Monday, Feb. 18, 2019

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Football Coaches Make a Hit on Cancer


A Sunday notes column leading off with news from the weekend Minnesota Football Coaches Clinic.

Randy Shaver thanked Minnesota football coaches on Friday night for raising $1.3 million since the Tackle Cancer initiative began in 2012. “You’re changing people’s lives,” the KARE 11 newscaster told coaches at the clinic.

Minnetonka football coach Dave Nelson contacted Shaver six years ago with the idea of having the state’s prep coaches raise money for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund. Since then not only high school coaches but also the Vikings and college programs including the Gophers have raised monies for the Tackle Cancer effort. In 2017 a record $311,475 dollars was generated.

Shaver told the audience that in June it will be 20 years since he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s. As a cancer survivor he has helped fund a range of issues related to the disease including prevention, research and treatment.

Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck told clinic attendees about research on college and NFL games between 1950 and 2017 that supports the old adage “most games are lost, not won.” The research showed 78 percent of the time teams with the fewest turnovers and those with fewer than six missed tackles won their games. “The margin for error is so small,” Fleck said.

Talking about how the game of football is under attack, former Vikings center Matt Birk said the sport ranks fourth in causing concussions, and that it is not an activity for everybody. “I think we need to stop apologizing for football,” Birk said at the clinic.

Birk, who played at Harvard and also in the NFL, said the most fun he experienced in football was in high school competing for Cretin-Derham Hall.

Former Gopher assistant coach Dan O’Brien is leaving his position at Sun Country Airlines and starts full time April 30 at St. Thomas Academy where he will work in administration and be the new head football coach.

A recent visitor to Fleck’s new football complex needed directions from a Gopher player who not only was helpful but wished the outsider an “elite day.”

There are no remaining spring practices open to the public so the last opportunity to see Fleck’s Gophers will be Saturday’s annual Spring Game starting at noon in TCF Bank Stadium. Admission is free.

Illinois and Michigan State held their Spring Games yesterday. The other 12 Big Ten teams will stage their games by end of day next Saturday.

The Gophers open their schedule at home against New Mexico State on Thursday, August 30 but that game won’t command the attention of most Big Ten fans. Instead of playing nonconference opponents, Big Ten teams Northwestern and Purdue will meet in West Lafayette that same night Minnesota opens its season.

The Gophers will play a rare Friday night game October 26 at home against Indiana.

Fleck will speak at the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Minneapolis Gala May 4 at the Hilton Minneapolis.

The Minnesota Football Coaches Association (MFCA) inducted five individuals into the high school division of its Hall of Fame Saturday night: Mike Belseth, Breckenridge; Steve Fedie, Orono; Doug Torgerson, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City; Ray Tri, Eden Valley-Watkins; and Terry Turek, LeSeuer-Henderson. Inducted into the citation division was Mike Bialka from Brainerd.

Leo Pohlkamp of Pierz is the 2017 MFCA Coach of the Year. Pohlkamp, who was presented with the award Saturday night, coached Pierz to the Class 3A state title last November. His 2015 Pierz team also won the 3A championship.

Jamal James of Minneapolis headlines a boxing card at the Minneapolis Armory on Friday night in a welterweight match against Abel Ramos from Casa Grande, Arizona. James, 22-1, is ranked No. 4 in the world by the World Boxing Association.

The fight will be televised by FS-1 and is the first pro boxing at the renovated Armory in 45 years.

Ryan Larson, the competitive point guard from Cretin-Derham Hall who Gopher fans have been hoping makes his way to Dinkytown, has received a scholarship offer from Northern Iowa.

Transfer watch: Will freshman guard Jamir Harris, who the Gophers announced is transferring, end up at Connecticut? With the Huskies he could rejoin assistant coach Kimani Young, the ex-Minnesota staffer who recruited Harris to the Gophers.

It is good news for Apple Valley’s Tre Jones that Duke freshman point guard Trevon Duval declared for the NBA Draft last week—despite some unimpressive numbers. The departure makes more certain Jones, the acclaimed local point guard and 2018 Minnesota Mr. Basketball, will start for the Blue Devils next season.

Duval started 34 of 37 games for last season, averaging 10.3 points per game while making 43 percent of his field goals (29 percent of threes) and converting 60 percent of his free throws. Duval, who averaged almost six assists per game, is projected to be a late first round draft choice by

The website projects former Apple Valley star Gary Trent Jr. will be drafted No. 16 in the first round. Trent announced yesterday he also will be leaving Duke after one season. He was third on the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game. The shooting guard made an impressive .402 percent of his three point attempts.

Best score reported from last Thursday’s Sports Headliners Twins Trivia Quiz was 20 of 25 correct.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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