John's Journal
Girls State Hockey: Detroit Lakes Coach There From Beginning2/22/2012
Gretchen Norby remembers when the girls hockey program at Detroit Lakes High School got off the ground. She talked about that first season -- which was 12 years ago – in a quiet corridor at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday after the Lakers’ first game in a state tournament.

Norby was a freshman player during that first year and now she is the Lakers’ first-year head coach. So if anybody understands what it takes to get from there to here, it’s Norby.

“It’s surreal to be there at the start of the program and now be here as a coach,” she said. “It’s special for me and I’m honored to be part of this team.”

Things didn’t exactly work in Detroit Lakes’ favor during the Class 1A state quarterfinals. The Lakers were defeated by second-seeded Warroad 13-1 in what can safely be called a drubbing. But Norby and senior Brianna Seebold (who scored the Lakers’ goal) didn’t have any problems being cordial during the postgame media session.

“When we went out there, we were a little shocked,” Seebold said, managing to smile. There was plenty of shock to go around. Warroad scored four goals in the first period and nine in the second before the Lakers won the third period by a score of 1-0.

“We played tough teams,” Norby said. “That didn’t prepare us for today.”

Warroad moves into Friday’s semifinals against South St. Paul. Detroit Lakes will head to Ridder Arena and face New Ulm in Thursday’s consolation bracket.

The Lakers came to state with a record of 12-15, so their loss to powerful Warroad (now 23-4-1) was no surprise. Norby knew what could happen.

“Not to downplay our team or anything, but I think I was being realistic going into this game today,” she said. “We had done our homework on Warroad, we knew what they have. So really my goal for these girls, and I said this, was to enjoy this week. Take this experience, play your hearts out. … it’s the state tournament, take it for all it’s worth.”

Despite the defeat, the smiles told the story.

SOMETHING’S MISSING FOR SOUTH ST. PAUL

When the South St. Paul Packers won the Section 4 championship, something was different during the postgame awards ceremony. When they left the ice after defeating New Ulm 12-1 in Wednesday’s state quarterfinals, again something was different.

Mike Funk was not there. The South St. Paul activities director died on Jan. 29 after suffering complications from an aortic aneurysm in mid-December. Funk, a former hockey coach at St. Thomas Academy, had been with the South St. Paul school district for 20 years.

“It’s very different,” Packers coach Dave Palmquist said after Wednesday’s game. “Mike was a hockey guy and he would have been the first guy to greet us as we came off the ice. It is a different feeling this year. A year ago he was putting the medals around the kids’ necks after the section final and shaking our hands and he was always right there for us. He was a good friend and it is a big loss.”

ONE YEAR LATER, A REMATCH

In last year’s Class 1A state championship game, Warroad defeated South St. Paul 5-1. The Packers held a 1-0 lead before Warroad scored five times in the third period.

Packers senior Sam LaShomb, who had four goals against New Ulm and will play collegiately at North Dakota, remembered last season’s title game as she talked about the semifinal rematch with the Warriors that will be played at 11 a.m. Friday.

“Thinking back, you don’t ever want to lose a state championship like that. We came out and got the first goal and we were all psyched.

“I think this year we have a lot better chance. It’s not going to be a miracle this year. If you see us in the championship game, it won’t be, ‘How the heck did that happen.’ It will be, ‘It’s South St. Paul.’ ”

The teams have met once this season, with Warroad beating the Packers 5-0 in the Kaposia holiday tournament in South St. Paul.

IN OTHER GAMES…

--Top-seeded Breck was tested by Chisago Lakes before advancing with a 7-3 victory. Chisago Lakes led 3-2 at 8:12 of the second period before the Mustangs scored the final five goals of the game.

The prettiest goal of the tourney’s opening day was by Breck senior Milica McMillen. She went left-right-left, leaving defenders in her wake and banging the puck home to tie it 3-3.

“I just wanted to try and get the momentum back,” said McMillen, who has signed with the University of Minnesota. “I saw the opening, shot it and it went in.”

--The day’s last 1A quarterfinal went to overtime before we had a decision. Red Wing defeated Hutchinson 6-5 on a goal by Nicole Schammel – her fourth of the game – at 3:53 of overtime. The Wingers and Breck will meet in Friday’s semifinals.

