John's Journal
St. Clair Drops Varsity Football For 2011 8/24/2011
Football is a numbers game, and the numbers this fall at St. Clair High School were deemed too low to field a varsity football team. As Mankato Free Press sports editor Jim Rueda reports below, school officials have decided that the Cyclones wiill play only junior varsity games this season and hope for enough numbers in 2012 to return to varsity play. St. Clair plays Class 1A football in Section 2.

This season there is only one senior with any football experience on the roster, seven juniors and only six players who weigh more than 170 pounds. Safety is paramount.

The decision means St. Clair's varsity opponents will lose one game from their schedules. Those teams are West Lutheran, Bethlehem Academy, Medford, Randolph, Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, Le Center, Blooming Prairie and Mankato Loyola. Administrators from those schools were informed of St. Clair's decision last week. Details are being worked out, but it's expected that some of the JV games will be played on Friday nights.

Here's the story ...

By Jim Rueda
Sports Editor
The Mankato Free Press

ST. CLAIR — The St. Clair school district had to make a hard decision late last week but it is confident it will pay dividends in the future.

After looking at the number of players out for this year’s St. Clair team, and even closer at how those numbers break down by class, officials have decided to drop varsity football for at least one season. The hope is that, after a year of junior varsity play, the numbers will grow enough to enable the Cyclones to reinstate the varsity program for 2012-13.

“It was a difficult decision but we felt it was in the best interests of our kids to make this move,” St. Clair athletic director Brad O’Donnell said Tuesday. “Looking at the number of seniors and juniors we had to play at the varsity level, we began to realize we’d have to use a lot of freshman and sophomores throughout the season.”

At that point, O’Donnell, head coach Chris Harvey and some St. Clair administrators talked with the seniors and, “from a safety point of view, concluded that eliminating the varsity schedule was the right decision to make.”

The Cyclones were looking at a team with just two seniors — one of whom was a foreign-exchange student who has never played football — and seven juniors. As a squad, they had just six athletes who weighed more than 170 pounds and only two of those weighed more than 200.

Seventy percent of the team would have been freshmen and sophomores who had not played varsity football before.

“We felt that with the prospect of injuries throughout the season, we would have had to move too many players into positions that would be a disadvantage to them both mentally and physically,” O’Donnell said. “Sometimes, in order to move forward, you have to take a step back.

“We told the parents we’re playing beyond the scoreboard, beyond the wins and losses.

“We want to make this (a junior varsity) season of some significance that will enable us to play football in a much more safe environment in the future.”
A Big Week Ahead As Fall Sports (And The State Fair) Kick Into Gear8/22/2011
Thanks to Zero Week football scheduling, this week is even more hectic than normal. Volleyball, soccer, cross-country and girls swimming and diving teams can hold competitions beginning Thursday, which is also the day when the football season will begin.

I try to plan my schedule two or three weeks ahead, so I spent time today looking at the first two weeks of September. I have a pretty good idea of where my travels will take me in early September, but nothing is definite. What is locked in like concrete are my plans for this week.

The gridiron season will begin with one game on Thursday. The team from Murray County Central in Slayton will journey13 miles south on Highway 59 to Fulda, and I will also make the trip for the game between the Rebels and Raiders … although my drive will be about 158 miles each way.

On Friday I will be in St. Peter for another Zero Week game, this one between the Minnewaska Area Lakers and St. Peter Saints. And before those two games are played, I will take a Wednesday trip to visit one of the finest high school football facilities in the state and spend time with the volunteer grounds crew that makes it all happen.

My Friday schedule also includes a visit to the University of St. Thomas, where I will lend a hand at a sports journalism camp for high school students directed by ThreeSixty Journalism. And that’s not all that’s happening this week …

THE STATE FAIR WILL begin Thursday, and the MSHSL will have a presence. A major announcement concerning a new MSHSL program will be made at a news conference Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Main Stage in Carousel Park in front of the grandstand. And Saturday, the MSHSL and Prep 45 – the TV partner of the MSHSL – will sponsor a day of fun activities and information at the fair.

A section of Dan Patch Avenue will be filled with interactive activities, including six bowling lanes, baseball speed pitch, basketball toss, live music and more. There also will be cool stuff to win:Twins tickets, oil changes for a year, M11 hockey helmets for your entire team, etc., as well as seminars directed toward healthy lifestyles and sports.

Let’s all have a great week!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 2
*Miles John has driven: 429

--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
No. 1 In Volleyball Rankings: Lakeville North, Jackson County Central, Nevis8/20/2011
The first state volleyball rankings, compiled by the coaches association, have been released. Defending state champion Lakeville North leads the Class 3A rankings, Jackson County Central is No. 1 in Class 2A and Nevis leads the Class 1A field.

Wadena-Deer Creek, last year’s 2A state champion, is ranked No. 10. Defending 1A champion Wabasha-Kellogg is ranked No. 2.

The first date for volleyball matches to begin is Thursday. Here are the rankings (first-place votes in parathenses, total points)…

CLASS 3A
1. Lakeville North (2) 86
2. Bloomington Jefferson (3) 85
3. Wayzata (1) 74
4. Shakopee 57
5. Lakeville South 54
6. Blaine 47
Centennial 47
Eden Prairie 47
9. Hopkins 20
10. Andover 19
Others: Hutchinson (16), Totino-Grace (16), Apple Valley (15), Hill-Murray (14), East Ridge (11), Chanhassen (10), Eastview (6), Waconia (6)

CLASS 2A
1. Jackson County Central (1) 42
2. Lesuer-Henderson 39
3. Stewartville (1) 37
4. Belle Plaine 36
5. Kasson-Mantorville (1) 35
6. Maple Lake 30
7. Visitation 26
8. Jordan 25
Marshall 25
10. Wadena-Deer Creek 20

CLASS 1A
1. Nevis (3) 59
2. Wabasha-Kellogg (1) 57
3. Bethlehem Academy 49
4. Mayer Lutheran 46
5. Win-E-Mac 45
6. Minneota 41
7. BBE 35
8. Canby 33
9. Southwest Christian 31
10. Ada-Borup 12
Others: Goodhue (6), MACCRAY (6)
First Rankings Of The Season: Cross-Country8/18/2011
Here’s another sign that the school year is upon us. The state cross-country rankings in Class 1A and 2A, as compiled by the coaches association, have been released.

The top-ranked teams are St. Cloud Cathedral (1A boys), Adrian (1A girls), Stillwater (2A boys) and Monticello (2A girls). Individually, the top preseason rankings are held by Brandon Clark of Blake (1A boys), Elena Danielson of St. Cloud Cathedral (1A girls), Cole O'Brien of Burnsville (2A boys) and Maria Hauger of Shakopee (2A girls).

The first competition date for cross-country teams is next Thursday, August 25.

Here are the rankings…

Class 1A
Boys Teams
1. St. Cloud Cathedral
2. Minnehaha Academy
3. Esko
4. Perham
5. Waseca
6. Mora
7. Albany
8. LaCrescent
9. Plainview-Elgin-Millville
10. Byron
11. Mesabi East
12. Blake

Boys Individuals
1. Brandon Clark, Blake
2. Jonnathan Surber, St. James
3. Shane Streich, Waseca
4. Byron Schuldt, Nevis
5. Matt Welch, Proctor
6. Nick Stoks, Canby-Minneota/LinHi
7. Jackson Lindquist, Esko
8. Jacob Siekmeier, Math & Science Academy
9. Cade Ekstrom, Madelia/Truman
10. Charlie Lawrence, Foley
11. Jesse Delgado, Waseca
12. Pat Reinschmidt, Painview-Elgin-Millville

Girls Teams
1. Adrian
2. St. Cloud Cathedral
3. Esko
4. Blake
5. LaCrescent
6. Albany
7. Waseca
8. Annandale
9. Perham
10. Canby-Minneota/LinHi
11. Fairmont
12. Park Rapids

Girls Individuals
1. Elena Danielson, St. Cloud Cathedral
2. Marissa Shady, Esko
3. Lauren Friese, Fairmont
4. Jordan Chancellor, Blake
5. Kayla Woltz, Chatfield
6. Victoria Alexander, Lake of the Woods
7. Leah Jessen, Canby-Minneota/LinHi
8. Clare Flanagan, Blake
9. Emi Trost, Cannon Falls
10. Sadie Novak-Klug, Waseca
11. Savannah Ramirez, Litchfield
12. Hannah Goemann, United South Central/AC

Class 2A
Boys Teams
1 Stillwater
2 Wayzata
3 Rosemount
4 Moorhead
T5 Edina
T5 Andover
7 Mounds View
8 Eden Prairie
T9 Eastview
T9 Burnsville
11 Owatonna
12 White Bear Lake
Others receiving votes:
Forest Lake, Lakeville North, Alexandria, Monticello, Roseville, Minnetonka

Boys Individuals
1 Cole O'Brien, Burnsville
T2 Josh Thorson, Wayzata
T2 Glen Ellingson, Moorhead
T4 Joel Reichow, White Bear Lake
T4 Zach Roozen, Mounds View
6 Riley Macon, Rochester Mayo
7 Nathan Rock, Rosemount
8 Parker Wharram, Mound Westonka
T9 Connor Olson, Wayzata
T9 Tom Linner, Stillwater
11 Jan Ketterson, Jefferson
12 Will Burke, Edina
Others receiving votes:
Eric Colvin, Stillwater; Abdulah Salah, Burnsville; Mubarik Musa, Worthington; Jensen Orlow, Holy Family; Ryan Erdman, Mankato East; Keeghan Hurley, Fergus Falls; Will Sieling, Alexandria

Girls Teams
1. Monticello
2. Lakeville South
3. Eden Prairie
4. East Ridge
5. Elk River
6. Prior Lake
7. Wayzata
8. Alexandria
9. Andover
10. Albert Lea
11. Brainerd
12. Rosemount

Girls Individuals
1. Maria Hauger, Shakopee
2. Jamie Piepenburg, Alexandria
3. Erica Seidenkrantz, Monticello
4. Nicole Heitzman, Andover
5. Amber Seidenkratz, Monticello
6. Haylie Zenner, Fergus Falls
7. Bailey Ness, East Ridge
8. Chrissy Monson, Albert Lea
9. Taylor Scholl, Prior Lake
10. Kaelyn Williams, Robbinsdale Cooper
11. Elizabeth Frick, Eagan
12. Jenna Truedson, Bemidji
Wildlife And Football: They Have It All At Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin8/17/2011
I love to drive around Minnesota. That is no secret. Getting out, enjoying the countryside and spending time with high school students and their coaches is a great joy. And there’s a big bonus to this sort of travel: You never know what you’re going to see.

I journeyed to the Iron Range and visited Coleraine on Tuesday, where the Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin football team is in its second week of practice as it prepares for next week’s Zero Week opener. I arrived before the day’s workout began and immediately saw an interesting sight that had nothing to do with football.

Eight metal light towers surround historic Dixon-Barle Field, and a giant nest sits atop one of them. I thought I saw the head of a large bird in the nest, and the players told me that a family of osprey live up there. Osprey have been calling the top of that light tower home for a long time, and “That nest just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said coach Bob Schwartz.

As the players lined up and began doing calisthenics, an adult osprey (Mama? Papa? Not sure) flew around the field and screeched at the goings-on. The GNK Titans are used to this, because they didn’t bat an eye. But in all the years I’ve been hanging around football fields, this was absolutely new to me.

Schwartz and senior captain Jordan Peratalo told me that dead fish and mice can occasionally be found on the field, dropped by the raptors. Yes, it’s amazing what you see as you travel around our state.

Greenway and Nashwauk-Keewatin began a cooperative partnership in football three years ago. That means the current seniors have known nothing but Titan football.

“The first year we had a great group of kids,” Schwartz said. “We had about 23 seniors combined, and you couldn’t ask for better kids to pull it together. This year there’s nobody left that was a (Greenway) Raider or a (Nashwauk-Keewatin) Spartan.”

The two schools also coop in several other sports, so the football arrangement was a natural fit as football numbers dropped at both schools.

“We had seen each other enough in other sports, so we kind of got the hang of it right away,” Peratalo said. “It didn’t take that long to mesh.”

Coming off a 5-5 season in 2010, the Titans will open the season with a home game against Deer River on Aug. 26. Zero Week requirements mean teams have to take a week off during the season, and the Titans will do so after the Deer River game and play their second game on Sept. 9 at Hibbing. They will split their four home games between Coleraine and Nashwauk.

Schwartz – who was the Greenway coach before the coop began and is in his 15th year as a head coach -- said he felt a little rushed in preparing for the start of practice, and he’s undecided on the value of Zero Week scheduling.

“I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not,” Schwartz (right) said. “I wish they’d move the season up so we’d get those cold-weather playoff games out of the way.”

Tyler Haigh, another senior captain (along with Peratalo, Derek Bundy and Scott Webb) said starting the season on a Zero Week timetable “gets us focused earlier, it gets people around each other before school starts, and it does give us a break in between games. I like it.”

Peratalo practiced with a cast on his right hand (pictured above), thanks to an injury suffered playing baseball. He’s hoping to be in the lineup for the opener, but if not he’ll have the bye week working in his favor.

Tuesday’s drive was a good one. I saw football players in Aitkin carrying their game jerseys (picture day?) and drove through the little village of Blackberry (there’s a corporate tie-in waiting to happen) as well as Cromwell, which is well-known for its athletic successes.

As I stopped at a convenience store in Moose Lake on the way home Tuesday evening, I heard a voice from a nearby car say, “Excuse me sir, could I ask you a dumb question?” I replied, “Sure, I’m pretty dumb so I might have an answer for you.” The question was: “How do you spell excellent?” The fellow was creating an advertisement to sell a boat motor. As I spelled the word, he wrote “Runs excellent.”

You never know what you’re going to see.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 2
*Miles John has driven: 429

--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