John's Journal
Jackson County Central Football And A Viral Video11/25/2019
On a peaceful November Monday in Jackson County there was some measure of disappointment that the Jackson County Central Huskies would not be playing at the Prep Bowl later in the week. But those feelings were tempered by an immeasurable amount of pride in knowing what the world thought of the boys on the football team from the little southwest Minnesota town near the Iowa border.

In a tiny gym inside Pleasantview Elementary in Lakefield, 12 miles from Jackson, four of those boys were teaching. The senior team captains -- Nathaniel Post, Bradley Buhl Jr., Rudy Voss and Jack Brinkman – spent the day with fifth- and sixth-graders, playing games and talking about what's important. They emphasized words like respect, character, hard work. And love.

"The three things that I want you guys to take with you are things that I live by, that we all live by," Voss said to the kids sitting on the gym floor. "The first one is love. Love each other, respect each other, form a bond with each other. The second one is work hard. Work hard in anything you guys do, whether it's sports, the classroom, group projects, work hard. And the third one is respect. Respect each other, respect your teachers, respect your parents. Holding the door for someone, saying please and thank you, that's the kind of people we want you guys to be.”

If Rudy's name sounds familiar, it's probably because you’ve seen a viral video from the Nov. 16 Class 3A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. After the Huskies lost a heartbreaking 20-14 decision to Pierz in a game between unbeaten teams, Voss, Buhl and coach Tom Schuller spoke to the media in the Vikings’ postgame interview room.

The video is emotional and stirring. Rudy, through tears, talked about football being a blessing in his life, the bond among the 21 seniors, how wins and losses don’t define them. At one point, Rudy is unable to speak and Bradley takes over, putting a hand on his teammate’s back and talking about how at the start of the season each player was asked to do their job and trust each other.

At that point, no one knew the impact their words would have. Two days later, A.J. Feldman of Lakeland News in Brainerd and Bemidji (who was covering Pierz) Tweeted a video clip of Rudy and Bradley that lasted 2 minutes, 12 seconds. And that video went off like a rocket.

It was re-Tweeted by NFL Hall of Famers, posted on a social media platform called TikTok by the NFL, went viral on the MSHSL Facebook page and just about everywhere else. It’s safe to say that millions have seen it and countless numbers of young athletes have been inspired by it. People as far away as Australia and Ireland have liked it on Twitter, and Voss and Buhl have received private social media messages from Scotland and many other locations.

“I can't tell you how many DMs (direct messages) I've had and Brad's had,” Rudy said after the school day ended. “Just kids that have reached out to us and said, ‘You're an inspiration, you make me want to work harder’ and things like that. That’s probably the best thing. It’s awesome. It’s just crazy how worldwide it is.”

The background of the video includes a Vikings logo, and at least one viewer thought the two players were local NFLers.

“One of our favorite comments was a guy saying, ‘Can you believe these grown men, professionals, are crying. This is their job,’ ” Voss said, laughing.

As the video went wild, JCC activities director Shelly Hotzler came up with the idea of having the captains share their message with younger students. On Tuesday they spent the day in a similar fashion with middle schoolers.

At the elementary school Monday, Brinkman asked the younger kids if they had seen the video. Of course they had.

“Yeah, these guys are like famous now,” he said. “Isn’t that cool? So these two showed really good character. They went into that press conference and they talked. They were asked questions like, ‘What does football mean to you? What does your team mean to you?’ And these two came up with the best answers you could have asked for, and that's why they're famous. They said that it wasn't about the games that meant the most, it was being with the teammates, being with the coaches, the lifting, the bus rides, all that.

“Events are going to happen, sometimes bad things happen. It's how you respond, which is the biggest part, and they responded really well. Which is why something like 10 million people have seen the video. It’s how you respond. So if something bad happens in your life, respond well. Be kind.”

Schuller, who teaches special education, admits he isn’t well-versed in social media. But he knows about the character of students at his school and players on his team.

“You could have had eight to 10 guys who would have sounded like that,” he said. “That's the really crazy thing about it. I mean, we have a lot of very articulate kids that would have had the same thoughts. That's a special group, there's no doubt.”

Brinkman agreed, saying “Truly, I think what they said was perfect and if you asked any of the other seniors they would have had a similar response. I think our coaches have instilled that in us.”

Schuller said he was proud of his players, because they gave it everything they had against Pierz. Jackson County Central led 14-0 after the first quarter and was in front until Pierz took the lead on a 48-yard touchdown pass with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter.

“One of our big things is we tell the guys if you do your best, that's got to be good enough,” Schuller said. “You have to make sure that kids trust you, that when they put it out there, it is good enough. And what they put out there that day was. And that's the first thing I said to the Pierz kids; we congratulated them and said it was everything we had, and they said that was everything they had, too.

“And we said ‘Good luck.’ I don't know if I'll watch the championship game (Pierz will meet Dassel-Cokato for the state title on Saturday) because that was a tough loss but we have a lot of respect for the Pierz team and their players. I don't think there was a cross word said out there between the players or coaches and officials and it was kind of what we're trying for in athletics.”

Still, it was a tough loss to take. And seeing the video remains difficult for some.

“That video is still hard to watch for all of us,” Post said. “I watched it the first time with my mom next to me and she couldn't finish watching it. But it just kind of explains the brotherhood we have going on here.”

Voss said, “I couldn’t even remember what I said. After I left the room I had a little idea but I had so many emotions. You could have asked me a couple hours later and I really couldn't remember what I even said.”

There’s no need to remember the details now. The world knows.

--See the video on the MSHSL Facebook page along with photos from Monday.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Dakota United, South Washington County Are Adapted Soccer Champs11/23/2019
When the adapted soccer teams from Dakota United and St. Paul Humboldt advanced to Saturday's Physically Impaired (PI) championship game at Stillwater High School, there were no surprises. The same teams met a year ago for the title, with Humboldt winning a narrow 5-4 decision. They met again three previous times this season, with Dakota United winning two of those matchups.

That trend continued in the gold-medal game, with Dakota United topping Humboldt 5-2. Sophomore forward Samuel Gerten scored all five of United’s goals, while freshman wing Donte Willis and sophomore defender Liban Farah scored for Humboldt.

"We had a great weekend, all the players did a phenomenal job,” said Dakota United Coach Lorrie Buecksler. “You know your top players need to play well but really our whole team needed to play well to get through all the way to a championship. And every single one of our players was ‘on’ this weekend in every game they played, and that was crucial.

“That was key to actually taking this tournament because Humboldt is amazing. They're a great team. We knew they were extremely tough. But honestly, our players needed to be ‘on’ and they were. They look for who's open, they do exactly what I say most of the time, but it was the fact that every kid I put out from the bench took off and put it all out on the court. They knew what to do and they were able to do it really well.”

In the Cognitively Impaired (CI) Division, South Washington County defeated Chaska/Chanhassen/Prior Lake/Shakopee 3-1 in the championship game. Tyler Tinucci scored twice for South Washington County and Brian Barcelon had one goal. Nathan Castaneda scored for Chaska/Chanhassen/Prior Lake/Shakopee.

Adapted soccer state tournament

PI Division Results

Fifth-place game
Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka 11, Anoka-Hennepin 3
Third-place game
Rochester 3, Minneapolis South 1
Championship
Dakota United 5, St. Paul Humboldt 2

CI Division Results
Fifth-place game
Dakota United 3, St. Cloud Area 0
Third-place game
South Suburban 5, Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville 3
Championship
South Washington County 3, Chaska/Chanhassen/Prior Lake/Shakopee 1

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Dakota United, South Washington County Are Adapted Soccer Champs11/23/2019
When the adapted soccer teams from Dakota United and St. Paul Humboldt advanced to Saturday's Physically Impaired (PI) championship game at Stillwater High School, there were no surprises. The same teams met a year ago for the title, with Humboldt winning a narrow 5-4 decision. They met again three previous times this season, with Dakota United winning two of those matchups.

That trend continued in the gold-medal game, with Dakota United topping Humboldt 5-2. Sophomore forward Samuel Gerten scored all five of United’s goals, while freshman wing Donte Willis and sophomore defender Liban Farah scored for Humboldt.

"We had a great weekend, all the players did a phenomenal job,” said Dakota United Coach Lorrie Buecksler. “You know your top players need to play well but really our whole team needed to play well to get through all the way to a championship. And every single one of our players was ‘on’ this weekend in every game they played, and that was crucial.

