John's Journal
As Tournaments Crank Up, Let’s Remember What’s Truly Important10/22/2010
I received a very special email this week, and it is a terrific reminder of the strong ties between school activities and our communities, and what we can all do for each other. Through the swirl of fall state tournaments that will soon be upon us, this is a good time to reflect on the importance of being there for each other.

Merle Sveen, the head football coach at Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton, wrote an article for the school district newsletter about how his players pitched in to help after Teresa Roberts, a longtime school staff member, passed away in August at the age of 47. J-W-P principal/activities director Michael Meihak passed it along to me.

The article speaks for itself. Here it is …


There was a very famous football coach who once said, “Winning is not everything; it’s the only thing!” That coach was Vince Lombardi, and as hard as it is for me to admit, he was wrong.

This fall we were all faced with a huge loss when Teresa Roberts passed away. We not only lost a co-worker, but a great member of our community as well. I have had the privilege of coaching Teresa’s two sons in football and track, so when I heard the news of her death, I felt our JWP football team needed to do something for her family.

After talking with my captains, we came up with the idea of having a servant auction. When we took this idea back to the team, they agreed it was a good idea. We put four different servant packages on her benefit auction and raised almost $400 for her family. That was a fantastic feeling for our football team.

Fulfilling those contracts was the tough part. After having our first scheduled work weekend canceled due to the 10 inches of rain we received, we were finally able to spend a day at Dr. Pope’s residence loading up firewood for a previous JWP football coach. We had a fun day and were even treated to a great meal for lunch.

Last weekend I took 10 more workers all the way to Morristown to work at Teresa’s sister’s cabin. There we moved 60 pounds of blocks and loaded them onto pallets.

We also dug a trench along the house to help fix a leak. Finally, we dug a fire pit, raked their lawn, and bagged up all the leaves.

Once again, we were treated to lunch. As I sat around and listened to everyone talk, I heard lots of comments that made me feel proud. I heard heartfelt appreciation expressed from those we helped. From my football players the comments ranged from “That was fun” to “I am sure glad we could help them” and “We should do this more often!”

In a football season where wins haven’t come easily, I have to say we are learning important things every day. We have an exceptional group of young men with whom I am proud to be associated. As far as winning being everything, I believe lessons like this will be the more valuable ones in life.

Coach Merle Sveen
Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton


The Big Game Measures Up To All Expectations10/21/2010
One of the oddest regular seasons in Minnesota high school football history – especially for the five teams in the Lake Conference -- came to a close Wednesday night. The marquee game in the state was No. 1 Eden Prairie at No. 2 Wayzata in a matchup of unbeaten Class 5A powerhouses, but the back story was how they got here … through Canada and a season overflowing with bye weeks.

Eden Prairie opened the season by taking a long bus ride, splitting into two squads and beating two teams from Winnipeg on the same day. The Eagles didn’t play a conference opponent until their fifth game. But at least they played eight games.

Wayzata was supposed to play seven games in the regular season but that total fell to six when a school from Florida – yes, Wayzata was supposed to play a home game against a team from Florida -- disbanded its football team during the season. Before Wednesday the Trojans had played just once since Sept. 24. That’s one game – a 15-14 victory at Minnetonka on Oct. 8 -- in 26 days.

Wednesday's game decided the Lake Conference title. The stakes were a little higher the last time Wayzata and Eden Prairie had met on the football field. The Eagles recorded a 7-3 victory over the Trojans at the Metrodome in the state quarterfinals last season. Eden Prairie’s season ended with a 16-5 loss to Cretin-Derham Hall in the Prep Bowl.

Which takes us to the actual playing of Wednesday’s game. The scene at Wayzata was exactly what you would expect: a full house, pregame excitement and four quarters -- plus a little overtime -- of hard-hitting, hard-running football. Wayzata came away with a 28-27 victory when Eden Prairie misfired on an extra-point play in overtime. The Eagles lined up in kicking formation, but the play was supposed to be a pass for two points and the win. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Wayzata rush was strong, the timing was imperfect and the play never got off the ground.

That’s when bedlam took over for the Wayzata players and their fans. There was a wild celebration, as befitting a game between the two powers. The only bigger celebration one could imagine could come after the state championship game at the Metrodome …which could conceivably be a rematch between Wayzata and Eden Prairie.

Wayzata’s Sasha Doran threw three TD passes, two to Tanner Helgren and one to Aaron Roth. Stephen Hari had three rushing touchdowns for the Eagles.

Wednesday’s game was filled with memorable moments. Some of them took place on the field, such as the game’s final play. But the sights and sounds come from all over on such evenings, and here are a few things I scribbled in my notebook during the game …

--The words of a Wayzata assistant coach, talking to the offensive linemen during pregame warm-ups: “If they push us back, we’re in for a long night.”

--The Wayzata students dressed in red, which seemed a little odd. Wayzata’s colors are blue and gold; Eden Prairie’s are red and black. But the red was a show of solidarity with Wayzata senior captain John Petrie. He is the youngest of three Petrie brothers to play football at Wayzata and his father, Bob, is dealing with health issues. So the students wore red and many of the Trojans players wore red wristbands and had red tape on their shoes and ankles.

--“Hey John, you want some Hot Tamales?” This offer came from Kevin Lynch, former NBA player and current Timberwolves radio analyst. Kevin, who played football as well as basketball at Bloomington Jefferson, watched the game from the sidelines. Thank goodness for his Hot Tamales, too. They hit the spot on a cold night.

--As the halftime marching band show wound down, Wayzata coach Brad Anderson walked up to me on the sideline with a big grin on his face. Most coaches are so intense at these times that smiling and joking would make you think they had gone off the deep end. But not Brad. He joked about how he thought halftime was supposed to be 15 minutes long but the band decided to perform for 20 minutes. I figured he should interrupt the next band concert by diagramming some football plays.

--Neil Diamond would have enjoyed the Wayzata fans’ response to the Trojans’ third touchdown. After Doran threw a 15-yard pass to Helgren to put the Trojans ahead 21-14 with 4:12 left in regulation, the band struck up “Sweet Caroline” and everybody on the home side of the field sang along … even while the Trojans were kicking off and the Eagles were returning the kick.

--After the game ended and things were calming down, two young ladies found Brad Anderson on the field and hugged him. They were his daughters Barrett, a senior at Wayzata, and Isabelle, a sophomore. I chatted with them briefly and learned that Barrett is interested in a journalism career. Good deal.

--My final act of the night was a little, uh, awkward. Before I walked to my car I knew I should make a pit stop. So I opened the door of a porta-potty … only to see a lady using the facility. Hey lady … lock the door. Please? Geez …

To see a photo gallery and video from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 70
*Miles John has driven: 4,026

--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
Nicollet Is New No. 1 Team In Nine-Man Football10/20/2010
Here are this week's rankings as we enter the final phase of the regular season.

The only change at No. 1 is in Nine-Man, where Nicollet is the new top team. They replace former No. 1 Stephen-Argyle, which lost to Goodridge-Grygla last week. G-G isNo. 2 this week.

CLASS 5A
1 (1) Eden Prairie (7-0)

2 (2) Wayzata (5-0)

3 (5) Blaine (7-0)

4 (4) Rosemount (7-0)

5 (7) Cretin-Derham Hall (6-1)

6 (6) Stillwater Area (6-1)

7 (8) Brainerd (7-0)

8 (3) Mounds View (6-1)

9 (9) Rochester Century (7-0)

10 (10) Shakopee (7-0)

Others receiving votes: None

CLASS 4A

1 (1) St. Thomas Academy (7-0)

2 (2) Mankato West (7-0)

3 (3) Rogers (7-0)

4 (6) South St. Paul (7-0)

5 (5) Totino-Grace (6-1)

6 (9) Becker (6-1)

7 (7) Sartell-St. Stephen (6-1)

7 (8) St. Paul Central (7-0)

9 (4) Mahtomedi (5-2)

10 (10) Bemidji (6-1)

Others receiving votes: Northfield, Delano


CLASS 3A
1 (1) Albany (7-0)

2 (2) Rochester Lourdes (7-0)

3 (7) Dassel-Cokato (6-1)

4 (5) New London-Spicer (6-1)

5 (6) Holy Family Catholic (7-0)

6 (8) DeLaSalle (6-1)

7 (9) Virginia (7-0)

8 (10) Pine City (7-0)

9 (3) Glencoe-Silver Lake (5-2)

10 (4) Norwood-Young America (6-1)

Others receiving votes: Pequot Lakes, St. Anthony, Fairmont

CLASS 2A
1 (1) Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (7-0)

2 (2) Eden Valley-Watkins (7-0)

3 (4) Moose Lake-Willow River (7-0)
4 (5) Caledonia (7-0)

5 (6) Breckenridge (7-0)

6 (7) Triton (7-0)

7 (8) Ottertail Central (7-0)

8 (3) Luverne (6-1)

9 (9) Jackson County Central (6-1)
10 (10) Pierz (6-1)

Others receiving votes: Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Braham

CLASS 1A
1 (1) Barnesville (7-0)

1 (2) Springfield (7-0)

3 (3) Browerville (7-0)

3 (4) Mahnomen (7-0)

5 (5) Minneota (6-1)

6 (8) Dawson-Boyd (7-1)

7 (6) New Ulm Cathedral (6-1)

8 (T10) East Central (6-1)

8 (T10) Blooming Prairie (5-2)

10 (NR) Cedar Mountain/Comfrey (6-1)

Others receiving votes: Le Center, Red Lake County, Warren-Alvarado-Oslo, Barnum

NINE-MAN
1 (3) Nicollet (7-0)

2 (5) Goodridge-Grygla (8-0)

3 (4) Edgerton/Ellsworth (7-0)

4 (6) McGregor (7-0)

5 (1) Stephen-Argyle (7-1)

6 (7) Wheaton (7-0)

7 (9) Ada-Borup (6-1)

8 (2) Grand Meadow (6-1)

9 (NR) Cook (7-1)

10 (NR) Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (6-1)

Others receiving votes: Lanesboro, Spring Grove, Isle, Littlefork-Big Falls, Hillcrest Lutheran
A Look At Football’s Week 8 Big Games10/19/2010
This is the annual odd week for high school football in Minnesota. Since most districts do not have school on Thursday and Friday due to Education Minnesota’s professional conference, games will be played Wednesday as the regular season ends and teams prepare for the postseason.

