John's Journal
Filling Holy Family’s Football Schedule: A Tough Year, An Easy Year9/12/2011
The Holy Family Catholic football team had so much trouble filling its 2011 football schedule that on Saturday the Fire hosted a team from Escanaba, Michigan. But a few days before that game, the schedule for 2012 was already set.

Big relief? There’s no question, because Holy Family athletic director Matt Thuli had spent countless hours trying to line up eight regular-season games for this season.

The Fire is in a transition phase between conferences. The school left the Minnesota River Conference after last year and will become a full-sport member of the Wright County in the spring. Filling the current football schedule was quite a tussle, and Saturday’s game against the Escanaba Eskymos (a 50-14 Holy Family victory) was symbolic of that struggle.

Escanaba is a seven-hour drive from Holy Family, which is in the western Twin Cities suburb of Victoria. A former Holy Family assistant coach was from the Escanaba area, and last spring he learned that the Eskymos were looking to fill their schedule, too. Holy Family coach Dave Hopkins phoned Escanaba coach Dan Flynn, and before long Saturday’s game was on the schedule.

Holy Family helped pay some of Escanaba’s transportation costs and also provided pizza and drinks for the Eskymos’ postgame bus ride.

Holy Family, a Class 3A football team, also found games against five other Minnesota 3A schools (Watertown-Mayer, New Ulm, New London-Spicer, Esko, Waseca) and two from Class 4A (St. Thomas Academy, Duluth Denfeld). Six of the eight games are at home, which is one nice quirk. Thuli said locking up games with Watertown-Mayer, New Ulm, Waseca and New London-Spicer happened quickly. But filling the other four other slots on the schedule was a long, hard slog.

“We explored quite a bit with Zero Week with a couple schools,” he said. “We talked a little bit to (5A defending state champion) Wayzata, but we were thinking, ‘Do we need that (playing a much larger team)?’”

Thuli had discussions with several other schools, and Zero Week was part of many of those talks. “In each case, and it’s no fault to either school, for one or the other it just wasn’t the right fit so we never pulled the trigger on Zero Week,” he said.

Holy Family will help Duluth Denfeld pay its travel expenses when the Hunters come to Victoria for the Oct. 19 regular-season finale.

“It was a lot of work,” Thuli said of filling the schedule. “With football there’s a little more physicality. In basketball if you get beat by 50, feelings might be hurt but you won’t walk away with kids hurt.”

The 2012 Wright County Conference football schedule was finalized last week, and you know what that means for Holy Family.

“I already know my football schedule for next year,” Thuli said.

--To see a photo gallery from the Holy Family-Escanaba game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 21
*Miles John has driven: 1,569

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Another Swap At The Top Of 3A Volleyball Rankings9/12/2011
Lakeville North and Bloomington Jefferson have traded places atop the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Class 3A rankings this season, and North reclaimed the top spot this week after defeating Jefferson in Saturday’s championship match of the Southwest Minnesota Challenge in Marshall.

North, which beat No. 3 Wayzata in the tournament semifinals, had been No. 1 in the first ranking of the season before dropping to No. 2 behind Jefferson. Saturday’s loss was the first of the season for Jefferson; Lakeville North is undefeated.

In the Class 2A rankings, Jackson County Central retained the No. 1 spot despite two losses at a weekend tournament in Shakopee. The Huskies fell to Bethlehem Academy (No. 1in 1A) in the tournament and lost to Eagan (No. 9 in 3A) in the third-place match. LeSueur-Henderson made a big move in the 2A poll this week, climbing from fourth to second.

Bethlehem Academy kept its hold on the top spot in 1A, while Mayer Lutheran rose from No. 4 to No. 2.

