Logan Doyle had South Dakota State University near the top of his list of schools even before they offered him a full basketball scholarship.
Once that offer came, it didn’t take him long to commit. Jackrabbits head coach Scott Nagy called with the news on Tuesday night. After taking a day to talk things over with his family, Doyle returned the call to tell Nagy he was excited to accept the offer and start his Jackrabbits career in 2013.
Alexandria’s Logan Doyle went up for a rebound against Red Wing last December. (Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press)
“To be honest, even when they hadn’t offered I was probably considering them,” Doyle said this morning. “When I went there, I got to play with their guys in a pick-up game and I got along with them really well. I know we were only there for two hours and you can’t really build a relationship in that time, but I thought I clicked with them pretty well. Their facilities are great, we toured their academics buildings…it was pretty much the total package.”
Doyle made an unofficial visit to the Brookings campus about two weeks ago. He chose the SDSU offer over a Division I offer from Western Illinois University and eight other Division II offers from schools in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Doyle won’t get a chance to play with current SDSU senior point guard Nate Wolters but said it’s cool watching what he has done with the Jackrabbits coming out of the Central Lakes Conference. Wolters helped sell him on SDSU on his visit. The two will be in St. Cloud tonight to play a pick-up game together as well.
Wolters scored a school-record 1,767 points during his career at St. Cloud Tech. He has turned himself into one of the best guards in the country, averaging 21.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game during a junior season where he led SDSU to its first Division I NCAA Tournament appearance.
“It definitely is cool,” Doyle said. “I remember as an 8th grader watching him play Hopkins in the state tournament and just kind of being in awe. He kind of went off that game, and at the time Hopkins was amazing. That is cool to have someone from the area that has been there and done well.”
Doyle said he is excited about having his recruitment behind him and being able to focus on his senior season.
“That’s what I told [head coach Forrest] Witt,” he said. “Right after I told him I committed, I just said ‘OK coach, that’s done. Now we can focus on the high school season.’ I think we have a good shot at being pretty good.”
The Cardinals went 10-16 overall last season but return their top two scorers in Doyle (13.2 PPG) and junior guard John Vogeler (11.8 PPG). After playing with them this off-season, Doyle is confident there are a number of juniors ready to step up to the varsity level this year as well.
“David Krivanek, he’s really improved this summer and shown what he can do,” Doyle said. “Brandon Bistodeau, Chase Kohler, I’m proud of the underclassmen. [Last year's] sophomores, I think that class can be something special. They went all in. They’ve done everything that the coaches and upperclassmen have asked them to do, been to every open gym. If you want to be a successful team, you have to be good nine through 12 and even younger than that. It takes the whole program.”
Alexandria head football coach Mike Empting has probably never gone into a season where he’ll need so many young players to grow up early in their careers than the one he is about to embark on this fall.
I spent Tuesday at Alexandria’s morning practice where I caught up with Empting and five of his six senior captains. We talked about how that youth will affect this team’s chances in an always tough Central Lakes Conference. I’ll have a complete story on that in the Echo Press before next Friday’s season opener against St. Cloud Tech at Citizen’s Field. In the meantime, here are a few of the biggest storylines facing the Cardinals heading into that game.
* The Alexandria coaching staff knows dealing with low numbers in individual classes is inevitable sometimes, but they hope to avoid it in back-to-back classes. That’s exactly the situation the Cardinals find themselves in this fall with just 30 juniors and seniors on this roster, many of which are bunched into the same positions on the field.
“We’ve had a class where our numbers have been down, but they’ve always been followed by a group that has average or above average numbers,” Empting said. “We have kind of below average numbers in our top two grades right now. The kids are great. The quality of kids that we have there are outstanding. I just wish that we had more of them.”
Alexandria sophomore Jake Bear looked for a hole to open up after taking a handoff during practice on Tuesday. Bear is one of the young players this team will be counting on heading into next Friday’s season opener. (Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press)
That means a lot of guys will be asked to make an impact on both offense and defense. It also means there will be plenty of sophomores competing for starting and back-up roles on this team. It’s a concern, not because Empting doesn’t like their talent, but because it’s tough to win with 16-year-old kids going up against junior and senior-laden teams in the CLC.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Empting said when I asked him if that alters expectations this year. “In our top two grades, we have a total of 30 kids. We have 36 in the sophomore class, so we have more in one group than we do in our top two grades combined. That’s a challenge.”
“I think it’s going to be a year where we’re going to have to gain some experience, definitely. The younger kids are going to have to get some playing time…Like I said, they’re good athletes. We’re going to have good athletes on the field. But again, with that youth, they lack the years of training, in some cases durability because they’re 16-year old kids competing against 18-year-old kids. That’s a tough order in the game of football.”
* Avoiding injuries in those top two grades will be important for this team, and it’s an area where the Cardinals have already taken a hit. Empting said starting senior cornerback Nick Knoblach will be out at least 4-6 weeks after having sports hernia surgery on Tuesday.
It’s an injury that Knoblach dealt with earlier this summer during Legion baseball. He thought he needed surgery in late June before he was told on a second look that the injury was just a strained ligament that would heal on its own.
The pain returned once he started getting some contact at the beginning of camp. Empting said Knoblach met with a specialist yesterday where they decided to schedule the surgery for today.
“He’s a captain,” Empting said. “Obviously there’s that leadership piece that’s going to be missed, and he is definitely a good athlete. He was our starting cornerback and figuring into the mix on the offensive side as well. It’s tough to replace an athlete like Nick, and he has that experience because he played for us there last year as well. Those are two things that are difficult to replace, but we have kids who are going to step in there. We have to. We have to move forward.”
* Junior John Vogeler will be stepping in as this team’s starting quarterback this season. Vogeler showed some good zip on his throws while hitting guys in stride during passing drills this morning.
Head coach Mike Empting talked things over with his junior quarterback, John Vogeler, during practice on Monday morning. (Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press)
Empting said he likes the athleticism that Vogeler brings to the table as a three-sport athlete. I wouldn’t expect the stage to be too big for him even as a first-year starting quarterback. Vogeler is used to the varsity level after averaging 11.8 points per game in basketball and competing with the Alexandria varsity golf team as a sophomore.
Empting listed senior Nathan Huss and juniors Riley Hvezda and Mitchell Thompson as guys he believes can help Vogeler stretch the field a little bit this season.
“We have some guys who I think can catch the football,” he said. “We’re still trying to find our way at tight end. James Holmquist is in the mix there, along with Joe Gorghuber and Aaron Steidl. Aaron is probably going to have to be a full time defensive player as well, so he might have limited reps there. Tanner Runge, a senior, is in the mix as well.”
* Just because this team lacks a lot of depth in the junior and senior classes doesn’t mean those upperclassmen are ready to accept a rebuilding season. That’s the message the captains on the team had when I talked to them after practice.
“We have the same goals of getting to the section, being competitive,” OT/DT Tyler Meyer said. “We might not have a lot of superstars on the team, but we have a lot of guys that put in the work in the off-season who have been working hard. They want to make something of their year, whether they be juniors or seniors and all the way down.”
Max Flowers (DT), Chase Duwenhoegger (OG/DT) , Ted Deitz (OT/DE), Knoblach (CB) and Tyler Kelly (LB/RB) will join Meyer as the six captains expected to lead the way towards accomplishing those goals.
* Also new this season will be Alexandria moving from Section 8-4A to Section 8-5A after the Minnesota State High School League made the decision to move to seven classes for football, including 9-man. Joining the Cardinals in the revamped section will be Moorhead, Sartell-St. Stephen, Sauk Rapids-Rice, St. Cloud Apollo and St. Cloud Tech.
“I don’t think [it changes things] too much,” Empting said. We get thrown in with Tech and Moorhead, and we play those teams anyway. It’s not like we’re getting thrown in there with the Elk Rivers or Buffalo or Wayzata or anything like that. They are bigger schools at playoff time. We’re not going to run into Fergus Falls or Little Falls, those types of teams, so it gives us a bigger challenge at the end of the season.”
*Below, Mike Empting talks about the youth on this team, the strength of the guys up front and junior quarterback John Vogeler. (I apologize for the wind noise in the middle.)
The Osakis football team has put in the work in the weight room this off-season and is ready to see how that translates to the field in 2012.
I spent Monday morning in Osakis as the Silverstreaks worked their way through a three-hour practice before ending with an hour in the weight room. Afterwards, I caught up with captains Garret Scherr, Austin Rollag and Brian Thorstad, along with third-year head coach Bill Infanger, to find out how things are going as they try to build upon last year’s 6-3 season.
I’ll have a full story on that before next Thursday’s season opener at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg. In the meantime, here are a few highlights from my conversation with them today.
*Infanger has preached the importance of getting in the weight room during the off-season ever since he took over this program. Every year, more kids have bought into that.
“I don’t know if we’re completely, 100 percent where we want it to be yet,” Infanger said. “But we are seeing a progression in that direction every year, and this year’s better than the last. We’ve had a better weight room participation through the summer and through the off-season, winter and spring. It’s going in the right direction.”
His three captains echoed that sentiment and said the team as a whole is better prepared to go up against the bigger Class AA schools they will face in the playoffs. No where is that more apparent than up front where Lane Arkfeld (RT), Scherr (RG), Derrick Swanson (C), Rollag (LG) and John Piekarski (LT) are penciled in as starters for a group that Infanger said is the most physically imposing group he has had at Osakis.
“This is the strongest offensive line I’ve had and the deepest,” he said. “We’ve got eight guys that I feel really good about, could play any of the five line positions now. I think the biggest thing is the strength. We’re inexperienced there. We’ve got three guys back from last year, but we’re filling two new guys in who don’t have any varsity experience on the line. The nice thing is they’re stronger and probably in a little bit better shape and bigger than the guys they are replacing. We like to think we’ll be stronger as a unit.”
* Taking the snaps under center will be first-year starting quarterback Jordan Frederick. The junior is no stranger to big situations after pitching atop the Osakis baseball team’s starting rotation for the past couple seasons. That should make the pressure he’ll feel stepping into his new role as this team’s quarterback a little easier to handle.
Junior quarterback Jordan Frederick dropped back to pass during an Osakis practice on Monday morning. (Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press)
“With Jordan coming in, the first thing we see right off the bat is he’s very confident for a junior quarterback who’s never taken the field before,” Infanger said. “He’s got control in the huddle. He seems to be a smart kid. He’s learning our offense very quickly, taking his fakes and his responsibilities very seriously, and he runs the ball well too for a QB. We’ve got four threats to run the ball on any given play.”
* Infanger believes Frederick will allow this team to hit a few more big plays in the passing game this season, but there’s no doubt Osakis will once again be a team built on running the football.
The combination of a strong offensive line and the return of some talented backs has this team very optimistic about its ability to move the ball on the ground. Thorstad will lead that group of backs as he returns after a breakout junior season alongside senior fullback Mitch Herzog.
Junior slotback Drew Fearing and senior fullback Hunter Johnson will be asked to help make up for the loss of Herzog and Marty Walsh on an offense that relies on multiple backs to move the football.
“I’ll have to step up,” Thorstad said of becoming a feature back this season. “Mitch, he was the one I looked up to last year. This year, I have to step up and be the leader for Hunter as one of the other main backs.”
*A player that the Osakis coaching staff is watching carefully in camp is senior Ky Zimmel as he works his way back from an ACL tear he suffered in basketball this past season.
Senior Ky Zimmel adjusted his uniform around the knee brace that he wears as he comes back from a torn ACL he suffered during basketball season last winter. (Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press)
“Ky coming off that knee injury, we were worried about him a little bit,” Infanger said. “We want to keep him healthy because he’s such a big part of what we do on offense, defense and special teams. It’s his senior year and he doesn’t want to miss anything, so he’s out there on every play giving it everything he’s got.”
If healthy, they believe he can be a guy who can make opposing teams pay for stacking the box in an attempt to stop the run.
“We expect him to be a big play threat this year,” Infanger said. “He goes up and gets the ball really nicely. He’s a tall athletic kid, a really good receiver for a junior quarterback like Jordan to have. We feel like we can put Ky is some situations where he can be isolated on one defender, and Jordan, there’s not too much pressure on him to make a great throw because Ky’s going to help out and make a lot of plays for him.”
Alexandria head boys’ basketball coach Forrest Witt knows a lot of high school coaches see two sides to AAU basketball.
“I think it can be a positive thing for kids in outstate Minnesota to be seen,” Witt said. “From a standpoint of, do they learn how to play team basketball? No. That’s probably the downfall to the AAU scene because you have everyone from a different town and a different system, that can be hard. There’s not a lot of continuity. But from a standpoint of being seen by college coaches, it’s certainly a good opportunity.”
Alexandria head coach Forrest Witt talked things over with Logan Doyle after he put together a big game in a 67-40 win over Sauk Rapids-Rice in the Section 8AAA playoffs this past winter. (Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press)
“With Logan, he has improved so much over the past year,” Witt said. “With him not playing varsity as a sophomore, a lot of coaches didn’t really know about him. I was telling coaches, ‘I think this kid has a chance to be good going into his junior year.’ With the improvement he’s made, coaches are taking notice.”
Doyle even caught the eye of the University of Minnesota coaching staff, who invited him to campus for an unofficial visit earlier this year. He shot in Williams Arena and got a tour of campus and the basketball facilities as the coaches talked to him about walking-on with the chance of earning a scholarship in the future.
“I know my AAU coach, [former Gophers big man] Jonathan Williams had a big smile on his face,” Doyle said. “Not many outstate kids get unofficials there, so I was really happy.”
It was just part of a life-changing summer for Doyle. He said his goal and dream was to play college basketball at the highest level possible. But after averaging more than 13 points and 11 rebounds per game this past winter, coaches still weren’t paying attention to him.
