John's Journal
Getting Primed For Two Days Of Indoor Football11/18/2010
It's not football 24/7, but the state semifinals provide us with almost-dusk to dawn (and beyond) football for two days inside the Metrodome. The extravaganza begins at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

I'll be parked in the Dome for all 12 games, providing instant updates from every game on Facebook and Twitter and posting my thoughts, opinions and the world-famous Diet Coke Count right here on the Journal. Speaking of the Count, here's what I wrote earlier in the week about this highly controverisal subject:

"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. 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."

Diet Cokes aside, here's the schedule for the semifinals...

State Football Semifinal Schedule
Friday’s Games
8 a.m.: Nine-Man/ Lanesboro (10-2) vs. Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke (12-0)
10:15 a.m.: Class 1A/ Goodhue (9-3) vs. Barnesville (12-0)
12:45p.m.: Class 4A/ St. Thomas Academy (11-0) vs. Totino-Grace (10-1)
3:15 p.m.: Class 3A/ Rochester Lourdes (12-0) vs. Albany (12-0)
5:45 p.m.: Class 2A/ Caledonia (12-0) vs. Ottertail Central (12-0)
8:15 p.m.: Class 5A/ Rosemount (11-0) vs. Brainerd (11-0)

Saturday’s Games
8 a.m.: Nine-Man/ Underwood (10-2) vs. Cromwell (7-4)
10:15 a.m.: Class 1A/ New Ulm Cathedral (11-1) vs. Minneota (11-1)
12:45p.m.: Class 4A/ Mahtomedi (10-2) vs. Rogers (11-0)
3:15 p.m.: Class 3A/ DeLaSalle (11-1) vs. Holy Family (12-0)
5:45 p.m.: Class 2A/ Triton (12-0) vs. Eden Valley-Watkins (12-0)
8:15 p.m.: Class 5A/ Mounds View (11-1) vs. Wayzata (9-0)
Hall of Fame Tracy Coach Dies At 8911/17/2010
Here's a story about legendary Minnesota coach Leo "Gabby" Sebastion from the Tracy Headlight Herald:

One of Tracy High School's most beloved post-World War II-era teachers and coaches has died.

Leo “Gabby” Sebastian died Friday in Omaha, Nebraska, at the age of 89. Funeral services are planned Saturday at Tracy Lutheran Church.

“He was an icon,” said Charlie Knott (THS Class of 1968), who played on Sebastian’s undefeated 1968 football team. “Everyone loved and respected the guy.” In turn, Knott said, Sebastian was known as someone “who would do anything” to help his athletes and students.

An ex-Marine who served in the Pacific during World War II, Sebastian came to Tracy in 1947, after accepting a job as a high school history and social studies teacher. Coaching football and basketball were among his extra-curricular assignments.

Inheriting a football program that hadn’t won a game in 1946, Sebastian’s teams initially struggled. In his first season, Tracy gridders won only two games and lost five. But in 1948, the squad was 4-2-1, setting the stage for a dominant Scrapper football program over the next two decades. When Sebastian stepped down as Scrapper football coach in 1970, his teams had compiled a 23-year record of 108-61-10. Three times (1953, 1963, 1968) Sebastian-coached teams went undefeated.

Sebastian continued to serve as THS’s athletic director in the 1970s and retired from teaching in 1982. The Luther College graduate was inducted into his school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1977, and into the Minnesota State High School Football Association’s Hall of Fame the same year. Tracy’s “swimming pool park,” where the high school football field had been located until 1979, was named in his honor in 1989.

Visitation for Sebastian is planned Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Almlie Funeral Home. A. Funeral services at Tracy Lutheran will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by internment at Tracy Cemetery.
DeLaSalle's Gandy Runs And Runs And Runs Some More 11/17/2010
The question made DeLaSalle football coach Sean McMenomy smile. He sat back in his chair inside the coaches office at the downtown Minneapolis school and pondered an answer to this query: If you’re a defensive coach, how do you stop Reggie Gandy?

“Defending him? You’ve got to take care of your gaps and kind of bottle him up, I guess,” he said.

Guesswork is probably as good a strategy as just about anything else that teams have attempted against Gandy, who will lead the Islanders into the Class 3A state semifinals against Holy Family on Saturday at the Metrodome. Gandy is the kind of runner who causes nightmares for defensive coordinators and headaches for statisticians.

The 5-foot-11, 187-pound senior has rushed 278 times for 2,839 yards (an average of more than 10 yard per carry) and 38 touchdowns. His longest run of the season was a 77-yard touchdown burst against LeSueur-Henderson in DeLaSalle’s 44-0 quarterfinal victory on Monday at the Metrodome.

Gandy rushed 21 times for 233 yards and five touchdowns (one of them is pictured at right) in that game. That was a pretty nice way to become acclimated to indoor football, leading to what the Islanders hope is a state title.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Gandy said. “We’re just kind of living for the moment and enjoying it.”

Saturday’s game could turn into a fireworks show because Holy Family also likes to move up and down the field. The No. 2 rusher in the state is Fire senior quarterback Jeff Soule with 1,953 yards; he also has passed for 1,353 yards.

