John's Journal
It’s Tournament Time … But Let’s Remember The Big Picture11/9/2011
This is a big week in high school sports, with the volleyball state tournament, football state quarterfinals and girls swimming section championships on the schedule.

During this exciting time, I wanted to share a wonderful reminder of the lessons that can be shared through school activities. Below is an email that I received from Chris Harvey, the football coach at St. Clair High School.

St. Clair is a small school near Mankato. Because of a lack of players, St. Clair did not play a varsity football schedule this season. The Cyclones instead played junior varsity games. The situation was similar at Minneapolis Roosevelt. The city school also had a shortage of experienced football players and played only junior varsity games.

The JV teams from the two schools scheduled a game against each other at Roosevelt; the kids from a small town in rural Minnesota coming to Minneapolis to play kids from the city.

How did it go? I’ll let Chris Harvey’s email tell the story (Mr. Frost is Roosevelt athletic director Al Frost) …

I would again like to express the gratitude of the St. Clair Cyclone football program for the hospitality shown to us by the staff, coaches and especially players of Minneapolis Roosevelt. I have been coaching for various programs since 1990 and have been to dozens of different schools. By far, Minneapolis Roosevelt showed more hospitality than I have ever experienced from a host team…a genuine first-class organization.

Mr. Frost did an outstanding job of getting students together, to get them out of their shells and provide them the opportunity to meet someone new. By inviting us to break bread with you, we were able to meet many great young men…young men whom we may never have met without this opportunity. There was a different atmosphere on the bus ride home. The conversations were a little louder. But, I didn't hear a word about the game. What I heard was a bunch of young men talking about the “cool” guys that they had just met.

The experience was the epitome of what athletics should be…two teams battling hard on the field, with respect and class, then sharing a wonderful meal afterward...with respect and class!

Thank you again for inviting us into your home. I hope we have the opportunity to return the favor someday!

Chris Harvey
Head Football Coach
St. Clair High School

State Football Tournament: Facts About The Quarterfinals11/8/2011
Forty-eight teams are still playing high school football in Minnesota, with eight teams in each of six classes taking the field for state quarterfinal games Thursday through Saturday.

There is one game Thursday: Rocori vs. Rogers in a 7 p.m. Class 4A contest at St. Cloud State University. Sixteen quarterfinals will be played Friday and the round will be completed with seven games on Saturday.

Twenty-two of the 24 quarterfinal games will be played outdoors, with two taking place inside the Metrodome on Friday. Those games are both in 5A, between Lakeville North and Cretin-Derham Hall at 5 p.m. and Totino-Grace and Prior Lake at 8 p.m. After witnessing 17 outdoor football games this season, I’ll be at that indoor doubleheader on Friday.

This weekend’s winners will gather at the Metrodome for the state semifinals Nov. 18-19, and the Prep Bowl games will be held Nov. 25-26.

Here are some facts, figures and tidbits to prepare us for this weekend’s games…

Unbeaten matchups:
--Cretin-Derham Hall (10-0) vs. Lakeville North (10-0) in 5A
--Plainview-Elgin-Millville (11-0) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) in 3A

Other Unbeaten Teams:
--Wayzata (10-0) in 5A
--Bemidji (10-0) and Mankato West (10-0) in 4A
--Moose Lake/Willow River (11-0) and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (10-0) in 2A
--Mahnomen (11-0) and Dawson-Boyd (11-0) in 1A
--Edgerton-Ellsworth (11-0) and Spring Grove (11-0) in Nine-Man

No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups:
--No. 1 St. Croix Lutheran vs. No. 2 Plainview-Elgin-Millville in 3A

Other matchups of Top 5 teams:
--No. 2 Cretin-Derham Hall vs. No. 3 Lakeville North in 5A
--No. 2 Mahnomen vs. No. 5 Braham in 1A

Matchups of unranked teams:
--Annandale vs. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin in 3A
--Providence Academy vs. Perham in 3A
--Paynesville vs. Warroad in 2A

Notes from individual teams (information supplied by the schools)…

Ada-Borup (Nine-Man)
This is the Cougars’ fourth Section 6 championship in a row. The seniors have gone 40-7 in four years of varsity football. Lance Ruebke has nearly 1,500 all-purpose yards as a sophomore, Ian Halle has 18 touchdowns and Jace Hennen has thrown for 1,173 yards and 15 TDs in nine games. The team GPA is 3.2.

Annandale (3A)
After an 0-4 start the Cardinals have won six of their last seven games. They played five 4A schools. Joe Allison is the grandson of former Twins player Bob Allison.

Anoka (5A)
Strong offensive line play has allowed four runners to amass more than 3,500 yards rushing. Josh Werness has over 1,300 yards, Ryan Rand has 1,200 rushing/receiving yards, DJay Johnson has over 1,000 rushing and return yards.

Blue Earth (2A)
The Buccaneers average 291 rushing yards a game and their opponents average 77 rushing yards. Jacob Olson is a 1,226-yard rusher, Carter Hanson has run for 835 yards, Brady Anderson has passed for 1,105 yards. Lineman Jonah Pirsig has made a verbal commitment to the University of Minnesota

Cretin-Derham Hall (5A)
The Raiders lost 16 starters from the 2010 team. This year’s team held its opponents to 80 total points in 10 games.

Dawson-Boyd (1A)
This is the first Dawson-Boyd team to make the state football tournament. Nathaniel Huot and Evan Robertson combine for 13 interceptions and Justin Lee and Brandon Schmitt combine for 14 sacks.

Edgerton/Ellsworth (Nine-Man)
Four rushers have gone over 500 yards. The seniors have a career record of 39-5. Johnny Menning has set a single-season sack record with 21. The team has a record of 78-13 since 2004.

Fairmont (3A)
The Cardinals went undefeated in the conference for the fourth straight year; they have won 20 straight conference games. Senior QB Ben Kain is completing 60.8 percent of his passes and has 22 touchdowns. Junior running back Brandon Martin has 19 touchdowns. The offensive line has given up only six sacks in 11 games. Coach Mat Mahoney was a junior quarterback at Fairmont the last time the Cardinals went to state (1997).

Holy Family Catholic (3A)
The Fire is making its third trip to state in five years.

Kittson County Central (Nine-Man)
This is the first time in the coop's existence (since 2007) that the team has won the conference and the section title in the same season. Zach Rynning has broken the school record for passing yards and TD passes in a single season. Derek Coffied has broken the school record for receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs in a single season.

Lakeville North (5A)
The Panthers have given up only three points in the third quarter and have outscored their opponents 91-3 in that quarter. The 10-0 start is the best in the history of Lakeville North. Trey Heid is the QB, kicker and punter. Charlie Hayes and Joel Oxton have 95 catches combined. Karl Finkel leads the Panthers with 11 sacks, Mitch Johnson has nine sacks. Heid has rushed and passed for 2,424 total yards.

Mankato West (4A)
The Scarlets are 44-3 over the last four seasons. QB Philip Nelson has committed to the University of Minnesota.

Moose Lake/Willow River (2A)
Opponents have 28 turnovers to MLWR's four this season. They have a 46-game regular-season winning streak and this is the sixth consecutive trip to the state tournament.

Nicollet (Nine-Man)
The seniors have a career record of 33-11 and they have played in four section title games. The Raiders have a turnover ratio of plus-12. WR Jamie Fischer owns almost all school receiving records. QB Sean Murphy owns the school career TD pass record with 58 and career record for being involved in 89 TDs. Team GPA is 3.40 and all juniors and seniors are three-sport athletes.

The starting defense has only allowed 44 points. The team turnover ratio is plus-28. Three individual rushers have career totals of more than 1,500 yards: Garret Wolf, Aaron Grobe and Jack Ihrke. QB Brady Rahman has thrown 18 TDs with only 2 INTs. The team consists mainly of two- and three-sport athletes, including several who have state tournament experience in wrestling, basketball and track and field

Prior Lake (5A)
This is the Lakers’ first appearance in the state football tournament. Jack Kaiser has rushed for 1,127 yards and Jack Johnson has rushed for 762 yards.

Rocori (4A)
The Spartans have a plus-16 turnover margin. Christian Pedroza has tied the school record twice this year by kicking two 47-yard field goals. Alex Tray and Cory Asfeld are battling to set the school record for tackles for loss; Alex has 20, Cory has 18. Pedroza has kicked 20 touchbacks on kickoffs this season. The team has an overall GPA of 3.14. This is the fifth time the Rocori football team has been a state entrant in football.

Warren-Alvarado-Olso (1A)
WAO's defense has five shutouts. There are only four seniors on this year's roster of 44. Zach Riopelle (a North Dakota State football commit) is the school’s all-time leading rusher with over 4,000 yards. Andrew Lansing was part of the Thief River Falls state tournament hockey team that took third place in the 2011 Class A state tournament. WAO has played in the Section 8A championship game five of the last six years. This is WAO's first state football appearance since 2000, when the Ponies took second place. WAO has averaged at least seven wins over the past four seasons.

Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (2A)
The team’s four-year record is 43-3. Jeff Amundson leads the state during his career in tackles for loss (63) and Grant Pope is in the top five with 44.5. Two freshmen play a significant amount of time: Ben Boran (LB and kicker) and Nick Amundson (OT).

