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IMPORTANT TRAFFIC REMINDER
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2018 7:55:02 PM

Football fans coming to U.S. Bank Stadium please take note and tell others...

Interstate 35W will be closed south of downtown Minneapolis from 10 p.m. Friday through Monday morning.

If you plan to attend Saturday's state semifinal football games at U.S. Bank Stadium, please plan ahead. Light rail is a great option.



The Old-School Offense That Fits Minnesota To A T
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/16/2018 7:38:50 PM

The T formation is often said to be the oldest offensive formation in American football and is claimed to have been invented by Walter Camp in 1882. – Wikipedia.

The hottest offense in Minnesota high school football is 136 years old, and Elk River coach Steve Hamilton has become a guru of the T formation. The Elks won the Class 5A state championship two years ago, lost to Owatonna in the 2017 title game and fell to the Huskies 39-8 in Friday’s semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.

And to think, Hamilton began his career as a head coach running a spread offense. But he has long been running the T formation with the Elks and said Friday he has heard from 16 other coaches in Minnesota who wanted to learn about it.

“Some have taken pieces, some are all in,” he said. “That’s why I went to it; we needed something to level the playing field and compete with the teams we had to play with. It’s certainly helped me in my career. I’m sure it’s made my career last longer than I ever thought it would. Twenty-one years as a head coach and I don’t know if I ever thought I would still be coaching at this point.”

Barnesville, which beat Minneapolis North 34-20 in Friday’s Class 2A semifinals, uses the T, as does Lakeville South, which met Lakeville North in the 6A semis in Friday’s last game. The basic T formation is very simple: seven linemen bunched in tight, quarterback under the center and three running backs lined up a row behind the quarterback. (Photo: Elk River on offense.)

“I watched Elk River run theirs and it’s very similar to what we want in our wing T,” said Barnesville coach Bryan Strand. “Misdirection, angle blocks, you don’t have to have gigantic linemen. I emailed (Hamilton) and he was fantastic.

“We went down there and met with him over the summer and he gave me all of their film, he answered questions, he’s been the go-to guy even during the season. He’s just there to help us out. He was smiling really big when we walked through at halftime (leading 28-8) because we run their offense.”

Hamilton said, “Did I ever think I was going to come to Minnesota and suddenly people would come to me about the offense I’m running? It’s been pretty cool.”

Owatonna clearly was prepared for the Elks on Friday. Elk River averaged 44 points and more than 400 rushing yards per game this season; the Elks rushed 45 times for 125 yards in scoring eight points against Owatonna.

“To be able to hold those guys to eight points and actually force them to throw to get their touchdown, we felt like that was a major accomplishment,” said Huskies coach Jeff Williams.

“It’s not really a secret,” Hamilton said. “If you’re really disciplined and you’re better than us up front, and that’s what they’ve been the last two years.”

Elk River’s record over the past three years is 34-4.

“If you would have said 34-4 and a state title, we would all have jumped on that,” Hamilton said. “It’s been an incredible run and this group of kids has been awesome. And it’s really them, the kids do this. This isn’t about the coaches, it isn’t about the families, it’s about the kids. The game’s for the kids and they’ve been incredible kids to coach.”

Hamilton taught and coached in Michigan and Georgia before coming to Elk River in 2011. He used a spread offense in Michigan but ran into issues.

“We found out real quick that if guys can’t get open, they can just pin their ears back and it’s a long night for the quarterback,” he said. He contacted a longtime successful coach there who ran the T and learned about it.

“He’s still the guy I call every week,” Hamilton said, “and every year I show him the Owatonna film and he says, ‘You guys are in trouble.’ ”

Tournament Tidbits

--Mountain Lake Area
junior quarterback Abraham Stoesz had a big day, completing 10 of 16 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown, and rushing 15 times for 102 yards and another score in the Warriors’ 42-8 nine-man win over Mountain Iron-Buhl. The Wolverines advanced to next Friday’s Prep Bowl XXXVII, where they will face defending champion Spring Grove for the nine-man state title.

Mountain Lake Area is a cooperative team with students from Mountain Lake High and Mountain Lake Christian. It’s the third version of Mountain Lake to go to state in football. Mountain Lake High was the Class C state runner-up in 1980, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin went to state three times between 1991 and 2003 (finishing as 1A runner-up in 2002) and the current Mountain Lake Area program is at state for the fourth time since 2012.

Friday’s game was the Wolverines’ first at U.S. Bank Stadium, and Stoesz was asked about pregame jitters.

“We come out, we’re on the field and we had a little bit of nerves,” he said. “But when the game starts, stick your chest out and turn your nerves into pride.”