DeLaSalle has scored an average of almost 48 points this fall (ranking second in the state to Class 1A Minneota’s 49), while giving up an average of 16. Holy Family’s average score is 44-15.

“Holy Family has been putting up big numbers and they’re a great team,” McMenomy said. “I’m OK with a basketball score; that’s my style and I have more fun with that vs. a 3-0 game. It’s two great teams. They’re undefeated and they have a lot of confidence.”

DeLaSalle has not lost since opening the season with a 30-27 defeat to St. Anthony Village. Gandy ran for 91 yards in that game but exploded a week later in a 48-40 shootout with Concordia Academy; he carried 43 times for 359 yards and six touchdowns. Since then, his single-game rushing totals read like the weights of a team of sumo wrestlers: 358, 381, 412, 355, etc.

“He’s really intelligent so he understands the game, he understands the nuances of why things happen and he reads defenses very well,” McMenomy said. “Physically, he’s always in the weight room (where he bench-presses 335 pounds and squats 615).”

Gandy has received scholarship offers from Northern Iowa and North Dakota. He plans to take official visits after the football season, saying “I’m just kind of holding out on it so I won’t get off track on what our goals are.” He had planned to take a visit on Dec. 19, but that’s the date of the Mr. Football banquet; he is one of 10 finalists for that award.

Gandy, along with his older brother Greg and younger brother GeVelve, has survived a challenging home life.

“His mom kind of left under some circumstances about 10 years ago, and probably about seven years ago their father died of cancer,” McMenomy said. “The three of them were taken in by an aunt, their dad’s sister. They’ve lived in two- or three-bedroom houses with nine or 12 people in them. For those guys to grow and be successful is a great thing.

“Reggie has a 3.1 GPA, got a 25 on the ACT and he’s a team captain. Everyone has fallen in love with him. He’s a role model, an ambassador for the honors program. He’s kind of been the rock for the family.”

Greg Gandy is a student at Minnesota Community and Technical College and GeVelve is a sophomore defensive back for the Islanders. Reggie transferred from Minneapolis Southwest to DeLaSalle when McMenomy made the same move two years ago. McMenomy, a Rosemount native who played for coach Jim Wacker at Minnesota, has known Reggie since he was a seventh-grader.

“He’s a great coach in general, but we all think he’s amazing and he’s probably the funniest guy around, that’s for sure,” Gandy said of McMenomy. “He always finds a way to lighten the mood or make it a little more intense, which always helps. He sometimes jumps in a jersey, too, and acts like he’s 18 years old. It doesn’t always work out for him but it’s fun to watch.”

Last season, Gandy was DeLaSalle’s No. 2 rusher behind Evan Williams. Williams carried 186 times for 2,201 yards and 31 TDS, while Gandy had 137 rushes for 1,340 yards and 24 touchdowns.

“Evan was a sprinter and he’d sprint around the edge,” McMenomy said. “Reggie likes contact, he likes being physical and he likes running over people.”

This season, the Islanders’ offense is multi-dimensional. Quarterback Tyler Harper is a 58-percent passer who has thrown for 1,735 yards (ranking 15th in the state) and 21 touchdowns. Harper also has rushed for 662 yards, while Dio Zafke-Varela, Aaron Warren and Chris Williams all have run for more than 200 yards. Ross Barker has caught 25 passes for 840 yards (No. 6 in the state) and 10 touchdowns, and Williams has 20 catches for 335 yards.

But everything revolves around Gandy, who has made opposing coaches fret all season. And now that the postseason is in full swing, the awards are rolling in. In addition to being a Mr. Football finalist, Gandy also has been named a first-team all-metro selection by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“That’s nice,” he said. “But it’s not our ultimate goal.”

Sleep well, defensive coordinators.
Coming Soon: Catch Him If You Can11/16/2010
I conducted interviews Tuesday afternoon in researching a story that will be posted here on the Journal at some point Wednesday.

The story is about the most dynamic high school football player in Minnesota, someone whose team will play in this weekend's state semifinals at the Metrodome. The young man has a truly interesting background and a very bright future.

It's fun to watch him on the field, and it's just as much fun to spend some time with him.

Stay tuned ...
Live From The Metrodome: Today's State Football Doubleheader11/15/2010
We'll get an early taste of indoor football today when two state quarterfinal games are held at the Metrodome.

Both games were postponed on Saturday because of the weather. In a Class 2A game, Triton and Maple Lake were originally scheduled to play at Lakeville North. In 3A, DeLaSalle and LeSueur-Henderson had been scheduled at Farmington.

Here is today's Metrodome schedule ...

--4 p.m.: Triton (11-0) vs. Maple Lake (9-2).

--7 p.m.: DeLaSalle (10-1) vs. LeSueur-Henderson (7-4)

I'll be inside the big blue room for both games, posting updates on Facebook and Twitter and posting some photos, too.

We'll return to the Dome on Friday and Saturday for the state semifinals in all six classes. Those will be long days of football, with the Nine-Man semifinals starting at 8 a.m. each day and the Class 5A games scheduled for 8:15 p.m. starts.

In addition, this week also will see the girls' state swimming and diving championships at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as the state adapted soccer tournament on Friday and Saturday at Stillwater High School.

Have a great week!