John's Journal
A Close Game, A Not-So-Close Game And Football Marches On11/15/2010
Monday’s snowstorm-induced football doubleheader at the Metrodome provided one close game and one not-so-close game, but you can bet your favorite scoop shovel that all the players and fans – not to mention media members – were happy to be indoors for the two state quarterfinal games. Both games were postponed at south-suburban sites due to Saturday’s snow.

One of the first comments I heard from the crowd before the first game was this: “Isn’t it great to get out of school?” You would expect that those words came from a student, but no, they were spoken by an adult. A teacher or school staff member, I assume, who was apparently blessed with the gift of complete honesty.

Give credit to the Metrodome crew for making the site ready for football, on the heels of a monster truck show over the weekend. Tons of dirt were removed from the playing surface, leaving the slightest dusty haze in the dome when Monday’s games began.

The first game was a Class 2A contest between unbeaten Triton and twice-beaten Maple Lake (right photo). Triton was the favorite, considering the Cobras’ perfect record and last week’s victory over defending state champion Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.

Triton is a state tourney veteran, too, while Maple Lake was making its first trip to state. The Irish came into the game with a 9-2 record, making one think they would face an uphill battle against Triton.

One would be wrong. Triton had to work mighty hard to defeat the Irish 28-21 and give Cobras coach Don Henderson his 200th career victory against 62 defeats in 24 years. Maple Lake was inside the Triton 20 with less than three minutes to play, but couldn’t convert on fourth down from the 19.

The second game, a 3A quarterfinal, went more according to expectations. DeLaSalle came in riding a 10-1 record behind a high-powered offense, facing a LeSueur-Henderson team that was 4-4 in the regular season before getting hot as the fifth seed in Section 2.

The Islanders’ Reggie Gandy (left), who had rushed 257 times for 2,606 yards and 33 touchdowns, had three scores before the second quarter was three minutes old. A field goal made the score 23-0 before the Giants mounted a threat. But LeSueur-Henderson was stopped on fourth down at the DeLaSalle 1 late in the first half. After that, it was all Gandy all the time. His fifth touchdown of the game put the Islanders ahead 37-0 in the third quarter. The final was 44-0.

Other Tidbits from the Dome …

--As veteran stadium announcer Dave Giles checked the pronunciations of some DeLaSalle players’ names with coach Sean McMenomy before the game, he delved into the past. Giles reminded McMenomy that he had been the announcer when McMenomy was a high school player at Rosemount.

--Diet Coke Count: Zero. We have an issue here. The Metrodome, once a Coke-only facility, is now Pepsi-only. Pepsi also produces Diet Mountain Dew, which is actually the old scribe’s No. 1 choice, even over the beloved Diet Coke. I consumed one Diet Dew at the Dome, but with the state semifinals and Prep Bowl coming up over the next two weekends, do I begin a Diet Mountain Dew count? Or is that a slap in the face to the tradition-laden Diet Coke Count? I’ll be pondering this heavy question in the days to come, and feel free to offer input via the email address at the top of this post.

It’s a real dilemma…
WEATHER ALERT: Two Saturday Football Games Postponed11/13/2010
Today's snow has forced some changes to the Saturday schedule of football playoff games.

Here's the update ...

--Today's Class 2A game at Lakeville North between Maple Lake and Triton will be played Monday at a site and time to be determined.

--Same plan for today's 3A game at Farmington between DeLaSalle and LeSueur-Henderson. It has been postponed until Monday, with the site and time to be determined.

All other football games today will be played as currently scheduled.

And the state volleyball tournament is safe and warm inside the Xcel Energy Center.

Updates to come ...
A Snowy, Slippery Day For Volleyball And (Some) Football11/13/2010
Saturday. Big day. Snowy day. Slushy day. Both-hands-on-the-wheel kind of day.

Once me and my snowblower had completed the season opener, I drove to the Xcel Energy Center for volleyball’s Championship Saturday. Didn’t see one snowplow en route, but saw cars in the ditch and cars fishtailing as they hit slick sports. What fun.

Help me out here: On Tuesday it was me and my lawnmower working in the yard. And Saturday was snowblower time? I just do not understand.

Speaking of the weather, if you peeked at the Journal earlier today you saw the news that two football state quarterfinals were postponed today due to the snow/ice/slush. The Class 2A game between Maple Lake and Triton at Lakeville North and the 3A game between DeLaSalle and LeSueur-Henderson at Farmington will be played Monday, sites and times to be determined.

