Archive for HJ Sports

PREP FOOTBALL: Awesome Blossoms hold off furious rally from Mayer Lutheran in Class A showdown

MAYER – Just when it looked the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms were on their way to another convincing win, the Mayer Lutheran Crusaders gave them all they could handle. The Crusaders trailed by three scores two different times in the game, only to rally and close the deficit to just one score. In the end, it was the Awesome Blossoms who added a late score on a controversial call to hold off the Crusaders for a 48-34 victory Friday night in a battle between two of the top-ranked teams in Class A.

“It was exactly what we expected,” Mayer Lutheran coach Dean Aurich said. “We told the kids that this is going to tell us where we are at right now, but we got three or four more weeks to get better. This was a big test for us. We knew that.”

Blooming Prairie, the No. 4 ranked team in Class A, came out swinging. After going three and out on their first drive of the game, the Awesome Blossoms got the scoring started midway through the first quarter. Seth Peterson found Ben Hagen for a two-yard touchdown, giving the Blossom a 6-0 lead. Peterson was just getting started as he threw another touchdown early in the second quarter, extending Blooming Prairie’s lead to 13-0.

Down two scores and in an unfamiliar position, Mayer Lutheran battled back. The Crusaders finally got on the board with a 25-yard touchdown connection between Baden Noennig and Mitchell Thiesfeld. The big play capped off a six play 60 yard drive for their first score.

Just when it looked the Crusaders had some momentum going their way, Peterson and the Awesome Blossoms got hot again. Peterson threw two more touchdown passes in the second quarter, giving Blooming Prairie a 26-7 lead with just under four minutes to go.

Down three scores, Mayer Lutheran knew how important it was to get some points on the board before half. What happened next couldn’t have been drawn up any better. On 4th and 10 desperately needing points, Noennig found Mark Masters for a 35-yard touchdown pass to make it 26-14 with just over a minute left to play in the first half.

Instead of going into the half with a two-score lead, Blooming Prairie elected to be aggressive, and Mayer Lutheran made them pay for it. Peterson’s pass was tipped by Zander Flucas, and right into the hands of Kaleb Winter, for a huge interception that set up the Crusaders in scoring position again.

It didn’t take long for Mayer Lutheran to turn the interception into points. A 22-yard touchdown pass from Noennig to Austin Crown brought the Crusaders within one score at the half.

“It was a big swing,” Aurich said. “That Winter interception was big, and then it just went our way.”

Look for the rest of the story, as well as more HJ sports coverage, in the Friday, Oct. 19 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.

@Kovar_HJSports 

PREP FOOTBALL SCOREBOARD – WEEK 7

MID SOUTHEAST (WEST)

Blooming Prairie 48, Mayer Lutheran 34

Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity 38, Bethlehem Academy 6

Medford 35, MN Valley Lutheran 26

St. Clair/Loyola 22, Kenyon-Wanamingo 6

United South Central 40, J-W-P 6

 

EAST CENTRAL SOUTH

Milaca 28, Watertown-Mayer 7

Delano 20, Litchfield 13

Holy Family 33, Dassel-Cokato 7

Annandale 21, Glencoe-Silver Lake 0

 

MID STATE SUB 1

Eden Valley-Watkins 54, HLWW 20

Melrose 28, Holdingford 6

Rockford 14, Maple Lake 6

Pierz 47, Paynesville 14

PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Crusaders, Awesome Blossoms to meet in Class A showdown

MAYER – They might not be the big schools that everyone talks about, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play. When Mayer Lutheran and Blooming Prairie meet on the gridiron Friday night, they’ll do so as two of the top teams in Class A.

The Awesome Blossoms are a perfect 6-0 on the season coming into the matchup against the Crusaders. Not only are they undefeated, but they’ve dominated their opponents in every aspect this season thus far. They’ve outscored their opponents 258 to 37, and have scored 40 or more points in every game but one this season.

Mitchell Thiesfeld has been a playmaker all season long for the Crusaders. This week, Thiesfeld and the Crusaders will face their toughest task as they host No. 4 Blooming Prairie.

Mitchell Thiesfeld has been a playmaker all season long for the Crusaders. This week, Thiesfeld and the Crusaders will face their toughest task as they host No. 4 Blooming Prairie.

