This column will be without the trademark BS Zone snark, and feeble attempts at wit.
Frankly, it’s a column I’d rather not be writing at all.
With the socioeconomic climate what it is today, writing about the ending of the DC-Minneapolis North football game seems like an exercise in futility. No matter what I write, or the position I take, I am likely to be excoriated by one or more aggrieved parties.
In other words, a normal Monday.
So I guess, let’s do this.
Here are the facts.
The Class AAA State Quarterfinal game, held at Orono High School Saturday between DC and Minneapolis North, was, well, pick your cliché.
A thriller. A barn burner. A cheek clencher.
It was a straight up battle between two of the top teams in Class AAA.
After an impressive on-field display by both teams in the first half, the Chargers took a 7-0 lead into the halftime break.
Unfortunately, any goodwill between the two teams was undone at halftime.
Two Minneapolis North players decided the prudent decision was to flip the bird to the DC fans as they exited the field.
Which, y’know, seems a bit extreme to most of us.
The second half was much like the first on the field. Just a straight up rollercoaster, with both teams making big plays.
Late in the fourth quarter, with DC leading 14-7, the Chargers got a huge fumble recovery on their own 9-yard line from Anthony Briseno. Several plays later, Monte Gillman ran up the middle for a 77-yard gain, sliding down at the Polars 5-yard line to give DC an opportunity to run out the clock, and close out the game.
The Chargers only had to kneel out the clock twice to seal the victory.
On the first kneel down, a Minneapolis North player barreled in and knocked an offensive lineman into quarterback Caleb Thinesen after he had knelt. This led to a penalty.
On the game’s final play, yet another kneel down, the same thing happened. This time, a North player added a punch, and several other North players looked ready to brawl before DC coaches stepped in to cool things down and separate the players.
Unfortunately, that was not the end of the mayhem.
A North player, after going through the handshake line, plopped himself in the middle of the field and flipped the DC fans the double bird for about 45 seconds, before he was gently escorted away by a steward.
Several other North players walked up to the DC stands and shouted abuse, and threats.
Later on, North fans were observed shouting slurs towards exiting DC fans.
And to top it all off, a North fan punched another North fan, leading to a police and ambulance response.
I learned later that the punch was thrown by a Minneapolis North cheerleader.
All in all, I can quite safely say this was a first for me in my 20+ years of covering sports.
I agonized for a while on how to write this column.
I talked to well over a dozen people at the game, trying to get different perspectives.
One perspective I keep coming back to quite simply is this: the actions of the North players, and fans, should never be acceptable at a high school game.
The saddest thing about the game for the Chargers is that, what should have been a celebratory moment for the team, turned out to be subdued.
The Chargers had just pulled off an amazing victory over an incredibly talented opponent, advancing to the Class AAA state semifinals at US Bank Stadium.
Yet the celebration was hampered by concern, with players, fans and family looking over their shoulders, worried about safety.
That said: Let us not condemn an entire community, for the actions of a few.
The offending players at Minneapolis North should, without a doubt, be disciplined.
I think the program should also be disciplined in some manner for what, again, was completely unacceptable behavior. Nobody attending a high school sporting event should have to worry about safety.
That said, consider this from DC defensive coordinator Patrick Schuette:
“It might be unpopular with fans, but overall I thought the players and coaches were respectful, played hard, and were very well coached,” he said. “A few players were disrespectful, lost their temper and had inappropriate behavior.”
Nevertheless, Schuette said, the behavior of a few players should not define the entire North team.
“After the game, I watched North coaches console grieving players, many players and coaches were great in the handshake line after losing a very tight, one-score emotional game,” he said. “The game was overall very clean with no personal fouls outside of the last series, and not a ton of penalties.”
DC head coach Ryan Weinandt, and DC Activities Director Perry Thinesen both said they took the concerns of the players, parents and fans seriously.
The two had a meeting with the MSHSL Monday, in which they outlined their concerns to the League.
Thinesen said the MSHSL is taking the team’s concerns seriously.
Weinandt said he was very proud of the players for how they played, and the sportsmanship they displayed in difficult circumstances.
“There were some unfortunate things that happened, but we are focusing on how we respond and what we can control,” he said. “When issues come up with sportsmanship we do work with the state high school league and do the best that we can to support our players.”
I sent an email to Minneapolis North head coach Charles Adams with some questions regarding the game.
As of deadline, he has not responded.
I did hear word that Adams has offered an apology to the Chargers for his team’s behavior at the end of the game.
In addition, several Minneapolis North players, including the double bird flipper, apologized shortly thereafter.
My bottom line would be this:
We witnessed some unfortunate events. We should be proud of the way our team, staff and fans responded.
Now, we are on to face Annandale, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
It does not get any better than this for DC football fans.
Let’s go Chargers.