Sunday, October 31, 2010

No. 1 seeds look good in football playoffs

The No. 1 seeds in Section 2 had a pretty easy time of it in the high-school football playoffs Saturday, with the exception of Waseca in Class AAA.
The Bluejays ran into an inspired Le Sueur-Henderson team that used a power rushing attack with a couple of well-timed passes, to win 42-20 and advance to the championship game at Minneapolis Washburn. LSH has recovered nicely from a four-game losing streak in the middle of the regular season.
It wasn't a good night for the South Central Conference as Blue Earth Area lost 40-13 at Washburn and Fairmont lost to Glencoe-Silver Lake in Section 3AAA.
Mankato West dominated Waconia 43-14 in Section 2AAAA, but the game wasn't that close. West scored on its first play and had a 30-0 lead at halftime. It would be surprising if Friday's section championship game against Marshall is any closer, though a knee injury to leading receiver Nick Kaus could be a concern for the Scarlets.
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown flexed its Section 2AA muscle with a 46-16 victory over New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva. The Bucs, the top-rated team in Class AA and defending state champion, faces undefeated Triton in the championship game. It seems that this section title goes to one of these teams every year.
Nicollet hasn't been challenged much this season, and we'll see if Cleveland, the No. 6 seed in the section, can pull off the upset or if Nicollet can get back to the state tournament.
Another good game in the area will be played at Springfield, which hosts New Ulm Cathedral. Unbeaten Springfield handed Cathedral its only loss in the season-opener.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No big surprises in football playoffs

A couple of lower-seeded teams won, but the high-school football playoffs didn't produce many upsets Tuesday night. It sounded like the high winds were a factor in nearly every game.

New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva got revenge for a regular-season loss to Maple River by winning 14-8 in the Section 2AA playoffs. In the regular-season meeting, NRHEG was minus-5 in turnovers, but the Panthers were plus-5 in the rematch, which they won 14-8.
NRHEG has a tough game coming up Saturday against Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, which won 46-6 the first time these teams played. Interestingly, NRHEG has won all five of its road games this season.

Waseca rolled to a 70-0 victory over Minneapolis Roosevelt in Section 2AAA and now have an interesting matchup against Le Sueur-Henderson, which handled St. Paul Highland Park 52-7.

The best game of the night was in St. Clair, where Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton rallied from a 28-12, fourth-quarter deficit to win 34-28 in overtime. Up next for JWP is Nicollet, which defeated the Bulldogs 48-20 in the regular season.

Monday, October 25, 2010

High-school football playoffs begin Tuesday

The postseason for high-school football begins Tuesday, and though not every local team is playing, there are some intirguing matchups.
In Class AAAA, Mankato East plays at Waconia, whose top player is quarterback Max Williams, whom East coach Dave Frisell descirbes as a mirror image on Cougars' quarterback Abe Kolstad. Williams is the son of former NFL lineman Brian Williams, who played the majority of his career with the New York Giants.
This game will be won in the offensive and defensive lines, which could give East an advantage. The winner gets unbeaten Mankato West on Saturday.
In Section 2AA, top-seeded Waterville-Elysian-Morristown should win easily, but unbeaten Triton awaits on the other side of the bracket.
Maple River takes on New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva in a rematch from three weeks ago. In that game, NRHEG commited seven turnovers. If the Panthers can hold onto the ball, it should be a competitive game.
In another rematch, the nine-man game between Cleveland and Truman should be interesting. The game will be played at Madelia because Truman's field is still not playable from last month's flooding. Cleveland won the first game 32-6, starting a three-game winning streak. The Bluejays have been banged up, playing the top teams in the Southern Confederacy late.
Section 2A looks pretty tough as unbeaten Springfield in the top seed, followed by New Ulm Cathedral (7-1), Le Center (7-1) and Cedar Mountain/Comfrey (6-2). If the top seeds win Tuesday, that should provide interesting semifinals Saturday.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Here comes the Jug

