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2013 sports playmakers of the year: Repeat titles, broken records and alumni top the list

The 2013 Detroit Lakes girls’ golf team takes a traditional jump into the Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course pond near the 18th green as back-to-back Class 2A state champions. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham1 / 5
The Mahnomen Indians were crowned the Class 1A state champions for the second straight year. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham2 / 5
Michael Herzog leaves DLHS as the all-time leading scorer in Laker football history. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham3 / 5
Adam Thielen makes a leaping catch during the Vikings training camp in Mankato last July. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Wierima4 / 5
Garrett Raboin high fives St. Cloud State University fans after the Huskies qualified for their first-ever Frozen Four last March. Photo courtesy of Tim Hennagir5 / 5

The 2013 sports season brought a pair of back-to-back championships, several broken records and a pair of horns no other area playmaker has ever worn.

State championships are an automatic addition to the Top Five Playmakers of the Year, as two teams did just that in the Detroit Lakes girls’ golf team and the Mahnomen football team.

Both squads literally dominated their respective seasons, ending with their second-straight state titles. The Laker girls’ golf team also boasted of two more gold-winners in Kate Smith and Natalie Roth, who were the Class 2A state co-medalists.

On the Laker gridiron, longtime records fell as senior quarterback Michael Herzog now sits on top of the DLHS all-time scoring list, while head coach Flint Motschenbacher surpassed mentor and good friend Rick Manke on the Laker career win record.

A pair of Laker playmakers made big news on the next level, as well.

Laker graduate Adam Thielen excelled at Minnesota State University Mankato at wide receiver, but he wasn’t done there.

Last spring Thielen became the first-ever DL native to ink an NFL contract, after the hometown Minnesota Vikings signed the sure-handed former Laker to their 2013 practice squad, where he remains with just one game left in the regular season.

Another former Laker made his mark in the hockey coaching ranks, as Garrett Raboin traded his Division I playing skates for a suit and tie as an assistant for his alma mater, the St. Cloud State University men’s hockey team.

In his first season as a Husky assistant coach, SCSU played to its first-ever Frozen Four berth.

Here are the Top Five Playmakers for 2013:

Detroit Lakes girls golf team

The season of domination for the Detroit Lakes girls’ golf team came to the ending many thought it would, as Class 2A state champions for the second year in a row.

Not only did the Lakers clinch the state title by 31 strokes over second-place Minnewaska, they also had co-medalists in junior Natalie Roth and freshman Kate Smith, who each finished with a 108.

The path to winning their second straight state title and completing their first ever undefeated season took a little longer than expected, after entering the second round at the Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course in Jordan leading Minnewaska by 19 strokes.

A five-hour rain delay pushed back all the boys’ and girls’ tee times and forced the MSHSL to cut the tournament to nine holes.

But even Mother Nature couldn’t deny the Lakers their gold-place finish, as DL netted a 448, after shooting a 297 on the first day and a 151 nine-hole score on the second.

“There was a lot of pressure and expectations put on us all season and to finally win it all again, it’s a big relief,” said Smith, who also repeated as the Class 2A medalist.

The biggest intrigue heading into the second day was the race for medalist honors, in which Roth entered the day holding a two-stroke lead on Smith after shooting a two-under par 70.

Roth finished shooting a two-over par 38, while Smith shot an even par 36, to tie with a 108.

The two Lakers missed birdie putts on the 18th green to ensure both would tie.

“I don’t know if it’s karma or what, that we both missed our putts on 18,” Smith said. “I never would wish Natalie to play bad, so I just went into today focused on playing well.”

Roth started out her round by making birdie on her first hole (which was hole 10, since the girls played the back nine and the boys the front nine).

That was enough to settle her nerves and play a solid two-over par nine 38.

“I was definitely anxious to get out there and play after that long rain delay and making birdie on my first hole gave me a lot of confidence,” Roth said.

“It’s just amazing to finish as (co-medalist), it’s just another item I can check off the list.”

Trisa Hutchinson and Roth will each be attending North Dakota State University to play for the women Bison, while Emma Thompson will go farther west, to the University of Jamestown and Matty Tschider will play for the Augustana College golf team. 

All players return for a three-peat, including junior Sydney Busker and Smith.

Indians march to second-straight title

The final Prep Bowl inside the Metrodome was Mahnomen’s 13th appearance in the state final classic.

The Indians played in the first of the three final high school games that will ever be played at the Metrodome. They celebrated the only way they know how: Winning the Minnesota Class 1A state title 46-13 over Dawson-Boyd.

“I thought it was a fitting end, the way our kids played,” Mahnomen coach John Clark Jr. said. “It’s one thing to play good and great all year, but when you get to the biggest game probably of their careers they probably played their best game.”

The win over Dawson-Boyd was Mahnomen’s 28th straight win – the longest active streak in Minnesota.

Coming into the game, the Indians outscored opponents 592-44 in their previous 13 wins. It was getting pretty easy and a little boring for the Indians, but if a state title wasn’t reason enough, the championship game was a chance at redemption.

The Blackjacks were the last team to beat the Indians in the 2011 Prep Bowl.

Herzog topples record

Senior quarterback Michael Herzog has made such a habit of scoring touchdowns over the course of his prep career, that he has leapt past some Laker legends in the record book to become DLHS’ all-time scoring leader, eclipsing Todd Steinmetz’ 278 career points, set in years 1994-96.

Last year, Herzog was eight points shy of breaking Ryan Manke’s 150 single season scoring mark, set in 1999.

Herzog also led the team in scoring his sophomore season when he played running back and slotback, where he scored seven rushing touch-downs, two receiving TDs, one interception return for six points and a two-point conversion reception for 62 points.

But the last two sea-sons as DL’s quarterback, the team’s red zone efficiency is off the charts.

“It’s 100 percent the offensive line,” Herzog said. “I can only recall one touchdown where it was an individual effort which helped me get into the end zone (which came in last year’s Section 8-4A championship game against Rocori).

“Other than that, the rest of them have been 11 guys doing their job, including the receivers blocking downfield.”

Herzog’s 326 points demolishes Steinmetz’ 278 mark, while the Laker senior also leaves as DLHS’ second all-time leading rusher with 3,158 yards, which trails Corey Brogren’s 3,933 yards.

Herzog also proved to be a workhorse during his tenure, by toting the ball 601 times, which is also a Laker all-time record.

The Lakers also broke a 10-year state playoff drought the last two years, with DL losing each time in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.

DL head coach Flint Motschenbacher catapulted past former mentor Rick Manke on the Laker all-time win list with his team’s victory over Thief River Falls.

Motschenbacher’s all-time record now stands at 122-46, while Manke registered a lofty 116-31 record.

“It’s a nice honor to meet with a great coaching staff in which has been here since I’ve been head coach,” said Motschenbacher, who started his Laker reign in 1998 and also has collected a Class 4A state championship.

“The main reason has been the kids, coaching staff and administrative support. But we are all indebted to Rick, because he showed us all the ropes on how to do it.”

Thielen plays way into the NFL

“It’s weird being on the other side of the fence.”

The fence DL native Adam Thielen is talking about is the one on the MSU-Mankato football field.

After being invited to the Vikings’ rookie minicamp last spring, Thielen made such an impression on the NFL team that he earned a spot on their practice squad for the 2013 season.

Thielen has survived his tenure on the Vikings’ practice squad through the entire season. With well over 20 moves from their practice squad, the Vikings kept Thielen safely on it, as the final game of the regular season comes Sunday.

Thielen’s future on the team is in a fog, with the possible departures of head coach Leslie Frazier and his staff, but Thielen has obviously left a very positive impression on the powers that be for the Vikings.

“Adam had great production down here in Mankato his senior year and he was on our radar, but we really got interested in him after the Regional Combine,” said Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman.

“After that we invited him to our rookie minicamp, where it worked out well for him and he showed our coaches and myself that we needed to make a roster spot for him.”

By making it through the entire season on the practice squad, Thielen’s chances improve drastically that he will be on an NFL roster heading into the offseason.

Raboin sees Frozen Four as assistant coach

After a fruitful college hockey career at SCSU and professional stint over in Europe, DLHS graduate Garrett Raboin returned to his roots and was hired as an assistant coach under Husky head coach Bob Motzko in 2012.

It also so happened the 2012-13 season was the most successful one ever for SCSU, one which includes the team’s first-ever McNaughton Cup — which they shared with the University of Minne-sota — and their first trip to the Frozen Four.

The success Raboin, who coached the forwards, was a part of in his first year as an assistant coach is unprecedented in Husky history.

Not only did SCSU win their first McNaughton Cup and earn their first berth in the Frozen Four, the program had their first Hobey Baker winner in Drew LeBlanc, who also won the WCHA MVP award.

“I’m just very proud as an alumni and this group of players kept the chain going in the right direction,” Raboin said.

“Making it to the first-ever Frozen Four in SCSU’s history is special for me.”

The Huskies are currently ranked No. 4 in the nation with an 11-2-3 record.

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Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.