John's Journal
Soccer Champions Are Crowned In The Metrodome11/3/2011
Thursday was Championship Soccer Day at the Metrodome, where four state titles were decided. All four games were close and well-played as the Benilde-St. Margaret’s boys (Class 1A), Blake girls (1A), Eden Prairie boys (2A) and Wayzata girls (2A) captured gold.

Two scenes stood out for me Thursday. One was Eastview boys coach Scott Gustafson (right) breaking with tradition ever so slightly during the postgame presentation of medals and trophies. Gustafson shook the hand of every Eden Prairie player, manager and coach after they received their medals. That was a very genuine gesture of sportsmanship.

The other scene has to be witnessed to be believed. Go to the MSHSL Facebook page and watch the video of Benilde-St. Margaret’s Haley Jerabek executing a throw-in. In most cases, players simply stand on the sideline and throw the ball with two hands. But not Haley. As the ball sits on the turf, she runs toward it and performs a flip; she grabs the ball as her hands swing down, then flicks it high in the air as she plants her feet. It is way cool.

Here are the game reports …

1A BOYS/ BENILDE-ST. MARGARET’S 3, PRAIRIE SEEDS ACADEMY 1

The Red Knights (19-3-1) capped off a championship season by handing Prairie Seeds its first loss of the season. The defending state champion Lycans finished with a 19-1-2 record.

Jake Horton gave Benilde-St. Margaret’s a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute and Prairie Seeds’ Carlos Boquin – who missed the state quarterfinals and semifinals because of eligibility issues – tied the score in the 14th minute. Second-half goals by Carter Eckerline and John Mulvahill secured the victory for the Red Knights. Winning goalkeeper Kevin Lebahn made seven saves and the Lycans’ Betzabet Valle stopped three shots.

There were 26 fouls on each team and Prairie Seeds’ Ibrahim Keita was red-carded in the 78th minute.

The quote/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s goalkeeper Kevin Lebahn: “They have a lot of talented players. Our defense was great.”

All-tournament team/ Jake Collins, Mankato West; Julian Garcia-Delaney, Cloquet/Esko/Carlton; Hayden Speaks, Sartell-St. Stephen; Ben Braman, St. Paul Academy and Summit School; Will Elder, Jack Convery, James Armstead, Rochester Lourdes; John Mulvahill, Brendan Schember, Paul Graupner, Jake Horton, Benilde-St. Margaret’s; Oscar Cendejas, Ismaila Jome, Adama Keita, Roberto Dominguea, Prairie Seeds Academy.

1A GIRLS/ BLAKE 1, BENILDE-ST. MARGARET’S 0

Grace Boatman scored with an assist by Hannah Randolph in the final minute of the first half to life the Bears (21-1-0) past Benilde-St. Margaret’s (18-1-3). The Red Knights outshot Blake 10-7, including 6-3 in the first half, but couldn’t get past Bears keeper Maddy Crawford. She made four saves and Benilde keeper Mikayla Coulombe had five saves.

The quote/ Blake coach Paul Menge: “We try to run our forwards across the field rather than straight up and down to create things for their defense to think about. And I think basically what you saw was Grace coming across on a diagonal and we played it over to her. We practice switching and crossing the ball a lot, and it paid off.”

All-tournament team/ Chloe Bachman, St. Peter; Marissa Ricci, South St. Paul; Caitlin Lilly, Esko/Carlton; Stina Haave, Bemidji; Hannah Anderson, Meredith Rolfs, Rochester Lourdes; Abigail Welle, Jennifer Nickasch, Totino-Grace; Mikayla Coulombe, Dana Buckhorn, Peggy Renier, Kelly Pannek, Benilde-St. Margaret’s; Nicole Kozlak, Korlekuor Akiti, Grace Boatman, Lydia Sutton, Blake.

2A BOYS/ EDEN PRAIRIE 3, EASTVIEW 1

Eden Prairie led 1-0 into the late stages of the game before tacking on two quick goals and handing Eastview its first loss of the season. Medo Youssef put the Eagles (16-3-3) on the board in the fourth minute and the score remained 1-0 until Natalio Blanche and Michael Vuolo scored less than a minute apart in the final minutes. Mathew Gweh scored for the Lightning (20-1-1) in the final minute.

Eden Prairie outshot Eastview 17-7 and Eagles keeper Alex Dewey made just one save behind a solid defense. Eastview goalkeeper Sam Rueles made three stops.

The quote/ Eden Prairie’s Medo Youssef: “I think I did pretty good in the middle, just controlling the field and everything. Last week I didn’t control the midfield in the second half very well, so I had to come back and help my team win today.”

