John's Journal
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
Celebrating A Six-Time Tennis Champion And Welcoming The Next Wave10/28/2011
At two tennis centers in Minneapolis on Friday, we saw one great individual chapter close and we witnessed the early stages of a new era. Amber Washington and Jessica Aney are the game’s bookends; Washington, a senior at Mounds Park Academy, is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and Aney, an eighth-grader from Rochester Century, stands all of 5-1.

THE VETERAN CHAMP

Washington (right) capped a splendid high school career Friday with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over sophomore Sonya Das of St. Paul Academy and Summit School in the Class 1A singles title match at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center. The state championship was Washington’s second in the singles division, following four titles in doubles. That’s right, Washington has won a state tennis championship six years running. She’s the only player in history to win four doubles crowns, but going for her second singles title brought a new level of pressure.

“Yeah, it’s way different,” she told me. “There’s definitely a target on my back, a big one. People here really have nothing to lose so they’re going to try their hardest to win. I feel like the pressure is a lot different this year than last year; if I didn’t win last year it wouldn’t have been a big deal. This year people were expecting a lot, so I think there was a lot more pressure.”

Washington won doubles titles with Beth Larson in 2006 and 2007, then did the same with Kate Roach in 2008 and 2009. I asked her to contrast her seventh-grade year and first trip to state with this year.

“It’s different because I think I’m more mature and I think I understand the capacity of all this,” she said. “When I was a seventh-grader Beth told me it was such a big deal and all that stuff and I was like, ‘Oh, is it really?’

“I think it gets easier because you get more experience each year. It gets easier for me because I know what to look for. It’s new players each year but it’s still the same game.”

After Friday’s tournament, Washington was off to St. Louis for a national tournament. She’s balancing school and tennis with making a college decision. She plans to major in law enforcement and possibly go into the intelligence field. “Counter-terrorism, that kind of stuff,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to that.”

THE YOUNG STAR

Aney’s first splash came at last year’s Class 2A tennis tournament, when the seventh-grader didn’t lose until falling to Century teammate Kelsey Frechette in the championship match. It appeared they would meet for the 2011 title on Friday, but Frechette (now a senior) lost to Edina senior Caroline Ward 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the semifinals at the University of Minnesota's Baseline Tennis Center.

Aney (left) then defeated Ward 6-2, 6-2 and capped an undefeated season with her first state championship.

Jessica began playing tennis when she was 5. Her father, Tom, played tennis at Minnesota-Duluth and her mother, Karen, was a tennis player at Luther College in Iowa. Jessica, who has grown two inches in the last year, smiles and bounces around like a lot of 13-year-olds.

She said she didn’t feel any pressure at all this year after being a state runner-up as a seventh-grader, or from the fact that was proclaimed last year’s national Sports Kid of the Year by Sports Illustrated For Kids.

“No, I don’t think I felt pressure. I never felt like there was a target on my back,” she said after playing what she called the best match of her life.

“I was hitting everything well and everything just felt good,” she said.

And it looked great.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 89
*Miles John has driven: 4,290
*Diet Coke Count: 1 for the day, 7 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
Tidbits From A Fun-Filled Tournament Day, And A Look Ahead10/27/2011
Thursday was one more step toward crowning state champions in girls tennis (singles and doubles) and boys and girls soccer. The tennis tourney will come to a conclusion Friday, and the state soccer quarterfinals also will wrap up Friday.

Come Monday we’ll mark Halloween (boo!) with six state semifinal soccer games inside the Metrodome, hold two more in there Tuesday and watch soccer champions crowned next Thursday under the Teflon roof.

Football swings back into action Saturday with section semifinals. My plans are set: I’ll be at the tennis tournament on Friday before heading south for a football game in beautiful Fairmont on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals (7-1), ranked fifth in Class 3A, will host third-ranked Montevideo (8-0) in the Section 3 semifinals and one of the marquee games of the week.

And with that, here is a look at Thursday’s highlights from the tournament trail …

DIFFERENCE-MAKER OF THE DAY

Eastview junior Mathew Gweh was a marked man on the field in the Class 2A boys soccer quarterfinals at Park High School, and for good reason. Rochester Mayo tried to keep a close watch on Gweh all night, but it wasn’t enough. He scored both goals as top-seeded Eastview won 2-0 to advance to next week’s semifinals.

“He’s a difference-maker, somebody who well step up,” Eastview coach Scott Gustafson said. “He’s a special kid.”

TWITTER CHATTER OF THE DAY

Me: Overheard at #mshsl 2A boys state soccer at Park: "(WCCO TV guy) Frank Vascellaro is here!"

Me: Early trigger on the Frank Vascellaro report. Confusion between Frank and the Eastview band director: Frank Pasquerella.

A Twitter follower: Is the Eastview Choir Director named Amelia Blantanello?

--Speaking of this newfangled thing called Twitter … a milestone was reached at 10:55 p.m. Thursday when my list of Twitter followers hit 900. And No. 900 was pretty special; it’s a guy named Jonathan Fortner (he’s @jrfortner in Twitterspeak). After I announced the identity of No. 900, Jonathan sent me this Tweet: “@MSHSLjohn Great news! Happy to help out. I enjoy following HS sports; I am a MSHSL Official for Baseball, Football & Basketball.” That’s about as fitting as it gets.

--First pep band sightings of the fall tournaments: The Eastview and Rochester Mayo Symphony Orchestras were on hand Thursday evening at Park. Sounded great, too, despite the cold temps.

--We almost had a very interesting matchup in the Class 1A tennis doubles tournament. Robb DeCorsey is the coach at Glencoe-Silver Lake, and GSL’s Mary Arnold and Jackie Stifter won their first match Friday before losing. If they had advanced and the Jordan team of Alex Hancock and Drew DeCorsey had done the same, we could have had the possibility a father vs. daughter matchup in the championship round. Yes, Drew from Jordan is the daughter of Robb.

--At the tennis tournaments there are narrow walkways behind some of the courts, which allow spectators to move between courts without distracting the players. A sheet of heavy, dark vinyl (photo at left) separates the walkway from one end of each court. While Annandale junior Kaytlin Kuefler was playing a second-round match in Class 1A Thursday, she sprinted back past the baseline in pursuit of a shot and ran into the vinyl ... hard. On the other side was a group of three female teens. They never saw it coming when Kuefler hit the vinyl and collided with one of them on the other side of it. The fan screamed in surprise, “Oh my God!” Nobody was hurt, but from inside the dark little walkway – where I witnessed one side of the collision -- laughter could be heard from the crowd.

--Who’s ready for winter sports? Girls hockey practice begins on Monday.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 81
*Miles John has driven: 4,243
*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 6 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
Games Are Played, Champions Are Crowned, Diet Cokes Are Counted10/26/2011
Wednesday was another in a series of two-sport days for my laptop, my camera, my car and myself. We started with the Class 2A girls state tennis tournament at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center and ended with Class 2A girls state soccer quarterfinals at Hopkins High School.

In between the two locations, my dinner was handed to me through a drive-through window and consumed – trust me -- while concentrating on driving. It included a Diet Coke, of course, which also was how the workday began …

I hadn’t been inside Baseline for more than a few minutes before a fellow asked me, “Are you tracking the Diet Coke count again this year?” About that same time, 2A tournament site manager and all-around nice guy Hal Miller of Alexandria handed me a Diet Coke.

And with that simple handover of a single Diet Coke, we have begun the latest round of Diet Coke Counting. The total for each day of fall tournaments, as well as a running count through the post-Thanksgiving Prep Bowl weekend, are now appearing at the end of each John’s Journal (burp!) entry.

Also seen during a tennis/soccer kind of day …

--In Class 2A girls tennis, Edina won the team title for the 15th year in a row with a 5-2 decision over Rochester Mayo. And in 1A at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in south Minneapolis, Blake defeated Rochester Lourdes 6-1 to capture a state title.

--There was a guy at the tennis tournament wearing a tag around his neck that said “College Scout.” Believe me, nobody representing any college wears such a thing. I’m sure he’s from a so-called scouting service, hoping to catch the eye of parents who want to waste their money.

--I have a scrape on the back of my left ankle, because I didn’t move quite fast enough to get out of the way of a sideline tackle during Tuesday’s football game between St. Paul Johnson and Minnehaha Academy. I stayed on my feet but somebody’s cleat caught me as they went down. Good thing I’m tough.

--Online Boo-Boo of the Day: During the second soccer game at Hopkins, I issued this Tweet: “Wayzata leads Blaine 1-0 on a goal by Maddie Eklin in the 22nd minute.” Wrong, twit for brains. I corrected the information later: “Halftime in Hopkins, and Wayzata leads Blaine 1-0 in #mshsl girls 2A soccer on a goal by Summer Johnson (Eklin had the assist..my bad).”

--A tennis player walked into the tournament headquarters room, saw the results of her match written on a scoresheet and blurted out, “Oh my God, I lost terrible!” (Didn't she already know the score of her own match?)

--One of the tennis chair referees was leaving Baseline when he stuck his head into headquarters and asked, “Do you folks validate parking?” Sorry, the MSHSL can do a lot of things, but that is not one of them.

--There were no Twitter hiccups Wednesday (see previous John’s Journal entry for the gory details from Tuesday), so it was easy to stay connected to the sports world. While at the tennis tournament, for example, I learned via Twitter that the day’s World Series game had been postponed. Later in the day I was sitting in the press box at Hopkins, where I could update scores from the two soccer games played there. St. Cloud Cathedral athletic director Emmett Keenan – like me, he’s an Irishman who can sometimes be trusted – was texting and Tweeting score updates from Class 1A girls soccer quarterfinals at St. Cloud State. Twitter is an outstanding means of communication … almost all the time.

--Email of the Day: “Don't know how big of a deal it is, but Monday night one of our volleyball players, Taylor Case, served 25 straight points in a sub-section set for Fillmore Central. The Falcons defeated Schaeffer Academy 3-0. Taylor was 36/36 for the night.” Nice going, Taylor.

--To see a photo gallery from 2A girls state tennis, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 73
*Miles John has driven: 4,154
*Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 3 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