My plans didn’t include seeing three of the second-ranked football teams in Minnesota, but that’s how it worked out on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I watched three games in three very distinct settings, beginning with a giant suburban marching band singing an a cappella version of a song about a fish sandwich and ending with a four-man band performing with guitars and drums after a game in a small prairie town.
There were big-screen TVs and luxury suites, huge plays and little moments, an errant reference to the Sons of Norway and many, many reasons to smile.Thursday/ No. 2 6A Minnetonka at Lakeville South
6:40: The Lakeville South marching band walks in formation on the track to get in position for the pregame show, as all members sing the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish song with great gusto.
6:58: As the game begins, fans are browsing for dinner options at the concession stand and three other locations: Baldy’s BBQ, Maui Wowi and Mike’s Mini Donuts.
7:15: The band, now seated (but not doing much sitting) in the bleachers, belts out a splendid version of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4.”
7:26: The first points are scored when Minnetonka’s Aaron Syverson throws 19 yards to Mitch Klass.
7:49: Lakeville South defensive players gather on a bench, watching replays of their previous series on a 40-inch TV monitor. There is another 40-inch TV for the offense; coaches run the clicker as plays move forward and back.
8:00: Halftime comes with unbeaten Minnetonka leading Lakeville South 28-0.
8:09: A gentleman exits one of the portable restrooms available to fans and exclaims, “It’s interesting to do that in the dark.” He clearly doesn’t attend enough outdoor high school sporting events.
8:13: A veteran official, working as the back judge tonight, sees me walking past a storage space that is serving as the officials’ halftime break room. He says, “Hey John! You didn’t get a picture of us before the game, one of the finest crews in Minnesota!” I sheepishly explained that I arrived too late to snap a pregame photo of the crew, which is usually Tweeted with the line: “One of the finest officiating crews in Minnesota has been assigned to this game.” My bad.
8:20: With the halftime show over, a member of the Cougars dance team is being treated by an athletic trainer for a lower-body injury.
8:43: The fourth quarter begins under running time with the score 35-7.
9:00: The game ends with Minnetonka winning 42-7. Friday/ No. 7 4A Waseca at No. 2 4A Marshall
1:05: The first stop on the day’s road trip will be Fulda, three hours from home. Lunch will be consumed from behind the wheel, with the first option being McDonald’s in Jordan. There is a big backlog of vehicles in the drive-through lanes, so an audible is called and lunch is procured a few miles down Highway 169 in Belle Plaine (McDonald’s? Yes. Fish sandwich? No).
4:00: Fulda is holding a major fundraiser for Hills-Beaver Creek’s Trenton Bass, who suffered a spinal injury early in the football season. Before the Raiders host Hills-Beaver Creek in nine-man football, visitors will enjoy a meal in the school cafeteria (with free-will donations), bid on a large number of silent auction items and buy tickets for other items that will be raffled. I’ll miss the game because I’ll be in Marshal, but everybody knows it’s going to be a great night.
5:00: Driving 47 miles from Fulda, I arrive in Marshall and Southwest Minnesota State University’s world-class Mattke Field, which is also the home of the Marshall Tigers.
6:24: As the teams warm up, I’m standing on the field with Waseca activities director Joe Hedervare. Waseca is a long way from Marshall but the schools have developed a great sporting rivalry. Joe looks around at the artificial turf, the big covered grandstand that includes luxury suites and says, “What a great place. We’re happy to drive two and a half hours to play here.”
6:32: I snap the traditional “finest crew” photo of the officials. One of them says to me, “Weren’t you in Fulda earlier today?” Yes indeed.
6:57: As Marshall’s Jacob Monzon kicks off, his photo, name and number appear on the giant videoboard behind the north end zone.
7:05: The first penalty of the game is called and referee Derrick Jenniges turns on his microphone to announce the violation to the crowd. Again, this is a big-time venue.
7:21: As Lakeville South did one night earlier, members of the Marshall offense view video on the bench. This time it’s not a 40-inch TV but an iPad, held by head coach Terry Bahlmann.
7:31: Waseca’s Malik Willingham catches an eight-yard touchdown pass from Hunter Rodriguez. It’s the first time an opponent has scored against the Tigers this season.
8:10: With Marshall in front 27-6 at halftime, the always outstanding Marshall marching band takes the field. The music begins with a cello solo (a CELLO SOLO!) by Anni Lecy. Thus begins an amazing performance.
9:20: Trey Lance runs eight yards for the game’s final touchdown as Marshall moves to 5-0 with a 34-13 victory.
9:23: I receive a Twitter message from a Fulda native, thanking me for visiting his old hometown. The sender is Trent Kirchner, co-director of player personnel with the Seattle Seahawks. The funds raised for Trenton Bass total almost $11,000.Saturday/ Sleepy Eye at No. 2 1A Wabasso
2:04: With kickoff 56 minutes away, “The Boys of Fall” by Kenny Chesney is the first song played on the sound system. As the officials walk on the field, I stop them for a photo. The white cap is Derrick Jenniges, who worked the Waseca-Marshall game. I remark that he’s wearing glasses today, unlike the previous night. Jokes ensue.
2:41: Trixie and Thumper, the Wabasso Rabbits mascots, arrive to the delight of little kids.
3:08: Cooper Taylor gets the first of what will be many Rabbits points, scoring on a 19-yard run.
3:27: PA announcer Dean Fischer wishes Gary Hindt a happy 72nd birthday. Hindt coached Wabasso wrestlers for 49 years until retiring after last season and will enter the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in April. After the game Gary tells me, “This is my second 36th birthday!”
3:46: A defensive play call, hollered from the Rabbits bench, begins with this: “Money! Money! Money!”
4:15: There is no microphone for the referee today, but it’s not really needed. Jenniges can be heard from the stands as he announces penalties.
4:16: Wabasso leads 42-0 at halftime and Homecoming royalty is introduced. In the press box I am informed, “John, we’ve got a smorgasbord down here.” The local convenience store has provided a fine array of appetizers.
4:47: Sleepy Eye’s Carter Tauer scores on a 26-yard run, making the score 49-7.
4:51: Fischer announces that there will be live music after the game: “Attention fans, the band Sons of Norway, excuse me, Sons of Nowhere will perform after the game next to the concession stand.”
5:10: During running time in the fourth quarter of Wabbaso’s 69-13 victory, winners of a raffle (the prizes include a 55-inch TV) are announced. Funds go toward the Vicky Jenniges Scholarship Fund; she was 54 when she died in 2014. The referee, Derrick Jenniges, is a 1998 Wabasso graduate who teaches first grade and is the boys basketball and baseball coach at Westbrook-Walnut Grove.
Derrick is Vicky’s son.
5:48: As a crowd listens to the talented Sons of Nowhere – who are four Wabasso students -- I point the car for home, once again grateful for all the wonderful things I see.--To see a photo gallery, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
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