The Awesome Blossoms feature a dual-threat quarterback that is a nightmare for opposing defenses. Seth Peterson is a guy for the Awesome Blossoms who can hurt you in so many ways. Through the air, he’s thrown for almost 1,500 yards already, and has thrown for 25 touchdowns in just six games.

Last week against Hayfield, Peterson threw just 10 times. He completed nine of those passes, and five of them went for touchdowns. He finished with 191 yards passing, as the Awesome Blossoms can score in a hurry.

Gabe Hagen is one of Peterson’s top targets in the passing game. In Blooming Prairie’s win over Hayfield last week, Hagen hauled in three catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Hagen and Peterson connected for one touchdown pass last season in the win against Mayer Lutheran, while Peterson also had a rushing touchdown.

While the Awesome Blossoms feature multiple weapons on offense, their defensive line is just as good. With a strong four-man front, Mayer Lutheran will be in for a battle in the trenches to try and get their running game going.

After struggling a bit with the inside running game earlier this season, Mayer Lutheran found their stride last week against Bethlehem Academy. They ran for 329 yards last week against the Cardinals, led by a monster night from Zander Flucas. In the big win, Flucas had 25 carries for 194 yards and four touchdowns.

Mayer Lutheran will certainly be looking to keep Flucas rolling against the Awesome Blossoms Friday night. If they can get the run game going early, that will open things up even more for Baden Noennig and the dangerous passing game for Mayer Lutheran.

Typically a run-first offense, the Crusaders have shown they’re not afraid to throw the ball. Noennig is throwing it all over the place this season, and with playmakers on the outside like Mitchell Thiesfeld, Austin Crown, and Mark Masters, it should be no surprise that they like to throw the ball.

Mayer Lutheran has thrived on big plays this season through the air and on the ground. With their toughest task to date coming up this Friday, the Crusaders will need to remain patient and not get frustrated if the big plays aren’t there.

“Mayer will be a good test for our kids as they are very balanced on offense to be able to run the football behind a big offensive line and a very good back in Flucas, and being able to throw it with Noennig,” Blooming Prairie coach Chad Gimbel  said. “On the defensive side of the ball, they are very aggressive and very sound schematic wise, so every yard will have to be earned.”

These two teams met once last season in a thriller of a game. Just when it looked like Mayer Lutheran was on their way to a nice road win, Blooming Prairie rallied late for two touchdowns, and converted a huge two-point conversion to top the Crusaders 28-27.

“I think it’s always great when we get to play a well-coached, fundamentally sound team, with very good athletes,” Gimbel said. “I believe it will really help both teams get prepared for the playoffs.  I am certain, after the game, we will find areas where we will need to continue to improve and grow.  We had a great high school football game with Mayer Lutheran last year, and I expect nothing less this year.”

Both teams come into the matchup after blowout wins last week. A win this week would be huge going forward as they close out the regular season on a short week due to MEA weekend.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Mayer between the Awesome Blossoms and the Crusaders.

For in-game updates, follow Kip Kovar on Twitter. @Kovar_HJSports

A Straight Up Disaster

As a basketball fan, this has been potentially the most embarrassing couple of weeks for the Timberwolves. That is saying something considering this franchise has seen incidents like the Joe Smith fiasco and Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio being drafted ahead of someone named Stephen Curry. However, this week it all culminated in Jimmy Butler showing up to practice on Wednesday in a firestorm putting everyone in the organization on their head.

There are plenty of people to blame for this disaster of a situation. We could focus on Glen Taylor, the owner. In his time owning the franchise, it has been virtually nothing but controversial and/or bad decisions. The fact that he has let Butler, coach Tom Thibodeau, and this entire situation escalate this far can entirely be traced back to Glen.

Another party to blame is Thibs. According to Jimmy, he let Thibs and the franchise know how he felt as soon as 4 days after the end of the season last year. It appears Thibs had all summer to work through Butler’s trade demand and simply ignored it, hoping it would work itself out. This ignorance is laughable. What is even more laughable is the fact that Thibs is still letting this happen. Thibs, a grown man and someone in a position of power, is begging Butler to stay while Butler does his best to burn this franchise to the ground.

Lastly, and most importantly, we can blame the direct source Jimmy Butler. This is what I want to focus on. Jimmy Butler showed up to practice infuriated and was extremely disruptive. He cussed out Thibs, General Manager Scott Layden, Karl Anthony-Towns, Wiggins, and probably even the sales staff for the Timberwolves.

After practice, he did a pre-planned interview with ESPN to explain his actions. The first question by Rachel Nichols asked him about his actions. His response paraphrased was that he hadn’t played basketball in so long and he can’t control his emotions when he is competing. Personally I find it odd that there aren’t players on every team who return from the offseason and act like this if it is as normal as Butler insinuates.

He then talked about honesty and said that he was the only one being honest on the team… You mean like having a planned outburst at practice and then doing a pre-planned “tell all” interview where you go behind everyone on your team’s back? Sounds honest to me.

I do understand Jimmy’s frustration. He demanded a trade, was ignored for 3 months and seems to be no closer to a resolution. He called out Towns and Wiggins for not wanting to win badly enough which probably has lines of truth in it.

However, Butler is a fraud. His entire montra is winning trumps everything… Which is why he demanded to leave a team worthy of a 3-5 seed in the playoffs with young talent for teams that are much worse but can offer him a maximum contract.

Jimmy Butler is egotistical, immature, destructive, embarrassing, dishonest, unprofessional and in general a terrible role model as an athlete. Nobody would dispute how hard he has worked to achieve what he has in his career, but there comes a point where being a decent human being should take precedent.  Jimmy is now the most hated athlete in recent history in Minnesota and for good reason. The guy is simply the worst.

Trade Butler, fire Thibs and Layden, and sell the team Glen – all of Minnesota begs you to.

We need a fresh start.

PREP GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY: Gilbert leads W-M cross country at home meet

WATERTOWN – She might just be a freshman, but a little rain and cold isn’t going stop Watertown-Mayer’s Anja Gilbert. The freshman turned in a strong race on her home course despite the cold and rain to lead the Royals to a fourth-place finish with a team score of 112 Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s definitely the coldest and the wettest race,” Gilbert said. “It was nice that it was home because we had the support from Watertown, but it was definitely one of the harder races just to prepare for mentally.”

Even with all the difficulties that presented a challenge, Gilbert found a way to overcome them all. She finished in 13th place overall with a time of 23 minutes and 7 seconds.

“I just try to think about all the positives of the race,” Gilbert said about her mindset. “That helps me get over the coldness. That’s sort of how it works for me.”

It was a good test for Gilbert and the Royals who will be back on the same course next week for the Wright County Conference meet. With a little experience under her belt, Gilbert is hoping for better weather and an even better time next week.

“I’m super excited,” Gilbert said. “It’s obviously a home course so you have that feeling of what to expect. It should be better weather, and I’m excited. I feel like our team should do well.”

WATERTOWN MAYER INVITATIONAL

TEAM SCORES: 1. Mound Westonka 23; 2. Glencoe-Silver Lake 54; 3. New London-Spicer 59; 4. Watertown-Mayer 112; 5. Litchfield 130.

WATERTOWN-MAYER FINISHES

13th – Anja Gilbert (23:07.87)

18th – Sophia Oscarson (24:02.84)

23rd – Alexis Progreba (24:39.34)

27th – Trista Knebel (25:02.49)

34th – Leah Vraspir (26:31.64)

35th – Shelby Mueller (26:32.04)

 

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

 

PREP BOYS CROSS COUNTRY: Elskamp overcomes cold and rain to win Watertown-Mayer Invitational

WATERTOWN – For some, a race during cold and rain would spell disaster. That’s not the case for Watertown-Mayer’s Will Elskamp. Although it wasn’t ideal, Elskamp powered through the weather to win the Watertown-Mayer Invitational on his home course Tuesday afternoon.

“The rain definitely made things difficult,” Elskamp said. “I like the cold. That always helps, but the rain is no good.”

While the rain took its toll on some runners, Elskamp decided to embrace it. Yes, it wasn’t fun and had some affect on his performance, but there’s no doubt Elskamp found a way to enjoy himself on his way to a win.