FRIENDS OLD AND NEW

New Ulm is making its fourth consecutive appearance in the Class 1A state tournament. That means many of the Eagles are accustomed to the sights and sounds of the Xcel Energy Center, as well as the people they see every year at this time.

One of those people is Marty Manley, a member of the Xcel Energy Center staff who helps keep things running smoothly in the locker room areas as teams arrive, prepare, play and depart.

As the New Ulm girls milled around in a corridor Wednesday morning long before their game against South St. Paul, they spotted Marty. Several Eagles shouted, “Hi Marty!” One girl – clearly making her first visit to the tournament -- said, “Hi Marty! I’m new!”

Marty gave her a fist bump.

RECORDS FALL

In Warroad’s 13-1 victory over Detroit Lakes, several state tournament records fell. The 14 total goals was a record, as was the Warriors’ 13 goals and its nine goal in the second period.

--Further updates will be posted here during the evening session…

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 4 for the tournament, 4 for the winter tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 289
*Miles John has driven: 6,313

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Lessons Learned: Perham Yellowjackets Look Back And Look Ahead2/20/2012
PERHAM – As the regular season winds down to its final days, there is a sense of familiarity inside the Perham boys basketball team. The Yellowjackets know the drill: It's time to prepare well for what’s to come.

A year ago, the Yellowjackets were the team that everybody knew about because of Zach Gabbard. Gabbard, then a junior, collapsed with cardiac problems during a January game and nearly died. He was a source of inspiration as Perham went to the state tournament for the first time and brought home a Class 2A championship. Zach is now back in uniform, although a lack of strength means his playing time is limited.

Perham takes a 19-2 record into Tuesday night’s game at Pequot Lakes. A year ago at this time they were 19-1; last season they lost at Pelican Rapids in late January and didn’t lose again. This season they have split two games with Pelican Rapids and lost to Ellsworth in a holiday tournament.

The question, then: Can they do it again? Can they win another state championship?

Talking before a game last week, coach Dave Cresap rephrased the question. “Do we have the makings? Yeah, we can beat anybody. But a lot of teams can beat us, too.”

As last season ended and eyes began turning toward 2011-12, there was plenty of reason for optimism around town. Of the seven individuals who played in the state championship game against Rochester Lourdes, the only senior was guard Nick Topkin. But two hammers have dropped: Forward Sam Stratton, who was named to the all-tournament team at state as a junior last season, is now playing basketball at Fargo North after a family move, and junior guard Jordan Hein was lost for the season to an injury in December. Without those two, as well as Gabbard, the Yellowjackets know the road can be rocky. But here they are at 19-2. So far, so good.

“We were thinking, ‘We’re going to have to have some kids step up,’ ” Cresap said. “To be where we’re at right now, the one word I use to describe these kids is I’m proud. I’m proud of what they’ve done. They’ve bought into our system, they’re reaching out to get to their goals, and all their goals are still within reach.

“Goal number one is to win the (Heart O’Lakes) conference championship, and that’s still in reach. The goal to get to the section championship game? Still in reach. The goal of staying together as a team and not falling apart? They have done a wonderful job with that.”

The story of the 2010-11 Yellowjackets is one of the most memorable in history. It was a storybook tale that has been made into a documentary film, “For Three” (Gabbard, in center of photo at left, wears jersey number 3). Lessons learned then are paying off now.

“I think the main thing we learned is that the first thing you have to do is always believe in yourself and never give up,” said senior captain Jordan Bruhn. “You’re not going to do certain things in life without the help of others, and we became a really close family last year. I think that was the most important thing that we did to win state.”

The other captains, Mark Schumacher and coach’s son Jordan Cresap, echoed that feeling of togetherness.

“That cohesiveness we built last year really helped, and that adversity we faced last year has really helped us,” Schumacher said.

“We really became close last year after Zach collapsed and I think that’s a testament to our team and how well we work together, both on and off the court,” Cresap said.

Of course, the Yellowjackets are fully aware that life -- and basketball – can be full of surprises. The loss of Gabbard – as well as his return -- is Exhibit No. 1 in that category, and Perham’s run to last year’s title may be Exhibit No. 2. All this means that the team knows to expect the unexpected, be prepared for anything and play every game like it’s their last.

