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Southern MN football above all
Johnnie Phillips, Sports Editor
Johnnie Phillips, editor, sports, Steele County Times

Having grown up in a large city – San Jose, Calif. being the 10th most populous in the entire U.S. – for the majority of my life, I have been accustomed to attending sporting events of all levels in packed, urban environments.

The only time I ever was able to escape the city and be in a vastly different world from the one I knew was when my high school football team traveled to Gilroy in the central valley.

I relished days when we took bus rides for more than 10 minutes to reach a neighboring school because those were the days that we were able to see outside of our densely packed ecosystem.

Flash forward to the present time, and now once every week in the fall I find myself seemingly in a new town at a new football field.

To be quite honest with you, the hours of driving never seem to outweigh the excitement I get from trying to imagine what the town I am heading to will look like.

Over a year into my time in Steele County, I still get goosebumps thinking of attending a game anywhere across the county’s four high schools.

Whether it be the bright lights and massive stands of Owatonna High School, or the football fields that emerge from the cornfields such as they do in Blooming Prairie and New Richland, southern Minnesota high school football never seems to amaze me with its atmosphere.

On any given Friday, I am blessed with the opportunity to experience the coming together of a town full of proud alumni and current students, all watching their friends, family and neighbors dawn their town colors and give it their all under the lights.

In a city of over a million people, there may be 10 or more high schools all vying for their time in the spotlight.

In Steele County, there are four teams, each bearing their town's name as the sole representative.

I remember playing in games where the highway next to our stadium would battle the crowd to see who could be the loudest during the games.

If I stood in the center of downtown Blooming Prairie on a Friday night, I would be willing to gamble that the only noise I could hear would be coming from the high school in the distance.

What makes southern Minnesota high school football special isn’t the result of the game or the stat sheets on any given night, it’s the people that make it the spectacle that it truly is.

As someone fortunate enough to be able to witness all of the special moments produced by this community, I can say without a shade of a doubt that there is nowhere I’d rather be on a Friday night when the sun sets and the lights come on than a Steele County football field.

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