Clay Target League taking off in Minnesota

Clay Target League Did you know that one of the fastest-growing high school sports in Minnesota is shooting clay targets? More than 12,000 students will take part in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League during the spring season that got underway on April second. League officials say that’s the highest number of students to ever take part in the competition.

Lanesboro high school will field one of the hundreds of teams to take part in competition across the state. Dustin Flattum is one of the volunteer coaches at Lanesboro and said things are going well as they’ve been preparing for the last two weeks. The team has already shot their state-required reserve score last Saturday, which they’ll submit if weather conditions prevent them from shooting on a particular week. Now, the team is ready to start their regular season this week.

“League officials formatted the season as an eight-week season,” Flattum said. “We’ve had two weeks of practice and last week was our third week. That’s when you shoot the reserve score in case we get rained out and can’t shoot. We now have five weeks of competition with scores that count in your conference standings and averages that help you get to state.”

Clay Target League

The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League is home to roughly 12,000 students across the state who participate in one of the fastest growing sports the state has seen in a long time. (Photo from mnclaytarget.com)

The team holds all its conference shooting matches in Lanesboro and doesn’t travel anywhere else. They don’t have the head-to-head competition like other sports do. Dustin said the idea is to keep things in the clay target league simple and not have to worry about transportation to different towns with kids and firearms. It also makes it easier for parents to head to the shooting range in Lanesboro on Saturday and watch.

“This is our second year of clay target league trap shooting in Lanesboro,” he said. “We did make it to state last year. I took around a dozen students to the state meet in Alexandria. We weren’t able to get anyone through to the state championship. We had a bunch of new shooters last season that didn’t have a lot of experience.”

They’re back again for their second season and Flattum said they’re already showing a lot of experience. Here’s the complete conversation:

JM Rockets fall in double OT to Owatonna

Rochester John Marshall

The Rochester John Marshall Rockets face the defending State Class 5A champion Mankato West Scarlets in their next action Friday night in Mankato. (photo from Facebook.com)

The third quarter was the difference as the Rochester John Marshall Rockets fell in double overtime to Owatonna 27-21 last Friday.

The Rockets controlled the first half, but the Huskies threw some different looks on offense against J-M coming out of the halftime locker room. Rockets Head Coach Kevin Kirkeby said his team rallied in the fourth quarter and it turned into quite a ballgame.

“Owatonna has two different styles of offense,” said Kirkeby. “They’ll go into a pistol offense and do more of a spread formation, but they also go under center. Against Mankato West (in their season opener) they only did their pistol offense, so we weren’t sure what they would do against us and prepared for both styles.”

The Rockets defense played well against the pistol during the first half.

Rochester John Marshall High School

The Rochester John Marshall 2015 football team. (Photo from johnmarshallrockets.org)

“Offensively, we didn’t really need to throw the ball much in the first half,” said Kirkeby. “We were having really good success on the ground. (Senior Running Back) Cazz Martin scored two touchdowns (on 18 carries for 102 yards) and things were going well.”

Owatonna came out of the halftime locker room and took control of the game early in the second half.

“The Huskies defense had a whole bunch of different players than what they ran out their in loss against West,” said Kirkeby, “So it probably took them a half to get used to each other. They came out fired up and we just didn’t have a whole lot of offensive continuity.”

He added, “The third quarter was all theirs. They scored twice on their first two possessions of the second half.”

Kirkeby was proud of his team for not letting up and bouncing back in the fourth quarter with some good football.

 

 

The Rockets are 1-1 on the season, and they’ve shown some flashes of good football:

 

JM is a football team with a lot of new faces in the lineup.

“We only have a couple of returning starters on offense,” he said. “On defense, we have about 7 returning starters but some of them are playing different positions.”

They do have a lot of upperclassmen on the field, but not a lot of game day experience to go with it.

“We have a nice mixture of juniors and seniors on offense and defense,” said Kirkeby. “However, it’s not like other teams that have a lot of seniors that have been playing together since tenth grade. We don’t have that.”

Kirkeby is in his third year as Head Coach, and he wants his offense to start with a solid ground game.

“My philosophy in Minnesota is we have all kinds of challenging weather,” said Kirkeby, “so you better be able to run the football. However, you can’t just run the ball or the opponent will stack the box with 9 or 10 guys and make it very difficult. I think a nice 40-60 or 30-70 blend of running and passing plays would be a good place to be at.”

JM has a tough road assignment this week. They travel to Mankato West High School for a matchup with the State Class 5A champs. Kirkeby said, in some ways, the Scarlets might be a better team than they were last year.

 

What aspects of the game do the Rockets need to improve on?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RCTC baseball ready for conference play

The Rochester Community and Technical College baseball team is 15-6 on the season after splitting a doubleheader with Iowa Central Community College this week, winning the opener 7-4 before dropping the nightcap 5-3.

The Yellowjackets will play back-to-back doubleheaders this weekend, at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids on Saturday, April 18, before returning home to face St. Cloud Technical and Community College on Sunday. Rochester head coach Steve Hucke said the Jackets will face some good competition this year in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference.

RCTC baseball coach Steve Hucke is in his 12th season with the school, and sports a 228-208 career record. (photo from RCTC.edu)

RCTC baseball coach Steve Hucke is in his 13th season with the school, and sports a 240-230-1 career record. (photo from RCTC.edu)

“Our conference is split into north and south divisions,” said Hucke, “and the south division is really competitive. St. Cloud Tech (Sunday’s opponent, weather permitting) has been to the Junior College World Series two of the last three years; we’ve been to the World Series, Riverland Community College in Austin has been to the World Series, so the southern part of the state is very competitive.”

Pitching is a big key to the success of the Yellowjackets so far.

 

 

The pitching staff can strike batters out consistently, but recently have been putting the ball in play and letting their fielders make plays behind them.

“It’s gone back and forth, like earlier this week, it was more about putting the ball in play and letting the defense play behind them,” said Hucke. “We’re getting good help defensively, and I think the pitchers are throwing with more confidence and not afraid to attack hitters because we’re making the routine plays as well as some big plays too.”

The Jackets don’t have a lot of experience up and down this spring’s roster.

“We’re a young team with a lot of freshmen out there,” said Hucke, “But they’ve adapted pretty well and are starting to step up their game more. They’ve got a good confidence level going now.”

“Usually, we have a good mix of sophomores to go with freshmen,” said Hucke. “We usually have about 12 to 15 sophomores and about that same amount of freshmen on the roster. Unfortunately, we had a few kids decide to go somewhere else and not play baseball and just go to school. Now, we’re down to seven sophomores, and of that seven, I’d say four are our main contributors.”

The 2015 Yellowjackets roster features players from southeast Minnesota, as well as Iowa, and even as far away as New York.

“We get kids from this area as well as around Rochester,” said Hucke. “I’m originally from Iowa and I get some players from there, and we get some kids from Wisconsin. We have a few kids from the Twin Cities, and even a couple from New York, wherever we can find them.”

Pitching and defense are strengths of the team, but Hucke said the offense is going pretty well too.

“We’re batting over 300 as a team,” said Hucke. “We’re getting a lot of good quality at-bats, moving guys over and getting them into scoring position. In situational hitting, we’re doing very well. We put a lot of pressure on  RCTC baseballdefenses by having guys on base all the time.”

“We’re going deep into the count too,” said Hucke, “and making pitchers pitch well and not chasing bad pitches. When you have a young group and can get those kinds of at-bats, you’re successful. With freshmen, you’re always worried about them coming in and being free swingers and falling back into bad habits.”

Hucke talked about Saturday’s opponent and what they’ll see from Anoka-Ramsey: