John's Journal
For Columbia Heights Football, The Future Is Bright 10/24/2012
The Columbia Heights football team came oh so close on Tuesday. So close to taking one more big step up, so close to putting more distance between what was and what is. The Hylanders lost to Minnehaha Academy 29-16 in the first round of the Class 3A Section 4 playoffs, and it hurt.

But it won’t take long for the players to realize what they accomplished this season: They won. For a program that had won a grand total of two regular-season games in the previous four seasons, finishing 2012 with a 4-5 record was a strong statement by a team that is on its way back.

“We won four games and that’s a huge step for our program,” coach Matt Townsend said after the loss at Minnehaha Academy. “We were down a little bit the last few years, struggling and trying to figure things out.”

Victory No. 5 was within the Hylanders’ grasp before slipping away in the final five minutes. Columbia Heights surrendered the first touchdown but came back to lead 16-7 on a touchdown pass from David Dixon to Deondre Sanstad and a scoring run by Dixon. Those touchdowns countered scoring passes by Minnehaha quarterback Erik Madryga to Dane Birkeland and Jonathan Webb.

The 30-yard TD pass to Webb made it Hylanders 16, Redhawks 14 with 5:27 to go in the fourth quarter. Minnehaha recovered an onside kick and took the lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by Alec Chamberlain. After Columbia Heights couldn’t gain a first down, the Redhawks set the outcome in stone on another short TD run by Chamberlain with four seconds to play.

Finishing 4-5 was a much different outcome than in prior seasons. Since 2006 the Hylanders’ best finish was 3-6 in 2007. They were 2-8 in 2009 (with one postseason win), 1-8 in 2010 and didn’t win a game in 2008 or 2011.

For the 12 seniors on the current Hylanders roster, Tuesday’s game was the end of the football road. But for all those underclassmen? Thoughts are already turning to next season.

“I think we took a big step this year,” Townsend said. “We return a lot of underclassmen, which I just told them. We thank our seniors, and hopefully we’ll take this game and build on it and think about it.”

Dixon and workhorse running back Daireus Mock are sophomores, and both of those youngsters have bright futures. The Hylanders played an independent schedule this season after leaving the North Suburban Conference, and their first victory came in Week 1, 52-24 over St. Paul Humboldt. That was a wonderful start to the turnaround.

“It was huge,” Townsend said. “It was good for our community, it was good for our fans, it was good for our kids and our staff. This year you had a little bit of hop in the hallways again with football doing some things, so there’s a little bit more of a buzz.”

Then came victories over St. James, St. Paul Como Park and Minneapolis Edison, with losses to St. Paul Harding, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, Maple River and St. Peter.

“I think we’ve got a lot of hope,” said Columbia Heights activities director Mark Corless. “A lot of these kids are young. They know already pretty much what our schedule will be next year, and they’re certainly teams we can be competitive with if we get better. It’s not like these are walk-over games, but they will dress about the same number of kids we dress. That’s what’s good. They have hope in every game, which is huge.”

The 2013 season will be here in a hurry, and Townsend told his young players to learn from Tuesday’s mistakes.

“We have some young kids who need to look at this game and how close they were, the mental mistakes they had. Hopefully now they learn and when they get into a situation again, they finish it.”

--To see photos from the Columbia Heights-Minnehaha Academy game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 208
*Miles John has driven: 3,589
(*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
Remembering Ron Sellnow: Hopkins AD, Teacher, Coach And Great Person10/24/2012
This message was sent via Twitter this afternoon by the athletic department at Hopkins High School...

"Very Sad News: Former Hopkins AD, teacher, coach and all-around great person, Ron Sellnow, passed away this afternoon."

Ron, who was diagnosed with Lymphona in 2011, was well-known in Minnesota high school activity circles and was active as a supporter of MSHSL events. He will be greatly missed.

