The south side of TCF Bank Stadium was draped in a sea of blue and white. The Northside community came out to witness history as the Minneapolis North Polars — playing in their first Prep Bowl — fell short, losing to defending champs Mineota 35-18 in the Class 1A football title game last Saturday morning.
Despite the loss — the Polars’ first of the season — history was definitely witnessed by the Polar faithful as well as the rest of the state.
North, led by Head Coach Charles Adams and assistants Londel Anderson, Charlie Adams, Marcus Nolen, Tom Lachermier, Rick Plunkett, Josh Corrigan and Steve Ellis, accomplished a great deal this season:
(1) They made their fifth state playoff in school history after appearances in 2000, 2003, 2009 and 2014.
(2) Tyler Johnson became the first North player to be named a Mr. Football finalist.
(3) The Polars went through the regular season undefeated for the second consecutive season.
(4) They averaged 43.1 points per game and gave up an average of 9.5 per contest.
(5) They reached the state playoffs for the second consecutive season.
(6) North’s championship appearance was the first by a Minneapolis City Conference team since the Prep Bowl era started in 1982.
(7) They are the first City Conference team to play for a state title since Washburn won the Class AA crown in 1975.
Johnson (quarterback), Patrick Dembley (wide receiver), Isaac Johnson (wide receiver), Azerick Rodgers (wide receiver), LeQuient Tarvis (wide receiver), Kori Randle (running back), Isaiah Matthews (center), Davante Haynes (right guard), Aaron McClarin (left guard), Odell Wilson (right tackle), and Jamire Jackson (left tackle) led the first team offense unit.
The first team Polar defense was led by Matthews (nose guard), Randle (nose tackle), Phillip Scott (nose tackle), Phaizon Scott (defensive end), Nate Wheeler (defensive end), Jackson (linebacker), Antwon Cobble (linebacker), Travis, Dembley (cornerback), Rodgers (cornerback) and Tyler Johnson (safety).
North, whose athletic director is former Minnesota Vikings player Dr. Leo Lewis, had quite the season as it mobilized a community that wouldn’t let the school close when enrollment had decreased to 67 students in 2011.Today the school, under the direction of Principal Dr. Shawn Harris-Berry, is serving more than 300 students.
Troy Russell, a 1986 graduate who played football for North, watched the game on television as the coach prepared to meet his Columbia Heights boys’ basketball team for practice that morning. He reflected on the year North was about to close.
“We were not about to let them close down North,” Russell said, remembering how the community rallied. “There is a lot of pride on the North Side.”
A Facebook post by St. Paul native John Clark last week summed up how North’s accomplishments reached far beyond the community: “No matter what side of town you live in or what city you are from, you’ve got to celebrate these kids’ accomplishments.”
Perhaps North fan Gina Villarreal’s post a week before the title game said it all: “Three years ago they were talking about burning down this school [North]. Now we are going to the state championship.”
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.