John's Journal
A Great Game, A Great Atmosphere And A Terrific New Facility 9/17/2011
One of the great traditions in Minnesota high school football takes place at Mahtomedi High School, and it begins hours before the games even start. The tradition is music; specifically, college fight songs played over the sound system. For about as long as anyone can remember, those tunes have been the siren songs as fans flock to George Smith Field and watch their Zephyrs.

Friday’s game against St. Thomas Academy was no different. As I got out of my car, I heard the Michigan fight song “The Victors” … and the Notre Dame Victory March … and the Minnesota Rouser … and on and on. But the music was about the only thing that was the same from previous years at Mahtomedi. Because everything else is new.

Thanks to a referendum approved by voters in the district, Mahtomedi now has one of the finest football/track facilities in the state. The football field, although rich with tradition, was known as a beat-up grass surface before artificial turf was installed earlier this year. The track also is new, as are the bleachers, the press box, the ticket windows, the fencing, etc.

“It’s community support,” said Mahtomedi athletic director Jeff Whisler. “Without the referendum this doesn’t happen.”

Friday’s game pitted not only two Classic Suburban Conference teams, but two of the top teams in Class 4A. St. Thomas Academy came in holding the No. 2 spot in the Associated Press 4A rankings, with the Zephyrs No. 3 (Mankato West is No. 1). The Cadets, who trailed Mahtomedi 13-0 at halftime, did all the scoring in the second half to take away a 21-13 win.

The atmosphere was sensational, thanks to the spectacular new facility, a standing-room crowd, two great rivals and an autumn chill in the air. Here are a few observations from my eighth high school football game of the season …

--The best name in prep sports so far this year might be St. Thomas Academy senior running back Hootie Hubbell. After Hootie ran 38 yards for the go-ahead score on fourth and inches in the third quarter, I posted that news on Twitter. One of my followers sent this reply: “That kid has the best name in MN football: Hootie Hubbell.” Who could argue? Well, maybe one of Hootie’s teammates: senior defensive back Paddy Clancy.

--The large and boisterous Mahtomedi student section had lots of fun all evening and even pulled off a little costume trickeration. They all wore black shirts during the first half, and when the second half began they had all switched to white tops.

--As the ball was snapped on both of Mahtomedi’s touchdowns, Zephyrs coach Dave Muetzel was yelling “Timeout! Timeout! Timeout!” Thankfully for the coach, his offensive players didn’t hear his shouts. On the first one, Trevor Dittberner ran 2 yards for a touchdown, and on the second one, Luke Lindahl scooted 6 yards for another score.

--Late in the third quarter, tempers became a little elevated on the field. After each team was called for a personal foul on the same play, the referee called all 22 players together and had a few words with them. That was the end of the problem. Well done.

--The star of the game (in my eyes, at least) was my friend Nick Walsh, a first-rate broadcaster who was doing play-by-play of the game via the MSBN online sports network. The battery in my cell phone was dying at halftime, but Nick loaned me his charger in the press box, easily saving the day. I owe him a Diet Coke.

--To see photos and video from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 34
*Miles John has driven: 1,854

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Some News Briefs As Another Busy Week Comes To A Close9/16/2011
It’s Friday, which means another evening of football games. The weather has certainly turned more football-friendly, as we’ll all be adding a few more layers than in previous weeks.

I’ll be reporting on a game later this evening, and in the meantime I want to share two news items. One is from Minnesota and the other is from Michigan.

--The first item is courtesy of Maple Lake athletic director Dave Schroeder:

Marty Kiebel, head volleyball coach at Maple Lake High School, recently won his 200th volleyball game (all with Maple Lake). The 200th win came in a five-set match with Monticello, his alma mater, on Aug. 30th. This is Marty's 11th year as head coach. The Irish girls have gone on to win seven more matches since his 200th and are standing at 12-0 for the season. Marty's career record 207-121.

--The second item is from the Michigan High School Activities Association. I joined the MSHSL exactly 18 months ago, and now the Michigan association has made a similar hire. I’m certain that more high school associations across the country will be doing the same. Here’s the press release from the MHSAA:

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Sept. 13 – An award-winning journalist while covering high school sports over the past decade, Geoff Kimmerly will join the Michigan High School Athletic Association staff in the newly created position of Media & Content Coordinator later this month.

Since 2000, Kimmerly has served as the prep sports editor for the Lansing State Journal, where he directed the coverage of 46 mid-Michigan athletic programs, produced blogs and hosted videos on the outlet’s website that were among its most viewed offerings. He also covered Michigan State University athletics.