The regular season always goes by quickly, and that has certainly been the case this fall. Since the opening games on Sept. 2, one of the major themes has been spectacular game-night weather. I have stood on the sidelines in the rain only once, for a Week 2 game between Mankato West and Owatonna. Other than that, the nights have been perfect for football.

Wednesday’s schedule is loaded with games that will impact how teams are seeded for the upcoming section playoffs. Many of the 34 remaining unbeaten teams are facing what appear to be overmatched opponents this week, but a few of them are staring into what could become their first loss of 2010.

There is only one head-to-head meeting between undefeated teams, and that game will receive more coverage than any other in the state this week. It will be the battle of Goliath vs. Goliath when Eden Prairie plays at Wayzata.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most intriguing matchups in each class this week …

Class 5A/Eden Prairie (7-0) at Wayzata (5-0)
This is a battle of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in this class. They could meet once more in the Prep Bowl, which would surprise very few people. Both Lake Conference teams had major problems in filling their schedules. Eden Prairie played two games in Winnipeg on the same day and Wayzata had two byes, including last week. Will that extra week of rest and preparation (the Wayzata players were able to scout Eden Prairie in person last week) make a difference?

Class 4A/St. Paul Central (7-0) vs. Minneapolis Washburn (5-2)
This is the annual Twin Cities championship game, pitting the top teams from the St. Paul and Minneapolis City Conferences. Central is in tough Section 4 in 4A along with Mahtomedi, while Washburn is jostling with Waseca for the top seed in 3A Section 2. So this game is for double bragging rights.

Class 3A/Holy Family (7-0) vs. Norwood-Young America (6-1)
NYA’s perfect season was halted in a two-point loss to Mayer Lutheran last week but it can’t spoil the Raiders’ turnaround from a 1-7 season in 2009. This game will determine the champion of the Minnesota River Conference and have implications for Holy Family in Section 5 and NYA in 3.

Class 2A/Caledonia (7-0) vs. Southland (6-1)
After edging Plainview-Elgin-Millville in a Week 1 overtime game, Caledonia has not been tested. Southland has rolled past six opponents while falling to Lewiston-Altura 27-15 in Week 4. Both teams are 4-0 in Three Rivers Conference South play. Win or lose, Caledonia is probably the top seed in Section 1, while a win would be a big boost to Southland in Section 2 seeding.

Class 1A/New Ulm Cathedral (6-1) at Cedar Mountain-Comfrey (6-1)
Cathedral has won six in a row after losing to Springfield in Week 1. Cedar Mountain-Comfrey also lost only to Springfield (7-0), coming in Week 3. Those three teams and Le Center (6-1) are fighting for seeding position in the Section 2 playoffs.

Nine-Man/Littlefork-Big Falls (6-1) vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl (5-1)
Littlefork-Big Falls was sailing until losing at McGregor last week. MI-B’s only loss was to Floodwood in Week 4. These two and Cook are jostling for playoff position in Section 7.

There also will be some Nine-Man playoff games on Saturday. One place to keep an eye on is Section 8. The top seed is unbeaten Goodridge-Grygla, which earned that spot by handing defending state champion Stephen-Argyle its first loss on Saturday by a score of 39-14. They are the top two seeds in Section 8.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 68
*Miles John has driven: 3,996
Lakeville North, Jackson, Minneota Top Final Volleyball Polls10/18/2010
Tournament time is nearing, and here are the final volleyball rankings of the season.

Lakeville North, Jackson County Central and Minneota are the leaders in each class.

CLASS 3A
1. Lakeville North (12) 180
2. Wayzata 168
3. Bloomington Jefferson 152
4. Eastview 144
5. Apple Valley 99
6. Eden Prairie 97
7. Centennial 95
Blaine 95
9. Shakopee 78
10. Lakeville South 75
Others: Waconia (40), East Ridge (36), Stillwater (10), Woodbury (8), Owatonna (7), Chaska (6), Northfield (4), Hill-Murray (3), Chanhassen (2), Rochester Mayo (1)

CLASS 2A
1. Jackson County Central (7) 119
2. Wadena-Deer Creek (1) 109
3. Hutchinson 106
4. Lesuer-Henderson 96
5. Belle Plaine 84
6. Jordan 81
7. Marshall 71
8. Stewartville 62
9. Delano 32
10. Visitation 24
Others: Kasson-Mantorville (20), Byron (18), Rocori (18), Esko (13), Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (13), Caledonia (2), Sauk Center (1)

CLASS 1A
1. Minneota (7) 147
2. Bethlehem Academy (3) 142
3. Wabasha-Kellogg 131
4. Martin County West 117
5. Mayer Lutheran 99
6. Nevis 96
7. BBE 83
8. Windom 66
9. Win-E-Mac 58
Mabel-Canton 58
Others: Canby (30), Hancock (26), Heritage Academy (9), Ada-Borup (6), Upsala (4)