Here are this week’s rankings …

1. Lakeville North (12) 194
2. Bloomington Jefferson (1) 181
3. Wayzata 171
4. Shakopee 147
5. Blaine 144
6. Lakeville South 131
7. Centennial 94
8. Andover 78
9. Eagan 73
10. Eden Prairie 66
Others: Chanhassen (58), Waconia (25), Hopkins (22), Hill-Murray (12), Hutchinson (2), Totino-Grace (1)

1. Jackson County Central (6) 182
2. Lesuer-Henderson (1) 171
3. Belle Plaine (3) 170
4. Marshall (1) 167
5. Stewartville (2) 155
6. Kasson-Mantorville 125
7. Caledonia 90
8. Maple Lake 83
9. Byron 65
10. Wadena-Deer Creek 59
Others: Jordan (53), Visitation (45), Triton (12), Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (8)

1. Bethlehem Academy (11) 193
2. Mayer Lutheran 171
3. Wabasha-Kellogg (1) 170
4. Nevis (1) 145
5. Minneota 136
6. Southwest Christian 118
7. Canby 114
8. Ada-Borup 99
9. BBE 98
10. Win-E-Mac 89
Others: MACCRAY (25), Hancock (7), Mabel-Canton (5)
Two Great Coaches, Two More Reasons To Love High School Activities9/9/2011
A quick note, recapping two excellent moments from Friday’s football festivities …

I witnessed two football games on Friday. The first one, with a 5 p.m. kickoff, was Park Center at Osseo. In a wonderful pregame ceremony (which I will be writing about), Osseo’s Carl A. Tonn Field – named for a past school board member and prominent Osseo supporter – was rededicated as John Hansen Stadium at Carl A. Tonn Field.

John Hansen was Osseo’s football coach as well as director of choral music for 40 years before retiring in 1992. Many of John’s former players and singers were on hand for the pregame ceremony. Among them was Osseo grad Mike Korton, who is the head football coach at Champlin Park. Even though Champlin Park had a home game Friday against Maple Grove, Mike wanted to support his high school coach … even it meant missing most of the pregame activities and warm-ups at his own game. That’s a pretty special tribute.

My second game of the day was Wayzata at Eagan, starting at 7. I was standing on the Wayzata sideline during the second quarter when Trojans coach Brad Wayzata (right) saw me. He smiled, we shook hands and chatted. This was quite extraordinary; while the game was going on, I asked Brad about his daughter Barrett, with whom I had chatted after Wayzata games in the past couple years. Brad told me Barrett (who is interested in journalism) is a freshman at Kansas, and he was planning to drive to Kansas after Friday’s game to see her.

Our conversation happened while Wayzata’s defense on the field. Brad runs the offense, and as Eagan lined up to punt, Brad slapped me on the back, smiled again and hustled back down the sideline to have a word with his offensive players.

How neat is that? One coach taking time away from his own team to honor his old coach, and another coach chatting with a scribe during a game as if they were standing on a street corner.

Boy, I love this job…

*Schools/teams John has visited: 19
*Miles John has driven: 1,501

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
One Change At The Top Of Statewide Football Rankings 9/8/2011
The No. 1-ranked teams in the Associated Press football rankings remained the same this week with one exception. In Class 5A, Eden Prairie moves up one spot and now shares the No. 1 spot with Wayzata.

The other No. 1 teams are Mankato West in 4A, Rochester Lourdes in 3A, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in 2A, New Ulm Cathedral in 1A and Edgerton/Ellsworth in Nine-Man.

5A had the most changes this week, with four new teams joining the top 10. The newcomers are No. 5 Minnetonka, No. 7 Lakeville North, No. 8 Rosemount and No. 10 Mounds View.

Here are the rankings …

#1 (2) Eden Prairie (1-0)
1 (1) Wayzata (1-0)
3 (3) Cretin-Derham Hall (1-0)
4 (4) Lakeville South (1-0)
5 (NR) Minnetonka (1-0)
6 (9) Blaine (1-0)
7 (NR) Lakeville North (1-0)
8 (NR) Rosemount (1-0)
9 (10) Brainerd (1-0)
10 (NR) Mounds View (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Hopkins, Stillwater, Rochester Century, Rochester John Marshall, Champlin Park, Totino-Grace, St. Michael-Albertville, Shakopee, Eagan, Anoka

