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Journal-Press Internet Sports & School - August 17, 2017
Rob LaPlante

Journal-Press Sports Editor Rob LaPlante may be reached by phone at 763-682-1221 or click here to email him

New St. Francis head football coach one of Buffalo's best

By Rob LaPlante

Sports editor

This past summer in St. Francis has been an emotional roller coaster, particularly surrounding its football program.

The community was shocked upon hearing the arrest last May of Tate Hermann, who was released of his head coaching duties after allegations involving him in an under-age prostitution sting.

Hermann served as head coach just one year after long-time coach Chris Lindquist stepped down two seasons ago.Needing to find a second head coach in as many years, St. Francis turned to long-time assistant Brent Swaggert, who was named head coach on June 1.

Swaggert had been an assistant the past 11 years with the program and is a 1999 graduate of Buffalo High School.

"From outside, it looks like a lot of change is happening with three head coaches in three years," Swaggert said. "We have about eight of us that have been on board the past 10 years or so with the program. We hope to continue to move forward in a positive direction."

The Fighting Saints have been above .500 in each of the last three seasons, but lost in the Section 7-5A championship game in all three years.

Last year's squad was 6-5 overall under Hermann and lost 20-18 to Andover in the section finals.

Swaggert opted not to comment on the Hermann situation, but did comment on how it has bonded the community even closer.

"I think the people in the community were surprised, shocked, ashamed, and frustrated when they first found out," Swaggert said. "(Assistant Coach) Tracy Torson and I met with the booster club and we discussed how we can best move forward."

Having lost high-profile players to graduation, replacing talent such as Blake Moreno, John Santiago, Max Gust, and Hunter Trautman has not been easy. Swaggert expects to continue to build the foundation that past coaches have put in place, but he also knows this season could be different.

"We don't have great numbers and we don't have a lot of seniors, so we may lack in leadership this season," Swaggert said. "We do have a strong junior and sophomore class. St. Francis is a blue-collar town – a football town."



Ryan Chev eCouponsSwaggert graduated from Buffalo in 1999. He was a three-sport athlete for the Bison in football, baseball, and basketball.

He fondly remembers his senior year in football as one of his best high school memories.

Buffalo finished 6-3 that season, losing to eventual state champion Hutchinson in the section championship game.

"I have a lot of really good memories from my time at Buffalo," Swaggert said. "Especially coming back for the first time from the other side when we moved to the Mississippi 8 conference in 2013."

Swaggert's current squad got the best of his old squad and former head coach Gerard Rohl, 49-27.

Swaggert credited Rohl as one of the people that inspired him most throughout his playing and coaching career.

"Gerard has had such a positive impact on me on both my career path as a social studies teacher and as a coach in football," Swaggert said.

Following high school, Swaggert attended Montana State on a football scholarship and won a Big Sky Conference championship as an offensive lineman in 2002 and 2003.

After college, he spent two seasons on the practice squad as an undrafted free agent for the San Francisco 49ers. His pro career ended in 2005 where he began his teaching career in 2006 at St. Francis.

Buffalo had never beat St. Francis as Mississippi 8 or North Central District rivals until last season's 22-21 home win at Bison Field West.

Despite his team's outcome, Swaggert admitted that coming back and playing in the new stadium was a highlight.

"That was really a fun game for me," he said. "I really like how they laid out the field with the one end zone in front of the high school. We play there again this Sept. 8 in week two. I can't wait." 

One tourney ends, another begins

Hutch earns top seed; Bulldogs prepare for state showdown with Crookston Reds

By Rob LaPlante

Sports editor

The Buffalo Bulldogs' 10-game win streak was snapped with back-to-back losses to close out this year's Region 12C tournament in Dassel.

One weekend after clinching a spot into this year's Class C state tournament with a 4-1 win over top-seed Hutchinson, the Bulldogs closed region play with a pair of losses to the top-two teams in the region.

Strong defense was the key in Buffalo's first meeting with Hutch, but a combined nine errors, including six in last Friday's 3-2 semifinal loss in 11 innings to No. 2 seed Maple Lake cost the Bulldogs a shot at Sunday's title game and No. 1 seed at state.

"Obviously, those are plays we would like to make, but those were some tough plays," said Bulldog manager Joe Pokorney. "It sounds kind of weird, but we played as cleanly as we could for a team committing six errors. It was unfortunate that a lot of them came in high-pressure situations."

Three of the six errors came in the 11th inning, which led to the eventual winning run scoring on a ground ball that was misplayed by shortstop JD O'Donnell.

Carter Vogt, the hero of Buffalo's state clinching win over Hutch, suffered the loss. Vogt pitched 3.1 innings in relief of starter Jon Euerle, who left the game with two on and two out in a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning.

The decision to use Vogt was one that Pokorney said he never second guessed, even though the original plan was to have him start the championship game Sunday, or Saturday's losers' bracket semifinal against Hutch.

"We did everything we could to win that Friday game," Pokorney said. "Jon was wearing down a bit and we still had a few innings to play. We were hoping Carter would only throw a few pitches and come back with him again. It just didn't turn out that way."

Maple Lake's Hunter Malachek, who crossed home plate in the 11th inning with the winning run, pitched the first eight innings before giving way to Luke Fobbe, who pitched three scoreless innings in relief to earn the win.

Buffalo's red-hot offense was held to just six hits in 11 innings. Brett Renshaw had two of them including a double and triple.

The loss set up a rematch with Hutch, who rallied for a dramatic 9-6 victory in last Thursday's state qualifier/elimination game against Loretto. The Huskies were trailing 6-1, but scored eight unanswered runs over the last four innings.

The Hutch bats remained hot throughout the weekend as they earned a rematch with the Bulldogs with a 5-0 win in last Saturday's seeding game over Howard Lake. The Huskies followed up that win with a 14-4 victory in eight innings that same night over Buffalo.

Three more Bulldog errors led to five unearned runs, but Hutch's offense was far different than the one that was held to just one run the weekend prior.

"Hutch's bats heated up and they really swung them well on Saturday," Pokorney said. "We actually felt we built some momentum in Saturday's loss to Hutch. O'Donnell busted out of a bit of a slump and Duske hit the ball hard all game."

O'Donnell actually gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the second inning. Buffalo starting pitcher Eric Newman pitched three scoreless innings before Hutch erupted for three in the fourth and five more in the fifth to open an 8-2 advantage.

The Huskies added three insurance runs in the sixth and ended the game on the 10-run mercy rule with three more in the eighth.

O'Donnell was 2-for-4 with a homer and Jake Duske was 3-for-4 with a single, double and triple.

Despite the loss, Bulldog first baseman Corey Braun said no harm was done other than the team finishing as a No. 3 seed at state.

"I don't think any momentum was killed. We played the top-two teams in the region and went 1-2 against them," Braun said. "We had multiple chances to win the game against Maple Lake, but just never came through. I think we learned a lot about ourselves in that game, along with the Hutch game we won. We found out that we can play right along with the best teams in the state. We grew up a lot during this regional tournament."

Braun is one of the longest tenured Bulldog players, but this year's state tournament will be his first with this team.

"I started playing with the Bulldogs in 2003 right after I graduated from high school," Braun said. "Through 2009 I was drafted to pitch a few times by other teams that went to the state tournament but never went with the Bulldogs."

Ironically, the one season he didn't play for Buffalo was the team's last state appearance in 2010.

"I went and played for Monticello that year," Braun said. "In 2011, I came back to the Bulldogs, but I had so many arm problems I took 2012 off. Pokorney called me the spring of 2013 because he was short some guys."

Braun and Pokorney will both make their state tournament debut with the Bulldogs when Buffalo takes on the Crookston Reds in the opening round of the Class C state tournament at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19 in Green Isle.

"It means everything to me to finally be able to make it to the state tournament with this team," Braun said. "All of us have put in so much time to get this team to this point, and not just all of us players and coaches, but it's our wives and families who also pay the price of us being away all the time. It's nice to have it all pay off with a state tournament berth, and hopefully victories in the state tournament."

As a coach and spot player, Pokorney is equally excited, but his excitement is more so for the players.

"This is an event like non-other in this state," Pokorney said. "I'm just really happy for the guys that get a chance to experience this."



The Bulldogs selected Maple Plain righty Andy Johnson with the third overall pick in the first round of the Region 12C draft-eligible players.

Johnson is primarily a reliever who went 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA this season for the Diamond Devils. He has 36 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched.

"He throws probably the heaviest ball in the league, to go with a tight breaking ball," Pokorney said. "We drafted him as a reliever to help make the game shorter for our starters."

Buffalo also selected righty Matt Arens of Delano with the seventh pick in round two. Arens is 6-4 with a 4.71 ERA. Brady Smith of Litchfield was taken with the 11th pick on round three. Smith, a lefty, has a 2.20 ERA in 8.2 innings pitched.


Region 12C Tournament

Maple Lake 3, Buffalo 2

(Friday, Aug. 11 at Dassel)

Buffalo 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 –  2  6  6

Maple Lake 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 –  3 10 2

BULLDOGS      AB  R   H   BI  BB  K

Ja. Senger       4    0    0    0    1    2

Duske       5    0    3    0    0    0

Haight       5    0    0    0    0    1

O'Donnell       5    0    0    0    0    2

Renshaw       3    1    2    0    1    0

Merz       5    0    0    0    0    1

Iano       4    0    0    1    0    2

Braun       3    0    0    0    0    1

- Pokorney       1    1    0    0    0    0

W. Brings       3    0    1    0    1    0

Totals     38    2    6    2    3    9

2B- Duske, Renshaw; 3B- Renshaw; SF- Iano; HBP- Renshaw; LOB- 8; E- O'Donnell 3, Braun, Merz, Vogt.

BULLDOGS       IP    H   R  ER  BB  K     

Euerle     6.2    8    2    1    0    9

Vogt (L)     3.1    2    1    0    2    3

Totals   10.0  10    3    1    2  12      

TP- Euerle 102, Vogt 57.

LAKERS      AB  R   H   BI  BB  K

Decker       5    0    3    1    0    0

L. Fobbe       5    0    1    0    0    1

Bergstrom       5    0    2    0    0    1

- Maas       0    0    0    0    0    0

Mavencamp       4    0    0    0    0    2

Wurm       4    0    0    0    1    1

Rachel       4    0    2    0    1    2

- Malachek       0    1    0    0    0    0

Redemske       4    1    1    0    0    1

B. Fobbe       4    0    1    0    0    2

Haney       2    0    0    0    0    2

- Brown       3    1    0    1    0    0

Totals     40    3  10    2    2  12

2B- Redemske; LOB- 9; E- L. Fobbe, Mavencamp.

LAKERS        IP   H   R  ER  BB  K     

Malachek        8    3    2    1    3    5

L. Fobbe (W)        3    3    0    0    0    4

Totals      11    6    2    1    3    9      

TP- Malachek 122, L. Fobbe 48.


Region 12C Tournament

Hutchinson 14, Buffalo 4 (8)

(Saturday, Aug. 12 at Dassel)

Buffalo 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 –   4 11 3

Hutchinson 0 0 0 3 5 3 0 3 – 14 15 1 

BULLDOGS      AB  R   H   BI  BB  K

Vega Jr.       4    0    1    0    0    0

Duske       4    1    3    1    0    0

Haight       4    1    1    1    0    0

O'Donnell       4    1    2    1    0    0

Renshaw       4    0    1    1    0    1

Merz       2    0    1    0    2    0

Iano       4    0    1    0    0    0

- H. Brings       0    0    0    0    0    0

Braun       4    0    0    0    0    0

W. Brings       3    1    1    0    0    1

Totals     33    4   11    4    2    2

2B- Duske, Renshaw; 3B- Duske; HR- O'Donnell; LOB- 7; E- O'Donnell, Renshaw, Vega Jr.

