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One final game together

By Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune, 06/29/11, 2:35PM CDT


All-Star Game athletes reflect on their final high school game

South's Brandt Berghuis of Rosemount came off the line against the North team during the 2011 All-Star Game at TCF Bank Stadium. Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

Saturday’s Minnesota High School All-Star Football Game at TCF Bank Stadium was a showcase, bringing together 90 of the best prep football players in the state, from schools as large as Class 5A champion Wayzata and as small as Nine-Man Grand Meadow.

The North team beat the South 17-7, but the outcome was less important than the experience. As Morris linebacker Eric Riley, the North’s Defensive MVP, said, “I’m from a town of 5,000 and I’m playing on a team with guys from Wayzata, which has 900 kids in the graduating class. It’s crazy, but it’s a lot of fun.”

We talked with three players from across the metro — Mounds View’s Jimmy Duffy, Rosemount’s Brandt Berghuis and Richfield’s Nick Olson — who came together for one last game as Minnesota high school players before heading out of state for college.

North's Jimmy Duffy of Mounds View came to the sidelines during the 2011 All-Star Game. Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

Jimmy Duffy | Mounds View

It’s instantly obvious that Jimmy Duffy has been preparing for the football spotlight for much of his life. The 6-3, 235-pound tight end from Mounds View with the 4.65 time in the 40-yard dash does not sport the affectations of the average high school senior.

No jewelry, no facial scruff. In fact, no hair at all. Duffy’s bald pate, along with his deeply resonant voice and look-you-in-the-eye approach (think Vin Diesel) are unmistakable indicators of Duffy’s maturity.

“Jimmy’s dad [John] is one of our assistant coaches,” Mounds View head coach Jim Galvin said. “He was our ballboy since he was something like eight or nine years old. He’s very smart and a great leader.”

Duffy started for the North team at tight end Saturday. He did not catch a pass, spending most of his time blocking. It’s a role he came to know well in the Mounds View offense, where opportunities to show off his ball skills were limited.

“There weren’t a lot of chances for tight ends in this offense,” Duffy said after the game.

Yet he never complained or lobbied for more passes thrown his way, nor did he do so at Mounds View. According to Galvin, Duffy was the ultimate team player.

“It’s tough to make a huge impact from a tight end standpoint in an offense like ours,” Galvin said. “But he did make a big impact when he did catch the ball. And he’s a good blocker. He’s got great footwork and can really drive people. We might need three players to fill his spot next year: a pass-catching tight end, a blocking tight end and a short-yardage tight end.”

The Mounds View football website features group photos of the 2010 varsity. It says volumes that Duffy is included in the picture of the offensive linemen rather than the receivers.

“I just love playing football,” he said. “Just getting out on the field and playing, that’s what I want.”

Duffy plans on spending the next month or so wrapping up some loose ends before heading off to play at Division II Augustana in Sioux Falls, S.D. Augustana threw the ball well in 2010, but its tight ends caught only 19 passes. That fact, however, doesn’t worry Duffy.

“Hopefully I’ll get the chance to show what I can do,” he said, “But I’ll do whatever the team needs me to do.”

Brandt Berghuis

Brandt Berghuis | Rosemount

The 2010 football season didn’t end quite the way Brandt Berghuis hoped.

The Rosemount defensive lineman tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the Irish’s 28-14 Class 5A semifinal victory over Brainerd. It was a crushing blow to Berghuis, particularly coming with Rosemount on the way to the Prep Bowl.

Berghuis stood on the sideline in the Rosemount’s 31-14 loss to Wayzata in the championship game. Also an accomplished athlete in the shot put and discus, he already had accepted a track and field scholarship offer to North Dakota State. He never anticipated hanging up the shoulder pads and being forced to watch while his team played its biggest game since winning the large-school championship in 1981.

“Yeah, that was tough,” Berghuis said. “That’s not the way I hoped my football career would end.”

So it goes without saying the Berghuis was thrilled to be asked to play for the South team. While the South lost and he was in on only two tackles, Berghuis said that the mere fact that he played in the game was thrill enough for him.

“To play in a game like this that [former Rosemount players] Chase Vogler and Garrett Glaus and Billy Morgan played in, it’s huge honor,” Berghuis said. “This was so much fun. It’s definitely a better way to remember my last football game.”

South's Nick Olson of Richfield battled North's Jamal Samaha of Zimmerman during the 2011 All-Star Game. Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

Nick Olson | Richfield

Saturday’s game might have been a once-in-a lifetime chance for many of the players, but for Richfield’s Nick Olson, it was almost a birthright.

When he was selected to play for the South team, the 6-4, 260-pound offensive lineman and long-snapper became the third generation of Olson men to participate in the game. His grandfather, Warren, coached the Metro team in 1981 and his father, Todd, the head coach at Richfield, coached for the Metro in 1994.

Nick’s older brothers, Trevor, who plays offensive line at Northern Illinois, and Dylan, a baseball pitcher at Hamline, did not play.

“At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it,” said Olson, who will play for the University of South Dakota next year. “But then my father told me ‘Hey, you’re the third Olson to play in this game.’ It kind of put it in perspective. It’s a really big deal. We have a lot of ties to this game.”

The connection to the game didn’t just stop at immediate family. Olson’s cousin, Kevin Olson, a running back from Hawley, was the leading rusher for the North team, gaining 34 yards on six carries.

Because both were offensive players, they didn’t get the chance to square off on the field, but, Nick said, Kevin’s presence made the game even more special.

“Two have two players from the same family on the same field but on different teams, that’s kind of unique,” Olson said. “I don’t know how many times that’s happened before.”

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