#1 (1) Mankato West (1-0)
2 (2) St. Thomas Academy (1-0)
3 (9) Mahtomedi (1-0)
4 (7) South St. Paul (1-0)
5 (NR) Rogers (1-0)
6 (8) Bemidji (1-0)
7 (6) Northfield (1-0)
7 (5) Waconia (1-0)
9 (4) Detroit Lakes (1-0)
10 (NR) Delano (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Spring Lake Park, Hutchinson, Marshall, Becker, Sartell-St. Stephen, Benilde-St. Margaret's, Sauk Rapids-Rice, Red Wing, Fergus Falls, Hill-Murray, Holy Angels, Willmar

#1 (1) Rochester Lourdes (1-0)
2 (3) Holy Family Catholic (1-0)
3 (2) Albany (1-0)
4 (4) Glencoe-Silver Lake (1-0)
5 (6) DeLaSalle (1-0)
6 (5) Fairmont (1-0)
7 (7) Kasson-Mantorville (1-0)
8 (NR) Pequot Lakes (1-0)
9 (9) Plainview-Elgin-Millville (1-0)
9 (NR) Thief River Falls (1-0)
Others receiving votes: East Grand Forks, Milaca, Byron, Minnehaha Academy, Mora, St. Anthony, Breck, Waseca, Minneapolis Washburn, Proctor

#1 (1) Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (1-0)
2 (5) Eden Valley-Watkins (1-0)
3 (3) Moose Lake-Willow River (1-0)
4 (4) Barnesville (1-0)
5 (7) Pierz (1-0)
6 (NR) Chatfield (1-0)
7 (9) Jackson County Central (1-0)
8 (8) Pelican Rapids (1-0)
8 (NR) LeSueur-Henderson (1-0)
10 (6) Luverne (0-1)
Others receiving votes: Caledonia, Sibley East, BOLD, Mayer Lutheran, Hawley, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Triton

#1 (1) New Ulm Cathedral (1-0)
2 (3) Goodhue (1-0)
3 (2) Mahnomen (1-0)
4 (4) Minneota/Lincoln HI (1-0)
5 (6) Ottertail Central (1-0)
6 (7) Barnum (1-0)
7 (10) Adrian (1-0)
8 (8) Dawson-Boyd (1-0)
9 (NR) Southland (1-0)
10 (NR) Blooming Prairie (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Warren-Alvarado-Oslo, Royalton, Red Lake County, Braham, Fertile-Beltrami, Le Center, Deer River, Red Rock Central

#1 (1) Edgerton/Ellsworth (1-0)
2 (3) Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke (1-0)
3 (6) Nicollet (1-0)
4 (5) Lanesboro (1-0)
5 (7) Ada-Borup (1-0)
6 (2) Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (1-0)
7 (NR) Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (1-0)
8 (NR) McGregor (1-0)
9 (4) Hills-Beaver Creek (1-0)
10 (8) Mountain Iron-Buhl (1-0)
Others receiving votes: Eagle Valley, Climax/Fisher, Spring Grove, Ulen-Hitterdal, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Floodwood, Grand Meadow, Kittson County Central, Bigfork
Thinking Back To Ten Years Ago This Week9/8/2011
I’ll always remember where I was on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I had an appointment to speak to a class at Bloomington Jefferson High School, and I turned on the radio at home as I was getting dressed for the day.

There was talk of something bad happening in New York City. I turned on the TV in the kitchen and saw a big black smoldering hole in the side of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. A plane had apparently struck the building, but nobody knew anything more than that. Before long another aircraft blasted into the other twin tower.

I drove to Bloomington Jefferson, arriving a few minutes early. I listened to the radio in the car for as long as I could and then walked into the school and was escorted to the room where the Sports Literature class was meeting. There were televisions in the classrooms, but because of construction work in the school none of the TVs were working. I told the class everything I had learned from listening to the radio, and then we were all in blackout mode.

After the class period ended, I drove to the Star Tribune building in downtown Minneapolis. Like everyone else in the newsroom, I watched the scenes on television. The Pentagon was on fire … a plane had apparently gone down in Pennsylvania.

Fast-forward a few years and I was back at Jefferson, writing about a memorial stone that had been installed at the school in honor of former Jaguars quarterback Tom Burnett, who died when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. I also wrote about former Blake linebacker Gordy Aamoth, who died in one of the twin towers on Sept. 11. The stadium at Blake now bears his name and a twisted beam from the World Trade Center is on display at the stadium.

In the Sept. 14, 2001, edition of the Star Tribune, I wrote a column under the headline “High school sports can help the healing.” I had spoken with people at Colorado’s Columbine High School as well as Osceolo High School in Wisconsin, where a traffic accident had claimed twin brothers a few weeks before Sept. 11. That column seemed to resonate with readers at the time, and to this day people occasionally will mention it to me. I have heard from a few people who say they saved that column, and they read it every day as Sept. 11 comes around. That is equally touching and humbling.

Here is that column as it appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sept. 14, 2001…

High School Sports Can Help The Healing

In the horrible wake of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, all after-school activities were canceled Tuesday in the Jefferson County (Colo.) School District. This didn't surprise Ed Woytek, the athletic director at Columbine High School.

The day's events hit Columbine hard, especially the senior class. They were freshmen on April 20, 1999, when two students shot and killed 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

"Our coaches and all of us are on kind of a fine line, especially with what happened here previously," Woytek said.

Columbine still is recovering from that day. Recovery also is an ongoing process in Osceola, Wis., where twin brothers Eric and Aaron Kipp, 18, died in a car accident on the way to football practice 30 days ago.

With thousands of innocent people presumed to have perished this week, what do you say? How do you heal? Maybe it's best to listen to the kids. That's among the lessons learned at Columbine and Osceola.

"Pretty much all of them are saying to us, 'We need to be a family,'" Woytek said. "Because that's what happened a few years ago; they got with family. And that's where we need to be, that's where our American people need to be, is with family."

After the Kipp brothers died, football practices were stopped for a short period. But soon, everyone wanted to return -- or try to return -- to some sense of normalcy.

"Very soon, the kids were ready to go back," said Osceola coach/principal Mike McMartin. "They said, 'Coach, I need to keep busy.' And they were right. When we jumped back into it, although they weren't the best practices in the world, there was almost a big sigh of relief that they could start moving forward and take with us all the good things that the boys had shared with us for so many years, instead of thinking about the bad."

Activities went on as scheduled Tuesday in Osceola, the day of the attacks.

"We just really felt during that time it was massively important that we show to the kids, 'Hey, we're going on. We're not going to let these people defeat us or take us off our feet here. We're going to move forward and be proud,'" McMartin said.

At Columbine and Osceola, tragedy struck a specific community of people. This week, tragedy struck us all.

The Columbine Rebels take a 1-1 record into tonight's game at Dakota Ridge. Osceola is 3-0 and the homecoming opponent for rival St. Croix Falls. The games go on, as do our lives.

"Everybody keeps saying we'll never get back to normal, just like our nation will never get back to normal," Woytek said. "But hopefully we're going to get as close to normal as we can."

So if sporting events are part of your normal routine, stick with it. If you haven't been to a high school game in years, tonight would be a wonderful time to go. Get away from the television, escape the headlines. Find a seat in the bleachers and take a break, however temporary, from all that's gone so wretchedly wrong in this world.

Watch the team captains shake hands before the coin flip. Hold your hand over your heart during the national anthem as the flag flutters at half-staff. Bow your head during the moment of silence to honor this week's victims. Get on your feet for the opening kickoff. Watch our young people -- players, cheerleaders, fans -- as they smile, holler and laugh together during this evening that is tradition both athletic and social. Buy popcorn, listen to the band, cheer first downs, simply celebrate.

Maybe administrators at every school can find a recording of God Bless America, and across our states -- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado and beyond -- we'll sing together when the game ends. Just like a family.