All-tournament team/ Derek Herman, Rochester Mayo; Julian Ocampo, North St. Paul; Jason Scheeler, Blaine; Connor Iverson, Anoka; Pat Enright, Alex Niederloch, Maple Grove; Liban Ayanle, Mohamud Abdi, Minneapolis Southwest; Sam Ruelas, Mathew Gweh, Mike Bonderud, Joe Karam, Eastview; Alex Dewey, Roman Derevyanko, Natalio Blanche, Abdur Omar, Eden Prairie.

2A GIRLS/ WAYZATA 2, BURNSVILLE 1 (SHOOTOUT)

The last game of the soccer season was the most suspenseful, with Wayzata and Burnsvile playing through 20 minutes of overtime and into a shootout before the Trojans came away with the victory. It was 1-1 at the end of regulation and through two overtimes, and Wayzata won the shootout 4-3. The winning goal was scored by Chelsey Ulrich in the sixth round of penalty kicks.

Burnsville sophomore Alyssa Blahnik broke a scoreless tie early in the second half, scoring on a breakaway and recording the 50th goal of her career. Wayzata tied it in the 59th minute on a goal by Kiana Nickel.

Goalkeeper Meghann Rudolph of Burnsville (17-5) made 11 saves and Mara Dougherty of Wayzata (18-2-2) had seven saves.

The quote/ Wayzata coach Tony Peszneker: “After we went through our top five (penalty kickers) I said, ‘Who wants to go next?’ We have a top five and a next five and I asked who’s ready to shoot. (Chelsey Ulrich) stepped up and volunteered.”

All-tournament team/Kellie McGahn, Eastview; Emily Erickson, Woodbury; Britney Monteon, Blaine; Kaitlin Beckman, Anoka; Simone Kolander, Breanna Sollie, Lakeville North; Jenna Roering, Megan Lenz, Centennial; Mara Dougherty, Katie Schulz, Kylie Schwarz, Kiana Nickel, Wayzata; Alyssa Blahnik, Meghann Rudolph, Tiana Khamvongsa, Hannah Freden, Burnsville.

--This is a busy time, with section titles being decided in volleyball and football and the state cross-country meet set for Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield. I was at a section volleyball semifinal doubleheader at Lakeville South on Wednesday night, at soccer Thursday, I’ll be at a 5A football section final between Eastview and Prior Lake on Friday night and at the cross-country meet bright and early Saturday.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 121
*Miles John has driven: 4,719
*Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 22 for the fall tournaments

--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
Soccer State Championship Lineup Is Set11/1/2011
Minnesota’s high school sports focus will be on the Metrodome Thursday, when four state champions will be crowned on the soccer field. Semifinals in Class 1A and 2A for girls and boys were held at the Dome on Monday and Tuesday, setting up the biggest day of the season.

Thursday’s action will begin at 8 a.m. with the Class 2A boys third-place game, followed by four state championship contests. Here is a look at the matchups…

CLASS 1A BOYS, 10 a.m.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s (18-2-1) vs. Prairie Seeds Academy (19-0-2)
--Second-seeded Benilde has plenty of championship history, winning state titles in 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2006. The Red Knights have allowed only eight goals all season.
--Top-seeded Prairie Seeds is the only defending champion still playing this season. The Lycans have recorded 11 shutouts, outscoring their opponents 137 to 13.

CLASS 1A GIRLS, 12:30 p.m.
Blake (20-1-0) vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (18-0-3)
-- Blake junior Natalie Sill has the hot hand after scoring a goal and assist in the No. 2 seed Bears’2-0 semifinal win over Rochester Lourdes.
--Top-seeded Benilde is balanced, with five players who have scored double-digit goals.

CLASS 2A BOYS, 3 p.m.
Eden Prairie (15-3-3) vs. Eastview (20-0-1)
--Third-seeded Eden Prairie was led by sophomore Abdul Omar’s two goals in a 2-0 semifinal win over Maple Grove.
--Junior Mayhew Gweh is the offensive leader for top-seeded Eastview. He scored both goals in a 2-1 state quarterfinal win over Rochester Mayo and did the same in Tuesday’s 2-0 semifinal victory over Minneapolis Southwest.

CLASS 2A GIRLS, 5:30 p.m.
Burnsville (17-4-0) vs. Wayzata (17-2-2)
--Sophomore Alyssa Blahnik was the semifinal hero for unseeded Burnsville, getting three goals and two assists in a 5-2 win over Centennial.
--Fourth-seeded Wayzata knocked off top-seeded and previously unbeaten Lakeville North in the semifinals, surviving a scoreless regulation and two 10-minute overtimes before winning a shootout 5-3.

Tidbits From The Metrodome
--The largest crowd of the semifinals was from Maple Grove, with high school students paying five dollars to ride a fan bus. Info on the school website said “All students riding the fan bus must ride the bus to and from the event. The bus will depart the Dome at approximately 1:30 p.m. to return to MGSH.” Timing is not everything, because at 1:30 p.m. the game still had 25 minutes remaining in regulation. I bet the students were really disappointed, too.

