John's Journal
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
State Soccer Tournament Update10/30/2017
At U.S. Bank Stadium

Monday’s Semifinals

Class 2A boys/ Wayzata 6, Maple Grove 2
Class 2A boys/ Stillwater 5, Duluth East 1
Class 1A boys/ Totino-Grace 3, Orono 2 (overtime)
Class 1A boys/ St. Thomas Academy 4, Austin 3 (overtime)
Class 1A girls/ Orono 1, Visitation 0
Class 1A girls/ Mahtomedi 3, North Branch 2

Tuesday’s Semifinals
Class 2A girls/ Eagan 2, Wayzata 1
Class 2A girls/ Maple Grove 1, Lakeville North 0 (3-1 shootout)

State Championship Games

10 a.m.: Class 1A boys/ Totino-Grace vs. St. Thomas Academy
12:30 p.m.: Class 1A girls/ Orono vs. Mahtomedi
3 p.m.: Class 2A boys/ Wayzata vs. Stillwater
5:30 p.m.: Class 2A girls/ Eagan vs. Maple Grove
The Sights, The Sounds, The Tweets: It’s All Good 10/26/2017
As a wise man (a former co-worker of mine named Sid Hartman) once said, “There’s a lot of stuff on that Internet.” That is a true statement, but it’s a lot more fun seeing real things and real people with your real eyes at real events ... and sometimes seeing reaction on the Internet

So far this week, I’ve been watching the girls state tennis tournament and girls and boys state soccer quarterfinals while football playoffs also are underway. I’ve lost track of how many tennis matches I’ve seen at the Class 1A and 2A sites in Minneapolis but through three days of soccer I’ve watched a total of six games, with doubleheaders at Prior Lake, Farmington and St. Cloud State. Those experiences, coupled with some stuff posted on that stuff-filled Internet, have made for an interesting few days. Here are some snippets…

*Visitation and Blake played scoreless girls soccer through 80 minutes of regulation time and two 10-minute overtime periods, leading to a penalty-kick shootout. Visitation scored on all five of its kicks, Blake was good on three kicks and the Blazers advanced to next week’s state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. It’s only the second trip to state for Visitation and the first since 2001. The postgame scenes can be summed up by these two: The winning team posing for a photo on the field, then erupting in screams and hugs, with some members of the losing squad bursting into sobs as they were embraced by their parents.

*A Twitter message from @triplebillphoto arrived with this update from another soccer site: “Mankato West band just played ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky.’ ”

*The MSHSL’s Thank A Ref initiative has been gaining ground throughout the fall season. We always need more officials in all sports on all levels and it’s important to show our appreciation for those who choose to work with our youth. Also, people who abuse officials need to be reminded when their behavior goes over the line. That happened during a soccer game in Prior Lake when fans sitting in front of the press box began barking at the officials. The stadium announcer leaned out of his booth and told those people to pipe down or they would be removed. That’s another good reminder that we’re all in this together and we all need to speak up when poor sportsmanship is clear.

*In a related note, an important Tweet was issued by @FHSBerg (Farmington High School principal Jason Berg, also an MSHSL football official). He wrote: “FHS - how do you represent our school/community on the field/in the stands - let's be the solution and not part of the problem. #TigerPride” The Tweet was linked to a story from an Indiana newspaper about the relationship between abusive fans and a lack of officials. School administrators are on the front line when it comes to sportsmanship, and it’s always great when they take these messages directly to their students and adult fans and make everyone accountable for taking the high road.

*Hats off to the football team from Wadena-Deer Creek. The Wolverines defeated Staples-Motley 42-20 in the Class 2A Section 6 playoffs on Tuesday night, ending a 19-year string of postseason losses.

*Is there a better high school spot than Farmington’s Tiger Stadium? The playing field is in a bowl setting, with the high school standing sentry behind the south end zone. After dark, the giant eyes of a tiger painted behind a glass wall stare out at the field.

*The girls and boys state tennis tournaments are unlike any others for one reason: The players make the calls on whether balls are in or out. It’s the old-fashioned honor system and it’s a great testament to Minnesota kids.

*I issued this Tweet Tuesday evening and it was re-Tweeted hundreds of times: “Best Thing I Saw Today: After Bemidji soccer loss, mom hugs her son before he heads toward team bus: ‘See you at home. I love you.’ ”

*After the Willmar football team saw its season end with a narrow playoff loss to Rocori, a senior named Tayler Tjaden Tweeted about his feelings. His statement included these words: “Tonight we Seniors shed tears for more than merely losing a game. … We cry because we will never have the opportunity to make more memories with our teammates. We cry because we remember the brotherhood and camaraderie that we experienced. We cry because this is the last time we will suit up in the red and white of the Willmar Cardinals.” Well put, Tayler.

*When Hutchinson’s football team defeated New Ulm 44-20 on Tuesday, it was the 1,000th all-time game for the Hutch Tigers. And the head coaches for 580 of those games are the father-son duo of Grady and Andy Rostberg. Grady (now retired) coached 367 games and Andy (current coach) has coached 213 games.

*Participants in the girls (and boys in the spring) state tennis tournaments are very fortunate to work with Hal Miller, who lives in Alexandria. Hal, a longtime teacher and coach who was inducted into the MSHSL Hall of Fame in 2015, has been a site manager for girls and boys state tennis tournaments for 32 years, and this week’s girls tournament is his 63nd in that role. He stresses sportsmanship as well as fun when talking with the players, and repeat qualifiers always enjoy seeing him again.

*Finally, a postscript to the previous John’s Journal story about Bemidji senior Linaes Whiting, who competed on three teams (soccer, football, cross-country) this fall. I posted my story about Linaes after their state quarterfinal overtime soccer loss to Austin on Tuesday evening. A little later, Linaes posted a message on Twitter:

“I’d like to thank all of my teammates, coaches, family, teachers, and friends during the last few fall seasons. It’s been so much fun playing with all of you and I wouldn’t have changed anything. … I’d also like to thank John for the nice article which hopefully will inspire other kids to go out and participate in lots of sports, instead of specialize in one. I truly believe being on all these teams have made me a better person, developing friendships, finding ways to face adversity, and becoming the best person I can be.”

Linaes’ important message was re-Tweeted many, many times and led to lots of positive responses. Then there was this Tweet, which came from Bemidji swimming and diving coach Woody Leindecker: “I wonder if he can swim?”

Don’t bet against him.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Class 3A Volleyball Rankings10/24/2017
1. Eagan (12) - 180
2. Lakeville North - 168
3. Lakeville South - 155
4. Champlin Park - 134
5. Hopkins - 131
6. Prior Lake - 116
7. Stillwater - 114
8. Eden Prairie - 86
9. East Ridge - 81
10. Shakopee - 71
Others Receiving Votes: Northfield - 18
Teams Only Appearing On One Ballot - Maple Grove