“That was key to actually taking this tournament because Humboldt is amazing. They're a great team. We knew they were extremely tough. But honestly, our players needed to be ‘on’ and they were. They look for who's open, they do exactly what I say most of the time, but it was the fact that every kid I put out from the bench took off and put it all out on the court. They knew what to do and they were able to do it really well.”

In the Cognitively Impaired (CI) Division, South Washington County defeated Chaska/Chanhassen/Prior Lake/Shakopee 3-1 in the championship game. Tyler Tinucci scored twice for South Washington County and Brian Barcelon had one goal. Nathan Castaneda scored for Chaska/Chanhassen/Prior Lake/Shakopee.

Adapted soccer state tournament

PI Division Results

Fifth-place game
Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka 11, Anoka-Hennepin 3
Third-place game
Rochester 3, Minneapolis South 1
Championship
Dakota United 5, St. Paul Humboldt 2

CI Division Results
Fifth-place game
Dakota United 3, St. Cloud Area 0
Third-place game
South Suburban 5, Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville 3
Championship
South Washington County 3, Chaska/Chanhassen/Prior Lake/Shakopee 1

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Everybody Wins When Perspective Is Proper 11/16/2019
Gratefulness. Appreciation. Pride.

Win or lose, those were prominent themes during three big days of high school football at U.S. Bank Stadium. The state semifinals, 14 games in all from Thursday morning to late Saturday night, are always an amalgam of tiny schools from tiny towns and great big schools from great big towns and everything in between.

It's no surprise that the winners were thrilled and the losing teams were disappointed. But if someone eavesdropping on Saturday's postgame interview sessions had been confused about who won or who lost, it would have been understandable.

One coach ended a lengthy opening statement with these words: "I'm going to walk out of here and go talk to my kids with my head high because they deserve it."

That was Browerville-Eagle Valley's Wayne "Ribsy" Petermeier. His Tigers lost to BOLD 56-7 in Class 1A but he seemed for all the world like a coach whose team had just won. And they had … maybe not on the scoreboard but in more important ways.

“I couldn't be prouder of a group of kids,” Petermeier said. “At the beginning of the year we weren't even supposed to be in the top four in our district. You know, they were talking about a whole bunch of other teams and 'watch out for this team’ and ‘watch out for that team’ and not once was our name in any of those thoughts. And we just kept getting better and better and better. We had a group of seniors that didn't play a whole lot last year and they stepped up and they just played outstanding. I couldn't be prouder of a group of kids that gave everything they had.

“At the beginning of this year our mantra was to be committed. Be committed to the team, be committed to yourself, be committed to the guy next to you and be committed in school. And they took that to heart. Every one of our kids got better in the classroom. Every one of them got better on the football field.”

A few hours later, a winning coach was nearly brought to tears when asked about the team’s clinching of a long-dreamed-of Prep Bowl berth. The coach was Chad Gimbel of Blooming Prairie, which defeated Ada-Borup 41-0 and will meet BOLD in the state championship game on Nov. 29.

This is the fourth time an Awesome Blossoms team coached by Gimbel has been to the state playoffs, but this will be their first appearance in the Prep Bowl. Gimbel stopped to gather himself when talking about the significance of that achievement.

“I've been doing this for 23 years and this is our fourth time so it’s a big breakthrough with this group of guys, and that's awesome,” he said. “It’s a great group of senior leaders and stuff but, you know, as a coach and player that’s been through it for so many years, to finally break through and get that opportunity; that's a huge step for us and for our program, and for our kids. I'm super happy that they get to experience this, because I haven't gotten to this point in 23 years so hopefully they take the message that this is quite a step and not everybody gets to do this.”

Before Gimbel became coach, Blooming Prairie also went to the state playoffs three times in the 1970s and once in the 1980s. The current Blossoms are aware of what came before them.

“This isn't just our accomplishment,” said senior Jarrett Larson. “This is for all the great football players before us that have carried on the Blossom way, taught us tradition, taught us how to play Blossom football the right way.”

Dassel-Cokato plays with a purpose

The Chargers of Dassel-Cokato, who defeated Annandale 24-14 in Saturday’s Class 3A semifinals, know about loss. And that knowledge has nothing to do with football.

Two years ago Jacob McDonald, a multi-sport athlete, died from a freak peanut allergy incident. His classmates are now seniors and they have his No. 34 jersey with them on the bus, in the locker room and on the bench.

“He was a terrific leader,” said senior Sanders Asplin. “That's why he's our honorary captain this year. He’s been an inspiration for all of us to play our hardest, because you never know what could happen.”

Chargers coach Ryan Weinandt said his team has learned lessons about facing adversity.

“We have been in these (close) games before, and these guys have shown a ton of resiliency,” he said. “This group went through a lot and showed a ton of resiliency. We've kind of seen the worst and we know losing a football game isn't that. We've learned that no matter what happens, we're going to stick together and we're going to fight, and they’ve got to believe.”

Girls state swimming and diving

--Visitation won the Class 1A girls swimming and diving state title Saturday at the University of Minnesota Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center. The Blazers scored 318 points, followed by Hutchinson with 250 and a tie for third between Delano and Sauk Centre at 145. New 1A state meet records: 50 freestyle, Grace Hanson, Hutchinson, 22.79 (tied previous record); 100 backstroke, Emma Kern, Delano, 54.95; 400 freestyle relay, Hutchinson, 3:26.4.

--In Class 2A, Edina won the team state title with 344 points, followed by Minnetonka at 305, Eden Prairie at 205 and Wayzata at 189.

Football State Semifinals At U.S. Bank Stadium

THURSDAY
9-MAN/ Hancock 65, Mountain Iron-Buhl 32
2A/ Minneapolis North 55, Paynesville 32
4A/ SMB 22, Hutchinson 16
6A/ Champlin Park 31, Lakeville North 21

FRIDAY
9-MAN/ Mountain Lake Area 45, Win-E-Mac 6
2A/ Caledonia 43, Barnesville 12
5A/ Chaska 34, Coon Rapids 14
4A/ Rocori 48, Winona 24
6A/ Wayzata 28, Lakeville South 14

SATURDAY
1A/ BOLD 56, Browerville-Eagle Valley 7
1A/ Blooming Prairie 41, Ada-Borup 0
3A/ Dassel-Cokato 24, Annandale 14
3A/ Pierz 20, Jackson County Central 14
5A/ St. Thomas Academy 53, Elk River 16

PREP BOWL XXXVIII
At U.S. Bank Stadium


Friday, November 29
10 a.m. Class 1A: BOLD vs. Blooming Prairie
1 p.m. Class 2A: Minneapolis North vs. Caledonia
4 p.m. Class 4A: SMB vs. Rocori
7 p.m. Class 6A: Champlin Park vs. Wayzata

Saturday, November 30
10 a.m. Nine-Man: Hancock vs. Mountain Lake Area
1 p.m. Class 3A: Dassel-Cokato vs. Pierz
4 p.m. Class 5A: Chaska vs. St. Thomas Academy

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Two Jobs, Two Schools, Two Trips To State11/15/2019
Aaron Cook wore the red, white and blue colors of the Win-E-Mac Patriots during Friday's Nine-Man football state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. During Saturday's Class 1A semifinals he will wear the red and black of the Ada-Borup Cougars.

Cook, 32, was on the sideline as Win-E-Mac's head coach. He will be in the stands as Ada-Borup's interim superintendent. He is a busy man.

"It's been a little crazy, with a lot of time on the road," said Cook, who lives in Erskine (that's the E in Win-E-Mac, along with Winner and McIntosh) and drives about 50 miles to Ada and back each day.

He was named Ada-Borup's superintendent earlier this year; he's in the process of completing certification for the job (thus the "interim" label). He previously was finance/business manager for both schools along with working as athletic director at Win-E-Mac.

He's a Win-E-Mac graduate who has been the Patriots' head football coach for three years. The trip to the state tournament is their first since 1991.

"It's been a lot of fun for Win-E-Mac," he said after the Patriots lost to Mountain Lake Area 45-6 Friday. "The school support, the community support has been great. The firetruck escorts out of town for the section championship, the state quarters, the state semis. Fans were on buses that left today at three in the morning to get down here, so the community support has been absolutely awesome and it's been a fun ride.

"We told the guys to really relish the moment and have fun with it; it's not something you get to do every day. Every state tournament appearance should be treated like this, even if you're a school that goes more often than we have; even if you're a school that goes more often, you've got to cherish it. It's a new group of kids each year. You've got to have fun with it. And then the community's been absolutely amazing, the school's been amazing with the support we've had. So kudos to everyone back in the Win-E-Mac area. It's been a fun ride."