“I didn’t really even have coaches calling me or talking to me about anything,” Doyle said.
That changed this summer as he proved himself with the Minnesota Lockdown 17U team out of the Twin Cities. They played at tournaments around the Midwest, including stops in Sioux Falls, Aimes, Iowa and Wisconsin Dells.
Doyle said his strength and his ability to hold position down low has improved a lot since last winter after getting in the weight room. He also feels more comfortable with his jump shot and at the free throw line. This summer was an opportunity to showcase all that against other quality competition.
“It’s been like the only thing you can do to get noticed now,” he said. “I’m kind of a late bloomer skill wise. Big men tend to take longer to develop, so this summer was kind of make or break for me.”
Witt remembers what it was like playing AAU ball himself as a high school player in Morris. At the time, Witt said there were two big programs in the state – Minnesota Select, which Witt played for, and the Minneapolis Streaks, which is now Howard Pulley, the most well known AAU team in the state. Witt went on to star at St. Cloud State University from 1999-2003.
“The biggest thing for me was it gave me a lot of confidence going against players, not only at the state level, but the national level,” Witt said. “From a player development standpoint, it wasn’t the off-season where I made the most improvements in my game, but it was certainly a confidence boost.”
That’s exactly what Sari Noga told me after signing with the University of Minnesota women’s team in 2010. The former Parkers Prairie star had an even bigger jump to make going from the Class A level to the Big Ten. She said her ability to play with her North Tartan AAU team gave her confidence in making that jump.
NOTES* Doyle is one of many players in the area who take advantage of the AAU season in both boys’ and girls’ basketball. Ashby’s Tanner Langlie is listed on the Minnesota Lockdown 17U roster. Alexandria junior John Vogeler also travels to the cities to play for Minnesota Lockdown on the 16U team.
“John’s doing well,” Witt said. “His recruitment will pick up over the course of this year I’d imagine.”
*Doyle said he is pretty sure he will make his college decision by the early signing period, which runs from November 14-21.
“I want to play my senior year and not worry about who’s in the gym and make sure that’s taken care of,” he said.
* Division II schools that have offered: Doyle’s Division II offers include the University of Mary, Bemidji State, Northern State, St. Cloud State, University of Minnesota-Moorhead, University of Minnesota-Duluth, University of Minnesota-Crookston and the University of Sioux Falls.
Alexandria Beetles manager Drew Saberhagen knows being two games back with five games left puts his team in a really tough position heading into the final five games of the regular season.
The Beetles had first place within their grasp last night in Willmar before watching it slip away. Alexandria led early behind a three-run home run from Robert Case in the top of the first. That lead lasted just two innings before the Stingers scored three in the third to take a 4-3 lead in a game they eventually won 5-3.
Instead of pulling even with Willmar, Alexandria found itself in third place in the North Division standings after last night, two back of the Stingers and a half game behind St. Cloud.
“It was a big shift of emotion,” Saberhagen said on Wednesday morning. “But the guys’ heads are in the right place.”
That’s important if the Beetles are going to put any pressure on Willmar and St. Cloud over the next five days. The Beetles open a three-game series against Rochester at home tonight. Saberhagen said his team had already shifted its focus to sweeping that series and performing well in the final two games of the regular season in Duluth this weekend.
“These guys love playing together and they want to go out on a good note,” Saberhagen said. “Whether that’s going to the playoffs or finishing strong with a better record. After I told them to keep their heads up last night, they had a quick meeting and said, ‘Why can’t we win five in a row and make this interesting?’ They’re definitely into it. I don’t think you’ll see anything other than their best effort.”
While Alexandria is playing the last place team in the North Division in the Honkers, Willmar will have to battle first-half champion Mankato for three games before wrapping things up with two against Thunder Bay. That looks good for the Beetles on paper, but the MoonDogs have lost five straight and are 1-9 in their last 10 games.
They are tied with Rochester with an 11-19 record in the second half after going 28-7 to win the first half. St. Cloud will take on Waterloo (14-16) for three games before going on the road to Rochester for the final two games over the weekend.
The Beetles fought hard just to get in position to play important games in August. Saberhagen says they will continue doing that and hope for a little help heading into the weekend.
“We’re not going to be scoreboard watching too much,” he said. “If we’re eliminated tomorrow, they’ll play the last three games out as hard as they can. I don’t think effort is going to be an issue. If we lose, it’s just going to be that the other team beat us. I’m proud of the way the guys have played the last two, three weeks. It could have gotten really ugly on us again after the all-star break, but they turned it around and we still have a chance to compete for a playoff spot.”