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Blast: Paintball player remembered for his helping nature

25-year-old Lance Steffen's funeral was yesterday

LAKEFIELD -- Known as the Working Class Heroes, his paintball team was there in force and so were members of his youngest sister's (Tracey) Jackson County Central varsity girls' basketball team.

St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Lakefield was full Friday morning as family, friends and colleagues of 25-year-old Lance Steffen gathered in loving memory for a Celebration of Life service for the young carpenter, who died last Sunday at Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Severely injured in a sliding accident at the Brewster City Park in July of 2010, Steffen had spent the past 17 months paralyzed and in a coma some of the time. While some signs of positive progress were shown, his condition did not improve enough for him to sustain life.

His passing last week was as tragic as the circumstances leading to his injuries. Things can change so quickly.

But, it was obvious Friday that Lance had touched the lives of many and had enjoyed his share of good times and great memories during his first 23-plus years.

Father Charles Quinn -- who had been Steffen's priest during Lance's first communion and, later, for his confirmation -- put things into perspective quite well during his message when he quoted from the obituary card that Lance "would be best remembered for dropping everything and going to help anyone that needed something."

Last week, I once again watched the classic Christmas movie, "It's A Wonderful Life," -- which is something everyone should see several times -- and was again touched by the fact that George Bailey did indeed have a "wonderful life" as he had friends.

It was apparent Friday morning that Lance Steffen had the love of family and friends -- and they will miss the charming, good-spirited young man who took his hammer with him, but left behind a bundle of lasting memories.

Just ask his sisters Shannon, Tami, Regina or Tracey, his loving mother Pat, his father Lyle, his boss Phil Kruger -- or any of the members of the Working Class Heroes, who will continue to play paintball without him.

Mike Patrick's legacy

A week ago, Beth Rickers' popular Saturday People page featured Mike Patrick.

Paralyzed while making a goal-line tackle in the season-opening high school football game at Trojan Field in early September of 1971, Patrick has spent the past 40 years in a wheelchair.

A motivational speaker and health educator, the Worthington native has recently written a book about his injury and his life since, entitled "I Still Believe in Tomorrow."

I knew Mike pretty well before the accident, as I lived at the Patrick house -- along with four other Worthington State Junior College (what Minnesota West was known as in those days) track and field guys -- during part of the previous school year.

Mike's dad, Arlin, was the cross country and track coach at WSJC and rented the biggest part of his basement to some of his runners.

Nicknamed "Fat Cat" -- why I never knew, he was a defensive back, not a lineman -- his bedroom was on the other side. Mike was into sports big time and was full of enthusiam and vigor.

When I left WSJC in the spring of '71, Mike Patrick was a blossoming Worthington High School athlete with a great future ahead of him.

But early in his first varsity football start, the Trojan junior would be carried off the field in a stretcher and never walk again.

Patrick, however, prevailed and 40 years later is still telling "his story."

2011 Highlights

As we approach the end of another year, I would like to reflect back on a few of the "highlight" times I was able to be a part of as Daily Globe sports reporter during 2011.

JCC's state team wrestling championship and Edgerton/Ellsworth's remarkable undefeated (14-0) state 9-man football championship run are certainly two of the biggest stories of the year.

The Huskies' sixth state grappling title in the past decade was covered completely in March by former sports editor Aaron Hagen, while new sports editor Chris Murphy did the bulk of the coverage for the Flying Dutchmen during their November playoff run to the Metrodome.

The closest I got to the E/E football program was when my buddy (from years of coaching girls' basketball against each other) Andrew Fleischman would call in his team's game results on Friday nights.

Getting the call from Fleischman was more "work" than taking most of the other calls because the Dutchmen scored so many touchdowns and racked up so many yards, that you had to write down a lot of information before beginning to formulate the game story.

Congratulations, to both Edgerton and Ellsworth -- two communities with rich basketball traditions -- for combining together and giving the Daily Globe coverage area its first state football championship since JCC won a Class AAA crown 10 years ago in 2001.

For me, covering high school basketball is always a thrill.

My most memorable regular-season game was at Adrian in late January when perennial girls' basketball powers Fulda and Adrian tangled.

Then in March, I was able to sit at press row at Southwest State in Marshall and take in the four-overtime boys' basketball thriller between Windom and Redwood Valley for the Section 3AA championship.

In the spring, I covered a lot of track and field meets, including the state event at Hamline when the Trojans -- Will Collin, Brandon Berger, O.J. Ojullu and Jeremy Clark -- won the Class A boys' 4x400 meter relay.

Windom's Hannah Steele captured a state gold medal in the girls' discus, while JCC's Justin Cook raced to a thrilling victory in the boys' 800-meter run and Pipestone Area seniors Gathin Veldhuizen (boys' 300-meter intermediates) and Bree Woelber (girls' 100-meter highs) each won Class A hurdles' state championships.

