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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
Polocrosse in Polk County
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
In a humble hay field north of St. Croix Falls last weekend an event exciting to both spectators and participants took place.
The Minnesota Polocrosse Club held a tournament over the weekend that drew participants from as far away as Australia. However most players and their mounts came from the continental United States including Colorado, Maryland, Tennessee, Minnesota, and Texas to name a few.
Imagining lacrosse on horseback will give a pretty good person an idea of what they will see attending a match. 
 Each rider uses a cane or fiberglass stick to which is attached a racket head with a loose, thread net, in which the ball is carried. The ball is made of sponge rubber and is approximately four inches across. The objective is to score goals by throwing the ball between the opposing team's goal posts.
The Polocrosse World Cup is held every four years. The 2019 World Cup held in Australia was claimed by the Australian team.
Unlike polo, players are allowed only to play one horse, except in the case of injury. There is no restriction on the horse's height, although polocrosse horses are generally smaller than 16hh. Horses of all breeds play polocrosse.
A team consists of six players, divided into two sections of three who each play either two, three or four chukkas of six to eight minutes, depending on the rules of the tournament, with the two sections from each team alternating on and off the field each chukka. 
A match comprises four, six or eight chukkas. The three players in each section play the position of a #1, attack, a #2, midfield (a combination of defense and offense), or a #3 defense.
The team structure was designed to force players to pass the ball about amongst themselves, making it a better skilled, faster sport.
The field is 60 by 160 yards, with three separate areas. The goal scoring areas, on each end, are 30 yards long. Only the #1 of the attacking team and the #3 of the defending team can play in these areas.
The middle area is 100 yards long. The line separating the goal scoring and center area is called the penalty or thirty-yard line. Goal posts are eight feet apart. To score, the ball must be thrown from outside an 11-yard semicircle in front of the goal.
Players can pick up the ball from the ground, catch it in their racket, and ride with it. They throw it to other players until the #1 has possession in the goal scoring area. A player cannot carry the ball over the penalty line, but must bounce it so that they do not have possession of it while actually crossing the line. It can also be passed to a player over the line.
When carrying the ball, a player must carry it on the stick side, i.e. right-handed players must carry it on the offside of the horse (if a person has possession of the ball and crosses the racket over the centre-line of the horse (the line that runs from the horses ears to the tail) it is a foul). A player can, however, pick-up or catch the ball on the non-stick side provided they immediately bring it back to their stick side.
Each chukka begins with a line up at a central spot on the side boundary line in center field. The players from each team line up in single file, facing the umpire at the edge of the field, with the #1's in front, followed by the #2's and then the #3's. The umpire then throws the ball between the players, between shoulder and racket height so that all players have a chance to catch the ball. The teams always line up on the defensive side of one another.
The game reconvenes similarly after a goal has been scored, with the line up taking place on the alternate side of the field for every goal that is scored. Whenever a goal is missed, the #3 is awarded a 10-yard throw from the 30 yard line.
The most common award given in the case of a penalty is a 10-yard throw. Where the foul occurred determines the position on the field at which the throw is taken. Depending on the nature of the penalty, the 10 yard throw may be taken at the spot where the penalty occurred or it may be moved down the field to the next 30 yard line to advantage the fouled team. 
Not all fouls are punished with a ten-yard throw. Particularly dangerous fouls (such as hitting another player in the head or helmet with the racket) result in a free goals being awarded. If a player continues to commit fouls after being cautioned by the umpire, commits a particularly dangerous or intentional foul, or generally behaves dangerously, the umpire can dismiss the player from the field.
If both teams are responsible for a penalty, or if the ball goes out of bounds after being deflected off a horse, the game is restarted with a line up. If the penalty occurs when the ball is in the end zone, the umpire will call a line up from within the area, between the attacking 1 and defending 3 players. If the penalty occurs when the ball is in center field the game is restarted with a line up at the nearest sideline.
It is also illegal to ride through the goal posts, if any player's horse steps all 4 legs through the posts, it is an automatic free goal to the opposing team.
Players can get the ball from the opposition by hitting at an opponent's stick in an upwards direction only, with the swing starting from below the horses quarters when swing is forward, or below the horses withers when the swing is backward. This is done either to dislodge the ball or to prevent the opposition from gaining possession of it. This is called “giving wood.” 
Riding off is also allowed, but crossing, stopping over the ball, or elbowing all constitute fouls. Sandwiching one player between two others also constitutes a foul.
So there it is. A sport that looks challenging to even stay mounted for with seemingly as many rules as football, baseball and wrestling combined. The players in attendance this weekend knew the rules and knew how to ride and play the game. 
What follows are the results from last weekend. As one can tell by the names of the participating teams, no one takes themselves to seriously. Players are rated from A-D, highest rank to lowest.
A Division - 
1st – Win or Booze (Tennessee Valley Club from Alabama).
2nd – That's What She Said (Lone Star Club from Texas).
3rd – Dream Killers (Sugarloaf Club from Maryland).
4th – Kiss My End Zone (mostly from Canada).
B Division – 
1st – Back That Pass Up (Grand Bay Club from Alabama).
2nd – Can't Touch This (Kokopelli Club from Colorado). 3rd – The Ball Handlers (mostly Minnesota). 4th – The Young and the Rest of Us (mostly Lone Star Club from Texas).
C Division – 
1st - Need for Speed (mostly Minnesota).
2nd – MN Rising Stars (Minnesota).
3rd – Game of Throws (mostly Lone Star Club).
4th – Fearless and Flawless (Minnesota).
D Division - 
1st – Dolls With Balls (mostly Minnesota).
2nd – Not Fast Just Furious (Minnesota).
3rd – Small But Mighty (mostly Minnesota).
4th – Weekend Warriors (Minnesota). 
August 8, 2019
Ski team co-op looking bleak
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
At the St. Croix Falls School Board meeting on Tuesday night, Athletic Director Paul Randolph was present to discuss a number of topics, amongst them was the request of one student's family to “rejoin” the ski-team co-op with Chisago Lakes. 
The school district hasn't participated in the co-op for a number of years.
“The last time we participated in it was eight years ago,” noted Randolph. “It was a seventh grader. She participated for a year and then was done. During that time, they (Chisago Lakes) have changed athletic directors three times.”
Randolph noted that if the board decided to approve the request, it would only be good for one year as the Chisago Lakes School District had formally requested to dissolve the co-op to their athletic governing body.
“They have the numbers sufficient to support it,” said Randolph. “They have numbers in the 30s. I approached Forest Lake about a co-op and they were not interested either, because they also have the numbers to support the program. And North Branch doesn't have a downhill team, only a cross country ski team.”
Participating on the ski team comes with a hefty price tag. Last year, the cost was $882 per student. This includes lift tickets where they compete, and transportation and coaching costs. This year it is less at $765 per student, plus the Chisago Lakes student athletic fee of $205, plus $382.50 for a season pass to Wild Mountain (if purchased by October).
The board made no decision on the matter.
August 15, 2019
​Football season gets underway
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The 2019 fall sports season is getting underway as student athletes are all participating in practices in their selective sports as well as participating in games, triads and the like as they learn what their teams have going for them as well as what they still need to work on.
The Eagles, The Cardinals and the Saints have all had the opportunity to get some quality playing time on the field, with mixed results.
Luck football
The Luck Cardinal Football Team is unique with its 8-man line-up, and last year they were a dominate force making it to state last year.
Luck took on Mellen last Friday and they didn't take any prisoners. The Cards dominated the other team early on establishing a handy lead 40-12 in the first quarter, thanks in part to the fancy footwork of Bennett Jensen and successful two-point conversions.
With a significant lead going into the second quarter they toned it down a bit scoring another 16 in the second while allowing Mellen 14 points.
The third quarter saw the Cards earn another 16 points while holding Mellen scoreless. 
Luck did not score in the fourth and Mellen got another six points making the final score 72-32, Luck.
Unity Football
The Unity Football Team has high hopes for a successful season and were truly tested by Spring Valley last Friday.
Things stayed even in the first quarter with each team earning seven points. Unity lost a little ground in the second, scoring six points to Spring Valley's seven.
The third quarter is what hurt the Eagles the most when they proved unable to score while allowing their opponents another seven points.
The Eagles attempted a rally in the fourth quarter with another eight points, but the Spring Valley Team managed seven of their own. Final score: 28-21, Spring Valley.
“We knew going into the game that it would be a dog fight,” observed Unity Head Coach Cory Nelson. “Spring Valley always has a strong team and this year is no different. I thought our offense moved the ball effectively at points during the game, but we were a little out of sync early on. Once we figured a few things out, we were able to control the clock and move the ball.
“We had two drives of 15 plays or more, and two other drives with at least 10 plays. I think our offensive line did pretty well on Friday night and opened up some nice holes for our running backs and quarterback.
“I was really impressed with how our kids responded after Spring Valley scored their last touchdown. We could have folded, but our players drove the ball down the field and put us in a position for us to score at the end of the game. Unfortunately, we were unable to.
“Our defense was able to stop them on a few drives, but we also had a few times where our kids read something wrong and they broke the play for big yards.
“Like I said earlier, they are a good team and I am happy we opened the season with them to see where we are at,” noted Nelson. “Although we lost Friday night, we learned some valuable lessons that will help us later on during the season. We play Amery on Friday and it should be another good game. We have to have a good week of practice and move on from this loss and focus on improving and getting back in the win column.
St. Croix Falls Football
The St. Croix Falls Saints Football Team went up against Bloomer last Friday.
The Saints have saw some struggles last season, but have higher expectations this season.
Bloomer was the first and only team to score in the first quarter of the game thanks to a completed 37 yard pass and two point conversion.
The Saints did manage to score in the second with McKinley Erickson making a two yard run and a successful field goal kick by Caleb Bents for seven total points.
Unfortunately, for the Saints that is all the scoring that their team mustered as Bloomer countered with another eight points in the second and another six points in the third.
Final score: 22-7, Bloomer. 
August 29, 2019
​Eagles outfox the Falcons
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The Unity Eagles held their first home game on Friday night and it was just the way fans wanted to start of their season.
The Eagles started out strong and set a tone for their game and it appeared that the Falcons were going to be grounded early on.
The first quarter saw the Eagles with a solid 19 points thanks to Jake Bloom who, in addition to a five yard run made good on a 28 yard interception return. In addition to kicking for field goals, Jack Nelson caught a six yard pass from Bloom for another six points on the scoreboard.
The second quarter was even more exciting for the Eagles with an additional 22 point, finally allowing the Falcons on the scoreboard with six points.
Things slowed down in the third quarter with Unity taking another eight points, Flambeau proved unable to score again in the second half. No scoring was done by either team in the fourth quarter.
Final score: 49-6, Unity.
“We played a nice game vs. Flambeau on Friday,” observed Unity Head Coach Cory Nelson. “We were able to move the ball all night and were able to get some of our younger guys important varsity minutes in the second half.
“Our defense played very well all night limiting them to under 100 yards. We also created five turnovers with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. We had one broken coverage play and it resulted in their biggest gain of the night and put them in a position to score their only touchdown.
“Our defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage all night and played with great pad level. Jack Nelson, Carson Johnson, Owen Raboin, Mike Nelson, Zach Peterson, and Andrew Krone really shut down their running game by controlling their gaps, getting one foot of depth and closing the gap.
“Our offense moved the ball well and we were able to control the line of scrimmage on offense. I feel like our offensive line is starting to come together and they are communicating well with each other.
“There were a few things that happened during the game that we definitely need to work on during practice this week, but everything is fixable and that is what we'll focus on this week.
“Jake Bloom continues to throw the ball well and Luke Flaherty has been the beneficiary of nice passes and getting himself open for big pass plays.
“We have also created some depth at our running back and offensive line positions, which should help down the road.
“I like where our team is heading into the showdown with Grantsburg. We have not beat Grantsburg since I became head coach, but have been close a couple of times.
“The plan this week is to have a great week of practice, turn the tides on this rivalry and get us a victory against a very good Grantsburg team. It is always fun to play against them because they are well coached and it is usually an even matchup.
“If you are a high school football fan, you will not want to miss this matchup Friday next Friday at Unity!” concluded Nelson.
September 12, 2019
​Eagles declaw the Tigers
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
The Unity Eagles Football Team is having a great season with a record of 4-1, adding Friday night's homecoming win against the Webster Tigers.
The whole day had been filled with festivities including a parade and a community cookout. The real fun began at 7 p.m. when the Eagles took the field, and with the surprise return of a Howitzer that was shot off every time the Eagles scored, and at the end of every period. It was louder, and stinkier, than anything anyone expects to see, or smell, at a high school football game.
The stands were full and school spirit was running at an all time high by the time the game started.
However, the Webster Tigers have a conference record of 2-1 and came into the game ready for battle. It was going to be no easy win for the Eagles this time round.
It was a game in which all the action took place in the first quarter. The Eagles were the first to score when Heath Foeller made a 67 yard run for a touchdown, added to with a two-point conversion run in by Adam Weihe.
Eagle Jake Bloom was the second to score with a 15 yard run, added to again with a two-point conversion by Andrew Krone.
The only other scoring that occurred during the game was a four yard run by Webster, with a failed two-point conversion for six points.
Final score: 16-6, Unity.
“Friday night's homecoming victory over Webster was a hard-fought game for our players,” observed Unity head coach Cory Nelson. “We started the game by scoring two quick touchdowns with very nice runs from Heath Foeller and Jake Bloom. However, after that we struggled to take advantage of being in the red zone and putting the ball in the end zone.
“For the second week in a row, we have sputtered out nice drives once we reach the red zone and that will be a major focus for us moving forward.
“I thought our offense moved the ball pretty well from the 20 yard line to the 20 yard line, but we have to focus more when we are close to scoring.
“Our defense played a terrific game against a pretty physical Webster group. We knew Webster had lost their starting quarterback and didn't really know what to expect out of their offense, but I think they had the right game plan against us and they did a nice job of keeping it simple and making us work to stop them.
“Coach Fisher and our other defensive coaches made some great adjustments at half time and we were able to get them into some fourth and longs in the second half and we kept them out of the end zone.
“Once again Jack Nelson had a big game on defense with 15 total tackles and Jake Bloom pitched in 10 of his own. Luke Flaherty had an interception and Heath Foeller recovered a fumble for us.
“Offensively, we only ran 34 plays and came away with over 200 total yards. I thought our offensive line did a pretty good job of picking up their stunts and I thought Heath Foeller ran the ball well. 
“I also thought our players did a nice job of keeping their cool during an emotional game against a rival. I absolutely love the support our community gave us Friday night. ROK Stadium was completely packed and I was told it was standing room only,” noted Nelson. “It's amazing how much support helps our players.”
“Moving forward, we have to get back to basics and work on our red zone offense,” concluded Nelson. “Next we travel to Clear Lake and take on a tough Warriors team. If we want to continue working towards our goals, we need to continue getting better each week and focus on the little things.”
September 26, 2019
Eagles conference champs for first time in 20 years
T.A. Doughty-St. Hilaire
On Friday night the Unity Eagles hosted the Cornell/Lake Holcombe Knights for some football action and fans on both sides were treated to cold weather and pretty decent winds that made that hot chocolate cold by the time it hit their lips.
Things weren't looking to good for the Eagles as the Knights came out swinging and were ready for action when early on in the first quarter scored a touchdown and earned a two-point conversion on top.
Neither team scored in the second quarter. It wasn't until the third quarter that the Eagles finally roused their feathers when Lucas Flaherty caught a 26 yard pass from Jake Bloom. However their attempted two-point conversion failed. However, at least they were on the board trailing by only two points.
Things started looking up in the fourth quarter when Jack Nelson caught a 13 yard pass from Bloom for a touchdown, this time the conversion was good for another two points giving the Eagles a score of 14 -8. The clock ran out before the Knights were able to counter them and so the Eagles walked away with another victory.
“Friday night's victory over Lake Holcombe/Cornell was a great program win,” observed Unity Head Coach Cory Nelson. “We got behind right away at the beginning of the game because of a mental mistake on the opening kickoff. You could tell it took our players by surprise and we were playing catch up for most of the game. We have been so close to winning a conference championship three out of the last four years and we finally put it all together to win our first one since 1998! 
“I am very proud of how our kids handled the game after the mistake on the opening kickoff. Once we adjusted our offensive line a little bit, we were able to move the ball. 
“Uncharacteristically, we had five turnovers on offense. We were able to move the ball during the middle portion and late portion of the game, but our drives would be halted by turnovers. Again, our kids didn't let it bother them and went right back to work on defense. 
“On offense, we were led by Jake Bloom, who had a very nice game running the ball 31 times and making some absolutely huge passes when we needed them. We finally got on the board with 1:30 to go in the third on a pass play where Jake was hit and the ball came out very wobbly. However, Luke Flaherty made a nice adjustment to the ball, caught it and ran into the end zone. We missed the ensuing two-point conversion to tie and had to kick an onside kick. 
“During the game it looked like we may have touched the ball before it went 10 yards, but after watching film it is clear their end guy dove in and touched the ball before it went 10 yards and we recovered it. When we got the ball back with under a minute to play, our practicing of a two-minute drill during practice came in very handy! 
“We were able to get down to their 14 yard line with some nice plays and smart plays to get out of bounds. With six seconds left to go, Jake found Jack Nelson for a 14 yard TD pass and we were able to score the two-point conversion. It was a heck of a finish! 
“None of the offensive heroics would have been possible without the play of our defense! Our defense was absolutely outstanding again Friday night! We held Lake Holcombe/Cornell to under 150 yards and forced two turnovers...both of which Luke Flaherty secured. 
“We were led on defense by Mike Nelson with 16 total tackles, along with Owen Raboin and Zach Peterson who each had 10 total tackles. Jack Nelson also had a fantastic defensive game with nine total tackles and a sack. 
“I'm so proud of our players and assistant coaches for sticking with our game plan and doing what we needed to do to win our first conference championship in over 20 years! It was a very fun game to be a part of and the resiliency our kids showed will pay huge dividends for years as our younger players saw what it takes to overcome some adversity.  
“Next week we travel to Elmwood to take on Elmwood/Plum City,” concluded Nelson. “We have to continue to work on the little things during practice to make sure we are ready for anything next Friday night and to make sure we are ready for a strong playoff push!”
October 17, 2019