By Paul Trende
In December of 2010, the Fillmore County Journal expanded to include area high school sports coverage. This past winter season marked the tenth year of the Journal Sports. With spring activities looking like a wash and having entered into a new decade, the Journal will present All-Decade teams relating to each sport. Those listed had to be covered by the Journal Sports. Those whose careers spanned just into 2010 are less regarded. Athletes from Houston are only those from 2013-on (when our coverage began). Rankings are based off a multitude of factors; honors received, team winning, stats, career longevity, coaches ranking, player-by-player comparison, and college credentials). The process is very much subject to debate! Special thanks to football coaches Jeff Johnson, Chris Mensink, Davin Thompson, Karl Urbaniak, and Cody Hungerholt for their assistance on this project.
All-Decade Football Top 20
#1) Noah Carlson (RB/WR/S, R-P, 2013-2016, All-SFA once, All-District twice, 2016 MSE-East Offensive Player of the Year, 1st Team All-State): The county’s only AP State Player of the Year (this decade). ‘Flash’ ripped off chunks of ground, going over 4,000 yards rushing for his career. The four-year starter led R-P to the 2016 state title game (finished as Class A runner-up). Carlson had one of best seasons in Minnesota history with over 2,700 rushing yards, 41 rushing TDs, and 47 total TDs. He was on teams that went 33-11. Coach Thompson: “Noah always put everyone else on the team before himself. We all know what a gifted athlete he is but he was an even better teammate.” Carlson went to Michigan for track. Now there are rumors of Minnesota for football.
#2) Niko Anderson (RB/LB, Lanesboro, 2010-2013, All-SEC thrice, multi-time SEC ‘Back of the Year’): ‘Touchdown Niko’ was the Burros score-maker. Played as a freshman on a state runner-up, then had three straight 1,200-plus yard seasons. He went over 1,500 yards rushing and 30 TDs junior and senior seasons. He finished with (unofficially) 110 career TDs and over 5,000 yards rushing. Anderson was on teams that went 31-13. Former KFIL Sports Director Devon Krueger: “The workhorse. (Niko) never seemed to tire as the game wore on, and it was just a matter of time before he busted loose.” Coach Hungerholt: “Best pure runner I’ve seen in our district.”
#3) Jake Neis (RB/DB, Chatfield, 2011-2013, All-TRC twice, 2012 South Offensive POY, All-SFA once): The elusive star back on a state championship team, a three-year starter. Chatfield’s blocking schemes allotted for one un-blocked man defensively. It was Neis job to beat that guy. He did so more oft than not enroot to back-to-back 1,200-plus yard rushing seasons, 1,800 yards and 30 TDs senior year. Coach Johnson: “All everything… besides being an offensive freak, his defensive skills were great as well… long snapper… P.A.T. holder… did everything.” Devon Krueger: “Versatile as they get. Both sides of the ball, he could change the game.”
#4) Zach Olstad (RB/LB, FC, 2009-2011, All-TRC in 2011): Can boast having put on a real NFL jersey. Olstad was a key asset in the early 2010s, part of the Falcons 7-3 2011 squad. Stout, strong, physical, and athletic (point guard on the basketball team), it was the lesser-heralded, “coach’s traits,” that allowed him to play at Winona State, be a team captain, and then move on to NFL with the Buffalo Bills. Coach Mensink: “Tough, coachable, willing to do the dirty work. Very physical. Did what it took to get ready each week. Very durable and dependable. Took advantage of every opportunity and rep in practice to get better and improve himself.”
#5) Cole Kingsley (RB/WR/DB, R-P, 2012-2014, All-TRC once, All-SFA twice, 2014 All-State 2nd Team): The Trojans’ Mr. Versatility #1a circa his era. Kingsley got carries, caught passes, and hawked balls in the secondary. He nearly went over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving for his career with 30-plus TDs and 19 interceptions (unofficially). Helped R-P to a Section title game in 2014 and went 21-9 in three seasons. Coach Thompson: “Having Cole on the field is like having a coach on the field. He had a great feel and understanding of the game. A fearless leader and competitor.” Kingsley is now an assistant for the Trojans.
#6) Chance Backer (LB/TE, Chatfield, 2017-2019, All-District twice, 2019 White Defensive POY, 2019 3rd Team All-State): When your last name is Backer, it just sort of fits to be good at linebacker. The three-year starter was key on back-to-back section runner-up teams. Possessing size (6’2” 210 pounds), speed (anchored a pair of Chatfield state qualifying relay teams), and football violence, he was what any coach would want defensively, and a key tight end blocker in Chatfield’s run system (aided brother Sam to a huge frosh campaign). Coach Johnson: “Most feared defensive player I’ve ever coached. Plus did great things on offense. Made 90% of tackles on all special teams.” Former CCTV Director Craig Manahan; “(He could) pop a ball carrier hard enough to be heard in the press box!”
#7) Justin Viss (RB/LB, Chatfield, 2010-2012, All-TRC three times, 2012 South Defensive POY): Wrestlers are usually expected to be good football players. A majority of wrestlers are under 160-pounds. Enter Viss, who used his size (6’2” 210) and grappling abilities to excel at fullback and linebacker for the Gophers in the early 2010s. Viss then played college ball at Eau Claire. Coach Jeff Johnson: “Beast on both sides of the ball, led his team in everything and was one of the best leaders and most coachable kids I’ve ever coached.”
#8) Jayme LaPlante (DE/TE, Chatfield, 2011-2013, All-TRC twice, 2013 3rd Team All-State): Maybe the most physically gifted guy on this list, and, like Neis, a state football champion. LaPlante was a three-year starter who went on to see important time at DE for good MSU-Mankato teams. Craig Manahan: “(LaPlante) had size, speed, and strength. A great blocker who could also run the ball and get big yards after the catch. Your prototypical high school TE who just loved the game of football.”
#9) Drew Wyffels (QB/DB, M-C, 2015-2018, A-D thrice, 2018 9-Man 1st Team All-State, 2018 3rd Team All-State overall): The Cougars four-year starting quarterback. Wyffels was his most lethal on defense, speedily intercepting 16 passes in his career. Drew also had 32 passing TDs and 19 rushing TDs. Coach Urbaniak: “Great two-way player. Tremendous leader on both sides of the ball and special teams.”
#10) Brady Ristau (RB/LB, FC 2015-2017, A-D trice, 2017 MSE-East Co-Defensive POY): Very key player during an impressive span where FC football went 24-7. A three-year starter, Ristau was a two-year captain (first ever for FC) who particularly excelled on defense. Coach Chris Mensink: “Physical, tough (ran the ball in section final with broken leg), coachable, and always put team first. Leader! Student of the game; studied opponents like no other.”
#11) Joey Fishel (DE/LB/RB, Houston, 2015-2018, A-D thrice, 2018 South-East Defensive POY): A four-year starter, Fishel played on teams that went 7-3, 8-2, and 9-2 from 2016-2018. Best on defense but also ran for 1,000 yards as a senior. Coach Hungerholt: “Basically locked down one side of field from his DE spot junior and senior years. Had two seasons of double digits sacks. Best motor of any kid I have coached.”
#12) Alex Vix (RB/DB, R-P, 2012-2014, All-TRC once, All-SFA Twice): R-P’s Mr. Versatility #1b in from 2012-2014, Vix made waves running, receiving, returning, and sniping. Went over 1,000 yards receiving and rushing for his career with around 30 total TDs. Like Kingsley, went 21-9. Coach Thompson: “Alex made things happen on the field that few other people could. Every time he touched the ball big things could happen and often did.”
#13) Luke Ristau (DE/OL, FC, 2015-2017, A-D twice, 2017 MSE-East Lineman of the Year): Like Cousin Brady, a key part of FC’s impressive 24-7 run. Coach Mensink: “Fast, aggressive, athletic; had a great motor and got off the ball as quick as anyone I have coached or coached against. Had ability to shut down his side of the field at DE.”
#14) Riley Means (QB/LB, FC, 2014-2016, A-D twice): Pulled the rarity; started at QB and linebacker, for teams that went to back-to-back section title games no less. A three year starter, ended with nearly 3,000 combined passing and rushing yards. Coach Mensink: “Utility guy, could play any position from OL/QB/DE/LB, he did it. Dual threat and rare combination of QB/MLB.”
#15) Carter Duxbury (RB/LB, Chatfield, 2013-2015, A-D twice): The third pure Chatfield linebacker on the list. Like Viss and Backer, an animal on defense and strong runner offensively. A starter as a sophomore on Chatfield’s state team. Duxbury went on to see important game time for Winona State. Coach Johnson: “Great all-around player, great leader and very coachable. Teams had a tough time stopping him.”
#16) Josh Peters (RB/LB, FC, 2016-2018, A-D thrice): A huge running threat for the Falcons for three straight years. Even switched to QB as a senior, ending career with over 2,600 yards rushing and 38 total TDs. Coach Mensink had four words to describe him: “Competitor. Energy. Never quit.”
#17) Jake Paulson (WR/TE/LB, R-P, 2015-2017, A-D twice): Maybe the best wide receiver the county produced in the 2010s, Paulson caught 74 passes for 1,578 yards and 20 TDs over his junior and senior years. Coach Thompson: “Jake was a competitor! He made his biggest plays when we needed him the most.”
#18) Blake Henry (OL/DL, M-C, 2015-2018, twice A-D, 2018 All-State HM): A four year starter, did the dirty work in the trenches for the Cougars. Coach Urbaniak: “Tremendous offensive and defensive lineman for us.”
#19) Gabe Lind (RB/LB, M-C, 2009-2011, All-State HM in 2011): The Cougars short of stature churning running back of the early decade, had 1,200-yard 21 TD senior year. Coach Urbaniak: “Powerful athlete with great focus on his job. Tremendous fullback for us and one of our best ever outside linebackers.”
#20) Luke Rasmussen (WR/DB, R-P 2014-2016, A-D twice): A ball hawking defensive back, had 17 interceptions junior and senior years (13 his last year alone). Played on the 2016 state runner-up team. Coach Thompson: “Lukas is maybe the most competitive player I’ve coached. His pure will to help his team win was so fun to coach.”
With the expansion of the Fillmore County Journal, its sports section will also expand into new markets. We look forward to this additional coverage.