Mankato East takes on Mankato West at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Blakeslee Stadium, and while many don't think the annual crosstown game will be competitive, it's always an exciting atmosphere.
Undefeated West, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA, is the heavy favorite. The offense, led by junior quarterback Philip Nelson, is averaging more than 40 points per game while allowing only 20 points to seven opponents. No opponent has had two scores of any kind in a game.
It all starts with Nelson, who has completed nearly 75 percent of his passes for more than 1,500 yards with 22 touchdowns, just eight short of the program's single-season record established by Ray Teachout in 2008. Nelson already holds the careee record of 51 touchdown passes, and with another season, he could make that mark untouchable.
East has to keep Nelson, who is also the Scarlets' leading rusher, in check and not let receivers Nick Kaus, Hunter Friesen and Des Spann run free. East can't get into a shootout, though West's defense probably wouldn't allow that.
East needs to control the clock with its running game, which a couple of weeks ago, produced two 16-play drives in a victory over Winona. However, West is tough to run on up the middle so quarterback Abe Kolstad and running back Tevyn Schmidt may need to get some yards on their own..
East leads the Jug series 22-15, though West has won the last four. Last season, West prevailed 51-0 on a muddy Todnem Field.
A victory would give West at least a share of its second straight Big Nine Conference championship. The Scarlets have already locked up the No. 1 seed in Section 2AAAA and a first-round bye.
A victory for East probably wouldn't be enough to move the Cougars up to No. 4 in the section and a home game in the first round, but it would be a huge confidence boost for the playoffs.
Given how many people have attended home games at Todnem Field and Wolverton Field this season, there could be a nice crowd Wednesday. The presale of tickets didn't produce much so if you go, you'd better get there early or the ticket line might be pretty long.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The madness begins for MSU basketball

The Minnesota State men's and women's basketball teams began their seasons with the first offficial workouts at 12:01 a.m. Friday at Bresnan Arena.
The first thing you notice is transfer Andre Gilbert on crutches, with his right ankle wrapped up. Coach Matt Margenthaler said he doesn't expect Gilbert to miss much practice time.
Guard Anthony Brant has a smooth-looking jumper from long range. The Mavericks lacked consistent perimeter shooting in the final month of the season.
The Mavericks have new uniforms, with a simple MSU across the chest and a number on the front and back. It's an old-school look, but it might take a while to get used to it.
The loudest cheers of the night, and maybe the season, was the T-shirt and sub giveaways.
Point guard Marcus Hill, small forward Cameron Hodges and power forward Jefferson Mason look like cinches to be in the starting lineup. It wouldn't be a surprise if the other two are Gilbert and transfer A.J. Wilson, depending on how quickly they fit in at Minnesota State.
Watch out for redshirt freshmen Connor O'Brien and Jimmy Whitehead.

For the women's team, Lauren Barber looks like she's lost some weight. Last season, she struggled early in the season, and offseason conditioning looked like a problem. Given this team's offensive struggles last season, she's going to need to do more than shoot 3s.
It's good to see Andrea Walsh back on the court. It's been almost a year since she had back surgery, and she took a medical redshirt last season. Her play at point guard will be important as the Mavericks replace Tiffany Moe.

The men begin the season Nov. 6 with an exhibition game against Bethany Lutheran, and four days later, they travel to Madison, Wis., for an exhibition game against the Badgers. The first official games come at the Cal State-Sonoma tournament Nov. 19-20.
The first game for the women comes in the Maverick Classic with Grand View College and California (Pa.) University coming to town Nov. 19-20.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tough times ahead for MSU football

The Minnesota State football team's loss to Winona State on Saturday was explainable.
Winona State was playing at home, and the Warriors are pretty good.
The home loss to Concordia-St. Paul two weeks ago, however, wasn't easily explained away. The Mavericks should beat Concordia-St. Paul nine out of every 10 times, and they shoud never lose to the Bears at home.
Take the two losses together, and fans of the Mavericks should be concerned. There are six games remaining, and Minnesota State will be decided underdogs in four, starting with Saturday's homecoming game against St. Cloud State.
The Mavericks' offensive line is a mess, the quarterback situation is revolving issue because of injury, and the defense is giving up points with alarming frequency.
Fans of the team had to know this was going to be a tough season, considering the talent that graduated from last season's team. But a loss to Concordia-St. Paul? That's a major warning sign.
If the Mavericks can't beat St. Cloud State, the rest of the season loses meaning, which could lead to a white flag. The last two seasons have been a lot of fun, watching the Mavericks finally have some success, but it's equally as tough to watch it come apart.