“The kids have to live in the moment,” Cresap said. “They’ve got to play for that present moment.”

Bruhn said, “Once playoffs start we’re going to have to look at each other and say, ‘This could be it. This could the last time we ever play together.’ It’s going to be scary and sad.”

Gabbard has gone from being a starter before his ailment to a bench player now. He says his strength is 80 percent back to normal; Dave Cresap puts that figure closer to 65 percent. But Zach is back in uniform, back with his teammates, and that’s what matters.

“Basketball was my life and still is,” he said. “Just being back on the court, warming up with the team, it means a lot.”

One of the surprises of Gabbard’s return to health was the return of his voice. When he left a Twin Cities rehabilitation hospital and rejoined his team at last year’s state tournament, he could speak in little more than a whisper and his voice remained raspy through the summer and into the new school year. But while cheering at a volleyball match last fall, his voice returned in full force.

“I started yelling and then boom, my voice was back,” said Zach, who is thinking of attending Minnesota State-Moorhead and majoring in elementary education. “It was so weird. No one had heard my voice for a while.”

Zach inspires his teammates, and his mere presence is a reminder of what’s truly important.

“You think, ‘What if it had happened to me?,” Schumacher said. “ ‘Would I be able to come back and do all this?’ None of us wanted it to happen but it happened and all of us cope with it the best we can. We know how lucky we are to still have him here and we’re able to talk to him and go to class with him. You don’t take it for granted when you see him.”

So Zach is back, the season is nearing the final stretch and the Yellowjackets are preparing for a journey that will hopefully end with another trip to state.

“Like we say to the players, we’re not going to surprise anyone this time of the year,” Dave Cresap said. “We need to pay attention to the details, do the little things, defend and rebound.”

The only certainty is that the end will come … maybe early in the section playoffs, maybe in the section final, maybe at the state tournament, maybe with the Yellowjackets holding another championship trophy. When that time comes, Cresap knows what he hopes to see.

“At some point it’s going to end and they have to enjoy every moment of this and cherish what they’ve had," he said. "Hopefully they can walk away from the program thinking, ‘We had fun, we played smart, we played together and we did all those little things that are necessary to have a good season.’ ”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 281
*Miles John has driven: 6,271

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Revisiting A Special Basketball Team, Preparing For State Ski Meet2/15/2012
BIWABIK – Greetings from Giants Ridge, where the state Alpine and Nordic ski championships will be held Wednesday and Thursday. It’s about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday as I write this, having arrived here after spending eight hours in the car.

Yes, I quite possibly could be directionally challenged, because it doesn’t take eight hours to drive from the Twin Cities to Biwabik (that’s a drive of a little longer than three hours). But I took a detour through Perham for a Tuesday night boys basketball game.

I checked in with the defending Class 2A state champion Yellowjackets before their game with Frazee and shot photos during the game. I interviewed coach Dave Cresap and several players before tipoff and was in the locker room during the coach’s pregame instructions. A story is in the works.

I left the game at halftime, bound for Giants Ridge … which is more than 200 miles from Perham. I saw some deer and a raccoon or two along the way, and the roads were good. I checked in at the Giants Ridge lodge a little before 1 a.m. and the first run of Alpine skiing will begin at 10 a.m.

That leaves just enough time for a little bit of sleep zzzzzzzzzz

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 261
*Miles John has driven: 6,271

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Wrestling, Coaching, Officiating, Legislating: Bob Dettmer Is Committed2/15/2012
Bob Dettmer’s life is filled with accomplishments and service. He is a retired teacher, retired wrestling coach, former active duty soldier and Army Reservist who served in Kuwait. Currently he serves as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

But Dettmer has a job on the side that is very close to his heart: he is a wrestling official. He puts a whistle around his neck a couple of days a week and goes to the mat.

“I enjoy the sport, and I think when a coach retires from coaching he should still be part of the program,” Dettmer said between matches during a triangular at Cretin-Derham Hall High School.

Dettmer, 60, is as fit and trim as he was when he won a national wrestling championship at Bemidji State University in 1971. He retired as a physical education teacher and head wrestling coach at Forest Lake High School in 2008 and since then has devoted his time to the Legislature. He is unaware of any other legislators who also work as high school sports officials. But plenty of people at the State Capitol know about his side job.

Before leaving the House floor around 4 p.m. and driving directly to Cretin-Derham Hall for the first match at 4:30, Dettmer – a Republican from District 52A -- had a quick chat with House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Majority Leader Matt Dean.

“I told the speaker and the majority leader, ‘Hey, I hope we get through these bills so I can get over here in time,’ ” Dettmer said. “Luckily we did.”

Dettmer’s career record during his 32 years as a wrestling coach is 399-144-2. He coached multiple individual state champions and his 1993 Forest Lake team won the Class 2A state title. He began to work as an official immediately after ending his coaching career, and every year since then he also has worked at one of the matside tables during the state wrestling tournament.

He recently learned that he had been selected to work as an official during this year’s state tourney at Xcel Eenergy Center. A notification letter had been sent from the MSHSL to his home, and Dettmer was sitting in the House chamber when he got the news via a text from his wife, Colleen.

“I kind of jumped out of my seat,” he said.

He will work matches during the first day of the tournament, which is the team competition. The action will begin at 9 a.m. and Dettmer’s shift should end around 3 p.m. The House will be in session beginning an hour later, “so I’ll be able to scoot right over to the Capitol,” he said.

That day, March 1, is Dettmer’s birthday as well as Colleen’s. She will be on hand to watch her husband.

“That’s the one thing about my birthday,” he said, “it’s always been during the wrestling state tournament or national tournament or whatever it was during college.”

Dettmer was an official in the 1970s and 1980s but had to give it up because of family, coaching and military commitments. He said every coach in every sport would be wise to do some officiating, and officials should do some coaching.

“I think you can be a better coach if you do some officiating, and I think you can be a better official if you have coached some,” he said. “The key thing is positioning. You can anticipate what’s going to happen because you’ve been there yourself.

“Your job is to keep everything safe and legal. Wrestling is a sport where if you pick somebody up, you’re responsible for bringing them down safely. There’s no punching or hitting or anything like that. It’s a tough sport.”

Dettmer is a longtime member of the Army Reserve who served on active duty in Kuwait. The Dettmer’s three children also have been involved in the military. Sons Travis and Robb, who both wrestled for their father at Forest Lake, are West Point graduates.

Travis recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan after two stints in Iraq; in fact, Bob and Travis had a reunion when both were serving in the Middle East. Travis is now stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where his wife is a JAG officer (a military attorney.

Robb, who is now in the National Guard, lives near West Point in New York, where he and his wife mentor Army cadets in a Christian-based military ministry. And the Dettmer’s daughter Krystle, who graduated from Bethel College, lives in Fort Bliss, Texas, where her husband serves in the military police.

“I wish they were closer,” Dettmer said. “We’ve got six grandkids and it would be nice to have them closer.”

Officiating in this year’s state wrestling tournament will be one of many memorable moments in Dettmer’s career, and he’s happy to share advice for people who are considering becoming officials.

“Be around a wrestling program. Even if you did wrestle but you don’t coach, find a high school in your area and see if you can go in and officiate their wrestle-offs,” he said. “Learn, get certified, do some junior high, some JV, join an association so they can set you up with matches. There are a lot of middle school and junior high matches you can do.”

As long as his health allows, Dettmer will continue to put that whistle around his neck and give back to the sport that has meant so much to him.

“As long as I can do, I will,” he said. “I enjoy it. It keeps you in contact with the coaches, and I coached against a lot of these coaches. If I was coming out of college right now, I’d go into teaching and coaching. I’d do it all over again.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 281
*Miles John has driven: 6,271

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
It’s A Game In February, And It’s A Night To Remember2/10/2012
One player had a big black bandage wound around his head, covering seven staples that resulted from a collision with a teammate’s teeth earlier in the week. The player on the other end of the collision had been to the dentist for repairs and was now playing with a mouthguard. One team – Eastview -- was unbeaten and the other –Lakeville North -- came in with one loss … to Eastview a month earlier. The gym was packed, the music was cranking and a cold Diet Coke was waiting for me at the scorer’s table (even though the concession stand sells Diet Pepsi).

In other words, Friday was a perfect night for basketball.

“You want to be in close games, you want to be in an atmosphere like this as much as you can,” Eastview coach Mark Gerber said.

