John's Journal
'It’s Not Good For Kids, It’s Really Not What High School Sports Is About'9/17/2010
Nobody involved with football at Wayzata High School is asking for sympathy. A little bit of understanding would be nice, however.

The Trojans are 3-0 this season after Thursday night’s 23-7 victory over Edina. The oddity of that 3-0 record is that Wayzata has reached the halfway point in the regular season. Yes, instead of the usual eight games, the Trojans are playing only six this fall.

They belong to the Lake Conference (the former Classic Lake), which consists of only five teams. That means each team has four conference games and must find four non-conference opponents. Wayzata opened the season with non-conference games against Owatonna and Lakeville South. A scheduled Oct. 1 home game against Bradenton (Fla.) Prep Academy is now off the books because the Florida school has disbanded its football team.

This isn’t just a problem for the schools in the Lake Conference. Schools of all sizes, from all around Minnesota, face scheduling issues every year (in sports other than football, too) and the problem is not going away.

Discussions are underway about the possibility of revamping the football format in Minnesota. At the Fall Area Meetings -- which began last week in St. Cloud and will continue through early October in Mankato, Marshall, Fergus Falls, Thief River Falls, Chisholm, Rochester and Brooklyn Park – football scheduling issues are part of the agenda.

One possible change is adding a “zero week” to the season, allowing schools to play their first game one week earlier than usual and take a week off (without practicing) later in the season. Also under discussion is the possibility of adopting football schedules partially based on section alignment, with all teams advancing to the postseason or the top four teams in each section advancing.

Any such advancements would be welcome at Wayzata.

“It causes dilemmas because as we’re looking to fill the schedule, we literally start thinking, ‘How far can we get on a bus and drive?’ ” Trojans coach Brad Anderson said after Thursday’s game. “We were willing to drive all the way to Fort Wayne, Indiana, play a game, get right back on the bus and come home.

“It’s not good for kids, it’s really not what high school sports is about. I’m disappointed in the fact that it’s come to this point, and people don’t see it as a problem for all high schools. I think they’re looking at it like, ‘Oh, that’s Eden Prairie’s or Wayzata’s problem,’ but I would say this is a blemish on all high school sports right now and it’s something that has to be solved by everyone. We can’t solve the problem by ourselves. People who are higher up have to make the decision that this is not good for kids and make a change.”

The six-game schedule means Wayzata will essentially have two bye weeks in the final month of the regular season. After playing Hopkins on Sept. 24, they will have two weeks of practice before meeting Minnetonka on Oct. 8. Then comes another nearly two weeks off before facing Eden Prairie on Oct. 20 in the final regular-season game.

“We kind of started talking about that and we really didn’t want to get too focused on that,” Wayzata senior tailback Aaron Roth said. “Initially it was like, ‘This is the end of the world’ and ‘What are we going to do now?’ It wasn’t really panic mode, but we were all a little nervous. Now that we’ve got some games under our belt, we’re just going to take it step by step."

Roth was limited to six games last year because he suffered an injury that prematurely ended his season. This time around, it’s tougher to take.

“It’s frustrating because last year I broke my ankle and that was hard enough,” he said. “It’s tough because I come back for my senior year and we only had seven games to start with, so that’s kind of a bummer.”

Anderson said he has stressed to his players that they can’t worry about things that are out of their control.

“What I told our players is that we can only play the games that are on our schedule. Don’t worry about what we don’t have control over,” he said. “We’re going to play every game as hard as we can. The week in between, we’ll figure out how to turn it into a positive.

“Our players just want to play, but the bottom line is we don’t have games those weeks. It does us no good to complain about it, and all we can do is try and figure out how we can make our team better during that week.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 40
*Miles John has driven: 1,956

--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
A Football Friday Like Few Others9/17/2010
Well, now THAT was fun.

St. Thomas Academy’s 22-21 victory over Mahtomedi on Friday night was as entertaining a football game as you will ever see. Things went down to the wire and a little beyond before we had a winner.

It was 14-14 at halftime and no points were scored in the third quarter. Mahtomedi went ahead 21-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter when – after a 45-yard run by Brenton Braddock – Dan Ferrazzo hit Cody Gerver on an 8-yard TD pass.

Mahtomedi looked ready to wrap up the win … until the Zephyrs fumbled the ball away on the St. Thomas Academy 10-yard line with 4:58 to play. The Cadets converted twice on fourth down to stay alive, and they scored with 11 seconds left when Ryan McManus threw to Augie Braddock for a 15-yard score. Will Ratelle ran in the two-point conversion and the Cadets led 22-21.

But … a Hail Mary pass put Mahtomedi on the Cadets 16 with less than a second remaining, and from there a field goal attempt sailed wide, unleashing a wild celebration by the Cadets.(As in this photo.)

Whew. This was one of those evenings when a guy like me thanks his lucky stars that he does what he does. Watching two teams that have worked so hard -- representing two schools with terrific reputations – and see the game remain undecided until the last tick of the clock ... well, that’s hard to beat.

(To see a photo gallery and HD video of the game's crucial plays, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

St.Thomas Academy is No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press Class 4A poll and Mahtomedi is No. 4. In last season’s 4A state semifinals, the Cadets beat Mahtomedi 20-15. These two teams from the Classic Suburban Conference have developed one of the strongest rivalries in Minnesota.

And let me say something about the facilities at St. Thomas Academy. The football stadium is probably the finest at any high school in the state. Artificial turf, gigantic and modern two-level press box, great sightlines … this place has everything you want.

The atmosphere was special, too, on this September evening. Here are a few glimpses of what I saw and heard …

The STA band opening the festivities by playing “Sweet Caroline” and “Crazy Train.” The officials trading fist bumps before spreading out across the field for the opening kickoff. The STA color guard presenting the colors for the national anthem. A friendly guy on the sidelines offering me a few sprays of mosquito repellent.

The Cadets running a formation with eight (eight!) receivers split wide on fourth down right before halftime. Watching a basketball (a basketball!) roll down a grass berm near the field and finding myself stepping onto the field to kick it back to the kids who were playing with it. Hearing Minnesota Sports Broadcast Network play-by-play guy Nick Walsh describe a long-yardage situation as “second down and a country mile.”

Appreciating the STA uniforms, which are sharp: white pants, blue jerseys, blue helmets and bright white facemasks. Trying to keep the two running backs named Braddock straight: Augie for STA and Brenton for Mahtomedi. Hearing the STA coaches in the press box scream into their headphones, “Who’s got Braddock!”

The outstanding STA/Visitation marching band playing “Eleanor Rigby” at halftime. Enjoying the stadium turf and knowing that Mahtomedi’s grass field will become artificial turf for the 2011 season …and the Zephyrs’ tiny wooden shack of a press box also will be replaced. The media rejoices!

And, finally, checking my email while sitting in the STA press box and reading this dispatch from one of my buddies at my former place of employment, the Minneapolis Star Tribune (I left the Strib for the MSHSL six months ago):

“Mr. Media Specialist: The call of the evening to the Star Tribune Sports department on Thursday went like this:
S-T: Sports.
Caller: Yes, I have a prep football game to report.
S-T: Which game is it?
Caller: The Edina-Wayzata game. John Millea was here but we thought we’d call the box in for him.
S-T: That’s great, but John Millea doesn’t work for us anymore.
Caller: He doesn’t? Really? Since when?”

My reply: “News must not reach Wayzata too rapidly ... or maybe I'm not as important as I thought I was.”

To which my former colleague responded: “I think both of your statements are correct.”

On that note, let’s call it a night. A great night.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 42
*Miles John has driven: 1,984

--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
New London-Spicer Takes Over Top Spot in 3A Football Poll9/16/2010
The top teams in the Associated Press football rankings remain unchanged this week with the exception of Class 3A. With previous No. 1 Glencoe-Silver Lake losing to Waconia last week, defending state champion New London-Spicer moved from No. 2 to No. 1. Glencoe-Silver Lake is No. 6 this week.

The other top-ranked teams are Eden Prairie in 5A, Totino-Grace in 4A, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in 2A, Minneota in 1A and Stephen-Argyle in Nine-Man.

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

CLASS 4A
1 (1) Totino-Grace (2-0)
2 (2) St. Thomas Academy (2-0)
3 (3) Mankato West (2-0)
4 (4) Mahtomedi (2-0)
5 (T6) Rogers (2-0)
6 (T6) Sartell-St. Stephen (2-0)
7 (T8) Becker (2-0)
8 (T8) South St. Paul (2-0)
9 (10) Winona (2-0)
10 (NR) Grand Rapids (2-0)
Others receiving votes: Benilde-St. Margaret's, Waconia, Alexandria, Mankato East, Northfield, St. Paul Central, Chisago Lakes, Delano, St. Paul Como Park, Detroit Lakes, Bemidji, St. Michael-Albertville, Marshall

CLASS 3A
1 (2) New London-Spicer (2-0)
2 (3) Albany (2-0)
3 (4) Pequot Lakes (2-0)
4 (5) LeSueur-Henderson (2-0)
5 (NR) Dassel-Cokato (2-0)
6 (1) Glencoe-Silver Lake (1-1)
7 (NR) Rochester Lourdes (2-0)
8 (NR) Minneapolis North (2-0)
9 (NR) Minneapolis Washburn (2-0)
9 (NR) Norwood-Young America (2-0)
Others receiving votes: Holy Family Catholic, Fairmont, Belle Plaine/Holy Family Academy, St. Croix Lutheran, Kasson-Mantorville, Mora, St. Anthony, Virginia, Staples-Motley, Thief River Falls, Pine City, Foley, Breck, La Crescent, Milaca

