NOTE: This column originally ran in September 2018 following the annual Chaska-Chanhassen football game. This year's meeting is at Chaska High School at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6.
Often I am asked as a reporter who covers athletics for both District 112 high schools, who do you root for when Chaska and Chanhassen play each other?
The answer is neither. But you already knew that was coming.
There’s that code of ethics a journalist must have, leave the bias at the door. You must remain neutral.
That may not be the case some of the time. How often do you see local reporters “cheer” for professional teams to win the big game on social media?
Reading the comments Sunday during the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers game, you could see the word “we” versus “they” often.
So, imagine what it’s like to work at a community newspaper. This is my eighth school year working with the local high schools. The relationships developed, the people met.
You want these kids to succeed.
And Friday, Sept. 14, was a true testament to what makes it so hard to be neutral.
Two football teams, four communities, one district.
Tremendous coaches and staff on both sides of the field. All with one goal, come away with a victory.
For most of the fourth quarter, it looked like Chaska would prevail. Then a 37-yard pass into the end zone with 62 seconds remaining had Chanhassen ready to lift the Jug.
Of late, though, Chaska has had the upper hand in the series, and a 76-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown just 20 seconds later sent the Hawks to back-to-back Jug wins.
No longer is the goalline stand from Chanhassen in the 2012 section semifinals, preserving a 20-14 win, the most climactic finish in the series.
It’s not just the football that makes the Jug game one of the most exciting nights of the year.
There’s the band performances. I always enjoy that Chaska director Tim Beckler and Chanhassen director Paul Swanson play both school songs in introductions.
There’s the cheerleaders and the time and commitment they put in.
There’s the large crowds. The student sections for both schools are tremendous. There is a huge sense of pride within their schools and teams.
There’s the pre-game handshake between the two teams, a sign of mutual respect in the rivalry.
There’s the moments with the Jug following a win. For Chaska, players littered the field some 30 minutes after the final horn. Most posing for pictures with teammates and friends. The traditional senior class photo with the traveling trophy.
And then there are the stories only a few know.
Leading up to the game, Chanhassen wrestling captain Matthew Boyum and Chaska wrestling captain Lane Schmidt exchanged text messages. No matter who won, they along with fellow wrestling captains, Chanhassen’s Grant Krull and Chaska’s Ethan Jackman, were going to get together afterward and hang out at a bonfire.
Word is pizza, hot dogs and chips were served up; perfect food to fuel up wrestlers.
And that’s the answer right there.
Who do you want to win?
I want two teams to have a great game. I want two teams to come out of the game healthy. I want two teams to walk away rivals, but good friends.
It is sports. We enjoy it and then we get ready for the next one. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get another one just like 2018.