This was a South Suburban Conference boys game with plenty of implications as the season sprints toward the playoffs. Would Eastview remain unbeaten and hang on to the No. 1 ranking in Class 4A? Would third-ranked North avenge a six-point loss to the Lightning on Jan. 10 in Lakeville? And no matter the outcome, would the two teams meet for a third time in the state tournament?

“They’re a big rival and our kids know they’re the best,” said North coach John Oxton. “When you’re number one, everybody wants to try to beat them.”

The final score was Lakeville North 57, Eastview 56. But how we got from that cold pregame Diet Coke to the final buzzer is quite a story. The soft drink came courtesy of Eastview athletic director Matt Percival, who knows how to butter up a visiting scribe. And the outcome of the game wasn’t decided until Eastview’s Joey King missed a three-point shot at the horn.

King was the guy with the bandaged head. He and fellow senior Jordan Bolger knocked noggins on Tuesday at Burnsville, with both needing treatment. King finished with a game-high 18 points, but the fact that he scored two points in the game’s final 14 minutes was important.

Eastview led by six early but North controlled most of the first half, leading by 11 points when Brett Rasmussen hit a three-point basket with 2:33 left in the half. The Panthers led 33-24 at the break, but King made noise pretty quickly in the second half.

The 6-foot-9 forward who has signed a Division I letter of intent with Drake drained an NBA three-pointer to cut North’s lead to four points with 15:50 to play, then grabbed an alley-oop pass from Darin Haugh and threw down a dunk with 14:12 left; North led by two. Haugh scored in the lane to tie it at 35 soon after, but King went to the bench with four fouls at the 11:38 mark.

Curtains for Eastview, right? Wrong. With their top scorer on the pine, the Lightning opened a six-point lead when sophomore Mark Dwyer hit a three. King returned at the 4:25 mark, made two free throws 16 seconds later and Eastview was in front 51-46 as the momentum continued swinging.

North, however, won the battle after that, outscoring Eastview 11-5. The Lightning led 56-51 with 1:38 left, but the Panthers made some devilishly outstanding plays: Ryan Saarela drove through the tall timber, spun and put up a shot that defied the laws of physics and banked in off the glass … Tyler Flack, on a similar play, drove the lane and put up a shortie that rolled around the rim, thought about it, then decided that, yes, it would drop through after all.

That put North ahead 57-56 with 2.3 seconds on the clock. The officials wanted to re-set the timer to 2.7 seconds, but the personnel at the table had some trouble doing so. The problem was solved – and the delay was ended – when Gerber leaned over the table, punched a few buttons, pulled a few switches and said the magic word. Two point seven seconds it was.

Eastview had that much time to throw a length-of-the-court pass, get off a shot, win the game, holler and celebrate. Ben Oberfeld stood with the ball in his hands, and this was an important point. Oberfeld also is 6-9, so everybody in the gym knew that Eastview Option Number One was a long pass from Oberfeld to King, who was perched 70 feet away, ready to leap, grab, turn and shoot.

He leaped, he grabbed, he turned and he shot. And he missed. Bang zoom, Lakeville North wins it.

“They had Oberfeld passing it in,” Oxton said. “So we put our two big guys on Joey and said, ‘That’s where it’s going.’ And he still caught it. That’s not real great but it worked.

“Every time we play them it’s the exact same game every time; physical, getting after it. And they’re good, they’re really good. But we’re pretty good, too. That was fun.”

Gerber did not use the word “fun” during our postgame visit. Understandably, he was not pleased.

“We have experienced guys,” he said. “That’s the troubling part; you have a six-point lead with two minutes to go and we didn’t make the right plays at the end. I never would have guessed our guys would make the plays that they made at the end. That’s not them. They know exactly how to win and they didn’t make the right plays. We took the wrong shots, we dribbled into traps; stuff that these guys aren’t accustomed to doing, so I was shocked.

“But one game isn’t going to define our season at all. Our goals are set much more higher. There’s a lot to learn, there’s a lot more positive to take out of it than negative. It’s a game in February.”

Yes, it was a game in February. “Only” a game in February, some might say.

But it sure was fun.

--To see a photo gallery from the game, as well as video of the final play, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 259
*Miles John has driven: 5,837

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn