John's Journal
Wayzata Moves To The Top Of 3A Volleyball Rankings9/27/2010
This is no surprise, considering that Wayzata defeated top-ranked Lakeville North on Saturday in the championship match of the Apple Valley Eagle Invitational. But now it's official: Wayzata has moved from No. 2 to No. 1 in the Class 3A volleyball rankings.

The top teams in 2A (Jackson County Central) and 1A (Minneota) maintained their positions.

1. Wayzata (11) 220
2. Lakeville North (4) 214
3. Bloomingon Jefferson 194
4. Blaine 148
5. Eastview 147
6. Lakeville South 144
7. Apple Valley 139
8. Shakopee 108
9. Waconia 105
10. Eden Prairie 81
Others: Centennial (49), Hill-Murray (14), Cretin-Durham Hall (13), Stillwater (13), Andover (6)

1. Jackson County Central (10) 164
2. Wadena-Deer Creek (1) 152
3. Lesuer-Henderson 138
4. Hutchinson 126
5. Jordan 123
6. Stewartville 100
7. Marshall 96
8. Belle Plaine 95
9. Delano 63
10. Rocori 33
Others: Byron (14), Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (7), Kasson-Mantorville (7), Hibbing (6), Visitation (6), Sauk Center (6), Caledonia (6), Minnehaha (6),

1. Minneota (9) 177
2. Bethlehem Academy (3) 171
3. Wabasha-Kellogg 153
4. Martin County West 134
5. Mayer Lutheran 124
6. Nevis 114
7. BBE 98
8. Canby 91
9. Windom 82
10. Win-E-Mac 68
Others: Mabel-Canton (51), Kingsland (8), Deer River (6), Lake of the Woods (6), Sebeka (5), Heritage Christian (4)
A Very Special Cause in Northfield9/27/2010
There’s a great story taking shape in Northfield, which should help add some positives to a town that’s been hit hard by recent floods.

The Northfield High School sports teams, from grades 9 through 12, are banding together to fight breast cancer. And they are asking the community to join them in this noble cause. October is breast cancer awareness month, which is where the story begins.

The Raiders boys’ and girls’ soccer teams will play host to Farmington on Thursday night, with the boys playing at 5 p.m. and the girls at 7 p.m. Back in the spring, the Northfield girls’ team began talking about ways to do some fundraising for breast cancer research. As coach Troy Cohrs described the process, “We started with a small idea in May, and in August they came up with a bunch of ideas. They started with what we thought was one small idea and the girls have just been running with it. It’s been amazing.”

Here’s the plan in brief: The public is being asked to sponsor every Northfield athlete during October. For each $5 donation, one athlete will wear pink shoelaces for the month. Five dollars might not sound like much, but if every one of the approximately 500 athletes ends up with pink laces, that means $2,500 will have been raised.

Thursday’s soccer doubleheader is the campaign’s kickoff event. “We’re trying to fill the stands and have everybody wear pink,” Cohrs said. Donations also will be accepted at the games.

Northfield and Farmington -- both schools are members the Missota Conference – will face off in several sports during October. And Farmington has joined in the efforts, too. If Northfield reaches its goal of 500 sponsored athletes, the Farmington Tigers will also wear pink shoelaces and help raise money.

“Our team wants to do something to make a positive difference,” Northfield athletic director Tom Graupmann said. “I'm really proud of them.”
Pipestone, Luverne And The Battle For The Axe9/25/2010
Todd Oye grew up on a farm near the little southwestern Minnesota hamlet of Hardwick. He attended high school a few miles south in Luverne, where he now is the head football coach and athletic director. Had Oye grown up across the road, he would have gone to school a few miles north and become a Pipestone Arrow instead of a Luverne Cardinal.

An hour or so before kickoff Friday night, Oye chuckled at the randomness of it all. He was standing outside a locker room at Pipestone High School, where the Battle Axe was on the line once more. It’s been this way since 1958, when the two schools began playing for an axe with a head painted Luverne red on one side and Pipestone green on the other. The axe handle carries the same words on each side, again painted in the school colors: The Old Battle Axe.

It might be the best traveling trophy in Minnesota high school football, and this is surely one of the best rivalries. (In this postgame photo, Luverne senior Britton Stratton holds the Axe.)

“It’s a big thing for both communities,” said Pipestone coach Troy Bouman. “It’s always been a big rivalry. It never matters who’s really good and who’s not; the game’s always close.”

The 53rd annual Battle Axe game fit the mold perfectly. On the fifth play of the game, Luverne quarterback Brett Heronimus pitched the ball to Hayden Bauman and Bauman did the rest. He got to the edge, turned down the left sideline and ran 56 yards into the end zone. The defenses took over after that and the Cardinals went home with a 7-0 victory and the Battle Axe.

Luverne is 4-0 and ranked third in Class 2A. The Arrows are 1-3, having been shut out in all three defeats. But when the Battle Axe is on the line, no such facts matter. This is a rivalry, and it means everything.

“I think this shows you that it doesn’t matter what the expectations of the season are for either team going in,” Oye said. “In a rivalry game like this, you see an unbelievable effort. The Pipestone kids played like it was a state championship game.”

The postgame moods were a contrast, but not exactly what you might expect. The Cardinals held up the Axe as their fans roared and cameras flashed, but the players and coaches were not very satisfied with how they performed. Outside the postgame locker room, the words “watching film” were not met with much excitement.

Meanwhile, the Arrows kneeled in an end zone with their heads down as the coach did everything he could to try and keep their chins up.

“If we play the rest of the season like we did tonight, we’re going to win some football games, especially in the postseason,” Bouman said.

FRIDAY’S GAME WAS my longest jaunt of the school year so far. I left home at 10 a.m., detoured around flooded roads and arrived in Pipestone during the homecoming pep fest shortly before the school day ended at 3:15. I headed for home at 9:30 p.m. and pulled into my driveway a little before 2 a.m. And every one of Friday’s 500-plus miles was well worth it.

It was a wild day, but that statement goes far beyond football and historic trophies. The school in Luverne was evacuated at mid-day because of a bomb threat. After leaving the building, Oye realized that the Battle Axe was still inside, so he quietly returned and grabbed it. The Axe itself has three additional components: a piece of log in which the Axe is lodged for display, plus two small wooden structures which carry engraved plates with the score of every game.

The freshmen and sophomore football teams from Pipestone and Luverne also play for trophies. The freshmen have the Butter Knife and the sophomores play for the Hatchet. The Butter Knife? How much fun is that?

PIPESTONE’S PAULSEN Field is a true showplace. The stadium is surrounded by pine trees and flanked on the ends by two pieces of modern technology. A mammoth wind turbine spins beyond the north end zone, and the best high school football scoreboard I have seen is positioned beyond the south end zone. The board includes a digital message board that carries photos, logos and just about anything anyone would want to see. As in all proud communities, fundraising makes such things happen in Pipestone, and the Pipestone Area Community Foundation secured the funds for the scoreboard.

Another sign of community pride took place Saturday evening at Pipestone High School when the newest class of inductees became members of the Pipestone-Jasper Athletic Hall of Fame.

MY PREGAME MEAL was a fabulous pork burger, cooked at the football field and consumed at a picnic table while the teams warmed up. I sat for dinner with my host, Pipestone athletic director Bob Nangle. Bob is a legend not only in southwestern Minnesota but across the state. Bob also coaches boys’ and girls’ cross-country, and his track/cross-country credentials are hard to beat. His resume also includes coaching football, basketball and wrestling, and he has been the athletic director at Pipestone since 1973.

At halftime Friday, the homecoming royalty was introduced, a 50-50 raffle was held and the Pipestone Marching Arrows performed. Since the field was still wet from the week’s rainfall, the Marching Arrows temporarily became the Standing Arrows, performing in front of the home bleachers. They sounded great.

IF TROY BOUMAN’S name rings a bell, it might be because he is the brother of former Vikings quarterback Todd Bouman. Todd was a volunteer assistant coach for the Arrows until early last week, when the Jacksonville Jaguars called in need of a backup quarterback. The Bouman boys are from Russell-Tyler-Ruthton. Since 1997, Todd, 38, has played for the Vikings, Saints, Packers, Rams, Ravens and Jaguars.

At the end of the game as players, families, fans and friends milled around the field, Troy Bouman -- who had shared a postgame handshake and a few kind words with Todd Oye -- talked about what’s really important in all this.

“We lost 7-0 to the No. 3-ranked team in the state and there’s nothing we can hang our heads about,” he said. “You can see the rivalry; everybody’s playing hard on every play. And the coaching staffs and the kids really do get along. It’s just a great, great rivalry.”


*Schools/teams John has visited: 48
*Miles John has driven: 2,997

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Renville County West To End Varsity Football Season Early... And This Week's Rankings9/23/2010
The day's big football news is that Renville County West will shut down its varsity season due to a lack of players and a daunting schedule. RCW has lost three games by scores of 72-0, 68-0 and 49-8. After this week's homecoming game against Fulda, the Jaguars will forfeit the remaining four varsity games. They hope to play some junior varsity games.

The RCW roster of 22 players includes two seniors and 10 who are new to football. A report on the situation from the West Central Tribune in Willmar has been posted on the MSHSL Facebook page.

There are no changes among the No. 1 teams in this week's Associated Press football rankings.

Here they are ...