The best places for immediate information on such things as postponed games and playoff results are the MSHSL Facebook page (now proud home of more than 1,500 Friends!) and @MSHSLjohn on Twitter. The news flows fast and furious in those two spots.

Here at Volleyball Central, we are working our way through fifth-, third- and first-place matches.

Today's results at this point …

--In Class 1A, Wabasha-Kellogg leads Martin County West two games to none in the title match, Minneota beat Mayer Lutheran 3-2 for third place and Win-E-Mac beat Belgrade 3-1 to finish fifth.

--In 2A, Visitation beat Marshall 3-1 to finish fifth and Stewartville beat Sauk Centre 3-0 to finish third. The upcoming title game is between Wadena-Deer Creek and Hutchinson.

--In 3A, East Ridge beat Andover 3-1 to place fifth and Centennial will meet Waconia in the upcoming fifth-place game. In the finals, it will be Lakeville North vs. Wayzata.

--Diet Coke count: one for the day, 10 for the tournament.

More to come…
Football Update: Two Games At The Metrodome On Monday11/13/2010
Bulletin ...

The football playoff games postponed because of Saturday's weather will be played Monday at the Metrodome.

Triton vs. Maple Lake in Class 2A will meet at 4 p.m. and LeSueur-Henderson vs. DeLaSalle in Class 3A will play at 7 p.m.
Wadena-Deer Creek Volleyball: An Unforgettable Story11/13/2010
After the volleyball team from Wadena-Deer Creek finished a dream season that helped its town recover from a nightmare event, I talked with senior Courtney Volkmann in a quiet corridor outside the Wolverines’ locker room at Xcel Energy Center.

A tornado that knocks down your family’s home and farm, your high school and plenty of other structures is one thing. Volleyball is an athletic activity and I won’t try to tell anyone that playing volleyball can heal a community. But after spending some time in Wadena earlier in the week, and then watching the Wolverines and their families and fans at the tournament in St. Paul, you will never convince me that school activities don’t mean something. Especially after what Wadena has been through.

The Volkmanns – Courtney is the daughter of coach Sue Volkmann – lost almost everything in last summer’s tornado. And when I asked Courtney what this all means to her … the tornado, the recovery, the volleyball season, the state championship … she hesitated for a few seconds.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Courtney (that's her with the big smile in the above photo) she finally said. “After the tornado our priorities came first and volleyball was pushed aside. But then we came out to play the game we love.”

There it is. Playing the games we love means something. It’s not only the winning or losing, the practices and the bus trips, the tears and the cheers. It’s being together, sharing the experience, making memories and pulling everyone else along for the ride.

That’s why folks at Wadena-Deer Creek packed the elementary school gym where the Wolverines played their home volleyball matches. It’s community. And the Wolverines epitomized that during a 2010 season which they finished as Class 2A state champs and the only undefeated team in Minnesota.

“It’s amazing,” said another senior, Kelsi Crawford. “We’ve been a team the entire year and we stayed a team through it all.”

It’s truly an amazing, unforgettable story.

THE OTHER WINNERS Saturday at Xcel Energy Center were Wabasha-Kellogg in Class 1A and Lakeville North in 3A. For all three teams, it was the first state volleyball title in school history.

Lakeville North’s celebration centered around head coach Milan Mader (left), who had taken 14 previous teams to state but had never won a championship, finishing second five times. Mader is in his 35th season as a head and he ranks behind only Hibbing’s Gail Nucech in career victories.

AND THIS STORY was told to me …

During the Saturday morning consolation matches, a few of the Minnesota Wild players came to the area for treatment, etc. Some high school volleyball players saw some of the professional hockey players outside the Wild locker room. One of the girls asked one of the hockey players if she could have his autograph, and the Wild player replied by saying, “You’re playing in the state tournament. I should ask you for your autograph.” Classy.

REPEATING THE EARLIER bulletin from today ...

The football playoff games postponed because of Saturday's weather will be played Monday at the Metrodome.

Triton vs. Maple Lake in Class 2A will meet at 4 p.m. and LeSueur-Henderson vs. DeLaSalle in Class 3A will play at 7 p.m.

It’s a darn safe bet that I’ll be there for Monday’s games, with immediate updates on Facebook and Twitter.

--To see a full array of photos from Saturday’s volleyball action, including championship team photos and the Wells Fargo all-tournament teams, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke count: two for the day, 11 for the tournament.

Let’s all take a day off.