This was 25 years ago and Mike Favor was back at his alma mater, Minneapolis North, coaching football. He had gone from the Polars to North Dakota State, where he was an outstanding center for four seasons from 1985 to 1988.
This degree of outstanding: The Bison won three Division II national championships in those four seasons, and Favor received such accolades that he was selected to be a member of the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
There were 16 players when Favor held his first practice at North in August 1992. One year later, the Polars won their first Minneapolis City Conference title in 41 years.
When practice started in 1995, there were 89 players that drew equipment and 60 or so that stuck with it. One of those athletes was junior Khalid El-Amin.
Khalid went to a couple of practices, and then his family told him to forget it — go back to shooting baskets.
“Clem Haskins is killing me by getting these commitments two years early,’’ Favor said one Saturday in August. “Khalid could have played anywhere. We still have room for him, if he changes his mind.’’
Khalid didn’t change his mind about playing football, but he did change his mind on playing basketball for Clem and the Gophers. Went to Connecticut. Won a national championship in 1999.
Favor left North, pursued higher degrees in education and he’s now Dr. Michael Favor, assistant superintendent for the Roseville Area School District.
The circumstance with North football was even more tenuous when Charles Adams III took over as coach at his alma mater in 2010. The Minneapolis school administration was proposing to close North as enrollment dwindled.
The Polars were 3-14 in Adams’ first two seasons. The decision was made for North to stay open and Adams was told to reapply for his job.
“No, thank you,’’ he said.
Another coach was hired, he left quickly, and then Adams was lobbied to return during the summer. He tied the future of North football to quarterback Tyler Johnson and other talented freshmen, and they suffered together through a 2-7 season in 2012 in which they allowed 347 points.
And from that for Adams and the Polars has come … well, this:
The COVID-shortened season opened on Friday and North played St. Anthony, which moved the game to the University of Northwestern in Roseville because of construction on its field.
Luke Tressel, the former Gophers assistant, is St. Anthony’s coach. He reviewed some feats of speed from returning Polars and said to Mark Hill, UNW’s athletic director:
“Can you put some extra water on the field?’’
UNW has a turf field, so this was a one-liner, not a serious request.
The Polars are on a run of six straight state tournaments (the final eight in their class) and that will remain the case with no such tournament at the end of this shortened season.
Last November, North lost the Class 2A title game 26-0 to Caledonia, with its dynastic program. There will be no rematch, so the Polars are hoping to win ’em all — nine maximum — against larger schools in the metro area such as St. Anthony (4A).
That 26-0 score was repeated in North’s favor in the first half Friday. Not many high school teams will put better players than quarterback Zach Yeager and running back Terrance Kamara on the field. Yeager has committed to North Carolina A&T’s FCS program, and Kamara is sifting through numerous FBS offers.
Yet, it was Rio Sanders, a junior on recruiters’ radar, with the play of the night. He went left from North’s 4, cut back right, went left again almost to the sideline, and then circled back to the right sideline, got loose and sprinted to the end zone to make it 26-0.
The official TD distance was 96 yards, but it was closer to 130 with the reversals of direction before Sanders got started in the right direction.
That touchdown came after a goal-line stand for the ages. An exuberant attempt at an acrobatic fair catch by North’s Junior Jackson had instead put St. Anthony at North’s 20.
A personal foul was called to send St. Anthony to the 10. More penalties moved the ball to the 1. Davon Townley, 6-7 and another coveted recruit, recorded a sack on third down.
On fourth down, a pass floated toward the left corner, Jackson picked it off and went down the sideline — covering 105 yards with the interception.
No surprise that wasn’t enough to stop this endless drive. A flag was discovered to be resting in the end zone. This gave St. Anthony three more chances without success from inside the 5, no penalties were issued, and then Sanders made his cross-country jaunt.
The final was 40-0, thanks to a bit of Polars mercy and some running time, but North on turf and not in mud looks like a bad matchup for most every team.
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