Rushford-Peterson’s ground game was mostly stymied, but they made plays in the passing game and their defense, particularly their secondary, was up to snuff in taking down Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in a 1A state quarterfinal. The Trojans (1A Champ, #3 in A, 11-0) and Jaguars (4A Champ, 8-3) hooked up at Crown College outside Waconia. The first score of the game came courtesy of the special teams. Trojan senior Tommy Ekern blocked a B-B-E punt late in the first quarter, with Logan Skalet picking it up and rumbling a few yards to the Jaguar 10. Two plays later, the hot connection for the night, seniors Malachi Bunke and Justin Ruberg, hooked up for a 12-yard TD pass. The PAT failed leaving R-P up 6-0. The Trojans had two other first half chances in B-B-E territory (29 and 11 yard-lines), but both ended on downs. B-B-E never crossed midfield. The Trojans led 6-0 at halftime. The game had just a couple big plays. B-B-E authored the first. On a broken play that originally looked to be a screen pass, sophomore QB Luke Dingmann hit Easton Hagen streaking behind the defense for a 63-yard TD. B-B-E’s conversion failed, leaving the scored tied 6-6. But R-P’s replies to the score were the critical sequences in the game. On their next series, Bunke improvised and hit Ruberg, who had gotten behind the defense. The 6’3” 215-pound receiver eluded a couple tacklers and scored from 63 yards out. Again, the PAT failed, leaving R-P up 12-6. Three plays into B-B-E’s next drive, Trojan junior d-back Dalton Hoel intercepted Dingmann, with a return to the Jaguar 20. Three plays later, the Trojans again capitalized on a really short field. Bunke to Ruberg (13-yards) was good again, their third hook-up. With the third quarter waning, the Trojans led 18-6. The 4th quarter was then a stalemate. B-B-E couldn’t matriculate the ball downfield via the pass. R-P had multiple pass-defenses; at least six for the game. The Trojan secondary added two interceptions, Hoel again laying on his back on the ground after a pass defense, and Hengel. It was Hoel’s second two interception game (Hayfield). After throwing the TD pass, Dingmann subsequently completed three of his next 17 attempts for seven yards and three picks. But the Trojans couldn’t run the ball to milk the clock. They finished with just 40 yards on 30 carries. In the end, B-B-E never snapped the ball in the Trojans red zone. R-P moved on to U.S. Bank Stadium and the state semifinals courtesy of a 18-6 win. Bunke (10-19, 164 yards, 3 TDs passing) to Ruberg (6-107, 3 TDs receiving) was the offensive money-connection for team green. It’s the second time they’ve hooked up for three TDs (W-K) and the third time Bunke has hit one Trojan receiver for three TDs (Alex Ronnenberg versus K-W). Bunke added an interception. Ruberg was also the leading rusher (6-21 rushing). Hengel (3-54 receiving) also had a couple longer receptions. The Trojan secondary, with the four picks, made up for a pass rush, which yielded just one sack. Dingmann, just a sophomore, was forced to make a lot of decisions (13-33, 119 yards, TD, 4 INTs passing, 9-40 rushing). Hagen (2-71, TD receiving) was their top receiver. Gavin Kampsen (14-48 rushing) was their leading rusher. B-B-E’s run defense did yeoman’s work stopping the R-P rush attack. Eighteen of R-P’s 30 carries went for 1, 0, or negative yards. R-P finished with 204 total yards (164 passing, 40 rushing), B-B-E with 215 (119 passing, 96 rushing). The Trojans won the turnover battle 4:0 and had the blocked punt. R-P moves on to face Minneota, which downed Mahnomen/Waubon 34-0 in the quarters. That game will pit the undefeated #3 Trojans (12-0) versus the undefeated #2 Vikings (12-0). Minneota has allowed just 25 points this season (nine shut-outs). Of note, the last time R-P and B-B-E played each other was for the 2014 boys’ basketball state title.
In the Snow, Gophers Stone Polars Cold, Head to U.S. Bank
Minneapolis-North (4AA Champion, 9-1) entered their state semifinal with Chatfield (1AA Champion, 10-1) as the highest ranked team remaining in the field. The Polars ended the year ranked #2 while the Gophers finished ranked #6. Rankings don’t necessarily mean a thing. The last real play of the game saw Gopher reserve senior Dylan Cocker intercept a pass in the end zone. The game was long since finished. The fourth quarter was running time. Like they did in the Section 1AA final, Chatfield dominated things, with their offensive line, with Sam Backer’s running, and with their defense. Though, it took some time for Chatfield’s first TD. Their first possession was an 11-play, 75-yard trek that benefitted from three North encroachment penalties. On 4th and goal from the one, Backer scooted in. He added a two-point pass to Drew O’Connor to make it 8-0. Chatfield’s defense then stymied Minneapolis-North, but the Gophers resultantly went three-and-out too. North’s only big play of the half occurred when they blocked a punt. Jaivon Hill picked it up a took it into the end zone from five-yards out. The PAT was good leaving the score Gophers 8, Polars 7 in the first. The rest of the half and a few minutes of the third quarter were then all Backer, his line, and the Gopher defense. Chatfield four times in the second quarter. Backer started with a 3-yard TD run, a cap to a 58-yard drive (14-7). The Gophers next drive was a 54-yard Backer TD run. With two-point conversion (Backer to O’Connor), the Gophers led 22-7. After an Eli Hopp interception, Backer found Cole Johnson for a 17-yard TD pass. Backer to O’Connor a third time for two made it 30-7. Another defensive stop led to another Backer one-play drive, this time a 55-yard TD run. With another conversion, Chatfield led by the exact amount as they did in the 1AA title game at halftime, 38-7. The Gophers then scored on their first two second half possessions (Backer TD runs of 21-yards, 8-yards) to lead 50-7! Meanwhile, Chatfield’s defense held North to just two first half first downs. Both came last in the second quarter when the score was 38-7. The Polars had eight net yards at halftime. The Gopher defensive flew around handing out hits, out-flanking a much bigger, but much slower North offensive line. Chatfield collected the two interceptions. Ethan Ruskell and Kailan Schott each had solo sacks. Berge and Backer shared a sack. Berge, Mason Clemens, and Grady Schott triple shared a sack. Jake Brogan and Ryan Nosbisch shared a sack. The Polars kept their first string in the entire game, playing against Chatfield’s reserves from the middle of third quarter on. That is when most of their yards and their two offensive TDs occurred. By a final of 50-20, Chatfield moved on to the state semifinals. Backer was again the lead horse, speeding and spinning his way to another big night (21-251, 6 TDs rushing; 3-5, 29 yards, TD passing, four passing 2-point conversions). Through four playoff games, he has 887 yards and 19 rushing TDs. And he hasn’t played in the 4th quarter yet, or finished a third quarter for that matter. O’Connor caught three conversion passes. Johnson had the 17-yard TD reception and caught a conversion pass. Jackson Schild added 10 carries for 40 yards as the Gophers ran for 306 yards. North was led by Rio Sanders (2-6, 50 yards, 2 TDs passing, 11-59 rushing) and De’Meico Anderson (4-60, 2 TDs receiving). The high-riding Gophers (11-1), winners of 11 straight, move on to play Barnesville (9-2) from Section eight, which beat Eden Valley-Watkins (9-2) 34-20.
Cardinals Surge Into State Semi-finals
LeRoy-Ostrander made the most of its first state football tournament appearance in 17 years with a 57-26 quarterfinal flogging of Wheaton/Herman-Norcross amid snow flurries at Macalester College in St. Paul. In the state’s highest-scoring quarterfinal, the Cardinals finished with 57 points for the fourth time this season. L-O (9-man Section 1 champ, 9-2) and the Warriors (Section 4 champ, 9-2) equally divided the first four touchdowns and much later equally shared the final four scores, but the middle four TDs were all Cardinals as L-O left the Warriors behind before halftime. Senior signal-caller Chase Johnson had 429 yards of total offense, rushing for 319 yards and two touchdowns (6 and 51 yards) plus two extra-point runs while also passing for 110 yards, two TDs, and an extra-points completion. It was nothing new as Johnson had led the sub-district in both rushing yards and passing yards as well as rushing touchdowns and passing touchdowns. Senior running back Tanner Olson (6’2”, 200) rampaged for 152 yards, including four TD runs of 33, 1, 6 and 19 yards plus a two-point conversion. It was back-and-forth early with both defenses prevailing as only six of the eventual 83 points were scored during the first quarter. After the first L-O possession ended with its only turnover of the night and the first Warrior drive ended on their only red-zone denial at the L-O 8 yard-line, the teams traded scores twice. The Cardinals trailed 6-0, led 7-6 and then trailed again 12-7 before scoring 36 unanswered points. L-O erupted with 29 points in the second period to take a commanding 29-12 lead into halftime. Any hopes for a W/H-N second-half resurgence were quickly quelled when Johnson intercepted a Warrior pass just two plays after intermission. Spanning halftime, the Cardinals scored on their final six possessions before taking a knee at the end. L-O could both run and pass, but W/HN gained only 72 yards on the ground. However, Zachary Braaten completed 22 of 34 passes (65%) for 265 yards and all four Warrior touchdowns (44, 15, 21, 16 yards). But the 6’3” senior was also intercepted twice. For the Cards, Johnson completed 7 of 11 passes (64%). After his first attempt had been intercepted, Johnson’s second aerial found Tristan Lewison behind the secondary for a 40-yard TD. The two-point conversion toss to Layne Bird put L-O ahead for a second time, 15-12, this time a lead the Cards would not relinquish. An 18-yard pass to Lewison came one play before Olson bolted 33 yards to make it 23-12. Then a 36-yard pass to Lewison set up a 4-yard TD toss to Bird just four seconds before halftime (29-12). Lewison, the sub-district’s leading receiver, finished with four receptions for 100 yards and also intercepted one enemy aerial. Gavin Sweeney had one reception on offense and kicked an extra point. Defensively, he had two sacks, a fourth-down tackle for no gain, and blocked an extra point kick. After the opening turnover, the Cardinals scored on 8 of 10 possessions. They faced fourth down only three times; they never punted but twice lost the ball on downs. The O-line, Sweeney, Hayden Sass, Morgan Jasper and Malyk Schaefer, cleared paths for 467 yards rushing as L-O outgained the Warriors overall, 577 yards to 337. Both teams came in with 9-2 records. It was the Warriors’ first trip to state since 2012. L-O (10-2) advances to a state semi-final versus Kittson County Central (Section 8), which qualified with a 27-20 win over Ogilvie. The Bearcats (10-2) are averaging twice as many points, 32, as they give up, 16. KCC returns to state for the first time since falling in the 2013 semi-finals to state champion Grand Meadow.
SEC and TRC Volleyball All-Conference
It was another good year for area volleyball teams. Notably, eight of the eleven under the Journal 11 umbrella finished with winning records (and two were five-hundred). As such, Mabel-Canton (4), Spring Grove (3), Lanesboro (4), Grand Meadow (3), LeRoy-Ostrander (2), Caledonia (5), Fillmore Central (3), Chatfield (4), and Rushford-Peterson (2) all have multiple All-SEC or All-TRC picks.
All-Southeast Conference Volleyball
In the SEC, Mabel-Canton claimed its 24th straight league title, sweeping through the East Division. They went 30-5 overall, finishing as a section final four participant. Lonnie Morken’s group was led by All-SEC selections Sophie Morken (5’6” Jr. OH), Molly Lee (5’3” Sr. OH), Sahara Morken (5’4” Fr. Setter), and Saijal Slafter (5’8” Fr. MH). The eldest Morken daughter on the team, Sophie, was named the SEC Player of the Year. Morken tallied team-bests in kills with 300 and digs with 438. She had a team second best 57 aces and repeated as All-SEC. Lee also repeated, and joined Morken as a well-rounded, all-the-way around player. The senior tallied a team third-best 205 kills and a team third-best 324 digs. The younger Morken sister, Sahara, in her first year of setting for the Cougars, racked up 1,039 assists. That is M-C’s all-time single-season mark, breaking the former record of Kayla O’Bieglo (1,028). Morken also supplied 254 digs and a team-best 62 aces (95.7% serving). Finally, Slafter had big break-out season in the middle. The freshman had 202 kills at a team-best .398 hitting percentage. She also served at 94.6%. Making All-SEC Honorable Mention, for a second straight year, was Emily Carolan (5’4” Sr. OH). The senior contributed 190 kills, 210 digs, and 54 aces (at 92.8% serving). Of note, M-C had five girls with 190 kills or more, as 8th grader Kinley Soiney (235 kills, .299 hitting percentage) joined the above four. Five girls also went over 200 digs, as MaKenzie Kelly (409 digs) joined the four above. Lonnie Morken earned 1A Coach of the Year.
SEC-East second place squad Spring Grove checks in with three All-SEC selections. A trio of impressive juniors make the cut for Kelsey Morken’s club; Addyson McHugh (5’10” OH), Kenadee Gerard (5’10” Jr. OH), and Maggie Lile (5’6” libero). McHugh and Gerard were SG’s big-hitting tandem. McHugh led SG with 60 aces on a team-best 97.1% serving. She had a team second-bests in kills, with 248 kills, and digs, with 232. It was her third All-SEC designation. Gerard led the Lions with 260 kills, earning her first All-SEC honor. She added 137 digs. Lile was SG’s passer preferred, their player most likely to dive all over. She easily led the squad with 448 digs while serving strong at a 93.5% clip. Lile repeats as All-SEC. A fourth junior, Lydia Solum (5’9” MH) made All-SEC HM. She contributed 116 kills and a team-best 32 total blocks. Of note, Rachel Normann (5’9” senior setter) led the Lions in assists (523) including going over 1,000 for her career. This group of girls helped the Lions to a 20-10 season, where they made the Section final four.
The SEC-West division champion Grand Meadow Superlarks get a trio of All-SEC picks in seniors Anna Oehlke (5’7” OH), Emma Grafe (5’7” setter/RH), and River Landers (6’2” MH). They helped Sue Wilson’s club be a very balanced attack. Oehlke and Grafe were very versatile. Oehlke led GM with 287 digs while having team second bests in kills, with 143, and aces, with 30. Grafe, an All-SEC HM pick last year, led GM with 314 assists and 49 aces (on 96.8% serving). She also had a team second-best 231 digs plus 105 kills. Landers, a force in the middle, led the Larks with 167 kills at a team-high .221 hitting efficiency. She also tallied a team-best 64 total blocks including 29 ace blocks. Kendyl Queensland (5’9” Jr. OH) made All-SEC HM, as she compiled 111 kills, 218 digs, 29 aces (on 96.3% serving), and 32 total blocks. Said girls helped GM go 12-2 in the SEC and 18-11 overall (including notably beating M-C in the East-West game).
Lanesboro had four girls make All-SEC; Ella Cambern (5’5” Sr. setter), Malia Tessum (5’4” Sr. libero), Kaci Ruen (5’11” Jr. MH), and Jessie Schreiber (5’11” Jr. MH). Cambern finished off a fine four years of setting with a third All-SEC designation. She led them with 626 assists while also contributing 240 digs and 30 aces (at a 97% clip). For her career, she finished with 1,986 assists and impressively served 97%. Tessum finished off a three-year career by leading the Burros with 497 digs. The Burros passer-preferred added 39 aces. Tessum finished with 1,192 digs. It was her third All-SEC honor. Up front, Ruen had team bests with 356 kills and 56 aces. She added 196 digs and 28 total blocks. Schreiber had a team second-best 248 kills and a team-best 53 aces. She added 219 digs and 35 blocks. All four girls repeated as All-SEC from last year. Making All-SEC HM was Ellie Anderson (5’8” So. RH). She had 83 kills and 57 digs. Said players helped Julie Schreiber’s group go 17-11.
LeRoy-Ostrander posted their first non-losing season (12-12) in a full, non-COVID year since 2012. Lindsay Milk’s SEC-West second place Cardinals get two All-SEC picks in Gracie O’Byrne (5’5” Sr. libero) and Jordan Runde (5’9” Jr. OH). O’Byrne was one of the SEC’s top liberos, as she collected a team-best 418 digs. Runde led L-O with 159 kills at a team-best .276 hitting percentage. The junior added team second-best’s with 41 aces and 175 digs. Making All-SEC HM for a second time is Sam Volkart (5’7” Sr. OH). She contributed 112 kills and 143 digs to the L-O effort. Of note, Sidney Lewison (5’8” Sr. OH) led L-O with 50 aces, 53 total blocks, and was third with 110 kills.
Kingsland had one All-TRC pick, Alyssa Link (5’7” Sr. setter). Link led Kingsland with 394 assists while also contributing 64 kills, 138 digs, and 33 aces. The four-year starter finished her career with 1,479 total assists. Anika Reiland (5’5” Jr. DS) made All-SEC HM for a second time for the Knights. She had a team second-best 339 digs while also contributing 127 kills and a team second-best 46 aces. Of note, Audrey Webster (5’4” Sr. DS) led the Amanda Siskow’s group with 344 digs and 49 aces. Shelby Beck (5’9” Sr. MH) led Kingsland with 202 kills.
Houston gets just an All-SEC Honorable Mention pick in Sydney Torgerson (5’9” Jr. MH). She led the Hurricanes with 143 kills and 47 total blocks while adding a team third-best 172 digs. Lilly Carr (team-high 297 assists, team second-best 26 aces) and Emily Botcher (team-high 179 digs, team-high 27 aces) were other players of note for the Hurricanes.
All Three Rivers Conference Volleyball
In the TRC, league champion Caledonia sports a TRC-best five All-Conference selections, Logan Koepke (5’10” So. OH), Grace Myhre (5’11” Sr. OH), Sadie Treptow (5’10” Sr. MH), Paige Klug (5’9” Jr. MH, and Jovial King (5’8” junior setter). Koepke leads the way, as she was maybe the TRC’s best all-around player. The sophomore racked up team bests in kills with 311, digs with 357, and aces with 42. She notably made the 300-kill/300-dig club, and hit at a solid .223 clip. If there was a TRC Player of the Year, one would be hard-pressed not to give it to Koepke. She is the Journal Sports Volleyball Player of the Year. From there, the Warriors were balanced. Myhre contributed a team second-best 140 kills with 52 total blocks. Treptow was maybe the TRC’s best blocker, as the senior was credited with 85 total blocks. She added 127 kills on .229 hitting. Klug scored with 127 kills, 46 total blocks, and 28 aces. King split the setting responsibility, but led the team with 438 assists while chipping in 128 digs and 26 aces. Koepke, King, Klug, and Myhre all served at better than 91%. Making All-TRC HM for the Warriors were Brianna Stemper (5’8” Sr. OH) and Emma Rommes (5’6” So. Setter). Stemper scored with 105 kills and 147 digs while serving at a team-best 95.7%. Rommes had 274 assists and a team second-best 35 aces. Said girls helped Scott Koepke’s Warriors go 22-9 and make the 1AA final four.
