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Monday, September 2, 2002

Craigs Corner 09/02/02 - 09/08/02

By Craig Olson

Friday, September 6th, 2002
Spartan quarterback Ben Brimhall will miss the home opener on Saturday afternoon. The FFCC sophomore injured his left foot at Mesabi last week and is expected to be back in action at Vermilion next Saturday.

You never like to see injuries, but I've always heard it said that you should look for the silver lining in every cloud. So, the silver lining is this ... Charlie Woida is a very experienced backup quarterback. He played, along with Aaron Welle last season when Brimhall went down with an injury in the second week.

Saturday's opponent for FFCC is Rainy River Community College, a team that whipped the Spartans 33-18 last season. It was after that loss, which put FFCC at 0-3, that they started to play good football, winning four straight and seven of their last eight games to win the MCCC state title.

This is also a good weekend to check out the Lady Spartans volleyball team. They are home tonight against Vermilion and tomorrow versus Mesabi. Games are at 6:30 p.m. and 12:00 noon.

Mary Moenkedick (Storrusten) and Charlie Nelson are going into the Yellowjacket Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Mary, a 1979 graduate of Perham High School, and Charlie, who graduated in 1990, will be inducted at halftime of tonight's football game between Park Rapids Area and Perham at Meinhover Field.

Moenkedick (Storrusten) was an all-around athlete and one of the first female star athletes at PHS. She was a four-year letter-winner in basketball, leading the 'Jackets to three district titles in that time. She ended her career with over 1,000 points and was selected as a Heart O' Lakes All-Conference player three times. In track, Mary was a six-time letter-winner and held four school records (110 yard dash, 180 yard hurdles, 165 meter hurdles and as a member of the 880 yard relay team). In 1979 she was voted the Female Athlete of the Year at Perham.

At Concordia College, Moenkedick was a starter on the women's basketall team that won the NCAA Division III National Championship and was selected as a member of the All-Tournament team. She finished her career with over 1,000 points and rebounds. She is currently teaching second grade at Pelican Rapids and is married to Dan Storrusten. They have one child, Tydan, who is eleven.

Charlie Nelson was one of the most exciting athletes in the area, leading the 'Jackets to the state football championship in 1989 at the Metrodome, setting two Prep Bowl records, including returning the opening kick-off for an 89-yard TD. Later in the game he connected with Jon Toedter on a 90-yard touchdown pass.

Nelson was also an All-Conference basketball player twice and excelled in two spring sports, baseball and track. In track, he placed sixth in the state in the long jump as a junior and fifth as a senior, winning the section title his senior year in that event.

Baseball was where Charlie became best known, though. He was a three time All-Conference player, a Lions All-Star and was named All-State. After high school he went to the University of Minnesota and was a member of the 1992 Big 10 champions. He played in four straight NCAA Regionals. Nelson holds two Gopher baseball records, including most career games played (234) and most stolen bases (93). He is in the school's top-10 in nine offensive categories. He also spent a few years in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and played in the Northern League for two years after leaving the Dodgers.

Charlie currently resides in Richfield and is a sales representative for Tuffy's Pet Food Production.

I was fortunate enough to see Charlie play many times and call many of his games on the radio, including the State Championship football game in '89. He was an amazing athlete. In fact, until Justin Arneson came along in recent years, I would have to say that Charlie was the best All-around athlete I had seen in high school. Arne is right there with him. That's a tough call to make. I'll take both of them on my team any day of the week! Congratulations Charlie and Mary on your Hall of Fame selections!

Wednesday, September 4th, 2002
The first Associated Press High School Football Poll of the season has been released. For whatever they're worth, people sure seem to enjoy them.

Early season polls don't mean much at all. Most of the teams are being ranked on what they accomplished last season and on what the pollsters, radio and newspaper guys from around the state, know about returning starters and newcomers to the varsity level.

I have the privilege of being on the Class 4A panel of voters and have done it for the last five years. It's tough to know who has what at this point of the season. I have some good knowledge of the teams in our region, but when it comes to teams from the metro area or southern part of the state, I'm in the dark until some games are played and I've had the opportunity to talk with people who cover those teams on a regular basis. Suffice it to say, we do our best to be as accurate as possible, but it's a difficult assignment.

In this column, I like to highlight the area teams that have been mentioned in the weekly poll.

The Ottertail Central Bulldogs come in at number eight in the first Class 2A poll of the year. Hawley is at six and Benson is number 10.

In Class 1A, Pillager is second, Osakis third, Fertile-Beltrami 8th and Bertha-Hewitt and Parkers Prairie are among those receiving votes.

In 9-man, Chokio-Alberta-Herman-Norcross is the number four team in the state with Verndale coming in 9th. Underwood and Ulen-Hitterdal received votes but failed to crack the top ten. Both should be there in the not to distant future.

A team on the Otters schedule, Jackson County Central, is ranked fifth in 3A. They won the 3A title last year. Roseau is 9th and Perham, Sauk Centre and East Grand Forks all received votes.

Fergus Falls got some votes in 4A and Detroit Lakes, the defending 4A state champions, is a close second to Hutchinson. Rocori is tenth.

5A finds Alexandria in at number eight. Moorhead, St. Cloud Tech and Brainerd all received votes. One point separates the top two teams in the 5A poll, Cretin-Derham Hall and Eden Prairie.

I'll try to keep you posted on the teams from our area who make the polls each week. They don't mean a whole lot, but everyone in the communities whose teams are ranked take a lot of pride in that fact. So, enjoy it, but don't take it too seriously.

Monday, September 2nd, 2002
Oats LeGrand turns 86 years old today. Happy Birthday Oats!! Many of you out there either had Oats as a teacher/coach or remember him as a radio sportscaster. The stories of his paddles are infamous!

Every time Oats' name is brought up it seems that someone in the group has his name on one of the paddles. As a physical education instructor, Oats carried a wooden paddle around and if you were out of line, he told you to grab your ankles and would then deliver a reminder for you to clean up your act. After his whack, he had you sign the paddle. It's quite an honor roll of names. One of the greatest stories is of the student who upon hearing that the old school was on fire, raced into the physical education office and grabbed a couple of paddles, saving them from certain destruction. Oats says several of the paddles were lost in the blaze.

Oats is also my uncle and I have vivid memories of walking into my Grandparents house in Detroit Lakes and having to go through the living room, trying to get past Oats and my uncle Larry without being grabbed and held or tickled. It was a challenge, and I never was very successful, unless they were distracted by a Vikings game on the TV. Oats was one of the inspirations for me to get into radio, too. I still remember as a youngster, growing up in Brainerd, seeing Oats at midcourt broadcasting a Fergus Falls versus Brainerd boys basketball game. I thought that was a pretty good seat and a pretty good job. When I found out he got paid to sit there and talk about the game, that made an impact on me! Best seat in the house ... FREE!

He broadcast several thousand sporting events over the nearly 50 years he was in the industry and Sports Illustrated named him the Sportscaster of Rural America in the mid-80's. He witnessed many great games, saw many great players and teams, and I know, enjoyed every minute of his involvement with kids in athletics.

He had a unique style that will never be heard again. I loved some of his sayings. "Third down and a Greyhound bus trip. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. He got the first down by the pimple on the nose of the football. That ball hung on the rim, it was a female shot, couldn't make up its mind if it should go in or stay out." His studio engineers always had to be on their toes because Oats was known for taking quick breaks and you'd better be there when he did! "Hello Studio. Alright, we're back again." One of a kind! People loved to listen to him, but when someone from outside the area moved here, they couldn't believe what they were hearing. Oats always said, "With me, what you hear is what you get."

He stays busy now with his coloring books and posters. He has designed several coloring books with anti-drug and anti-alcohol themes, and sports related themes (sportsmanship, etc.,). Many of the elementary schools around the region use those coloring books. He also has been very consistent in presenting area teams with congratulatory posters, specifically designed for each team, when they advance to a state tournament. He is all for the experience of youth in athletics. As a coach, teacher, recreation director, broadcaster, former school board member and a fan. Thanks Oats, and Happy 86th Birthday!!!

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