In baseball, I covered several games, including Tracy-Milroy-Balaton's impressive run to the Section 3AA championship, capping a great athletic year for a talented bunch of hard-working senior Panthers.

There were several great amateur baseball games which I was able to enjoy and write about this summer, including a weather-delayed, high scoring game at Pipestone between the A's and the Jackson Bulls.

Then came the fall, my first "gig" was a trip to Rock Rapids, Iowa where Toby Lorenzen's Central Lyon/George-Little Rock Lions put on a football "clinic" in blanking bigger school Sioux City West, 51-0.

I was able to see the Lions twice more and maybe Lorenzen should hire me to become the CL/G-LR "beat writer" because they were 3-0 when I covered them.

I saw my share of great volleyball matches and was especially impressed with the spunk of the Windom Eagles and the talent of JCC.

As it has been for years, Mr. Hagen assigned me a steady diet of cross country meets, which made sense.

After running cross country for six years (two in high school, four in college) and coaching the great sport for 16 seasons -- including a pair of dynamite boys' teams at Heron Lake-Okabena-Lakefield in the early 1990s -- I had the most cross country experience on the sports' staff.

It was again a great fall, highlighted by mostly ideal weather, another Section 3A girls' team championship by the tradition-rich Adrian Dragons, another sensational individual season for Worthington senior Mubarik Musa and the emergence of a pair of upcoming Luverne teams -- girls and boys -- both whom finished a solid second in the section meet and earned advancement to Northfield to run in this year's state meet.

Getting an e-mail from a Luverne runner appreciating the coverage was pretty special, as was getting a recent Christmas card from the Adrian cross country team.

Now -- even though it doesn't look or feel like it -- winter is here.

I had the chance to cover three basketball games this past week.

First I saw George-Little Rock (led by four of CL/G-LR's contributing football players) pull away from a greatly improved Adrian team.

Next, I witnessed an incredible 3-point shooting performance by defending Section 3AA Redwood Valley defeat a good Windom team in a highly-anticipated early-season boys' basketball at Windom Tuesday night.

Then, Thursday, I was able to stay right in Okabena and watch a couple of teams with just one victory each -- Edgerton and Southwest Star Concept -- battle in a very competitive girls' basketball game. The action featured plenty of highlights by each improving squad.

Back to the fall one more time. Certainly, Adrian's dramatic come-from-behind (after leading earlier) Section 3A championship victory over Wabasso at Marshall's Mattke Field on a nice early November Friday was a "coverage" highlight for me.

AHS coach Randy Strand, who is one of the best "interviews" repeatedly praised his players for "gutsy efforts" and sending the Dragons back to another state tournament.

There were more -- but I can't mention them all. But it was a great fall of watching and reporting for me.

Thanks to all of the area athletes for your efforts in 2011.

What about 1961?

Two of my "blasts" this fall turned the clock back a half a century to 1961.

In late September, I wrote about Roger Maris and his historic 61st homer run. While telling about the home run chase and about Maris -- I never knew he was such a good high school football player (four kickoff returns for touchdowns in one game for Fargo Shanley) -- I also wrote about what was happening in the local area when Roger "hit 61 in '61."

From that research, I wrote my most recent "blast" (Nov. 28) about the 1961 Round Lake football squad, led by the stellar blocking and tackling of All-State linebacker Roger Geertsema, who later became a sports reporter for the Daily Globe, including writing the popular Big Cahuna column.

So, what was happening at Christmas time of 1961?

Well for one, Worthington High School -- under the guidance of first-year coach Don Basche, who had been an assistant to the legendary Bun Fortier at Bemidji the previous year (the Lumberjacks defeated defending state champion Edgerton in the 1961 state tournament quarterfinals) -- had a great weekend the week prior to Christmas.

"Trojans Thump, Mankato, Lakefield" ran the banner headline on the Daily Globe sports page on Monday, Dec. 18, 1961.

With Vince DeBates pouring in 27 points and John Hughes scoring 13, the Trojans claimed an impressive 56-42 victory over the Big Nine Conference Mankato Scarlets at Mankato on Saturday night.

The playmaking of Scott Johnson and the strong rebounding efforts of Larry Gullickson and Doug Heintz were also cited as major reasons for Worthington's success against Mankato.

Worthington shot 47 percent from the field (22 of 51) and claimed control early, building quarter leads of 16-6, 26-16 and 42-30, while improving to 3-2.

The evening before, DeBates had scored 21 points (giving him 48 for the weekend) as the Trojans defeated Lakefield, 71-58.

Hughes and Gullickson added 17 and 10 points, respectively, while Dave Rue (20), LeRoy Wendel (13) and Jim Wedeking (10) notched double figures for the Panthers.

John Mork scored 13 points to lead Worthington to a 41-26 victory over LHS in the B-squad (or Bomber, as it was often called in those days) game.

