After another state championship

Somewhere in the Mike Muehlenbein household there is film of the 1979 Class A state high school football championship game between Rochester Lourdes and Apple Valley.

"I haven't seen it yet,'' said Zach Muehlenbein, "and I don't exactly know where it is. Someday I'll find it and look it over.''

Probably not this week; Zach is busy preparing for a state championship of his own. The Lourdes Eagles meet Holy Family Catholic at noon Saturday for the Class AAA state championship.

Mike Muehlenbein, a 1980 Lourdes graduate, was a two-way offensive and defensive lineman starter when the Eagles won the 1979 state championship by defeating Apple Valley 22-6 in a game played at John Marshall Stadium.

His sons both start for the 2010 Eagles, who will take a 13-0 record into Saturday's Prep Bowl at the Metrodome.


Zach, a senior, starts both ways at tackle, while younger brother Sam, a sophomore, is the starting center on offense.

"No, my dad doesn't bring it (winning the state title) up that much, he's pretty humble about it,'' Zach said. "I remember as a kid asking him how good the team was that he played on and he said, ‘Well, we won it all back in 1979.'

"And that's about all you're going to get out of him.''

Still, at this time of year, the conversation does tend to take a trip down memory lane. Besides,  there is a 1979 state championship team picture neatly tucked into the trophy case at school.

Can't miss it.

"I walk by it all the time,'' Zach said. "That's pretty neat. My dad wore No. 76.''

The two state championship pursuits are like night-and-day.

The Prep Bowl didn't come into existence until 1982, when the Metrodome first opened. When Mike played three years before, the state tournament was divided into four classes — AA, A, B and C and only 12 teams (conference winners only) qualified.


Lourdes qualified by beating always tough Fridley Grace and thus winning the Don Bosco Conference championship.

State tournament games — a team had to win four of them — were played on the home fields of the respective teams. The Lourdes and Apple Valley championship was at JM.

No TV, no internet.

"They said there was between 6,000 and 7,000 at the game,'' said Mike, "and I believe that. You couldn't find a seat anywhere and the entire field was lined with spectators.''

Lourdes was the decided underdog against Apple Valley.

"We had 300 students in the top three grades and they had 1,300,'' Muehlenbein said. "Back then, they averaged the class sizes from all the schools in the conference, so Apple Valley came in high and there must have been some really small schools at the bottom.

"No one expected us to win. We had lost our first two games of the season (against John Marshall and Mayo) and were never ranked. Apple Valley had some hotshot running back who I think had rushed for something like 2,000 yards.''

The Eagles scored two quick touchdowns and wound up winning 22-6. 


The week before, also at JM, Lourdes defeated Crookston 14-9 and that's a game when fans had to shovel the field off from snow.

Lourdes also won state tournament games at Princeton and Brooklyn Center.

"We didn't back in to the title,'' said Muehlenbein, who would much rather talk about the present-day Eagles. "I really don't talk about 1979 that much. More people bring it up to me, not the other way around.''

Muehlenbein is in his fourth year as president of the Rochester Youth Football Association and has been associated with youth sports for as long as he can remember.

"I coached a lot of these (Lourdes) guys, way back when, even in flag football,''' he said.  "I also had ‘em in basketball and baseball."

Muehlenbein, a registered nurse at Mayo Clinic, graduated from St. John's with a degree in biology. He played football two years for the Johnnies.

Mike and Linda Muehlenbein also have another son, Jake, 13, who most likely will be wearing a Lourdes uniform someday, too.

But now, the hope is for state championship No. 2 for the Muehlenbeins.


"I'll trade my state title for this one in a nanosecond,'' Mike said. "No questions asked.''

Zach, though, said there's room for more state championship memorabilia in the house.

"We'll find room,'' he said. "Now it's up to us to go out and get it.''

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