There are small Minnesota high schools and then there's Ellsworth, a mile from the Iowa border in Nobles County. The village retains its high school, even with 10 seniors and a total enrollment of 58 in grades 7 through 12.
"There are more on the way,'' Curt Schilling said. "I have kids. We're going to do our part to keep Ellsworth going.''
It's hard to find a more amazing story in Minnesota high school athletics in this century than the Schilling brothers — Curt, Cody and Casey, all in the 6-5, -6 range — leading Ellsworth to five appearances in the Class 1A basketball title game in seven seasons from 2003 to 2009.
Ellsworth lost to Mankato Loyola in 2003; lost to Rushford-Peterson in 2006; defeated Cass Lake-Bena in 2007; defeated Minnesota Transitions in 2008; and lost to Granada-Huntley-East Chain in 2009.
There was some pairing of athletic teams in other sports, but it was strictly Ellsworth — and especially the Schilling farm — providing the talent for that historic run from a tiny town.
Ellsworth finally had to concede to its minuscule numbers two years ago and pair all of its athletic teams with Adrian.
The Schillings became terrific collegiate players: Curt at Northwestern, an NAIA school in Orange, Iowa; Cody and Casey at Augustana in Sioux Falls. Casey was a star on the Vikings' 2016 NCAA Division II champions.
Curt and Casey are working with their father in running a 2,000-acre farm near Ellsworth, with 18,000 hogs. Cody is working in Waco, Texas, in the business world. His wife, Erica, is the senior associate athletic director at Texas A&M-Commerce.
Curt and Casey have become a familiar tandem in southern Minnesota as basketball referees. They were working Monday's game between Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda and Mountain Lake Area/Comfrey at Fulda.
"We enjoy being part of the game, and there's a lot of demand for refs right now,'' Curt said. "We don't have to travel too far to get games.''
The Schillings are decisive in their calls and have a commanding presence. Example A was a Mountain Lake fan barking from the stands and being asked, "Do you want to stay and watch the rest of the game?''
Apparently, he did, because the Schillings heard no more from the individual.