At Huntley, Okabena junior forward Bryon Christoffer scored four consecutive baskets in the third quarter to help the Bluehawks rally and defeat the Black Knights, 50-44.

Trailing 29-17 at halftime, OHS -- sparked by Christoffer's four unanswered buckets -- sliced the gap to 36-33 by the end of the third quarter.

The Bluehawks then won the fourth period by a 17-8 spread and traveled home with a Southern Star Conference victory.

Howard "Butch" Sievert scored 16 points to lead Okabena, while Christoffer tallied 14.

Sioux Valley did not fair as well in their eastern trip to Granada, losing a 70-45 battle to the Eagles.

Duane Roslansky and Dick Voss each scored 12 points to lead the Warriors.

Windom -- which later that winter advanced all the way to the Region 2 championship game -- nipped Luverne, 47-45, on the Cardinals' court.

Jim Silliman was the high scorer in a balanced Eagles' attack with 12 points, while Wayne Emery scored 19 points to lead Luverne.

Doug Hart (16), Dave Hudson (15) and Dave Stueven (10) each had double figures to lead Pipestone to a 57-52 win over Marshall.

Kent Borchardt, who scored 23 points in the contest, netted the game-winning free throw in Jackson's 48-47 win over Fulda.

Bill Drahota added 11 points for the Bluejays, while Jerome Dierks, Gary DeGroote and Alan Gunderman each scored 11 points for the Raiders.

Bob Dykstra (13) and Vernon Schoolmeester (12) combined for 25 points to lead Edgerton past Chandler, 47-27.

Rod Behrends scored 11 points for the Eagles.

Tony Koob and Dennis Miller each scored 14 points and Phil Peterson netted 10, as Lake Wilson claimed a 49-43 victory over Magnolia.

Dale Klooster (13) and John Sudenga (10) both had double figures for the Bulldogs.

In two other Tri-County Conference games, Hills defeated Adrian (54-42) and Ellsworth beat Beaver Creek (54-43) in nearly identical scores.

Harold Lenderts scored 16 points for Ellsworth, while Bill Haagensen had 11 to pace the Beavers.

Robert Walraver (13), Jerry Scholten (12) and Nelson (12) each scored in double figures for Hills, while Steve Rust led Adrian with 11 points.

That's a brief look at the high school -- boys only in those days -- basketball games from the middle of December, 1961 when the Vikings finished their first season with a 52-35 loss to the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Gophers were gearing up for a Rose Bowl date with UCLA in Pasadena.

13 years since great Vikings 1998 season?

Yesterday, was our youngest son, Logan's 13th birthday.

That hardly seems possible, as Logan -- who is pretty quick -- is very small. He hardly looks like a teenager.

But time flies by so quickly. Still, it's hard to believe that in three years he will be old to drive.

Speaking of 13 years ago, it was in 1998 that the Vikings had their best year ever.

They were a high-scoring machine with Randall Cunningham at quarterback and ace wide receivers Cris Carter and Randy Moss.

Throw in the ever reliable Gary Anderson as the place kicker and the Vikings, indeed, had a potent offense.

But, what about the defense -- the late-game defense?

Flashback to January of 1999 and the NFC championship game between the Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons at the Metrodome.

The Vikings lead 27-20 and Anderson -- who hasn't missed a field goal all season -- can clinch the title with a field goal.

But Anderson missed. He "lost" the game right?

No, he didn't. The Vikings were leading, 27-20. Anderson did not "lose" the game.

The Vikings defense did.

Atlanta drove easily down the field and tied the score and then kicked the winning field in overtime, sending the Falcons to the Super Bowl and finishing the Vikings' dream season at 16-2.

Then, as now, the Vikings simply can not play defense late in the game.

Help with the picks

After going 10-0 four weeks ago, I have had three lousy weeks in a row in the "Pigskin Pick'em."

As a result, I am alone in last place -- way alone. I am five games behind Jocelyn, who is just three games behind Ryan in the lead. Aaron and Lucas are tied for second, one game down.

You get the picture, it's still a four-horse race -- between the other four. I am comfortably in fifth, which isn't bad if there's 20 pickers.

But fifth -- a distant fifth -- out of five isn't so good.

So this week, I tried something different. I had 10 of my "football smart" students in my geography class each pick the games.

The results were a bit surprising, as North Carolina had seven votes and Missouri only had two (one picker, refused to pick the college games, saying he knew nothing about college football).

Another big surprise was the Lions getting nine picks, compared to just one for the Chargers.

I would have picked Missouri and chosen the Chargers.

But, I went with the student vote and put down North Carolina and the Lions.

No surprise, the Redskins won out over the Vikings (8-2) and the Saints swept the Falcons (10-0).

We'll see if I do any better this week with my student help?

Have a great Holiday season and enjoy this fall-like weather -- it could change quickly.