John's Journal
In A Game Of Inches, Totino-Grace Comes Out On Top11/2/2017
When the boys soccer teams from Totino-Grace and St. Thomas Academy played to a 2-2 overtime tie in the final game of the regular season, a tone had been set. When they met at U.S. Bank Stadium Thursday morning to decide the Class 1A state championship, the rematch was almost as close as the original.

Totino-Grace (19-1-1) claimed its second state title with a 1-0 victory over the Cadets (16-2-3), with the goal coming on a header by Steevenson Lamarre off an assist by Collin Matzoll eight minutes into the game. And that, as they say, was that.

“Noel and I were talking before the game,” said Eagles coach Bill Vance, referring to Cadets coach Noel Quinn. “I said that sometimes the state tournament is the great equalizer. Which means it’s harder to score and to find those moments. If you score the first goal and the opponent doesn’t score, you’ll win the game.”

St. Thomas Academy, which was trying to win a second consecutive state championship, finished with 13 shots on goal to 10 for the Eagles. The shutout went to Totino-Grace keeper Philip Ronza; he and STA’s Jack Killian each had three saves.

“Totino-Grace defended really well and they put a lot of players in and around their box,” Quinn said. “It’s just the way it goes sometimes in a final, everybody’s a little tense. We needed something to go our way and it didn’t happen.

“Obviously (the season) was great. We were in the final for the second year running and we wanted to win the whole thing again. We won our conference and we won our section, we wanted to win the final. It’s a great season.”

Vance said, “It’s a game of inches. Today, St. Thomas Academy didn’t get some of those inches and Totino-Grace did. It was exciting. It wasn’t pretty but we feel great to come out with the W.”

--Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team: Chameng Xiong, St. Paul Harding; Silas Hess, Bemijdi; Chris Cerda, Sander Diaz, Worthington; Mooday Wah, Kevin Ortiz, Austin; Lonyjera Okal, Spencer Overturf, Guyvenson Mohs, Orono; Christian Babo, Alex Tsobanakis, Logan Davis, St. Thomas Academy; Amanuel Bird, Herbert Endeley, Collin Matzoll, Totino-Grace.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Metrodome Plan Pays Off For Mahtomedi Girls11/2/2017
Mahtomedi has a strong pedigree in girls soccer, and the Zephyrs added another chapter Thursday with a 2-1 victory over Orono in the Class 1A state championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mahtomedi (17-3-2) has won seven titles in eight trips to the state final.

The Zephyrs did not make it to U.S. Bank Stadium a year ago, when the state semifinals and finals moved to the new facility. But they made many trips to the Metrodome when it was the state soccer site, and coach Dave Wald used some lessons learned in those days this time around. He dug out the pregame warmup plan the team used at the dome and used it in the new digs.

“We had a Metrodome warmup, in order to get the kids ready,” he said. “Some of them played at St. Cloud State (which hosted the tournament while U.S. Bank Stadium was under construction) two years ago, but this is a different stage.”

The game was scoreless until the 63rd minute, when Mahtomedi’s Abby Schultz scored from short range off an assist from Megan Clements. Orono tied it on a penalty kick by Maddie Loder with 14:25 to play. The winning goal came when Grace Padelford scored from 40 yards out, with the ball hitting the post and going in.

Orono (19-1-3) was the state champ in 2014 and finished second in 2015.

“Give credit to Mahtomedi today,” Loder said. “Those goals were really great goals, they were tough to stop. We gave it all we had.”

Mahtomedi finished with 14 shots to seven for the Spartans. Zephyrs goalkeeper Megan Lisowy made one save and Orono’s Clare Gagne had five.

“Hats off to Mahtomedi,” said Orono coach Erin Murray. “Clair had an awesome game. Their goals? I don’t know of many goalies in the state that could stop those ones.”

--Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team: Emma Schmitz, Rochester Lourdes; Mel Lobitz, Mankato West; KK Haug, Blake; Ali Beard, Bemidji; Mercedey Harper, Emerson Dronen, North Branch; Samantha Burke, Katherine Jones, Visitation; Abby Shultz, Audrey Sexson, Megan Clements, Sonia Meyer, Mahtomedi; Sarah Johnston, Megan Marzolf, Anna Tesar, Sadie Koltes, Mahtomedi.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Wayzata Boys Finish As Unbeaten State Champions 11/2/2017
Wayzata capped an unbeaten season with a 2-0 victory over Stillwater in the Class 2A boys soccer state championship game Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The game was a rematch of last year’s title contest, which Stillwater won by the same score.

After a scoreless first half, the Trojans (19-0-2) scored in the 54th minute. With a lengthy pass from Aditya Bhati, Patrick Weah put the ball into the right side of the net. In the game’s final minute, Weah got the assist on a goal by Ethan Wagner.

The Ponies finished with a record of 18-2-2.

--Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team: Jack Armitage, Lakeville North; Logan Weller, Prior Lake; Parker Jamison, Apple Valley; Till Konczak, Mounds View; Jack Gleckler, Jack Dorholt, Maple Grove; Nolan Friday, Zach Madill, Duluth East; Walter Smith, Erik Williams, Patrick Weah, Stuart Sain, Wayzata; Fred LeClair, Max Stauffer, Daniel Muths, Spencer Scott, Stillwater.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Playing To The End, Eagan Wins Championship11/2/2017
All season long, the Eagan girls soccer team has finished practice in the same way: Going hard and never stopping until the whistle blows.

“In practices, if we don’t go to the last play we have to go and run,” Wildcats goalkeeper Megan Plaschko said Thursday after her team defeated Maple Grove 2-1 on a goal with six seconds remaining in the Class 2A state championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“It’s put into us right away that you play until the last whistle blows,” she said. “Our team knows that six seconds is a lot of time and that’s more than enough time for a goal.”

That was certainly the case in the biggest game of the year. Eagan (17-2-2) had a corner kick as the clock wound down; the kick by Grace Sjoberg came down in front of the goal, where Ellen Pagois headed the ball in.

Eagan won state titles in 2014 and 2015. Maple Grove (19-3) played at state for the first time.

“I’m just super proud of everything this group accomplished,” Maple Grove coach Ben LeVahn said. “To come in with poise, having not been in the state tournament and playing our way through, that was big for this group. The season is beyond a success.”

The shots were nearly even, with Eagan getting 10 and Maple Grove nine. Plaschko made three saves, as did Crimson keeper Sarah Cortez.

--Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team: Sophia Boman, Edina; Linnea Yacovella, East Ridge; Alli Jenkins, Andover; Rheanna Zerna, St. Michael-Albertville; Emma Risteau, Anna Steel, Lakeville North; Eva Bruer, Samantha Dietrick, Wayzata; Megan Plaschko, Molly Busch, Kayla Vrieze, Lauryn Roszak, Eagan; Mia Omar, Meredith Haakenson, Zyah Alam, Lexi Miller, Maple Grove.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
South St. Paul Will Always Think Of Mr. Felton 10/30/2017
A special announcement was made several times Saturday during South St. Paul’s home football playoff game. The stadium announcer informed those in attendance that a fundraiser would be held in November at the local VFW, with funds going to the family of the late Craig Felton.

The stadium announcer was Dave Palmquist, who has taught in South St. Paul for decades and has coached the Packers girls hockey team since 1994. Palmquist would rather not work behind the microphone at home football games, because that was Craig Felton’s job for as long as most people can remember.

Felton, a beloved teacher and coach in South St. Paul, died on Oct. 14. He was 52 and had been diagnosed with liver cancer three years ago. He taught physics, coached the girls golf team and also coached junior high girls soccer and basketball. And he didn’t miss announcing a home football game for 20 years until shortly before he died.

“He was all about South St. Paul,” Palmquist said. “He’s from South St. Paul, he represents the goodness and the hardworking part of South St. Paul. He was involved in so many different things in different parts of a lot of kids’ lives, and not just in the classroom, either.”

Felton was a proud South St. Paul graduate who lived on the same street as other family members. His brother Tim, a doctor, was on the sideline at football games and his brother Jason was a spotter for Craig in the press box.

“The last two weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster,” said Packers athletic director and football coach Chad Sexauer after his team defeated Hill-Murray 38-7 in the Class 4A Section 3 semifinals. “Craig was an instrumental guy, threaded throughout the entire school.”

Fans at Saturday’s game saw a large banner on the back of the press box. Written in big red letters was #WhenIThinkOfMr.Felton. Hand-written messages covered the sign in honor of Craig.

“He was a great guy,” said Packers senior kicker Sam Rohrer. “I met him last year at the beginning of the year for physics and instantly we had a connection; everyone did with him. He was outgoing and he would always want to know how your day was going. He always put the kids first and I thought that was really great of him. He wanted to make sure you had a connection so if you needed anything he would be there for you.”

After Felton’s death, social media lit up with heartfelt messages about Craig with the hash tag from the poster. It was a modern-day-media salute to a man who impacted countless lives in the hometown and school he loved so dearly.

“The social media thing was crazy. It continued to grow and grow,” Sexauer said. “It’s a meaningful deal, no doubt about it.”

After Felton’s death, Sexauer (pictured with Craig) said “it was a really emotional day for 24 (football players) that have him in class and for all the people who knew him. We had meetings and every coach was crying. We said, ‘Our community needs us right now. Let’s go out and have fun and battle and make him proud.’ And that’s what they do.”

Rohrer said, “It was hard. The fact that most of us didn’t get to say goodbye to him was really tough. It kind of propelled the whole team to play for him and honor him. He was our announcer, of course, and he was very impactful on all of us who ever saw him or met him.

“He was a great example. I hope to be like him, because he made that connection with everyone and it really showed in our community when he passed away. He was impactful and he really did what was right.”

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn