No matter where life takes Alex Pohlen, he will forever be the answer to a trivia question: Can you name the only Minnesota high school football player who played in the Metrodome, TCF Bank Stadium and U.S. Bank Stadium?
Alex is the man. The senior quarterback from Minneota added U.S. Bank Stadium to his travelogue on Saturday when the Vikings defeated Mayer Lutheran 54-21 in the Class 1A state semifinals. They will face Wabasso in Prep Bowl XXXVI next Saturday.
Now in his fourth year as a starter, Pohlen (pictured) took a few snaps as an eighth-grader in 2013 when Minneota beat Maple Lake during the state semifinals in the Metrodome. As a first-year starter in 2014 he guided the Vikings to a Prep Bowl victory over Dawson-Boyd at TCF Bank Stadium and they won another title in 2015, beating Minneapolis North at TCF Bank Stadium.
Minneota did not make it to state last season, losing to Wabasso in the Section 5 playoffs (Wabasso moved to Section 3 this fall). That loss to the Rabbits is the only defeat Pohlen has seen; his record as the starting quarterback is 49-1.
The opportunity to play in a big-league stadium even once is very special, and nobody in Minneota takes these things for granted.
“We’ve kind of talked as a staff about the privilege we’ve had to be able to coach in three great facilities,” said Vikings head coach Chad Johnston. “What a great career and what a wonderful experience for him to be able to play in three great facilities like this.”
Pohlen completed 15 of 19 passes (with one interception) for 210 yards and four touchdowns Saturday. He hit Cole Sanow for scores of 22 and 16 yards, Thomas Hennen for a 20-yard touchdown and Brant Buysse for a 32-yard TD. Alex also ran twice for 17 yards, punted once, kicked six extra points and kicked off four times. Oh, he also played defensive back.
“It couldn’t get any better,” he said. “Especially after last year, being a senior and coming back here for the state final, we’re excited.”
Pohlen, who had shoulder surgery after his sophomore season, has grown and matured, Johnston said.
“We tend to try to groom some young kids, and it just worked with the age gap that he was going to be our man as a freshman,” the coach said. “He’s come a long ways. I think his shoulder surgery affected him a little bit physically last year.
“When you think about what we do in terms of the passing game and the running game, he has not been sacked very much, he has not made too many mistakes throwing interceptions. One of the better things he’s done this year, and you saw it today, instead of taking a sack he’ll take off and scramble and get some yards.”
The young man who has seen it all will play his final game right where he wants to be, in a big stadium with his friends.
“I’m pretty fortunate to be able to say I did that,” Alex said, “and to play here in a state championship game is pretty sweet.”An Incredible Year For Ada-Borup/Norman County West
Before the football season began, expectations – at least on the outside – were not very high for the Cougars of Ada-Borup/Norman County West. One preseason poll predicted they would finish sixth in Class 1A Section 6, and here they were Saturday in the state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
A 21-13 loss to Wabasso dampened the enthusiasm a bit, but the Cougars had an amazing season considering the circumstances of where it all began. Last season, Ada-Borup and Norman County West fielded separate nine-man football teams, but dwindling numbers spurred the two schools to form a cooperative team this fall (as in volleyball and cross-country, too).
So not only did they have to make the adjustment from nine-man to 11-man football, they had to merge two programs into one.
“To jell together like we did and make the state semifinals is pretty incredible,” said coach Paul Tinjum. “For the kids to buy into the team aspect from two different schools, it was a phenomenal season.”
Senior Isaiah Walz, who had a game-high 9.5 tackles Saturday, said, “It was a great season. We had a ton of fun.”
With football season over, the two schools will now field their own basketball teams. Tournament Tidbits
--Pierz senior Cohlton Boser had a busy weekend. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium, he caught a touchdown pass, intercepted a pass and led Pierz with 10 tackles as the Pioneers defeated Jordan 55-26 in Class 3A. He also played the role of the Beast in the school production of “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday night and will do the same Sunday afternoon (he’s pictured with his sister Talyre).Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohnMSHSL Football State Semifinals
At U.S. Bank Stadium
Thursday, November 16
Nine-Man: Spring Grove 27, Stephen-Argyle 7
Class 2A: Caledonia 49, Paynesville 16
Class 4A: Holy Angels 26, Winona 22
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 26, Maple Grove 0 Friday, November 17
Nine-Man: Nevis 44, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 16
Class 2A: Pipestone 28, Moose Lake/Willow River 6
Class 5A: Elk River 51, Apple Valley 40
Class 4A: Cloquet 40, South St. Paul 21
Class 6A: Minnetonka 17, Cretin-Derham Hall 14Saturday, November 18
Class 1A: Wabasso 21, Ada-Borup/Norman County West 13
Class 1A: Minneota 54, Mayer Lutheran 21
Class 3A: Pierz 55, Jordan 26
Class 3A: St. Croix Lutheran 45, Pequot Lakes 7
Class 5A: Owatonna 56, Brainerd 28Prep Bowl XXXVI
At U.S. Bank Stadium
Friday, November 24
10 a.m.: Nine-Man/ Spring Grove (13-0) vs. Nevis (11-1)
1 p.m.: Class 2A/ Caledonia (12-0) vs. Pipestone (12-1)
4 p.m.: Class 4A/ Holy Angels (11-1) vs. Cloquet (12-0)
7 p.m.: Class 6A/ Eden Prairie (12-0) vs. Minnetonka (11-1)Saturday, November 25
10 a.m.: Class 1A/ Minneota (13-0) vs. Wabasso (13-0)
1 p.m.: Class 3A/ St. Croix Lutheran (12-0) vs. Pierz (12-0)
4 p.m.: Class 5A/ Owatonna (11-1) vs. Elk River (11-1)