--Mountain Iron and Buhl have a tournament history similar to Mountain Lake’s. Mountain Iron High was the Class B state champ in 1972 (the first year of football playoffs) and also went to state in 1973 and 1982. Mountain Iron-Buhl made its sixth state appearance since 1983.

--Barnesville’s victory put the Trojans into the Class 2A Prep Bowl game against three-time defending state champion Caledonia at 1 p.m. Nov. 23.

--Willmar rolled past St. Paul Johnson 62-20 in Class 4A. The Cardinals will face SMB in the Prep Bowl at 4 p.m. Nov. 23.

--In Friday night’s final game, Lakeville North beat Lakeville South 35-13 in Class 6A. North will face Eden Prairie in the Prep Bowl at 7 p.m. Nov. 23.

Football State Semifinal Schedule
At U.S. Bank Stadium

Thursday, Nov. 15

Nine-Man: Spring Grove 48, Cromwell-Wright 12
Class 2A: Caledonia 40, Paynesville 6
Class 4A: SMB 23, Waseca 15
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 34, Blaine 14

Friday, Nov. 16
Nine-Man: Mountain Lake Area 42, Mountain Iron-Buhl 8
Class 2A: Barnesville 34, Minneapolis North 20
Class 5A: Owatonna 39, Elk River 8
Class 4A: Willmar 62, St. Paul Johnson 20
Class 6A: Lakeville North 35, Lakeville South 13

Saturday, Nov. 17
9 a.m. Class 1A: BOLD vs. Blooming Prairie
11:30 a.m. Class 1A: Mahnomen/Waubun vs. Springfield
2 p.m. Class 3A: Pierz vs. Rochester Lourdes
4:30 p.m. Class 3A: Perham vs. Fairmont
7 p.m. Class 5A: Bemidji vs. St. Thomas Academy

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Ill-Timed Injuries Strike Cromwell-Wright, Paynesville
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/15/2018 8:15:05 PM

The story of two teams that played in the state football semifinals Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium could be told through the medical devices that were seen: One wheelchair, four crutches. The teams from Cromwell-Wright and Paynesville were each missing a key player who happened to be their starting quarterback as well as an important defensive component.

Cromwell-Wright senior Drew Libbon navigated the big stadium on crutches. Paynesville senior Max Weidner came on and off the field in a wheelchair, then used crutches on the sideline. Both teams came up short, with Cromwell-Wright losing to Spring Grove 48-12 in a Nine-Man game and Paynesville falling to Caledonia 40-6 in Class 2A.

Libbon was injured in the Section 5 championship game, a 26-8 win over South Ridge. He suffered a dislocated hip when two tacklers brought him down and fell on him. Weidner’s injury, a broken ankle, happened in last week’s 52-14 state quarterfinal win over Pillager. His incident was similar to Lisbon; Weidner’s left foot was caught underneath a tackler when they both went to the ground.

Both were two-way players who saw their seasons -- and high school football careers -- end while all they could do was watch and cheer.

“The hard part is to see a kid who invested so much not be able to go out on his own terms,” said Paynesville coach Max Meagher. “I have four kids at home, and my third-oldest kind of put it in perspective when she said, “Well, at least it didn’t happen in the first game.’ It’s just hard to get right on the brink of his dream of playing in U.S. Bank for the second time and just like that it was gone.”

Both players knew exactly what they were missing because they had played in the big stadium before. Weidner was the quarterback last season when Paynesville lost to Caledonia in the semifinals, and Libbon saw some action as a reserve two years ago when the Cardinals lost to Cleveland in the semifinals.

“I guess it is better that it didn’t happen in the first game of the season and I don’t have to sit out the whole time,” Weidner said. “But it’s not exactly what I wanted.”

When Max was injured, some of his teammates thought his shoe was coming loose, but it was his foot that was coming loose. It was a severe injury, which will keep him sidelined during basketball season. He’s hoping he will be cleared to play baseball in the spring.

When the Dragons left the locker room before kickoff, Max’s wheelchair was pushed out to lead the team onto the field.

“I would have rather been running, but it was kind of nice to be in the front of the pack and leading the dogs out there,” he said.

Libbon, who is hoping to be on the basketball court in January, was maintaining a positive attitude despite his inability to be in uniform. Cardinals coach Jeff Gronner said, “He’s a two-year captain, and I haven’t had a lot of two-year captains. He’s a phenomenal kid, tough kid, intense kid, our vocal leader. So those are all the things that we lost.”