“It makes me doubt myself a little bit more, but in my perspective, it makes it a little more fun,” Elskamp said. “It’s a little bit more of an enjoyable time. You’ll definitely remember it for a longer time.”

It was a good boost for Elskamp and the rest of the Royals as they will run the same course next week at the Wright County Conference meet. The Royals finished with a team score of 83, which was good enough for fourth place. They’ll look to build off this race and come back even stronger next week on their home course once again.

“I think the conference meet will be good,” Elskamp said. “There are a few people that I’ve been looking out for and I’ll try to keep up with. It’ll end up being a good time.”

Individually, Elskamp still has his sights set on getting back to his personal best. His time in the rain and cold was 17 minutes and 28 seconds, which is just 12 seconds off of the time he wants to get back to for sections.

“My top time is 17 minutes and 16 seconds,” Elskamp said. “In all honestly, I want to get to that again once section time hits.”

WATERTOWN-MAYER INVITATIONAL

TEAM SCORES: 1. Glencoe-Silver Lake 34; 2. Mound Westonka 40; 3. New London-Spicer 76; 4. Watertown-Mayer 83; 5. Litchfield 125.

WATERTOWN-MAYER FINISHES

1st – Will Elskamp (17:28.73)

15th – George Janikula (20:07.25)

16th – Corey Bimberg (20:13.79)

20th – Jacob Oscarson (21:06.92)

31st – Nicholas Steurnagel (23:40.65)

 

Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter

Twitter: @Kovar_HJSports 

 

Mental Health Matters

I was contemplating a lot of different topics to write about this week. The truth is, it was a tough weekend if you are a fan of Minnesota sports (what’s new?). The Golden Gopher football team got destroyed by an unimpressive Maryland squad. The Minnesota Timberwolves office is in shambles trying to figure out how to best remedy this Jimmy Butler situation. Lastly, the Minnesota Vikings got wiped up and down the field by the Buffalo Bills, the biggest upset in the NFL in 23 years according to Las Vegas.

But none of this really matters.

Vikings fans were disappointed to hear that defensive end Everson Griffen was listed as out due to a knee injury for Sunday’s affair. Fans were then perplexed as to why Griffen wasn’t even found on the sideline of the game.

Since then, details have come streaming in regarding Griffen’s situation – some true and some false or exaggerated. Other stories will be able to explain the details better than I am able to in a short column, but here is the simplified story based on information from the Minnetrista police report.

Griffen had reportedly not been himself for a couple weeks. So much so that on Thursday the Vikings and Zimmer allegedly asked Griffen to not return to the team until he received a mental health evaluation. He returned to practice on Saturday and was sent away to hopefully allow him to clear his head.

Saturday evening, he caused a disturbance at the Hotel Ivy in Minneapolis and was threatening employees (he does not own any weapons). After a chaotic evening, he was finally contained and was being escorted to a local hospital for evaluation. When the ambulance slowed down for a deer, Griffen escaped and was reportedly worried that someone was trying to shoot him.

This was not the only time in the past few weeks where Griffen wasn’t making sense. His wife told police that he got up in the middle of the night on September 16th to deal with some “demons”, returned on September 19th, only to leave and not return until September 22nd. He stayed at the Hotel Ivy all week.

There are more details, but they are somewhat of a moot point. The point is that this man is not okay. The point is that this man is facing some demons and he does not know what to do about them.

Mental illness can affect anyone at anytime. It is too easy to fall into the stereotype-trap thinking that just because someone is rich and famous their life is perfect.  From all accounts, Griffen is a leader, a loving father, and would never be the kind of person who you would expect this to happen to.

But this can happen to anyone. Mental illness is such a difficult thing to talk about. When you break your leg, everyone in the world can look at your leg and understand what the problem is. When there is a chemical imbalance in your brain or you are suffering from a mental illness, it is extremely difficult to observe it and understand what is happening.

I hope and pray that Everson gets the help that he needs. I pray that his wife and family with have strength to help Everson become himself again. I pray that we all can have a better understanding of what mental illness is and that we can have an open dialogue about the stigmas surrounding it.

In a perfect world, everyone is 100% healthy and happy and the Vikings win the Super Bowl. But we live in a far from perfect world and we have to remember that there are way more important things in life than football.