need to be a family,'" Woytek said. "Because that's what happened a few years ago; they got with family. And that's where we need to be, that's where our American people need to be, is with family."

After the Kipp brothers died, football practices were stopped for a short period. But soon, everyone wanted to return -- or try to return -- to some sense of normalcy.

"Very soon, the kids were ready to go back," said Osceola coach/principal Mike McMartin. "They said, 'Coach, I need to keep busy.' And they were right. When we jumped back into it, although they weren't the best practices in the world, there was almost a big sigh of relief that they could start moving forward and take with us all the good things that the boys had shared with us for so many years, instead of thinking about the bad."

Activities went on as scheduled Tuesday in Osceola, the day of the attacks.

"We just really felt during that time it was massively important that we show to the kids, 'Hey, we're going on. We're not going to let these people defeat us or take us off our feet here. We're going to move forward and be proud,'" McMartin said.

At Columbine and Osceola, tragedy struck a specific community of people. This week, tragedy struck us all.

The Columbine Rebels take a 1-1 record into tonight's game at Dakota Ridge. Osceola is 3-0 and the homecoming opponent for rival St. Croix Falls. The games go on, as do our lives.

"Everybody keeps saying we'll never get back to normal, just like our nation will never get back to normal," Woytek said. "But hopefully we're going to get as close to normal as we can."

So if sporting events are part of your normal routine, stick with it. If you haven't been to a high school game in years, tonight would be a wonderful time to go. Get away from the television, escape the headlines. Find a seat in the bleachers and take a break, however temporary, from all that's gone so wretchedly wrong in this world.

Watch the team captains shake hands before the coin flip. Hold your hand over your heart during the national anthem as the flag flutters at half-staff. Bow your head during the moment of silence to honor this week's victims. Get on your feet for the opening kickoff. Watch our young people -- players, cheerleaders, fans -- as they smile, holler and laugh together during this evening that is tradition both athletic and social. Buy popcorn, listen to the band, cheer first downs, simply celebrate.

Maybe administrators at every school can find a recording of God Bless America, and across our states -- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado and beyond -- we'll sing together when the game ends. Just like a family.