In both cases, roles were shuffled when the No. 1 quarterbacks were lost. Cromwell-Wright senior wide receiver Isaac Shelton became the Cardinals quarterback, and Paynesville junior running back Grady Fuchs made the same position change,

“I’m always telling him to stay confident,” Weidner said. “Grady is one heck of an athlete and I know if he keeps his mind right he can do amazing things. And I know he’s going to be a great quarterback for this team next year.”

Caledonia coach Carl Fruechte sought out Weidner before and after Thursday’s game.

“He stopped me and said he wished I could be out there,” Max said. “He was super thoughtful about it. After the game he said, ‘I know you would have made a huge difference.’ It was super nice.”

Tournament Tidbits

--In Spring Grove’s win over Cromwell-Wright, Lions senior Alex Folz completed 25 of 34 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns while rushing 19 times for 85 yards and three scores. He also kicked off eight times, punted once and made 5.5 tackles. The Lions will face Mountain Iron-Buhl or Mountain Lake Area (who play Friday) in Prep Bowl XXXVII at 10 a.m. on Nov. 23.

--Caledonia advanced to the Prep Bowl, where the Warriors will meet Barnesville or Minneapolis North at 1 p.m. on Nov. 23. Those teams will meet Friday.

--In an exciting Class 4A semifinal, SMB defeated Waseca 23-15. SMB, a cooperative team with players from St. Paul Academy and Summit School, Minnehaha Academy, Hope Academy and Blake, will meet Willmar or St. Paul Johnson in the Prep Bowl at 4 p.m. om Nov. 23. Those teams face off Friday.

--Eden Prairie’s 34-14 victory over Blaine in Friday night’s Class 6A semifinals put the Eagles into the Prep Bowl against the winner of Friday night’s game between Lakeville South and Lakeville North.

--All of this week’s action from the state football semifinals and girls swimming and diving state championships can be viewed online at no charge. Go to prepspotlight.tv/MSHSL

--TRAFFIC REMINDER: Interstate 35W will be closed south of downtown Minneapolis from 10 p.m. Friday through Monday morning. If you are coming to girls state swimming and diving at the University of Minnesota or football at U.S. Bank Stadium, please plan ahead. Light rail is a good option.

Football State Semifinal Schedule
At U.S. Bank Stadium

Thursday, Nov. 15

Nine-Man: Spring Grove 48, Cromwell-Wright 12
Class 2A: Caledonia 40, Paynesville 6
Class 4A: SMB 23, Waseca 15
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 34, Blaine 14

Friday, Nov. 16
9 a.m. Nine-Man: Mountain Lake Area vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl
11:30 a.m. Class 2A: Barnesville vs. Minneapolis North
2 p.m. Class 5A: Elk River vs. Owatonna
4:30 p.m. Class 4A: Willmar vs. St. Paul Johnson
7 p.m. Class 6A: Lakeville North vs. Lakeville South

Saturday, Nov. 17
9 a.m. Class 1A: BOLD vs. Blooming Prairie
11:30 a.m. Class 1A: Mahnomen/Waubun vs. Springfield
2 p.m. Class 3A: Pierz vs. Rochester Lourdes
4:30 p.m. Class 3A: Perham vs. Fairmont
7 p.m. Class 5A: Bemidji vs. St. Thomas Academy

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



State Football Semifinal Schedules At U.S. Bank Stadium
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/13/2018 8:02:50 PM

Daily Schedules

Thursday, Nov. 15
11:30 a.m. Nine-Man: Cromwell-Wright vs. Spring Grove
2 p.m. Class 2A: Caledonia vs. Paynesville
4:30 p.m. Class 4A: SMB vs. Waseca
7 p.m. Class 6A: Eden Prairie vs. Blaine

Friday, Nov. 16
9 a.m. Nine-Man: Mountain Lake Area vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl
11:30 a.m. Class 2A: Barnesville vs. Minneapolis North
2 p.m. Class 5A: Elk River vs. Owatonna
4:30 p.m. Class 4A: Willmar vs. St. Paul Johnson
7 p.m. Class 6A: Lakeville North vs. Lakeville South

Saturday, Nov. 17
9 a.m. Class 1A: BOLD vs. Blooming Prairie
11:30 a.m. Class 1A: Mahnomen/Waubun vs. Springfield
2 p.m. Class 3A: Pierz vs. Rochester Lourdes
4:30 p.m. Class 3A: Perham vs. Fairmont
7 p.m. Class 5A: Bemidji vs. St. Thomas Academy

Class-By-Class Pairings

NINE-MAN
Cromwell-Wright vs. Spring Grove, Thursday 11:30 a.m.
Mountain. Iron-Buhl vs. Mountain Lake Area, Friday, 9 a.m.