Kimmerly received a number of awards for his writing from the Michigan Press Association and the Michigan Associated Press. He was also a member of the AP’s selection committee for all-state teams and a voter for its weekly football and basketball polls.
In his role with the MHSAA, Kimmerly will take a lead role in expanding the available content on the Association’s website, including the creation of original stories and features on high school sports. He will also help manage the schedules and scores section of, assist with media relations, and take responsibility for coordinating statewide records.

“Geoff has been an outstanding writer for the Lansing State Journal over the past decade, and visitors to will enjoy the new content he will create,” said John E. “Jack” Roberts, Executive Director of the Association. “He has also shown versatility in new media that will help us expand our internet outreach to schools.”

Kimmerly, a native of Frankenmuth, is a 1999 graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. He will begin his duties at the MHSAA on Sept. 26.
MSHSL Day In St. Cloud; Latest Football Rankings9/15/2011
Good morning from beautiful St. Cloud, where the sun is shining and athletic directors from the area have gathered for an MSHSL area meeting. Today’s gathering is the first in a series of fall area meetings, followed in the next few weeks by gatherings in Mankato, Marshall, Fergus Falls, Thief River Falls, Chisholm, Rochester and the Twin Cities.

These meetings serve to keep administrators updated on all sorts of information, from eligibility to insurance to continuing education requirements for coaches to concussion legislation, etc.

The meeting (that's the meeting in the photo) will end around noon. I’ll spend the rest of the day in this part of the state, attending a cross-country meet in Royalton this afternoon and a soccer game in St. Cloud this evening.

In the meantime, let’s close this short dispatch with this week’s Associated Press state football rankings…

1 (T1) Eden Prairie (2-0)
2 (T1) Wayzata (2-0)
3 (3) Cretin-Derham Hall (2-0)
4 (4) Lakeville South (2-0)
5 (6) Blaine (2-0)
6 (5) Minnetonka (2-0)
7 (8) Rosemount (2-0)
8 (7) Lakeville North (2-0)
9 (9) Brainerd (2-0)
10 (10) Mounds View (1-1)
10 (NR) Hopkins (1-1)
Others receiving votes: Anoka, St. Michael-Albertville, Stillwater, Champlin Park, Shakopee

1 (1) Mankato West (2-0)
1 (2) St. Thomas Academy (2-0)
3 (3) Mahtomedi (2-0)
4 (4) South St. Paul (2-0)
5 (5) Rogers (2-0)
6 (6) Bemidji (2-0)
7 (10) Delano (2-0)
8 (NR) Spring Lake Park (2-0)
9 (NR) Hutchinson (2-0)
10 (NR) Marshall (2-0)
Others receiving votes: Hill-Murray, Holy Angels, Chaska, St. Paul Central, Red Wing, Faribault, Becker

1 (1) Rochester Lourdes (2-0)
2 (3) Albany (2-0)
2 (4) Glencoe-Silver Lake (2-0)
2 (2) Holy Family Catholic (2-0)
5 (5) DeLaSalle (2-0)
6 (7) Kasson-Mantorville (2-0)
7 (8) Pequot Lakes (2-0)
8 (T9) Plainview-Elgin-Millville (2-0)
9 (NR) Mora (2-0)
10 (NR) Breck (2-0)
Others receiving votes: East Grand Forks, Milaca, St. Croix Lutheran, Waseca, La Crescent, Foley, New London-Spicer

1 (1) Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (2-0)
2 (2) Eden Valley-Watkins (2-0)
3 (3) Moose Lake-Willow River (2-0)
4 (5) Pierz (2-0)
4 (7) Jackson County Central (2-0)
4 (4) Barnesville (2-0)
7 (T8) LeSueur-Henderson (2-0)
8 (6) Chatfield (1-1)
9 (NR) Osakis (2-0)
10 (NR) Mayer Lutheran (2-0)
Others receiving votes: BOLD, Blue Earth, Caledonia, Hawley, Lewiston-Altura, Luverne

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

1 (1) Edgerton/Ellsworth(2-0)
2 (3) Nicollet (2-0)
3 (5) Ada-Borup (2-0)
4 (6) Wheaton/Herman-Norcross (2-0)
5 (7) Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (2-0)
6 (9) Hills-Beaver Creek (2-0)
7 (NR) Ulen-Hitterdal (2-0)
8 (NR) Spring Grove (2-0)
9 (NR) Bigfork (2-0)
10 (NR) Floodwood (2-0)
10 (NR) Kittson County Central (1-1)
10 (NR) Climax/Fisher (2-0)
Others receiving votes: Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke, Grand Meadow, North Woods, Eagle Valley, Onamia
A Never-Ending Day In The Life Of An Athletic Director9/14/2011
I was walking across a large parking lot at Eastview High School on Tuesday evening – going from a volleyball match in the gym to a soccer game in the stadium -- when a minivan pulled up beside me. The friendly driver said, “Hey John, you want a ride?” Matt Percival, the athletic director at Eastview in Apple Valley, was on the move again.

Eastview’s fifth-year athletic director is typical of the people who hold these important positions. Athletic and activity directors work long days, juggle multiple tasks and do much of their work behind the scenes. The public does not often realize what must take place before a game begins, but athletic directors certainly do. And Percival, like his colleagues, knows that athletic directors can’t do it all alone.

“The key without a doubt is having all the other people who help out. If you end up being the one person, it’s impossible,” he said. “You rely on lots of folks.”

When Percival gave me a lift, it was just part of his typical workday. His alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. and many days he does not return home until 9:30 p.m. or later. His wife, Robin Percival, is the principal at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, and they have two daughters; Katie is in second grade and Emily is in kindergarten.

Emily had a soccer game Tuesday evening, and she and Katie were buckled into their car seats when I hitched a ride across the parking lot. Matt had taken a one-hour respite from his Eastview duties to coach at Emily’s game.

Percival (pictured at right) spends 30 minutes every morning working out on an elliptical machine in his basement while watching SportsCenter on ESPN. “That 30 minutes of quiet time by myself is a pretty good thing,” he said.

Before arriving at Eastview around 7 a.m., “We get the kids up and going, walk the dog and drop the kids off at school. One big milestone for us is having both kids in the same school this year. That’s a huge accomplishment. This is a breeze right now.”

Every day as an athletic director is interesting, but Monday had been particularly trying because all email and telephone systems at Eastview – as well as at all schools in District 196, which includes Apple Valley, Eagan and Rosemount high schools – were down all day. Cutting off communication makes an administrator’s job even tougher.

Percival, 39, has been at Eastview since the school opened in 1997. He taught social studies and is a former softball and hockey coach. I asked him to describe what Tuesday was like for him, and it was a whirlwind of decisions and action…

“Any time we have home events Joan (his administrative assistant, Joan Beckmann) and I spend some time making sure we have workers for everything. The assigners from the officials associations help us so much, and we become assigners when it comes to event workers. This morning we were trying to find and recruit some folks. Without a doubt, the part of this job I enjoy most is the people.”

Eastview girls tennis coach Jeff Olsen had received some bad news from his doctor on Monday, and he had to step away from coaching temporarily. “The doctor’s instruction was to eliminate anything that may cause stress,” Percival said. So he had to make sure an assistant tennis coach would take over.

Tuesday’s schedule was packed with home events against teams from Bloomington Jefferson: Girls tennis at 3:30, girls soccer at 5, and volleyball and boys soccer at 7. But Percival is also an assistant principal, working with social studies, physical education and business staff.

“This morning I did some classroom walkthroughs and observations,” he said. “I was probably in and out of 10 classrooms this morning, and I spent time chatting with teachers and kids.”

Before lunch he looked at his emails – some of which had been sent a day earlier when the system was down – and then spent a little more than an hour monitoring the lunchroom. “That’s a good time talking to lots of kids,” he said.

He was interviewed about sportsmanship by students who work on a school television program and met with a few student-athletes who were, as he put it, “not meeting all expectations.”

He was on the tennis courts before the matches against Jefferson began, drove home to meet his kids when they got off the school bus and brought them back to Eastview. He checked in with the girls soccer teams and officials at 4:30 to make sure everything was ready for their 5 o’clock game.

Shortly before 6 p.m., Percival and his daughters drove to Emily’s soccer game. Once the game was finished and snacks were handed to the kids, it was back to Eastview. Former Eastview AD Bruce Miller, now an assistant principal, helped keep an eye on things while Percival was away.

Percival spent most of the evening at the boys soccer game, but checked in on the volleyball match during its late stages. After it ended and the gym was clearing, he headed back to the stadium for the second half of boys soccer. He guessed that by 9:30 – barring overtimes and other unforeseen consequences – the stadium would be quiet.

“We’ll lock it up, shut off the lights and do it again tomorrow.”

While Matt was tending to his duties, Robin was going to a second-grade open house at the kids’ school and attending a 7 p.m. meeting at Henry Sibley.

“And sooner or later we’ll see each other, have dinner, get the kids tucked in and get some sleep,” Matt said.

Monday night, Matt’s dinner was from Jimmy John’s and Robin brought home food from Chipotle.

And today, just like every other day for every athletic director in the state, they’re doing it all over again.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 28
*Miles John has driven: 1,615

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Osseo Honors John Hansen, 40-Year Coach/Choral Director9/13/2011
John Hansen had a difficult time putting his emotions into words. In less than an hour, the football stadium at Osseo High School would officially bear his name, and Hansen was searching for a way to describe his feelings.

“Unreal” was the first word he discovered. “It’s hard for me to take it all in and understand that this is really happening,” he said. “It’s like a dream come true.”

It happened last Friday before Osseo hosted Park Center in the Orioles’ first home game of the season. The stadium has been known for decades as Carl A. Tonn Field, named after a prominent school board member who served from 1948 to 1966.

Hansen’s name was added to the facility -- now known as John D. Hansen Stadium at Carl Tonn Field – for one good reason. No, make that two good reasons: Hansen was not only Osseo’s football coach for 40 years, he also was the school’s choral music director for the same period of time. From 1952 until 1992, Hansen served countless numbers of students in athletics as well as music.

Jim Tonn, son of Carl Tonn (who died in 2001), was one of many former athletes and singers who were on hand for Friday’s stadium dedication. Jim was the captain of John’s first championship team in 1954.

“John is a fine man, to say the least,” Jim Tonn said. “My dad and John were the best of friends.”

Friday’s pregame ceremony was very special. The Tonn family was recognized and given a new plaque that honors Carl, and Hansen (pictured with his wife Bev) received a similar plaque bearing the new name of the stadium. The national anthem was sung by current Osseo music students as well as many former students of Hansen’s. Seeing all the people whose lives were touched by Hansen was a tribute to a great educator and a great person.

“John Hansen was the best football coach. All you heard growing up was getting to play for coach Hansen,” said Mike Korton, a 1989 grad who was named Osseo’s male athlete of the year as a senior. Korton is now the head football at Champlin Park High School, and his presence at Friday’s ceremony said everything about how he feels toward Hansen.

The ceremony began at 4:45 p.m., with kickoff scheduled for 5 p.m. Champlin Park had a 7 o'clock home game that night, but Korton was missing the preparation for his team’s game to honor Hansen.

“I know I’m supposed to be at pregame right now with my kids,” Korton said. “But my kids understand where I am. I grew up three blocks from here, so I’d sit on my steps as a little kid and listen to the games and wonder, ‘What’s that going on? It sounds like a circus up there.’ And you grow up wanting to become part of the circus. And it was great.

“Coach Hansen never did anything wrong. He always respected everybody, he treated you like you wanted to be treated. I hope I can be a coach like him someday. I don’t know if I can do it for 40 years, though.”

When Korton played for Hansen, Craig Hansen (no relation) was the offensive line coach. Hansen went on to a long career as the head coach at Maple Grove, where he retired from coaching after last season.

“John Hansen and Craig Hansen had a big impact on me,” Korton said. “I told them I was going to become a coach.”

The newly named Hansen-Tonn facility was built in 1970, and before that the football field was where the baseball field outfield now stands. Hansen retired with a record 259-105-13, making him the winningest football coach in Minnesota at the time. As the 2011 season began, he was tied for 12th on the all-time list.

Hansen’s teams were undefeated in 1963, 1969 and 1970, winning the mythical state title in 1970 (before playoffs began). In 1986 the Orioles played at the Metrodome in the Prep Bowl, losing to Apple Valley.

“When I was in high school, if anybody had told me that I was going to be a music teacher, I would have told them they were crazy” said Hansen, a 1946 graduate of St. Louis Park. “I enjoyed music very much, I sang in the choir and also played football, basketball, track. That was kind of my main interest, yet I really loved the music part of it, I loved to sing.”

He was in the Navy for two years after high school, then went to Hamline University in St. Paul. After graduating from Hamline, he was hired by Osseo to fill the two jobs he held for 40 years.

“Being in the Navy gave me a chance to kind of grow up a little bit and in my mind decide what to do as far as my life,” he said. “My two main interests were music and athletics, and that’s exactly what I went into. I found that I enjoyed both of them equally, and there were some great performers in both of them.

“It was just a treat to go to work every day, and that’s why I didn’t retire early. I loved it, I really did. I just loved it.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 24
*Miles John has driven: 1,604

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at