--First mention of you know what/ 11:57 a.m.: “Hey John, how many Diet Cokes today?” (Answer below.)

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 109
*Miles John has driven: 4,659
*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 17 for the fall tournaments

--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
Hanna’s Hope: The Source Of Inspiration At Rochester Lourdes10/31/2011
It wasn’t easy for the members of the Rochester Lourdes girls soccer team to be upbeat after losing in the state semifinals Monday at the Metrodome. In fact, Monday wasn’t the best day for the Lourdes boys soccer team, either, because they also lost in the semifinals.

But whenever anybody at Lourdes is looking for a little upbeat inspiration, all they have to do is have a chat with Hanna Hughes.

“I have never seen Hanna with a frown on her face,” Lourdes senior defender Rachel Saltness said of her teammate and classmate. “Every day she has a smile on her face and she makes the best of every situation.”

Hanna watched Monday’s Class 1A state tournament games from a wheelchair. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in April 2010 and her right leg and pelvic area were amputated a couple months later. But if anybody has seen her without a smile and some positive encouragement, they’re awful hard to find.

“Hanna is an absolute delight to be around,” Eagles girls soccer coach Sarah Groven said. “She is the sweetest person, she lights up the room every time she comes in. This has been probably tough for her, not to be able to play in the Metrodome, but she has been an integral part of our team since before she was diagnosed.”

A popular item around the school are purple wristbands that say “HANNA’S HOPE.” The Eagles wore them proudly Monday.

Hanna is a top student who was the junior class president last year, is student body president this year and recently was named Homecoming queen. School administrators made sure Hanna and her friend/teammate Kelly Melhorn had the same class schedule this year, so Kelly could help Hanna navigate around school in her wheelchair.

“She definitely is a lot of inspiration,” Kelly (left) said. “When she comes to our games I know that having her there helps inspire the whole team. We know she wants to be out there with us. Honestly, she has such a good attitude about the whole thing that I don’t think anyone else could do what she does on a day-to-day basis. That inspires the team right there.”

Hanna, in turn, credits her friends and teammates for keeping her on a positive track.

“They keep me upbeat,” she said. “They’re great friends. I tell them every game, ‘Play for me because I can’t play.’ They do a great job.”

MONDAY’S SEMIFINAL GAME REPORTS …

1A boys/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 1, St. Paul Academy and Summit School 0: The game-winner came 6:10 into the second half when Jake Horton drilled an unassisted shot into the net for his 13th goal of the season. Goalkeeper Alex Leiter earned the win, making three saves.

1A boys/ Prairie Seeds Academy 2, Rochester Lourdes 1 (overtime): Adama Keita beat Lourdes junior goalkeeper Will Elder to the ball and tapped it into the net 3:52 into the extra period. Prairie Seeds and Benilde will meet in the title game Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Metrodome.

1A girls/ Blake 2, Rochester Lourdes 1: Natalie Sill scored a goal and had an assist as the Bears advanced to Thursday’s championship game. Maddy Crawford earned the win in the net, making three saves on 10 shots by the Eagles.

1A girls/ Benilde-St. Margaret’s 3, Totino-Grace 0: Dana Buckhorn, Peggy Renier and Kelly Pannek scored for the Red Knights. Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Blake will decide the state championship Thursday at 12:30.

2A girls/ Burnsville 5, Centennial 2: Sophomore Alyssa Blahnik scored three goals and had two assists as the Blaze moved into Thursday’s state championship game.

2A girls/ Wayzata 1, Lakeville North 0 (shootout): After a scoreless regulation and two 10-minute overtimes, Wayzata won the shootout 5-3 to advance to the championship game vs. Burnsville on Thursday.

Coming up Tuesday/ Boys 2A semifinals between Maple Grove and Eden Prairie at noon and Eastview and Minneapolis Southwest at 2 p.m., as well as third-place games in 1A girls (8 a.m.), 1A boys (10 a.m.), 2A girls (4 p.m.).

INCOMING TWEET OF THE DAY (HALLOWEEN CATEGORY)…

“Early returns coming in on tonight's costume count: 12 witches, 5 zombies and 3 John Millea's. I've started to hand out Diet Coke to those.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 103
*Miles John has driven: 4,610
*Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 14 for the fall tournaments

--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
Lakeville North 24, Lakeville South 1410/30/2011
Here's a report from one of Saturday's Class 5A football playoff games, written by a talented young journalist.

It's A Football Town
From Silence To Celebration, An Afternoon Of Playoff Football 10/29/2011
FAIRMONT – Ninety-six high school football games were played in Minnesota on Saturday, and every one of them was important. That’s because this is playoff time and the losing team walks off the field and won’t back back until August of 2011.

