Class AAA Football: Lourdes, NL-S coaches are no strangers
Mike Dreier of New London-Spicer and Myron Glass of Rochester Lourdes are the two winningest high school girls basketball coaches in Minnesota history.
They've combined for 1,497 wins (Dreier has 792) in 63 years of coaching and 10 state championships, eight of them by Glass. They also have a combined 29 appearances at state.
In 1991 and again in 1993, Lourdes beat New London-Spicer in state championship games.
But that is girls basketball.
Today, we're talking high school football and New London-Spicer and Lourdes have never played against each other.
That will change in a big way on Saturday when the Wildcats (9-2) and Eagles (10-1) meet in a Class AAA state semifinal in the Metrodome.
Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
The teams may not have played against each other but the coaches — the Wildcats' Dan Essler and Mike Kesler of Lourdes — are acquaintances.
"I met Mike two summers ago when we were both coaching in the all-star game,'' said Essler, "and he was with the south team and I helped coach the north.
"The teams practiced at St. John's University and when eating and doing things together for six days, you get to know each other quite well. I really respect Lourdes and the program Mike has put together an awful lot.''
By the way, the south team won that game.
"I also remember Dan and his staff were at a clinic we attended and we spent some time with them there, too,'' said Kesler. "Dan is a fun guy to be around.
"They have a great program, and the community really gets behind them. That's similar to how we run the program here and with the Lourdes community.''
Both teams are coming off recent state championships. New London-Spicer won it all in 2009 and Lourdes did the same a year later.
Both finished those years perfect, with 14-0 records.
New London-Spicer also made it to state in 2008 and again last year, but the Wildcats lost in a quarterfinal, 20-17, against Annandale.
They were in the same bracket as Lourdes. The Eagles beat Jordan in the quarterfinals and stopped Annandale in the Dome, 20-16, before falling to Blue Earth Area in the championship, 30-7.
New London-Spicer finished 2012 with a 7-5 record while Lourdes wound up 13-1.
This will be the third time that the Wildcats have played in the Metrodome (twice in 2009).
"Our seniors were eighth graders when we won in 2009,'' Essler, in his 15th year as coach, said, "so this will be an entirely new experience."
Lourdes has won six section championships under Kessler, and Saturday will be fifth time the Eagles have played in the Metrodome. They lost a semifinal to Becker in 2006 in the Metrodome, and played their twice in the 2010 championship season and twice again in 2012.
"We know it's going to be hot in there,'' said Essler, "at least that was the case in 2009. We've been practicing inside in our gym, with full uniform and jackets and sweatshirts. Just to get used to what we will experience on Saturday.''
From experience, Kesler knows how important it will be to stay hydrated.
"Annandale lost one of its best players last year because of cramps,'' the Lourdes coach said, "so we're going to make sure everyone drinks a lot. And eats a lot of bananas.''
This is the final year for state playoffs in the Metrodome, which is being torn down next year.
Obviously, it will be the final game for either New London-Spicer or Lourdes. The winner plays in the Prep Bowl on Nov. 30 at 1 p.m. against either Proctor (9-2) or St. Croix Lutheran (9-2). They play a 2 p.m. game on Saturday.
"Our goal,'' said Kesler, "was to get back to the Dome, but not just for one trip. We very much would like to be playing in two weeks, too.''