Archive for DEL Sports

KOVAR: There are two ways to look at this fall sports season

I’ve been doing this job for almost six years now. Never had I covered a season like this one.

When this global pandemic started back in March, there was a movement called #BeTheLightMN. Essentially, schools around the state left their lights on at football, baseball, and softball fields to honor the Class of 2020 who didn’t get a spring sports season.

As the 2020 fall sports season came to an end this past week, the lights were on once again for a final time.

Knowing last Friday would be the final day of games across the state for the foreseeable future, I didn’t know what to feel. It all happened so fast. I had the brackets filled out for football playoffs. I was getting excited about what the volleyball postseason would like, as well. None of that matters though anymore.

The fall sports season is over and I wasn’t ready for it to be. Luckily, I was able to double-dip on coverage for the final night of competitions. I started my night watching the Dassel-Cokato football pick up a win over a really good Glencoe-Silver Lake team. Following that one, I stopped at Watertown-Mayer to catch the final half of their football game against Fairmont.

Once the W-M football game was over, that’s all there was. The game was over. I went over to the W-M huddle and waited to talk with head coach Andrew Phillips. After interviewing Phillips for a bit and chatting for a bit about other things, it was time to leave. I wasn’t ready though.

As I got back to my truck, I didn’t leave. I sat there looking at an empty stadium with the lights still on. I decided I wasn’t going to leave until the lights went off. About a half-hour later, the lights that shone above the field slowly disappeared, officially putting an end to the 2020 fall sports season.

It was a weird feeling knowing this was it. There are no more sports for the foreseeable future.

As I sat in my truck looking at the lights, I thought about all the awesome moments and memories I’ve witnessed and covered throughout this crazy and unique season.

As I was looking back, I thought about the athletes. They were having their seasons taken away from them once again. It just didn’t seem fair.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a high school athlete right now. Some were about to play for a section title which was the highest point they could get to this season. Some already had their seasons to come to an end because of a loss. Some were just playing another game to get once more chance to play the game they love.

If there’s anything I hope these athletes take away from this season it’s this. I hope you all don’t think of this season as the one that got taken away from you. I hope you think of this season as the one where you did everything you possibly could to play the game you love.

There was no state tournament. Some teams didn’t get to play a full schedule. Some teams didn’t get to play for that section title like they thought they would. Those are all reasons to be upset. Instead of focusing on those things, I hope athletes are focusing on things like this.

I hope the W-M football team remembers that feeling they had when they broke their 29-game losing streak this year. I hope Mayer Lutheran’s Morgan Chmielewski and Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted’s Jenna Pelnis remember how it felt when they reached the 1,000 career digs milestone. I hope the W-M and Mayer Lutheran volleyball teams remember their incredible seasons as two of the top teams in the state. I hope Collin Boese remembers his 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown against rival Maple Lake. I hope Dylan Mandt remembers his touchdown for the Royals as time expired. I hope all athletes and coaches realize how lucky they are to get to play this season.

There’s been a lot of talk about what this season has looked like. I think Chad Courrier of the Mankato Free Press said it best in a column of his own. This season was never about winning section or state titles. It was all about getting the chance to play the sport these kids love with their friends one last time.

So to all those athletes out there who are hurting right as the season was cut short, I hope you look at things like this. Don’t think of this as the season that was taken away early. Think of this season as the one where you got the chance to play and make more lifelong memories with your friends playing the game you love. It wasn’t ideal, but it was something.

Take it from a former high school athlete. It’s been nine years since I’ve last played a high school sport and I still get chills and excitement walking into a gym or onto a field to cover a game. High school sports are special. You’ll remember those moments forever.

In a season where it seemed like nothing was normal, there were still plenty of memories and moments to remember. Keep those moments and memories in your heart and be proud of what you all did this season.

I want to thank every athlete, coach, and athletic director across the state for their hard work and dedication this season. Nothing was easy, and nothing was possible without you.

Thank you for everything you did to allow this guy to cover the athletes and sports he loves to do. Your hard work and sacrifices did not go unnoticed.

Follow Sports Editor Kip Kovar on Twitter.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports

Trey Longstreet2

Delano’s Longstreet chooses basketball, commits to Northern State

The decision wasn’t always set in stone.

Delano senior and two-sport star Trey Longstreet was 50-50 on the choice he had to make between college football at the Division I level and basketball in Division II. He’ll be at Northern State University next season after announcing his commitment to coach Saul Phillips and the hoops program on Twitter Nov. 8.

Last summer, Longstreet’s first big football scholarship offer came in from Iowa State. Mid-majors like South Dakota State, Wyoming, and North Dakota State were all in contact with him, as well.

“It was not an easy choice because the looks I got in football were pretty hard to turn down,” Longstreet said. “But to play at that level you need to really love the sport and I loved basketball more than football.”

If you’re good enough, the right program will usually find you, but playing for a perennial postseason contender at Delano under head coach Terry Techam didn’t hurt. The Tigers won the state championship in 2018 and were headed to the Target Center again in 2020 before the pandemic shut it down — tallying a 25-4 record, a No. 7 Class 3A ranking and a second-place finish in the Wright County East.

Longstreet also had lots of visibility to college coaches while playing for the Minnesota Heat in the spring and summer, led by University of St. Thomas coach John Tauer. A handful of Longstreet’s Heat teammates have also accepted basketball scholarship offers.

“Both my high school and AAU coaches have been a huge help to me,” Longstreet said. “They have helped me grow as a player on the court and a kid off the court.”

Delano coach Terry Techam oversaw Longstreet’s development from a gangly 6-foot-4 freshman wing to a strong 6-foot-7 senior centerpiece and knows his presence in the program will be hard to replace.

“You don’t have a 6-foot-7 point guard in high school basketball,” Techam said. “The biggest thing we will miss is Tre’s energy and enthusiasm to make our team the best it can be.”

Longstreet added that he was talking to a number of other Northern Sun schools like Bemidji State and Southwest Minnesota State, and St. Thomas had reached out about a possible preferred walk-on opportunity (the Tommies are making the jump from Division 3 to Division 1 in 2021-22).

So why Northern State? There are plenty of reasons on paper. The Wolves have won three straight NSIC overall and tournament titles, including a historic 36-4 season in 2017-18 that resulted in a Division 2 national championship runner-up finish.

Wolves head man Saul Phillips is entering his second season at the helm for NSU. Phillips was the coach at Ohio University and North Dakota State University prior to arriving in Aberdeen.

There are four other Minnesota high school graduates are rostered at NSU: Andrew Kallman of Chaska, Tommy Chatman of Park Center, Jordan Belka of Rogers and Parker Fox of Mahtomedi.

“The biggest thing was the coaching staff,” Longstreet said. “I loved everything about the coaches. Another big aspect to my decision was the players. All the guys were super nice and I really enjoyed spending time with them on my visit.”

Northern State has led NCAA Division II in men’s basketball attendance all but one season since 2005-06. COVID-19 could get in the way of that trend moving forward, but it’s no secret the fans in Aberdeen show up.

“The final thing is the community of Aberdeen,” Longstreet said. “Just hearing what the atmosphere of the games is like and the support of the basketball program really caught my attention.”

Longstreet miss every aspect of his high school hoops experience ­— playing with lifelong friends, working with Techam and even the 5 a.m. Saturday practices.

“That’s something you probably won’t hear from most Delano basketball players, but after waking up at five in the morning for practices for four years you start to get used to it and I’m definitely going to miss it,” he said.

Longstreet and the Tigers are scheduled to tip off the 2020-21 season Dec. 11 against Big Lake. He will have the ball in his hands often as the primary playmaker, but Techam believes there’s much more to Longstreet’s game than being the center of on-court attention.

“Trey never worries about stats,” Techam said. “His one and only goal is for the team to be successful. He is only going to continue to improve, and NSU got a great basketball player, but an even better person.”

PREP FOOTBALL: Delano closes out shortened season in loss to Princeton

The Delano Tigers have had as much of a rollercoaster fall 2020 as any team in the state.

A full-team quarantine after the Tigers’ season opener against Willmar kept them out of play for two weeks. Beating Big Lake and losing to Rocori in consecutive weeks felt like a nudge back toward normalcy in the schedule. Then Sauk Rapids-Rice cancelled their matchup with Delano Nov. 11, leaving the Tigers to wait for just their fourth game in 41 days, a 30-12 loss to Princeton on the road in the Section 6AAAA semifinals Nov. 20. They did not escape quarantine unscathed either, missing multiple players that hurt their depth.

A fast start for Delano offensively on a first-drive Cade Bruett touchdown pass gave some hope that they’d find a rhythm after another two weeks off. Princeton answered right away with a deep connection score of their own, and the score was 7-6 Princeton in less than two minutes.

After that, Delano struggled to string together first downs. A couple first-half turnovers allowed Princeton to maintain advantageous field position, including a fumble recovery in the Delano end zone for a touchdown. The lack of time on the field together this season played a role in the outcome, but Delano coach Merrill Pavlovich knows that he’s also got a young team, including his sophomore quarterback Bruett — a 6-foot-3 physical specimen who played just his fourth career varsity game against a one-loss, athletic Princeton team.