CLASS 1A
BOLD vs. Blooming Prairie, Saturday, 9 a.m.
Mahnomen/Waubun vs. Springfield, Saturday, 11:30 a.m.

CLASS 2A
Paynesville vs. Caledonia, Thursday, 2 p.m.
Barnesville vs. Minneapolis North, Friday, 11:30 a.m.

CLASS 3A
Pierz vs. Rochester Lourdes, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Perham vs. Fairmont, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

CLASS 4A
SMB vs. Waseca, Thursday, 4:30 p.m.
Willmar vs. St. Paul Johnson, Friday, 4:30 p.m.

CLASS 5A
Elk River vs. Owatonna, Friday, 2 p.m.
Bemidji vs. St. Thomas Academy, Saturday 7 p.m.

CLASS 6A
Eden Prairie vs. Blaine, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Lakeville South vs. Lakeville North, Friday, 7 p.m.





Tears And Cheers On Volleyball’s Championship Saturday
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/11/2018 3:55:21 PM

There’s a quiet tradition in high school athletics and activities. It comes when the season ends, whether that happens at a state tournament, a first-round section game or at the close of the speech or debate or marching band season. It doesn’t happen with every team everywhere, but when it does it’s worth a few words.

The main theme? Tears, often from the winning team. I first experienced this years ago at the state volleyball tournament. Bethlehem Academy, a Class 1A school in Faribault, had a tremendous run of volleyball success starting in 2002; the Cardinals played for state championships eight years in a row and 12 times through 2015.

In one of those championship years, coach Franz Boelter exited the locker room with tears in his eyes. A few minutes later as the players came out, they also had been crying. But they won? Why the tears?

The coach explained that everyone was sad that their time together as a team had ended, that the seniors had played on the team for the last time, and they wouldn’t be going to practice the following Monday. (Pictured are happy team members from Ada-Borup after a third-place finish in Class 1A Saturday).

We saw several similar episodes on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. After Minneota defeated Medford 3-0 in the Class 1A championship match, Medford coach Missy Underdahl began the post-match media session apologizing for wiping away a few tears.

“These aren't tears of sadness,” she said, beginning to smile. “These are tears of our season has come to an end, and you’re going to miss these girls so much because it’s just been an incredible season. I’m not having tears of sadness here, it’s tears of the reality that I won’t get to see these girls.”

In their first trip to state, the Medford Tigers were the story of the tournament. They came in as one of three unseeded teams in the 1A field and beat No. 2 seed Mayer Lutheran and No. 3 seed Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa to reach the finals against top-seeded Minneota.

As Medford senior Rachael Luebbe said, “My goal at the beginning of the year was to get to (the late rounds of the Section 1 playoffs in) Rochester. I could never dream of getting this far.”

Junior teammate Izzy Reuvers added, “We’re amazed that we made it this far.” And Izzy wore a big smile when she said that.

In the Class 2A championship match, North Branch – like Minneota a state runner-up last season – battled with Marshall before winning a 3-2 decision for the Vikings’ first state title. While the North Branch players were posing for photos and celebrating with their fans, Marshall coach Dan Westby gathered his team together on the court.

This was a private moment for the team. There were tears and smiles as the coach spoke to the girls. Later, I told Dan that it was none of my business but I was curious about what he said. He was emotional as the two of us stood alone in a quiet corridor.

“I just said, because of the fact that they’re such good kids (he hesitated to gather himself) … I could not do this anymore and I would be fine, but I just wanted them to experience that feeling. I’ve had it, it’s not about me, I don’t need to do it, but I just wanted them to experience it. They’re good kids.”

Marshall was playing at state for a record 28th time. The Tigers have won six state titles (most recently in 2013) and finished second seven times.

Westby again talked about his players in the postgame media session.

“They’re great kids. I know that sounds like a cliché, but they really are,” he said. “I recall our assistant coach Alex Boddy saying on the first day of practice, ‘There’s not one kid in here who’s ever going to bother me on a given day. These are great kids.’ And she’s right. They’re leaders in our school and in our community.”

Erica Jones, one of six Marshall seniors, said she was “currently disappointed, but looking back it was a great season.”

One of the best postgame celebrations I have seen came after Champlin Park defeated Eagan 3-2 in the Class 3A championship match.

Eagan has been a regular at state, winning seven titles since 1997 and finishing second three times, including last season. Champlin Park was making its sixth trip to state, finished second to Eagan two years ago and had never won it all.

It was the Rebels’ first state championship in any team sport since the school opened in 1992. After posing for a team photo, the players carried the championship trophy to the stands and sang the school song with their classmates, friends and family members. Before the final note faded, everyone cheered.

It was grand.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



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