1 (1) Eden Prairie (4-0)
2 (2) Cretin-Derham Hall (3-0)
3 (3) Wayzata (3-0)
4 (4) Mounds View (3-0)
5 (5) Blaine (3-0)
6 (6) Rosemount (3-0)
7 (9) Andover (3-0)
8 (7) Minnetonka (2-1)
9 (10) Brainerd (3-0)
10 (NR) Hopkins (3-0)
10 (NR) Lakeville North (3-0)
Others receiving votes: Champlin Park, Rochester Century, East Ridge, Stillwater

1 (1) Totino-Grace (3-0)
2 (2) St. Thomas Academy (3-0)
3 (3) Mankato West (3-0)
4 (5) Rogers (3-0)
5 (7) Becker (3-0)
6 (4) Mahtomedi (2-1)
7 (8) South St. Paul (3-0)
8 (NR) Waconia (3-0)
9 (6) Sartell-St. Stephen (2-1)
10 (NR) Alexandria (3-0)
Others receiving votes: St. Michael-Albertville, Bemidji, Northfield, Chisago Lakes, St. Paul Central, Detroit Lakes, Hill-Murray, Marshall

1 (1) New London-Spicer (3-0)
2 (2) Albany (3-0)
3 (3) Pequot Lakes (3-0)
4 (5) Dassel-Cokato (3-0)
5 (7) Rochester Lourdes (3-0)
6 (6) Glencoe-Silver Lake (2-1)
7 (T9) Norwood-Young America (3-0)
8 (4) LeSueur-Henderson (2-1)
9 (NR) Milaca (3-0)
10 (NR) Holy Family Catholic (3-0)
Others receiving votes: Minneapolis Washburn, St. Croix Lutheran, La Crescent, Virginia, Breck, Sibley East, Pine City, Thief River Falls, Staples-Motley, Melrose

1 (1) Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (3-0)
2 (2) Eden Valley-Watkins (3-0)
2 (3) Luverne (3-0)
4 (4) Moose Lake-Willow River (3-0)
5 (5) Pierz (3-0)
6 (6) Southland (3-0)
7 (7) Caledonia (3-0)
8 (8) Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (3-0)
9 (T10) Lewiston-Altura (3-0)
10 (T10) Breckenridge (3-0)
Others receiving votes: Triton, Jackson County Central, Ottertail Central, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, Braham

1 (1) Minneota (3-0)
2 (2) Fosston (3-0)
3 (3) Barnesville (3-0)
4 (4) Springfield (3-0)
5 (5) Mahnomen (3-0)
6 (7) Browerville (3-0)
7 (8) Barnum (3-0)
8 (NR) Le Center (3-0)
9 (NR) New Ulm Cathedral (2-1)
10 (6) Royalton (2-1)
10 (NR) Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (2-1)
Others receiving votes: Blooming Prairie, Warren-Alvarado-Oslo, Upsala/Swanville, Lake of the Woods

1 (1) Stephen-Argyle (3-0)
2 (2) Nicollet (3-0)
3 (3) Grand Meadow (3-0)
4 (4) Edgerton/Ellsworth (3-0)
5 (5) Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (3-0)
6 (6) Goodridge-Grygla (3-0)
7 (7) McGregor (3-0)
8 (8) Underwood (3-0)
9 (NR) Hills-Beaver Creek (3-0)
10 (NR) Wheaton (3-0)
Others receiving votes: Cherry, Mountain Iron-Buhl, Floodwood, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Spring Grove, Littlefork-Big Falls

Belle Plaine’s Wolpern: Young, Homegrown Coach With Great Credentials9/23/2010
Cassie Wolpern is one of the youngest head coaches in Minnesota, and she’s also one of the most recognizable names in her sport.

Wolpern, 25, is the first-year volleyball coach at Belle Plaine, where she became a national volleyball figure before graduating in 2003. She was a four-time all-state selection and during her senior season she became the all-time national leader in career kills with 2,638; today she ranks fifth on that list. She holds the Minnesota prep record for career kills, as well as the single-season records for kills and blocks.

And now she’s back at her high school, running the show.

“It’s taking a lot out of me,” Wolpern said with a laugh early this week. “We’re 5-5 (7-5 after beating Norwood-Young America 3-1 on Thursday), and three of those losses were in the last game by two points. The emotional part of it has been tiring. But it’s a really, really good group of girls.”

Among that group is Wolpern’s kid sister (and only sibling), junior Abby Wolpern, a 6-foot middle hitter. The roster also includes sophomore setter/ hitter Haley Fogarty (who is the Wolperns’ first cousin) and sisters Kirsten Johnson and Sam Johnson.

“It’s a big family affair,” Cassie said.

Wolpern played one season at the University of San Diego before transferring to Minnesota State Mankato, where she graduated with a degree in finance. She began coaching Junior Olympic volleyball in Belle Plaine when the current juniors and seniors were in eighth grade.

She spent the past three years working as a volunteer assistant coach for Belle Plaine head coach Rich Foust. After last season, Foust wanted to have more time for his family. “Rich came to me and said, ‘I’m only going to give it up if you’re interested,’ ” Wolpern said. She took over this season for Foust, who now coaches the eighth-grade team.

Wolpern is back living in her hometown, having purchased a home last fall. She works as an accountant for the Scott County Sheriff’s Department.

She helped Belle Plaine reach the state volleyball tournament in her sophomore and junior years. The Tigers also went to state in 2005 but they haven’t been back since then. This season’s Tigers are ranked No. 10 in Class 2A.

“I still have the player competitiveness in me,” Wolpern said. “That’s kind of what I’m trying to bring back to the program; the passion, excitement and competitiveness.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 46
*Miles John has driven: 2,456

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