Tournament Time: Tidbits From State Volleyball Teams11/7/2011
Fall state tournaments continue this week with the state volleyball tourney being played Thursday through Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, while the state football quarterfinals are played over the same three-day period.

Volleyball will kick off with Class 3A quarterfinal matches at 9 and 11 a.m. Thursday (two matches are played simultaneously), Class 1A at 1 and 3 p.m. and Class 2A at 5 and 7 p.m. The championship matches will be played Saturday, with 1A scheduled for 1 p.m., 2A for 3 p.m. and 3A for 5 p.m.

Two state champions return: Lakeville North in 3A and Wadena-Deer Creek in 2A. Defending 1A champion Wabasha-Kellogg was defeated by Bethlehem Academy in the Section 1 championship match.

Bethlehem Academy won state titles in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 and was the 1A state runner-up in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. Lakeville North and Wadena-Deer Creek each won their first state titles last year.

The top-seeded teams are Blaine in 3A, Marshall in 2A and Bethlehem Academy in 1A.

Here are a few tidbits, with information supplied by tournament teams …

Andover (3A)/ The Huskies are making their seventh state tournament appearance and fifth in a row. Outside hitter Karlie Hauer has made a verbal commitment to the University of Minnesota. Janelle Rupkalivis will graduate early and play collegiately at Michigan Tech.

Bethlehem Academy (1A)/ The Cardinals won their 11th straight Gopher Conference championship and have won 99 consecutive conference matches. They defeated the top three ranked 2A teams: Marshall, Jackson County Central and Belle Plaine. They lost to ranked 3A teams Eagan, Shakopee, Lakeville North and Eden Prairie as well as 1A Southwest Christian and 3A Owatonna. Juniors Jessie Mathews and Maddie Borwege and freshmen Payton Schultz are three-year starters and started on the 2009 state championship team. Seventh-grade setter Payton Nutter is only the second seventh-grader to ever start for the Cardinals; the other was Payton Schultz two years ago.

Blaine (3A)/ At one point this season the Bengals had a 22-game win streak.
Taylor Dordan surpassed the 1,000 mark in career digs with her first dig in the last regular-season match. This is senior Sydney Dimke's first full varsity season without an injury or illness keeping her off the court.

BOLD (1A)/ This is the first state tourney appearance for the BOLD volleyball team.

Eden Prairie (3A)/ Junior Sarah Wilhite's 556 kills is a single-season school record and she also set the school career kill record this season. She has 1,240 kills.

Esko (2A)/ Many of the volleyball players are multi-sport athletes and have seen success in all they attempt. Junior Kallyn Kunutson placed 24th in Saturday’s 1A state cross-country meet.

Hutchinson (2A)/ Sara Carlson will play Division I hockey at New Hampshire. Brianne Stamer will play volleyball at St. Cloud State, Ellie VanDeSteeg will play volleyball at Minnesota State Mankato and Courtney Fox will play volleyball at Bemidji State.

Jordan (2A)/ Setter Emilee Gutzmer went over 3,000 career set assists this season and has 1,023 set assists on the year. That puts her in fourth place on the all-time career set assists list.

Maple Lake (2A)/ The Irish did not have a senior on the team last season. This year they set school records for wins (26) and team kills (1,089). Five players have more than 100 kills. This is the first time Maple Lake has played in the state volleyball tournament. Brooke Decker is a four-year starter who holds all school setting records. Shelby Rachel is a three-year starter and the third of four sisters to come through the program. Rachel Latour and Jenny Puncochar are conference champion sprinters in the spring track season.

Marshall (2A)/ Morgan McKittrick has played in four state tournaments and Jessica Baker has played in three. The Tigers are riding a 15-match winning streak. They played 15 matches vs. teams that were ranked in the top 10 in their respective classes this year; Marshall finished 11-4 against those teams. The Tigers have been ranked No. 1 in the weekly coaches poll since Sept. 19. This marks the 11th straight trip to the state tournament for Marshall and the 23rd overall. The 11th straight trip is the longest streak for any of the 24 teams competing in the state tournament this year. The 23 trips overall ranks Marshall tops in Minnesota history along with Hibbing. Coach Dan Westby will enter the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame on Wednesday at the state tournament banquet.

Nevis (1A)/ Riley Hanson tied the school service ace match record this year with 15 service aces. Riley also had 32 kills in a match, beating another school record. Olivia Toft achieved 1,000 set assists as a sophomore. The Tigers have won their conference championship the last five years. Nevis has not lost a conference match in five years.
Lakeville North Remains Undefeated11/6/2011
Here's a special football report from one of our correspondents...

Lakeville North 26, Owatonna 7
Report From The First Football Section Title Game11/4/2011
This week's football section finals began on Thursday, and the first game was played at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

Here's a report ...

Ada-Borup 22, Ulen-Hitterdal 20