BULLDOGS       IP    H   R  ER  BB  K     

Newman (L)        5    8    8    4    2    4

Eckstein     0.2    2    3    2    3    0

Iano        2    5    3    3    0    0

Totals     7.2  15  14    9    5    4      

TP- Newman 99, Eckstein 22, Iano 33.

HUSKIES      AB  R   H   BI  BB  K

Katzenmeyer       4    1    1    0    0    0

- Piechowski       2    0    1    1    0    0

Fleck       2    3    1    0    2    1

Wendland       5    3    3    4    0    0

Ju. Juergensen    3    2    1    0    1    0

- VanDeSteeg      1    1    1    0    0    0

Ja. Juergensen    4    1    1    1    0    0

- M. Marquardt     1    1    1    0    0    0

Macemon       3    1    1    0    2    1

Hahn       3    1    2    2    0    1

- C. Marquardt     0    0    0    0    0    0

Villegas       4    0    2    3    0    0

Arlt       3    0    0    1    0    1

- Reed       1    0    0    0    0    0

Totals     36  14   15  12    5    4

2B- Wendland, Fleck, Villegas; HR- Wendland; SF- Hahn, Arlt; HBP- Hahn, Fleck; LOB- 7; E- Villegas.

HUSKIES        IP   H   R  ER  BB  K     

Ja. Juergensen (W) 7  10    4    4    2    2

M. Marquardt        1    1    0    0    0    0

Totals       8  11    4    4    2    2      

TP- Ja. Juergensen 86, M. Marquardt 10.


Buffalo primed for big season

By Rob LaPlante

Sports editor

Coaches dream of having experience, talent, and depth on their roster.

For Buffalo girls' tennis head coach Scott Larsen, that dream has become a reality.

With all but one player (Molly Jungwirth) returning from last year's squad that finished 10-9 overall, this year's Bison are poised for a breakout year.

"I think we did have a successful year last season," said Larsen, now entering his second season with the program. "We played our best tennis at the end of the year and earned a shot at top-seed Delano with a section win. I think we're just going to build on that. The ceiling is raised for us this year. I would say finishing 10-9 this season would not be successful – we need to be better than that."

That same optimism spreads down to his players as well.

"We still have a lot of young people, but I think this year is going to be a really good year," senior Mya Lubben said. "It's a deep team where everybody is good. It's not just a couple good people and nobody else. Everybody has been practicing in the off-season and putting in their work."

Six of Buffalo's 10 wins a year ago came in conference play, where they finished third (6-3) to undefeated Princeton (9-0). Big Lake was second at 8-1.

Princeton again looks to be the team to beat as they seek its fifth straight Mississippi 8 title. The Tigers have lost only once in conference play since joining the Mississippi 8 in 2013.

"We competed with Princeton last year, but we were not close," Larsen said. "If we want to take that next step and be a conference contender and make some noise in sections, we need to play Princeton much stronger this year and I believe we will do that."

A number of other factors played a key role in a slow start a year ago. Buffalo won just three of its first eight matches.

Larsen was the team's third head coach in as many years. He took over for Joel Peterson, who replaced retired head coach Charley Keifenheim the year before.

Buffalo's coaching this season is anything but instable. With Larsen returning, so has long-time assistant Tom Kuzma, who is a volunteer coach. Aly Brandell replaces Anna Busch as the assistant.

"Scott brings so much positivity and encourages people to work hard while we're here," senior Claire Stevens said.

Stevens and Lubben were both selected as this year's captains, and are the longest tenured players, each starting varsity in the seventh grade. Gina Miller is also a senior who returns as one of Buffalo's top doubles players.

"It's so exciting, yet the weirdest feeling ever," said Lubben, reflecting on her upcoming final season. "It's crazy because you want to make every single practice count. You always want that, but it's especially true for this year."

Stevens and Lubben solidify the top-positions in either the singles or doubles lineup. Each player took turns playing at the No. 1 spot a year ago. While their singles records were below .500, the option to move them anywhere in the lineup is a key component.

In last year's Section 5AA individual doubles tournament at Baseline Tennis Center, Stevens and Lubben took home fourth-place medals

"That was the best experience," Stevens said. "I love playing with Mya. She's my favorite doubles partner for sure."

Expect Stevens to play mostly No. 1 or No. 2 singles this year, but if a change is in store, don't be surprised if Larsen does what he did in last year's 5-2 in over St. Michael-Albertville in the section meet where he paired Stevens with freshman Ohnica Melenich at top doubles.

"I'll play wherever Scott puts me," Stevens said.

The lack of seniors and upperclassmen forced a number of inexperienced underclassmen into the varsity lineup to help fill holes.

Eighth-grader Anna Lee was one of those newcomers. After a bit of a slow start, Lee enjoyed a strong rookie campaign, posting a team-best 14-5 record playing mostly at No. 3 singles.

All five of Lee's losses came early in the year where she was slotted in the No. 1 spot. Junior Emma Carlson also had a winning record in singles play going 11-5.

Larsen says singles play will be the definite strength of the team in 2017, but with five of six doubles players returning, he hopes another year of experience will turn the doubles lineup into something special as well.

"We'll have to figure out our doubles lineup," Larsen said. "The nice thing starting this year is you kind of know who you have coming back. Most of these kids I've seen throughout the summer, and I kind of know who has been working hard in the off-season."

This year's doubles lineup returns three sophomores and one junior. Miller is the lone senior. Melenich, Hillary Hovland and Ella Stevens are all sophomores. Junior Cassie McNitt posted the only winning mark a year ago in doubles play at 8-4.

"We have really good depth and I think that's going to be our strength," Larsen said. "Maybe we don't have that top-10 individual state player, but what we do have are some very good athletes that work hard and we're going to be a tough out at 3-4 singles and 2-3 doubles. The top of our lineup will compete very well against the best teams in the state."

The season kicks off with a 9 a.m. quadrangular invitational Saturday, Aug. 19 at Coon Rapids.

Ellison Park hosts STEM Camp

Ellison Park in Monticello was the site this year for a local STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) camp, which was co-taught by Brittney Topliff, Sue Block and Crystal Vanark. Both Topliff and Vanark are Life Science Education majors at St. Cloud State University. Block is a seventh-grade teacher at Becker Middle School.

The teachers created the camp to provide a way for students to keep their minds active over the summer, as well as allow the teachers to help the students review some of the concepts that are often forgotten over the course of the school year.

"We reviewed ecology by having the kids create creatures based on an environment they chose out of a hat, and had the kids go on a scavenger hunt throughout the park to find different relationships on nature," Topliff said. "Also, we made, painted, and raced wooden cars to explore the scientific method and potential energy. We used M&Ms to explore mean, median, and mode, an concept that isn't horribly difficult for most to understand but is often forgotten over the school year. Not only did the kids learn a lot, but I think we all had a lot of fun, too.

"STEM camp is a great way to remind parents that kids need to stay academically active over the summer, and that there are plenty of opportunities to make learning fun."

BHS Yearbook earns All-American status

The 2017 Buffalo High School yearbook, Tatanka, recently earned All-American recognition from the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA).

This is the first BHS All-American yearbook since 2002 and 1998. This is the highest award given out by the NSPA at this stage of judging, placing the book among the top yearbooks in the country.

To achieve this status, Tatanka had to receive a mark of distinction in all five areas of judging: Essentials, Coverage, Writing and Editing, Design, and Photography -- in addition to scores in each category that placed it among the Top-five percent of all books submitted for critique.

The 2017 Editors-in-Chief for the yearbook were Mac Loomis and Molly Jungwirth. Meghan Cahill was the Managing Editor.

BHS Yearbook Adviser Ryan McCallum says the 2018 yearbook staff is looking to build on that success.

The staff recently won first place at Balfour Publishing's Summer Yearbook Camp last June in Texas, Four members of the staff, Hannah Park, Lindsey Kauffman, Ella Shuherk, and Ali Tokkesdal, recently returned from a week-long trip to Dallas to work on the book with industry professionals and experts in design and photography.

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