Right behind the Warriors with four All-TRC picks are the Chatfield Gophers. Peyton Berg (5’8” Sr OH), Zayda Priebe (6’2” Sr. MH), Sydney Allen (5’5” Sr. setter), and Jaelyn LaPlante (5’7” Fr. OH) make it for Molly Thomas’ group. The first two head the list, as each repeat being named All-TRC. Priebe was a huge force in the middle. She easily led the Gophers with 336 kills on .341 hitting. The high-reaching athlete added 85 total blocks including 23 ace blocks. Priebe made Class AA All-State, the only Journal 11 player to be purely All-State. She has signed to play volleyball and compete track and field at Bemidji State. Berg, a three-year stand-out, was Chatfield’s best all-around player. She notched team-bests in digs, with 300, and aces, with 48, a team-second best 199 kills. Berg had over 300 digs as a sophomore also, and probably would’ve neared 1,000 career digs had last year not been a shortened season. Allen had team-high 366 assists. The senior added 123 digs and 36 aces (90.7% serving). LaPlante was the Gophers third leading attacker with 173 kills at a .243 percentage. Making All-TRC HM for Chatfield were Shelby Nolan (5’5” Sr. libero) and Devann Clemens (5’7” Sr. setter). Clemens served at a team-best 97.5% while notching 334 assists and tallying 151 digs. Nolan tallied a team second-best 184 digs. Said players helped Chatfield contend for the TRC title and finish 19-9 overall.
Getting three All-TRC picks is the league’s second-place team, Fillmore Central. Lauren Mensink (5’6” Sr. setter), Abby Bothun (5’9” Jr. OH), and Kammry Broadwater (5’9” So. OH) are the Falcons’ selections. Mensink completed her third year on varsity by leading the Falcon offense from her setter spot. She tallied 605 assists along with 250 digs, 122 kills, and 36 aces. Mensink hit .231 and wasn’t a true “hitter.” For her career, Lauren finished with 1,226 assists, 646 digs, and 427 kills. Bothun and Broadwater rivalled each other for FC’s best hitter. Bothun had a team second-bests in kills, with 216, and in digs, with 285. Broadwater had a team-best 234 kills with a team fourth-best 199 digs. Making All-TRC HM for FC was libero Kyla Hellickson (5’5” 8th grader) and middle hitter Alyssa Britton (5’10” So.). Hellickson led the team in digs with 380 and aces with 60. Britton had 114 kills, a team-best 65 total blocks, and 38 aces. Said girls helped Travis Malley’s group go 9-1 in the TRC and 16-13 overall.
Rushford-Peterson had a good season, going 18-12 and making it to Rochester. They get a pair of All-TRC picks in Kaylee Ruberg (5’10” junior OH) and Isabelle Kahoun (5’5” junior setter). The duo interacted with each other a lot. Ruberg had a Journal 11 best 384 kills, as she didn’t just break out, but shattered glass everywhere. The junior had 1,126 total attacks! She also led R-P with 55 aces and 351 digs. She joined Caledonia’s Koepke and M-C’s Morken as the only Journal 11 athletes in the 300/300 club. With a big senior year, Ruberg could get to 1,000 kills. Ruberg’s 384 kills are one of only six 300-kill seasons in R-P (recent) history. Amy Todd and Kenzie Lind have the other five. Kahoun amassed 559 assists to go with 300 digs, 42 kills, and 35 aces. The junior went over 1,000 assists. Making All-TRC HM for the Trojans were Elly Malone (5’6” Sr. OH), Hannah Ronnenberg (5’5” Jr. OH), and Emarie Jacobson (5’9” Sr. MH). Malone had a team second-best 129 kills and a team second-best 329 digs while serving 93.4%. Ronnenberg had a team second-best 47 aces, 108 kills, 304 digs, and 64 assists.
In the November 15 Fillmore County Journal Sports, it was stated, as it pertains to the state cross country meet, that Kingsland’s Garrison Hubka “ran a season-best time (16:55.32)” and that “it was his only sub-seventeen-minute 5,000-meters this season.” Hubka ran 16:50.6 at the Hayfield Invite, which was his season best time. He also ran 16:53.6 at the PEM Invite. He thus had three sub-17-minute 5,000-meters races.
*The Fillmore County Journal Sports page is a written collaboration of Paul Trende and Lee Epps.