Class 2A: Caledonia 43, Barnesville 12

Quarterback Noah King led the Warriors by completing 13 of 25 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for two scores. Caledonia will meet Minneapolis North in the Prep Bowl on Nov. 29.

Caledonia, which has won state titles every year since 2015, extended its winning streak to 67 games. The state record is 76 by Stephen-Argyle from 2002 to 2008. A Prep Bowl victory would give Caledonia five titles in a row, matching Stephen-Argyle's record.

Caledonia and Barnesville met in last year’s Prep Bowl, with Caledonia winning 21-0.

The Warriors have a reputation based on strength and speed, and Trojans coach Bryan Strand said they prepared for the Warriors’ speed by practicing against what he called "college speed."

Strand’s son Michael just finished his senior football season at Minnesota State Moorhead. Michael and some other athletes, including former basketball players, from his school met the Warriors at the Fargodome to work out.

"They came out and just ran routes against us,” Bryan Strand said. “They ran routes for about an hour and 20 minutes. When something went wrong, we fixed it. But we weren’t as tired then as we were today. I thought we battled the pass pretty well in the first half. As the game went on, as they wore us down, we just tuckered out.”

Class 5A: Chaska 34, Coon Rapids 14

Nic Snuggerud scored on a 97-yard pass from Grif Wurtz to open the scoring and kicked 52- and 23-yard field goals as the Hawks advanced to the Prep Bowl against the winner of Saturday’s Elk River-St. Thomas Academy game. Stevo Klotz scored on runs of 36 and 6 yards for Chaska.

The record for the longest field goal in state history is 55 yards by Dan Salzgeber of New London-Spicer in 1999.

Class 4A: Rocori 48, Winona 24

Quarterback Jack Steil accounted for more than 300 yards of offense and five touchdowns in powering the Spartans into a Prep Bowl matchup with SMB on Nov. 29. Steil, who will play baseball at the University of Nebraska, rushed 19 times for 168 yards and five touchdowns. He also completed eight of 12 passes for 134 yards.

Class 6A: Wayzata 28, Lakeville South 14

The unbeaten Trojans advanced to Prep Bowl XXXVIII, where they will meet Champlin Park on Nov. 29. Champlin Park defeated Lakeville North 31-21 on Thursday night. Christian Vasser led Wayzata with 44 rushing attempts for 269 yards and three touchdowns.

Officially bowing out after 40 years

Referee Dave Lundquist of Woodbury worked his final football game Friday -- the Class 6A semifinal between Wayzata and Lakeville South -- after 40 years. He posted this message on Facebook: “I have decided to step aside and let some younger people take over. I have been so blessed to spend every Fall Friday night with my best friends. Although some of the faces changed through the years, the memories I have will last a lifetime. I will miss the kids, but mostly I will miss the guys and girls who also wore the stripes out there with me.”

Hutchinson relay teams sets state meet record

During Friday’s preliminaries of the Class 1A swimming and diving state championships at the University of Minnesota, Hutchinson’s 400 freestyle relay team set a new 1A state meet record. The quartet of Grace Hanson, Madison Witte, Haley Farrell and Lexi Kucera finished in 3:27.06.

Football State Semifinals At U.S. Bank Stadium

THURSDAY
9-MAN/ Hancock 65, Mountain Iron-Buhl 32
2A/ Minneapolis North 55, Paynesville 32
4A/ SMB 22, Hutchinson 16
6A/ Champlin Park 31, Lakeville North 21

FRIDAY
9-MAN/ Mountain Lake Area 45, Win-E-Mac 6
2A/ Caledonia 43, Barnesville 12
5A/ Chaska 34, Coon Rapids 14
4A/ Rocori 48, Winona 24
6A/ Wayzata 28, Lakeville South 14

SATURDAY
1A/ BOLD (12-0) vs. Browerville-Eagle Valley (10-1), 9 a.m.
1A/ Ada-Borup (10-1) vs. Blooming Prairie (11-0), 11:30 a.m.
3A/ Annandale (11-1) vs. Dassel-Cokato (9-3), 2 p.m.
3A/ Pierz (12-0) vs. Jackson County Central (11-0), 4:30 p.m.
5A/ Elk River (11-1) vs. St. Thomas Academy (10-1), 7 p.m.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.