With 96 games from which to choose, I went south to Fairmont on Saturday. Mahoney Field, home of the Fairmont Cardinals, is named after the late Tom Mahoney, a legendary coach and ambassador of the game. The current Cardinals coach is Mat Mahoney, Tom’s grandson.

Mahoney Field is nine and a half miles from the Iowa border, and it seemed like a fitting place to be while the Gophers and Iowa Hawkeyes met in Minneapolis. And yes, the Gophers had all kinds of fun in keeping Floyd of Rosedale in Minnesota, but the atmosphere in Fairmont – on the field and behind the scenes – was as good as it gets for high school athletics.

Things began in silence, as the unbeaten Montevideo Thunder Hawks sat on the floor and leaned against the wall in an auxiliary gym. It was 1:30 p.m., 90 minutes before kickoff. Four hours later, at 5:30 p.m., one team was the polar opposite of silent, chanting and singing in wild celebration. What happened in between was special…

1:55/ The Cardinals also sat in silence …as well as in the dark as they waited in a classroom to take the field for the Class 3A, Section 3 semifinal. Mahoney walked in, flipped on the lights and said, “Ready?” He talked about special teams, about being in the right spots, then said, “Where’s Buddy?” Kicker Buddy Anderson raised his hand. “Buddy, we’re gonna need you today,” the coach said. “We’re gonna score a lot of points.”

2:12/ The Cardinals walked from the school to the field in rows of six, holding hands. Mahoney was in the middle of the first row. Again, silence ... other than the sound of cleats on concrete.

2:49/ The Cards were inside their pregame/halftime/postgame room in the metal fieldhouse that sits behind one end zone. The silence had been erased, now the mood was rowdy. “We’re gonna have a great game, guys,” Mahoney said. “Here we go!”

3:08/ Kyle Guetter ends a 60-yard game-opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown run and Buddy does his job. Fairmont leads 7-0 and the band plays the school song, “Anchors Aweigh.”

3:17/ Montevideo ties it as Jake Douglas scores on a 1-yard burst.

3:21/ The Cards retake the lead when Ben Kain hits Alex Borchardt on a 17-yard TD pass. It’s 13-7.

3:25/ Mahoney sees the Montevideo offensive formation and shouts, “Watch toss! Watch toss! Watch toss!” As the play begins, he affirms, “Toss!” Public-address announcer Randy Quiring – also the mayor of Fairmont – intones, “Loss of a yard on the play.” That’s why you scout your opponents.

3:26/ The single most sensational play of the game is made by Fairmont defensive end Justin Barnes, who tips a pass by Thunder Hawks quarterback Brett Bergeson and intercepts it as he falls to the ground. This is also an omen; Bergeson will be picked off four more times and Montevideo also will lose a fumble. The handwriting on the wall begins…

3:59/ It’s halftime, Fairmont’s lead remains 13-7 and it’s still anybody’s game. In the fieldhouse Mahoney tells his most veteran players, “Seniors, this could be it.” But the halftime chat ends on a positive note: “When we’re back in here about an hour from now, we’ll be celebrating a victory.”

4:13/ One of three interceptions by Borchardt sets up the Cards at the Montevideo 14, and Ben Kain throws to Guetter for a 9-yard score and 19-7 lead.

4:39/ After the Thunder Hawks lose a fumble, Kain hits Bryce Holm for a TD on fourth-and-11 from the Montevideo 25. Back-breaker. 26-7.

5:05/ The call goes out on the Fairmont sideline, “Ace! Victory!” That’s the take-a-knee offense. The score is 33-7 and less than two minutes remain. Offensive coordinator Andy Traetow instructs Kain, “Tell the white hat we’re taking a knee.”

5:13/ As the final seconds evaporate, the official on the Fairmont sideline shakes Mahoney’s hand and says, “Coach, good luck next week.” The opponent in the section final will be powerful Glencoe-Silver Lake, which beat Redwood Valley 40-28 Saturday.

5:30/ Four hours have elapsed, the season has been extended by another week and the Cardinals are whooping it up in the fieldhouse. With the unbridled exuberance of teenagers, they count off their 33 points in unison. Then they sing a song and wave their arms, with the key lyrics being, “From East to West, the Cards are the best!”

Mahoney talks about the upcoming trip to top-seeded Glencoe-Silver Lake, the team that has ended the Cardinals’ season in each of the last two years. There is more work to be done if the second-seeded Cards are to reach the state tournament for the first since 1997.

“Weight room, 6:30 Monday morning,” he tells the boys. “We’re one game away!”

--See video of the postgame celebration, as well as a photo gallery, on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 91
*Miles John has driven: 4,562
*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 10 for the fall tournaments

--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