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John Gilbert

UMD freshman Kate Berg rips one of her seven kills against Minnesota-Crookston in the 3-0 home-opening sweep. Photo credit: John Gilbert
UMD freshman Kate Berg rips one of her seven kills against Minnesota-Crookston in the 3-0 home-opening sweep. Photo credit: John Gilbert

It was nothing if it wasn’t one of the more bizarre 24 hours of live sports-watching. Follow along, just for kicks. 

We start on last Thursday night, with the UMD women’s volleyball team opening its home and Northern Sun seasons by beating Minnesota-Crookston in three sets. Nothing out of line there. Sarah Kelly had 15 kills and Makenzie Morgen 14, and maybe the surprise was that Kate Berg, a freshman I hadn’t seen before, was outstanding wherever she played on the court, and added 7 kills. Coach Jim Boos just smiled. He knows when he’s got a great one to watch for four years.

So it hasn’t gotten crazy yet, but there was always Friday night. The plan was to hit Public Schools Stadium, where we intended to do a live broadcsst of the Hermantown-Denfeld football game on 1490 AM, The JOCQ, they call it. It was our third try and 1-for-3 isn’t bad. The evening was dark and the wind was blowing at about 30 mph, straight from east to west across the field. Neither team did much until the last couple minutes of the first half, then Hermantown scored a touchdown, recovered a fumble and scored again for a 13-0 lead.

Mankato’s Alesha Duccini blasted a shot, but UMD goalkeeper Sisley Ng was waiting to smother it in the Bulldogs 1-0 overtime loss last Saturday. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Mankato’s Alesha Duccini blasted a shot, but UMD goalkeeper Sisley Ng was waiting to smother it in the Bulldogs 1-0 overtime loss last Saturday. Photo credit: John Gilbert

Denfeld had been, in a word, inept offensively through that first half, displaying a series of first-game mistakes -- except this was their third game. Suddenly in the second half, the Hunters woke up, made some clever plays, gained some big yards, and Dominic Klass, a wiry-tough, hard-charging fullback, broke free around left end and ran 23 yards for a third-quarter touchdown, on a drive that consumed more yards than the Hunters had acquired the whole first half. A 2-point try failed; 13-6.

Denfeld was suddenly supercharged with fire and came back again in the fourth quarter, mixing slashing runs by Dylan Salo and Klass, and chewing up the suddenly retreating Hawks defense. Salo burst through and ran a twisting 40-yard scamper for another touchdown . The 2-pointer missed again, and it was 13-12.

Very exciting finish to what seemed like a dull game, but if the Hunters can remember how much more fun the second half was than the first, they could give East a huge challenge Friday night at Ordean.

There were a couple of odd plays in the game. How about a punt going into the wind, on a fourth-and-five, and it hooked like my golf shot, so severely that the guy holding the down-marker had to duck as the ball sliced by him on its way out of bounds -- for a 1-yard punt! Near the end, Denfeld quarterback Montrell McMillan dropped back for an intended Hail Mary pass from midfield. In the wind and drizzle, things don’t always go as planned, and the ball squirted almost straight up in the air. Maybe 30 yards, and nowhere near long enough for any intended receiver. So we settled for a couple of unintended ones. A Hermantown defensive back circled under the pass as though he was going to call for a fair catch, and a Denfeld back saw what had happened and sprinted hard to try to catch the ball. The Denfeld back crashed headlong into the Hawk defender, leaving him shaken up and being called for an inadvertent offensive pass interference penalty. 

On Saturday afternoon, I tried to get to the Inline Marathon, but as I got situated to look down on the racers coming along London Road, I realized they were down on I-35. Too many conflicts, so I hustled down to Amsoil Arena for the UMD women’s hockey media day before the start of practice. I went down 5th Ave. W., but the way was blocked by pylons for the Inline Marathon. I tried circling around the whole arena complex to sneak into the UMD officials’ lot on the west side of Amsoil -- but I couldn’t get there because a barricade blocked the street. There was also tremendous congestion for Ryan Kern’s hot-air balloon show at Bayfront.

So I made a quick decision and headed back out for Public Schools Stadium to catch the first half of the St. Scholastica home football opener against Westsminster. The Saints got ahead 20-0 in the first quarter, but Westsminster cut it to 20-6 in the second. On the extra point try, the Saints came through, not only stopping the try, but Josh Klimek scooped up the ball and took off up the right sideline. Almost immediately, the whistle blew, but he kept running, and the ref kept blowing his whistle. Klimek never stopped, covering 97 yards to the end zone.

The officials gathered and had a summit meeting. The problem is, in high school football, the ball is dead when it hits the ground; in college, a defensive player can run a blocked kick or fumble or interception back, and if he makes it all the way, his team gets two points. The ref got his rules fouled up, so they decided on...a Mulligan! That’s right, a do-over. The Saints didn’t get their two points, and Westminster got another conversion try, and was stopped again. I suggested to one ref that if by chance the Blue Jays made the 2-pointer, and went on to win by one or two, the call would have taken away 2 from the Saints and given 2 to Westminster. He said he knew that, and thought he might wake up in the night thinking about such a worst-case scenario.

Right before halftime, Saints quarterback Zach Edwards spotted Esko junior Aaron Olson at midfield and threw him a pass. Olson made a great catch, spun free, eluded two tacklers and took off. He had to run a serpentine route, but he kept on it, and completed a 90-yard touchdown play that made it 27-6 at halftime, en route to a 48-18 victory.

That meant I could slip away early and head for the UMD soccer game at Malosky Stsdium. Sure enough, it was 0-0, or “nil-nil,” as the oddball announcers like to say to affect their knowledge of the game. Good battle, through the second half, with UMD working hard against the highly ranked MSU-Mankato crew. It stayed 0-0 until the finish, and the game went to overtime.

In my mind, I decided if UMD was going to win, the goal would come from Natalie St. Martin, and if Mankato was going to win, I’d pick Morgan Cottew, a junior from Minneapolis Washburn, who looked like a threat. A skirmish ensued on the right side, and a Maverick chipped the ball right into the congestion. Several folks on the UMD side said several MSU-Mankato players were in beyond the ball when No. 9 -- Cottew -- got possession. UMD goalkeeper Sisley Ng came rushing out to confront her, but Cottew chipped the ball up and over the goaltender, and it bounced lazily into the goal for a 1-0 Mankato victory.

St. Scholastica’s Aaron Olson ran away from Westminster defenders on his way to a 90-yard touchdown play in the Saints 48-18 victory. Photo credit: John Gilbert
St. Scholastica’s Aaron Olson ran away from Westminster defenders on his way to a 90-yard touchdown play in the Saints 48-18 victory. Photo credit: John Gilbert
MSU-Mankato’s Shane Zylstra made a leaping grab for one of his 8 catches for 204 yards in the Mavericks 38-23 victory at UMD. Photo credit: John Gilbert
MSU-Mankato’s Shane Zylstra made a leaping grab for one of his 8 catches for 204 yards in the Mavericks 38-23 victory at UMD. Photo credit: John Gilbert

My wife, Joan, picked me up and we decided to take a run up to the end of the Woodland busline where there is, nestled, a Sammy’s Pizza. Turns out, they were having their Saturday afternoon buffet -- all the salad, pizza,  broadsted chicken, and pasta you can eat! We did. And it took us about as long as the free time I had before being dropped back off at Malosky Stadium to waddle across the field for the UMD-Minnesota State-Mankato football battle.

It was an unusual game. UMD first-game starting quarterback Mike Rybarczyk, injured in the first game, will apparently be out for the season. John Larson is also dinged up. So Ben Everhart got his first collegiate start, and got the Bulldogs off to an 8-0 first quarter lead on a 15-yard run by Anthony Wood. But in the second quarter, the Mavericks platooning QBs started picking the UMD defense apart. Actually, the UMD defense didn’t really collapse, but Zylstra had a day like not many UMD foes ever have. The wind and drizzle got worse, but he didn’t seem to care. He caught three touchdown passes among eight passes he caught all game, for a whopping 204 yards -- making all the difference necessary to carry the Mavericks to a 38-23 victory over the Bulldogs.

If that wasn’t enough, Nate Gunn rushed 37 times for 229 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown dash in the fourth quarter to finish the game. UMD, by comparison, had a team total of 59 yards rushing -- not what Bulldog fans were looking for. At least, UMD might have found a quarterback, as Everhart was 24-43 passing for 325 yards, making some good decisions along the way.

One day, a glance at the Inline racers, traffic snarl at Amsoil, Saints victory over Westminster, tough overtime soccer game against MSU-Mankato, and a surprisingly lopsided big-play exchange for the Bulldogs against the Mavericks. I was so exhausted I went home and slept hard, then we got up and drove to Minneapolis for a Twins game Sunday afternoon!