“It’s been up and down, we haven’t had a full squad since day one,” Pavlovich said postgame. “Tonight we got beat by a better team, no question about it.”

The on-again, off-again style forced upon teams like Delano this season is a hard pill to swallow when there could have been a much different outcome in a normal full-length schedule. The Tigers were State Tournament representatives in 2018 and 2019. The path to more games was tough with the entire team out of commission for two weeks and few teams in Delano’s relative geographic area in need of another contest.

“Our seniors have worked really hard to get here,” Pavlovich said. “We haven’t lost the section in 3 years. But our depth and inexperience showed tonight against a better team.”

Bright spots in the final game before the state-wide high school sports pause included Mike Krueger, a junior wide receiver, who caught a handful of quick passes to move the chains throughout the night and scored a touchdown late to finish the game on a positive offensive note. Bruett threw three interceptions, but has a strong lefty arm that is sure to become more accurate in the next couple years. Senior wide receiver/safety Trey Longstreet grabbed an interception in the first half on defense as well.

Delano concludes the season with a 1-3 record, a total that just looks very out of place based on historical competitiveness and the fact that a four-game season is hard to picture in any scenario. Next year, hopefully, will be more reliable — and the Tigers return many players who got good experience in a challenging 2020.


PREP FOOTBALL: Delano’s Week 2 game canceled

Delano Activities Director Ryan Tool announced Thursday night that the Week 2 football game between Delano and Becker Friday night is canceled. The game is being canceled due to a Delano player testing positive for COVID-19.

Tool said in an email that Friday, the school district will be able to have more communication with MDH about how they move forward.  They will be doing contact tracing and will reach out to each player and family that needs to know further information.


PREP GIRLS SOCCER: Providence Academy rallies back to stun Tigers

DELANO – After eight minutes of play, it looked like the Delano girls soccer team was well on their way to keep their season alive. The Providence Academy Lions had other plans.

After falling behind 2-0 early, the Lions rallied back with three unanswered goals to stun the Tigers with a 3-2 victory in the Section 6A Tournament Monday night.

The Tigers got a spark early on thanks to a pair of freshmen. Early goals from Marin Johnson and Sydney Schmit gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead just eight minutes into the game.

The slow start for Providence Academy went away at the 32-minute mark. Off a corner kick, Providence Academy’s Avery Lampe found the back of the net off a rebound to cut the deficit in half for the Lions.
Delano still took a 2-1 lead into the half, but the Lions weren’t done there. Just eight minutes into the second half, Providence Academy tied the game on a goal by Lauren Damberg.

The Lions would grab their first lead of the game on a great goal from Sophia Caballero, putting Delano behind 3-2 with just over 26 minutes left to play.

The Tigers had their chances down the stretch to tie the game but couldn’t find the back of the net as their season came to an end.

With the loss, Delano finishes the season with a record of 4-7-1.

For the complete story and more Delano sports coverage, check out the Friday, Oct. 16  edition of the Delano Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter for in-game updates, schedule changes, and more.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

PREP BOYS SOCCER: Delano blanks Big Lake in Section 6A play-in game

DELANO – With the season on the line, the Delano boys soccer team delivered. Taking on the Big Lake Hornets in a Section 6A play-in game, the Tigers cruised to a 4-0 victory Monday night to keep their season alive.

“I think overall we were the aggressor tonight,” Delano coach Tristen Griffin said. “We didn’t finish the way we wanted to. We probably should have a couple more goals, but we’re moving on to play the second seed. That’s all you can ask for.”

The Tigers had four different players score a goal in the win. Jacob Stoudt, Jacob Bergh, William Gould, and William Strandemo all scored for the Tigers as they lived to see another day.

“I think we played pretty well,” Strandemo said. “We could have played better with our passing. It feels pretty good, though. I think it’s a good confidence booster going into the next game.”

With the win, Delano advances in the Section 6A Tournament. They will face No. 2 Holy Family Tuesday night in Victoria. Holy Family beat Delano 7-0 last week in the regular season.

“Defensively, we have to be stronger,” Griffin said. “They got a kid that’s (probably) going to be All-State. They’re a good team. We just have to keep them in front and be sound defensively.”

For the complete story and more Delano sports coverage, check out the Friday, Oct. 16  edition of the Delano Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information. 

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter for in-game updates, schedule changes, and more.

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports