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Eric Brauch was safe after escaping the hotbox in Perham's conference title clinching victory at Staples. Photo Illustration by Robert Williams/FOCUS

2012 top sports stories - the baker's dozen

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2012 top sports stories - the baker's dozen
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

While it may seem a list of the most-read sports stories of 2012 should have a dozen for synchronicity, when researched, it became apparent a top 13 was needed, mainly for personal reasons. The list has it all, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and not surprisingly, the voices of people via feature interview.

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A world without sport is not a world and the people who participate make sports great. At the end of the year, a look back paints an intriguing picture.

13. Football: Howie Kangas to coach Wolverines, Robert Williams - June 26

WADENA -- According to a report by Sportscow.com's Kyle Gylsen, former Perham head football coach Howie Kangas will take over the reins of the football program at Wadena-Deer Creek High School beginning this coming season.

I could have broken this story in early June had I pressed and assuming I could have gotten a straight answer out of Mr. Kangas.

Perham was in Staples for a weekend double-dip for the conference crown. For the clinching first game, I had the pleasure of watching from the third base line with Ray Sailer and Howie Kangas.

While I grew up in Detroit Lakes, my dad coached at Frazee for 30+ years. Names like Sailer and Kangas have been in my vernacular since a small boy and from opposing sidelines. Rather than be a full-time journalist and ask Howie on a Saturday what the scoop was, I decided to enjoy the game with two Perham legends. One of my favorite games of the year and it also created one of my favorite photos of the year: Eric Brauch escaping the hotbox.

12. Perham defeats Braham 52-46 in tight 2A third place game, Paul Gregersen - March 24

ST. PAUL- The Perham Yellowjackets boys basketball team completed another very successful season Saturday with a win over the Braham Bombers for the third place trophy at the Minnesota High School League State Tournament at Concordia University's Gangelhoff Center in a nail biter for the second day in a row.

Hopped up on Vicodin with a splint and boot on my broken fibula, I handed the reins of Perham's quest for back-to-back state basketball titles to the competent and intriguing eye of Former Focus photojournalist and all-around quality human being Paul Gregersen. Paul's remarkable photographic talents were sure to be better than anything I could snap and he one-upped that with some remarkable video and of course, the story.

11. Tuffy Stadium celebrates grand opening, Robert Williams - July 4

What began as an idea with a quarter-million dollar price tag in early spring has come to fruition - and just in time for the Fourth of July.

From Tuffy Nelson to Al Stigman and Bucky Burgau the Fourth of July grand opening of Tuffy Stadium was the culmination of the incredible work of the committee formed in January that somehow came up with a quarter Mill and had the ballpark ready to play by the holiday. The ceremonies before and during the game were a Who's Who of some of Perham's most notable people.

"What is amazing is how this community keeps coming together." Mayor Tim Meehl said.

That about sums it up.

10. Jesse Hein commits to Bemidji State University Football, Robert Williams -February 7

Perham three-sport athlete Jesse Hein had a pick of regional colleges to attend this coming fall. The heavily lauded football, wrestling and baseball tri-captain chose Bemidji State University, where he will redshirt his freshman year before taking over duties as the team's starting center.

While Jesse's brother Jordan Hein's recent signing at Northern Iowa would surely make this list were it not printed a week ago, Jesse's time as an athlete at Perham High School was as notable.

What I find most notable about the Hein era is how much I like those guys. Always ready with a great quote after games, pulling off feats unmatched during games and just being funny, kind and intelligent people - class acts, those two.

9. Gymnasts continue decade of section dominance, Robert Williams - February 18

FERGUS FALLS -- Perham gymnasts took the top spot in each event continuing an incredible streak of 10 consecutive Section 8A championships. Perham led wire to wire in the team portion but not without a bit of drama in the final rotation.

Detroit Lakes made a late run at Perham to upset the nine-time defending section champs and with a bit of disagreement between the Laker coaching staff and meet judges, but those close to the Perham team knew the title was wholly in Jacket hands. Dynasty continued keeping a streak going only matched by the cross country teams in contemporary Perham sports history.

8. The 'epitome' of Perham Pride - Dave Cresap, Robert Williams - February 15

If a degree of difficulty was attached to circumstances providing an opportunity to be outstanding, Perham head basketball coach and sixth grade teacher Dave Cresap's past 14 months would range from mortifying to exemplary and all stages in between.

"During the season, I believe Dave handled a difficult set of circumstances with remarkable grace and concern for his team," Perham Athletic and Activities Director Fred Sailer said. "True leaders surface at the most difficult of times and Dave was at his very best when called upon."

There is a somewhat written rule about not cheering from the press table or scorer's table at games. Dave Cresap's efforts during the most difficult season culminating in a fairytale state championship were beyond remarkable. I recall cheering at the press table courtside at Target Center, along with plenty of others, when Nick Tobkin stepped into his game-sealing three-bomb.

7. State Basketball: 'Two' be continued, Paul Gregersen - March 21

After Wednesday's Minnesota State High School League Boys Basketball Tournament quarterfinal victory over the Worthington Trojans, the only number that matters for the Yellow Jackets now, is two. Two games left in order to mark two state championships in a row.

Gregersen makes a second appearance on the list with Perham boys basketball. I was at home watching on television a fortnight from biffing it in my driveway; saving two expensive cameras and proving I'm old by busting my leg to do it. Both laptops were fired up and Paul and I worked together in a digital office to make sure the continuing of Perham's run to state got the coverage it deserved.

6. Amateur baseball goes soap opera, Robert Williams - July 10

I have seen better behavior at a beer league softball game where players and fans are all schnockered.

A number of people forgot they were talking to a journalist and another number of humans knew they were when out popped a little tale of antics at baseball games. The story was posted in the early morning of July 10. When I got to the office, our editor Marie Nitke said, "You've got a message from Minnesota Public Radio." Well, you don't hear that every day.

5. Bad Sportsmanship not a well-liked topic, Robert Williams - July 10

With fear of sounding like an old man, back in my day, there was a code among young ball players that came down from parents and coaches and that was to play with class.

Yikes! People got all riled up about the soap opera to the tune of another MPR shout-out for my follow-up story, the second of three. I apologized and defended myself in the same story, like everyone else involved. Ahh, the dog days of summer baseball - my favorite time of the year.

4. Tuffy Stadium to be ready by July, Marie Nitke - April 25

It was announced late last week that the grandstands will bear the name "Tuffy Stadium" in honor of Tuffy Nelson, of Tuffy's Dog Food in Perham, who was instrumental in the installation of lights at the field.

Running a newspaper with a crew of three full-time writers demands the talents of those who can wear multiple hats. Much more so, when the newsroom is down to two. Marie's fill-in for me here as I neared the day I could ditch the crutches is proof of her abilities and as a community we are lucky to have an editor like her.

3. Krueger Field grandstand to be demolished, Robert Williams - January 19

PERHAM -- An exploratory committee has been formed to deliberate the demolition and replacement of the baseball grandstand at Krueger Field in Perham.

After structural inadequacies were noted at the old grandstand a meeting was held to come up with funding and plans for a replacement. Led by Fred Sailer and members of the business community and city the hopes of this committee came true by summer. At the first meeting the task seemed daunting and they made it look easy, no matter how difficult it actually was. Big dreams became big reality.

2. Gabriele Anderson is running happy, Robert Williams - August 8

To little argument, Gabriele Anderson is Perham's most inspiring contemporary sports star.

"It was definitely a good showing for me. It's been a good year. I raised my game in the Olympic year and that's what you're trying to do." - Gabriele Anderson.

I recall the following:

"Hey Bob, what are you covering this week?"

"The Olympic Trials."

"Where do you work?"

Gabriele Anderson was my favorite interview of the year. Hands down.

Finally, the most-read sports story of 2012, which ended up the sixth most-read story of the year on the Focus website, came July 28 from Aaron Saunders of Forum Communications.

1. Head Coach Tim Kupfer ejected, not allowed to return for title game, Mills forfeits

HAWLEY, Minn. - There was no championship game played Saturday afternoon at the Minnesota Division II, District 9 American Legion baseball tournament, but there was a winner.

Much like the New York Mills Eagles baseball team that played four games with only nine players, I was out of gas during one of the most hectic baseball weeks of the summer. When the original story came out it was missing half, namely Kupfer's input. A discussion about a play at second obviously got out of control on all sides. I did my best to make sure Kupfer had his say and like any story of controversy it was good to have both perspectives.

Six of the stories on this list are related to baseball, which says quite a few things about the sporting area. As a kid, I hated playing Perham in baseball. Names like Charlie Nelson and Chris Ceynowa still drum up a hardball grit in my teeth. Those games were always fun to play because it was no walk in the park to play the Yellowjackets.

But baseball isn't just relegated to Perham. It's huge in New York Mills, as well. Back-to-back state tournament runs for the high school team and a wild summer for the Legion team and extra-inning heroics by the Millers proved that.

Lest we forget, there are Dent, Frazee, Vergas, Midway and Bluffton, as well.

The area's love of baseball culminated in a late-night conversation between Taylor Doll, Drew Schultz and I on Twitter. What Schultz said to me at the end of that day still resonates.

Paraphrased, "If you're going to live around here you better love baseball."

I'll ready for Spring Training after I locate a treed partridge in a sapling of pears.

Happy New Year for the Perham Sports Guy.

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Robert Williams
Robert is the Sports Editor of Detroit Lakes Newspapers. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 
(218) 844-1442
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