Duluth Central Boys Basketball Reunion This Weekend10/23/2012
The Duluth Central Boys Basketball Reunion on Saturday promises to be an event to remember. Central, which merged with Duluth Denfeld in 2010, sent 15 boys basketball teams to state tournaments between 1918 and 2007. Central won state championships in 1950, 1961, 1971 and 1979, with runner-up finishes in 1918, 1969, 1977, and 1986.

Here are the reunion details:

6:30 p.m. Friday -- Casual get-together for former teammates at Grandma's Sports Garden in historic Canal Park.

Noon-1 p.m., Saturday -- Tours of an historical classroom and the bell tower at Old Central High School.

1 p.m. Saturday -- Alumni basketball game at Old Central High School. Warm-ups begin at noon. The high-tempo event includes a three-point shooting contest and a possible slam-dunk contest, with prizes awarded to the winners.

7 p.m. Saturday -- Post-game reception at Grandma's Sports Garden, featuring comments from legendary coach Jim Hastings and other former coaches. Appetizers served.

"This all started out as just a few local guys getting together to watch the '79 championship game," said event organizer Peter Cieluch. "One day at the YMCA I mentioned to Don (Ness) what we were planning on doing. His suggestion was to maybe hold an alumni game, as that could be a lot of fun. Well, we took that original idea added a few other simple events.

"Growing up on the Central Hillside many of my childhood friends were parts of the many great teams Central produced during that era. Seeing the program simply vanish was very hard for many of us to see. The last scheduled home game versus East had to be moved also.

"This event is meant to be both a reunion of sorts for all those that were part of the program. But more then that, it's a celebration of a program that spanned many decades and brought numerous championships to our town. And with the current classifications of both of the remaining schools, we may never see the success Duluth Central basketball was able to achieve again."
                                              
Caption Contest … Thanks To Sid Hartman (And Our Friends On Twitter)10/22/2012
While I was at a football game between Wayzata and Eden Prairie last week at Eden Prairie, I ran into a former co-worker. Legendary Star Tribune sports columnist and WCCO-AM radio personality Sid Hartman was on hand, watching the game from one corner of the field.

I worked at the Star Tribune for nearly 20 years before joining the MSHSL in 2010. One of my jobs in the early days there was editing Sid’s column, which was always a real treat.

During the game Wednesday night, Sid told me was having a hard time deciding who to cheer for. Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant is one of Sid’s close personal friends, but Sid’s grandson Hunter Hartman is a senior offensive lineman for Wayzata. (Wayzata won the game 16-0.)

I posted this photo of myself and Sid on Twitter, asking my followers to reply with their favorite caption. As you can imagine, people had a lot of fun with this. Here are the results, working through the Honorable Mentions to Grand Champion…

HONORABLE MENTION

--Minnesota Twins

--Who’s older?

--“Do they serve Silver Butter Knife Steaks here?”

--Close personal friends

--“I’d rather be in Omaha.”

-- Grandpa and Grandson Sports

-- Senior (Citizens) Night across the MSHSL

--Father/Son night

SECOND RUNNER-UP
--Didn't realize Chad was so much taller than Sid

FIRST RUNNER-UP
--Before and after ... Best of the best Maury Makeovers!!

GRAND CHAMPION
--Two members of MSHSL Student Media program show off their incredibly lifelike Halloween costumes

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 205
*Miles John has driven: 3,546
(*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

27 Football Teams Finish Perfect Regular Seasons10/18/2012
Congratulations to the 27 football teams that have completed the regular season with zero losses. Good luck to all teams in the playoffs!

CLASS 6A/ Maple Grove

CLASS 5A/ Moorhead, Owatonna, St. Paul Central, Spring Lake Park, Totino-Grace

CLASS 4A/ DeLaSalle, Detroit Lakes, Hutchinson, Marshall

CLASS 3A/ Blue Earth Area, Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta, Rochester Lourdes

CLASS 2A/ Barnesville, BOLD, Caledonia, Hawley, Lewiston-Altura, Moose Lake-Willow River

CLASS 1A/ Mahnomen, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s

NINE-MAN/ Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, Hills-Beaver Creek, Nevis, Nicollet, Spring Grove, Stephen-Argyle