CLASS 2A
1 (1) Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (2-0)
2 (3) Eden Valley-Watkins (2-0)
3 (2) Luverne (2-0)
4 (4) Moose Lake-Willow River (2-0)
5 (5) Pierz (2-0)
6 (6) Southland (2-0)
7 (7) Caledonia (2-0)
8 (8) Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (2-0)
9 (10) Jackson County Central (2-0)
10 (NR) Lewiston-Altura (2-0)
10 (NR) Breckenridge (2-0)
Others receiving votes: Triton, Ottertail Central, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Pelican Rapids, Warroad

CLASS 1A
1 (1) Minneota (2-0)
2 (2) Fosston (2-0)
3 (3) Barnesville (2-0)
4 (5) Springfield (2-0)
5 (4) Mahnomen (2-0)
6 (6) Royalton (2-0)
7 (7) Browerville (2-0)
8 (8) Barnum (2-0)
9 (10) Wabasso (2-0)
10 (NR) Red Lake County (2-0)
Others receiving votes: Warren-Alvarado-Oslo, Blooming Prairie, Le Center, New Ulm Cathedral

NINE-MAN
1 (1) Stephen-Argyle (2-0)
2 (2) Nicollet (2-0)
3 (3) Grand Meadow (2-0)
4 (4) Edgerton/Ellsworth (2-0)
5 (6) Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (2-0)
6 (T7) Goodridge-Grygla (2-0)
7 (T7) McGregor (2-0)
8 (10) Underwood (2-0)
9 (9) Cherry (1-1)
10 (5) Kittson County Central (1-1)
Others receiving votes: Hills-Beaver Creek, Nevis, Mountain Iron-Buhl, Floodwood, Wheaton











It's The Halfway Point In The Regular Season For One Football Team9/16/2010
The John's Journal staff will be at Wayzata tonight as the Trojans reach the halfway point in the regular season. That's right, tonight is Game 3 on Wayzata's six-game schedule.

Tonight's game vs. Edina is also the first of four Lake Conference games for Wayzata. The Trojans were able to find only three non-conference opponents -- Owatonna, Lakeville South and Bradenton (Fla.) Prep Academy -- but the Florida school has disbanded its football team. So Wayzata is down to six games in the regular season.

A full postgame photo/video gallery will be posted on the MSHSL Facebook page and a game report will be seen right here late this evening ...
Sportsmanship Is Out There ... If You Know Where To Look9/16/2010
Sportsmanship is a big topic of conversation, on the heels of a play involving the New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter. He was batting against Tampa when an inside pitched appeared to hit him. Jeter grabbed his left arm in pain and umpire Lance Barksdale told him to go to first base. The Rays argued the call, and Tampa manager Joe Maddon was ejected during the argument.

After the game, reporters asked Jeter if the ball really did hit him. He admitted that it didn’t.

“(Barksdale) told me to go to first base. I’m not going to tell him I’m not going to first, you know,” Jeter said. “It’s part of the game. My job is to get on base.”

I played baseball, I am a former baseball umpire and I know how baseball works. You try to steal signs, you try to work the umpires. That’s been a part of the game for as long as the game has existed.

I remember sitting in a college classroom taking an exam. A guy sitting next to me whispered to get my attention, then made a motion asking me to place my test paper where he could see it. Sorry, buddy. You’re on your own in here. That is not part of this game.

A column by Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis Star Tribune earlier this month told a tremendous story of sportsmanship on the college level. The volleyball team at Northwestern College in Roseville has adopted what is referred to as “honor calls.” In effect, if the officials miss a call, the Eagles will correct it, even if the call goes against them.

Example: When an Eagles blocker touches an opponent's shot that goes out of bounds -- and the officials don't see the touch -- the Eagles self-report it, costing themselves a point.

The team’s commitment to honor calls resulted in the Eagles receiving the NCAA Student-Athlete Sportsmanship Award for female athletes.

“It was a hard thing to get used to,” senior setter Leah Kostek told Blount. “I’m so competitive that the first few times it happened on crucial points, I had to tell myself, ‘This is a good thing! This is a good thing!’ I was really frustrated, but deep down, I knew it was the right thing to do. I’m proud of my teammates, and I’m proud to be an Eagle.”

In a similar vein, one of the great marvels of high school sports in Minnesota is the sportsmanship on display at the girls’ and boys’ state tennis tournaments. When a ball lands close to the line, it is up to the players to make the call. In? Out? The player on the receiving end of the shot calls it. Chair umpires are seated for state championship matches, but they are there on only a contingency basis. They may overrule a player’s call, but that is extremely rare.

So examples of great sportsmanship are out there. You just need to know where to look.