John's Journal
Homecoming In St. Charles: Saints vs. Gophers 10/14/2018
ST. CHARLES – When Chatfield senior running back Gage Tuohy raced 59 yards for a touchdown with 96 seconds left in Friday night’s football game, it put the wraps on a couple of things. Gage’s second touchdown sealed the Gophers’ 22-6 victory over St. Charles and kept one of the state’s oldest athletic trophies right where it was, and it also ended a day of festive events in this town of 3,700 located 25 miles east of Rochester.

The result of the Week 7 game gave both teams a record of 6-1; they came into the contest holding Top 10 rankings in Class 2A, the Saints at No. 5 and Chatfield at No. 9. The top-ranked team is nearby Caledonia, which handed the Gophers their only loss and will play host to the Saints on Wednesday as the regular season ends.

A few hours before kickoff, St. Charles High School students were packed into the gymnasium for the crowning of Homecoming royalty. The big finish was preceded by loads of fun and games, cheers and music. Competitions were held to decide the champions of eating donuts (suspended on strings) and Fruit Roll-Ups without the use of hands. There were games with key elements that included whipped cream and marshmallows, the concert choir sang, the cheerleaders cheered.

After King Isaac Davidson and Queen Megan Shanahan had been successfully crowned, the gym cleared and the streets of St. Charles were filled with the Homecoming parade … well, a street or two were busy for a few minutes. This was the epitome of a wonderful small-town parade; a police cruiser, flags carried by veterans, a fire truck, the marching band, the Homecoming royalty riding on convertibles, teams, clubs and classes marching on foot or riding in pickups and trailers. The parade wound past the elementary school – with excited little kids standing curbside and receiving low fives from big kids – then made a pair of right turns and headed down Whitewater Avenue (aka Main Street) before returning to the high school.

Brief history lesson: St. Charles was named after Saint Charles Borromeo, archbishop of the Italian city of Milan in the 1500s. Chatfield carries the name of Andrew G. Chatfield, who was a member of the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court 300 years after Charlie’s reign as archbishop.

The setting for the football game could not have been better. The Saints football field is also the outfield for the baseball diamond, and some of the hometown students sat under blankets on comfy couches (I swear I also saw a lamp sitting on an end table) behind the west end zone. The setting sun illuminated a stand of color-shifting trees across U.S. Highway 14, and shortly before kickoff the steady clip-clop of a horse’s hooves could be heard on the highway as an Amish gentleman, flatbed wagon laden with groceries in white plastic bags, headed home from a trip to town.

After a quick 15-mile ride, the Chatfield Gophers disembarked from the bus at 6 o’clock in almost-full uniform. They strapped up their shoulder pads and pulled on their jerseys at the visitor’s bench just outside second base. They wore all white other than their maroon helmets. They looked sharp, although white pants weren’t in the original plan for this game.

A week earlier they had won at Lewiston-Altura, and mud was a main theme. The players’ moms do the football laundry for their sons, and Gophers coach Jeff Johnson had decided that, with another moist field likely after a week of rain, maroon pants would be worn at St. Charles so the moms would get a break. The players disagreed.

“I got a text from one of the kids who said, ‘Let’s keep it going with the white pants,’ ” Johnson said before kickoff. Why mess with a good thing?

The Saints wore all black with orange helmets, looking equally sharp. The St. Charles helmets carry an outstanding school logo, the letters SC underneath a halo.

As referee Tom Schultz and his crew met with the team captains for the coin toss, Tom conveyed an important message to the kids: “When you're done playing, consider becoming an official in any sports you enjoy. We need you.” This would be a great message from officials at any and all high school activities.

The game was up for grabs at halftime, with Chatfield leading 7-6. Tuohy’s first score made it 15-6 early in the third quarter before turnovers killed two Saints drives. That became a theme, especially for Chatfield senior Seth Allen, who intercepted four passes thrown by Saints sophomore Drew Maloney. Drew became the starter when senior Mark Buringa suffered a leg injury a week prior at Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

Mark had served as the master of ceremonies during the afternoon coronation ceremony, sitting behind a microphone (along with his crutches) at the scorer’s table. He watched the football game, wearing his No. 2 jersey, from the bed of a backed-up truck.

On the St. Charles sideline, two coaches walked back and forth, one wearing a headset and one wearing a well-worn ballcap. The Saints’ third-year head coach is Matt Reinhardt. His staff consists of Derrick Thompson, Nathan Whitacre and Jim Reinhardt. Matt (headphones) and Jim (ballcap) are son and dad.

Jim Reinhardt retired as the head coach at Rushford-Peterson in 2009. He had a career record of 198-68 over 24 years with the Trojans, where his teams won 23 conference championships, went to state nine times and won Class 1A state titles in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Matt Reinhardt, 33, played quarterback for Jim, 68, and became a teacher, just like his father.

“He knows a lot, he works well with the kids,” Matt said after the game. “He’s done such a good job with our offensive line this year, and our defensive line. That’s kind of made our season. And our kids really like him.”

More history: As the game ended and the teams exchanged handshakes, the Gophers ran to their bench to celebrate with what might be the oldest traveling trophy in Minnesota high school football. It’s called the Armistice Day Trophy.

Armistice Day marked the end of World War I in 1918. The end of hostilities took effect at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 that year, also known as the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The trophy, created by American Legion posts in Chatfield and St. Charles, was first contested in 1947. In the early days of the trophy, the game was always played on Armistice Day, whether Nov. 11 fell on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or whenever.

The Saints won the prize in 2015 and 2016, and now the Gophers have held it for two years in a row. It’s a glorious golden football resting on a wooden base, with the scores from each game in the series inscribed on metal plates.

Friday’s game ended at 9:11 p.m. and the Gophers were hoisting the Armistice Day Trophy by 9:15. Their white uniforms carried a little mud, but the moms of Chatfield will happily make them look like new.

“That’s a good football team and we knew they were going to pound the ball like they’ve always done,” Johnson said of the Saints. “Our kids had a great game plan defensively, and we did our best to stop them. We’ve faced this offense before and it’s one thing to game prep for it, and it’s another thing to have your kids execute. And they really did.”

Somewhere, Judge Andy Chatfield is proudly proclaiming bragging rights over Saint Charlie.

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Minnesota Football Stadiums: Here’s My Top 20 10/8/2018
I spend a lot of time at high school stadiums. And I love that part of my job. For football games I try to arrive a couple hours before kickoff, when the place is perfectly quiet. That provides a big contrast with what is to come: cheers, chants, whistles, bands, delirious screaming.

For the last few weeks I have been putting together a list of my favorite high school football fields in Minnesota. I have not seen all of them and I never will … as much as I wish I could. On Twitter I asked people to tell me about their favorite football fields, and I heard about many I have been to and some I have not yet seen.

For this exercise, I’m only listing stadiums I have seen in person. This is not any sort of definitive list, either. This is one person’s opinion and nothing more. If your favorite field is not included here, that doesn’t mean it’s not deserving.

My final list came down to 20 locations from all over Minnesota. Rather than list them in numerical order (which to me is impossible), I have placed them in several categories …

Best Modern Showplaces

--If you haven’t seen the giant tiger eyes at Farmington High School, you are missing something special. The entire stadium is first-class, with fans walking down to their seats from plazas on both sides. The school building, less than a decade old, stands beyond the south end zone; behind a glass wall on field level is a giant tiger’s face. After dark, the tiger is illuminated. It is really something.

--Buffalo High School opened a new facility recently, and it is special. The track is next door, so the football field is very close to seating on both sides. Like Farmington, there is artificial turf. The Bison have a large scoreboard with video display, adding to the long list of first-class amenities.

--Mountain Iron-Buhl plays in one of the finest new stadiums in the state. The Rangers’ turf field, which opened this fall, has bright red and gold touches and sits below very comfortable seating and a spacious plaza.

Small-Town Charm

--The press boxes in Grand Meadow and Spring Grove have multiple levels, with “luxury suites” available for fans who win raffles or auctions. A few families in Grand Meadow can sit on their backyard decks and watch the action. A superb touch in Spring Grove (as in many small towns): the football field is also the baseball outfield.

--In Cleveland, the field is sandwiched between a grassy hillside – where fans sit on lawn chairs, blankets and car hoods up in the parking lot – and a stand of trees. Very picturesque.

--Nicollet has one of the most intriguing press boxes in the state. The large multi-room structure, which used to stand above the Raceway Park auto track in Shakopee, was purchased via an online auction and put in place in Nicollet in 2014.

--In Adrian, the football field is located a few blocks from the high school. This means both teams stroll through the neighborhood on the way to the field and back. A single strand of rope marks the boundary between fans and field. A glorious example of small-town football.

American History

--The stadiums in International Falls and Bemidji were built as Works Progress Administration projects during the Great Depression of the 1930s and 1940s. Sports Stadium in International Falls features a concrete relief sculpture (pictured) of 1940s-era athletes created by a Minnesota-born sculptor named Evelyn Raymond. Scenic Chet Anderson Stadium in Bemidji has stood since 1939. Today it offers modern turf as well as historic original seating on both sides, just off the shore of Lake Bemidji.

Great Places to Watch Football

--Some spots simply offer outstanding views of the action. My favorites in this category include Jackson County Central, which has seating and press boxes on both sides of the field (with no track), and Rosemount, where the field is in a natural bowl surrounded by trees on two sides and a grass slope winding around one end of the field.

--The stadium in Esko is one of the state’s best small-school locations. There’s a turf field, scoreboard behind the visitor’s bench and cows grazing behind the scoreboard, plus a boulder at the entry emblazoned with the Finnish word “Sisu,” which is defined in several ways: extraordinary courage and determination in the face of adversity; persistence, endurance, resilience, tenacity, perseverance.

Cheer For Atmosphere

--What happens off the field is always important, and Becker High School is special in this regard. From the secret-sauce pork chops to the playing of Ram Jam’s 1977 version of “Black Betty” over the sound system every time the home team scores, Becker’s game atmosphere is tough to beat.

--The fields at Winona (pictured) and Wabasha-Kellogg, located near Mississippi River bluffs, offer striking scenery. Bluffs in the distance, an occasional bald eagle soaring overhead. Always great.

--At South St. Paul, the home team locker room is inside the school, which sits on a hill overlooking the field. This means when the Packers exit the locker room, they come down a steep dirt-and-wood staircase, as their predecessors have done for decades.

--Hutchinson has been a football school for a long, long time, and part of the Tigers’ appeal is S.R. Knutson Field. There’s nothing fancy, just natural grass, bleachers and a marvelous press box made from 2x4s and plywood. It’s old-school football at its finest.

My Two Favorites

When I began compiling notes for this project, the first two words I typed were “Anoka” and “Hastings.” Or maybe they were “Hastings” and “Anoka.” Either way, those schools lay proud claim to what I consider my favorite high school stadiums.

Goodrich Field is home of the Anoka Tornadoes and McNamara Stadium at Todd Field is home of the Hastings Raiders. Both are historic, both include grand stone walls on the perimeter, both stand proudly in the middle of town, and both have been centers of memory-making for as long as anyone can remember.

The facilities in Hastings and Anoka have been updated over the years, but both retain the charm of their early days. There is no artificial turf (although it will be coming to Hastings soon) and tradition is everywhere, especially in the stories that could be told by those old stone walls.

And no matter where the games take place, there’s nothing better than tradition.

I invite you to tell me about your favorite stadium. Send an email to jmillea@mshsl.org … I may share those in this space.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Class 3A Volleyball Rankings10/7/2018
From the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

CLASS 3A
1. Champlin Park (9) - 148
2. Lakeville North - 140
3. Eagan (1) - 132
4. Lakeville South - 120
5. East Ridge - 114
6. Minnetonka - 100
7. Stillwater - 85
8. Shakopee - 77
9. Northfield - 66
10. North St. Paul - 49
Others Receiving Votes - Forest Lake - 19
Teams only appearing on one ballot: none
Class 2A Volleyball Rankings10/7/2018
From the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

CLASS 2A
1. Stewartville (11) - 179
2. Kasson-Mantorville (1) - 169
3. Marshall - 150
4. Concordia Academy - 145
5. North Branch - 129
6. Kenyon-Wanamingo - 103
7. Sauk Centre - 102
8. Belle Plaine - 94
9. Academy of Holy Angels - 79
10. Watertown-Mayer - 72
Others Receiving Votes: SW Christian - 23
Teams only appearing on one ballot: JCC, St. Cloud Cathedral
Class 1A Volleyball Rankings10/7/2018
From the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

CLASS 1A
1. Minneota (15) - 239
2. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (1) - 218
3. Mayer Lutheran - 198
4. Wabasso - 188
5. Mabel-Canton - 168
6. Pine River-Backus - 159
7. Ada-Borup-West - 138
8. BOLD - 121
9. Windom - 94
10. Caledonia - 48
Others Receiving Votes: Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa - 40, New Life Academy - 25, Carlton - 13
Teams only appearing on one ballot: Bethlehem Academy, Yellow Medicine East, Sacred Heart