Head coaches Justin Reese (Fridley) and Charles Adams (Minneapolis North) might not realize it or even think it, but they contributed to history last week when their teams met last Friday in the battle of prep football unbeatens.
I could not attend the anticipated contest—which Fridley won 21-0—because of preexisting conditions related to COVID. The victors were led offensively by the outstanding play of quarterback Tra’Vione Stevenson, wide receivers Christian Crockett and Micah Niewald, and running back Michael Ude; and defensively by linemen Cheick Kaba and Josh Franklin, defensive backs Devin Williams and Niewald, and linebackers Davion Mitchell-Currie and Ude.
The victory was more than a contest between two high school teams. Coming into this contest you had two state-ranked teams led by coaches who are African American, with Fridley number four in Class 4A with a 4-0 record and North sporting an identical record to accompany their number-two ranking in Class 2A.
While the significance of two African American coaches might not seem like much in 2020, I felt it had to be acknowledged not in the spirit of competition but in recognizing that both coaches have built two of the state’s top programs on the gridiron.
In recent weeks, Minneapolis North’s success has been well documented. Beginning in 2014 with a semifinal state playoff appearance, the Polars have appeared in six consecutive state playoffs, including the Class 1A championship in 2016.
North also boasts a former player in the NFL in former Gophers great and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer receiver Tyler Johnson, who played for the Polars from 2012-2015.
Reese, who took over Fridley’s program in 2015, has led and developed Fridley without much fanfare. With the exception of 2018, the Tigers have reached the state quarterfinals in Class 4A competition. They finished with a 10-1 record last season and are undefeated as of this publication.
This was a game I really wanted to make. I wasn’t able to witness history being made.
Instead I’ll settle for writing about it.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.