WORTHINGTON, MINN. – The Minneapolis Morning Tribune, the afternoon Minneapolis Star and the afternoon Worthington Daily Globe all were delivered to our home in the mid-1950s.
We were located in Fulda, 18 miles north of Worthington, and the Daily Globe was inspected for paragraphs that mentioned athletic feats for our hometown Raiders.
Corky Brace was the Globe's sportswriter. He wrote a frequent notes column titled "Brace's Bits.'' He had worked as a shoe salesman and was a well-known local sports nut before being hired at the Globe in 1954.
It is likely that from then until his death in December 1968 that there was not a "bit'' in a Corky column that included the word "soccer.''
That would be changed in this city of 14,000 deep in southwest Minnesota in current times.
Processing has been big business in Worthington for decades. The pork producing plant, now owned by JBS, a Brazilian firm, dates to the 1950s and has over 2,000 employees.
JBS was much in the news early in the COVID-19 crisis in April 2020. It tried to continue operations, then shut down, and temporarily laid off its workers before resuming operations within a month.
Most of the JBS workers are from immigrant families. They have been the staple of the operation long enough that a sizable share of the high school-age kids were born here.
And one result that Corky Brace, and those of us consuming his "Bits,'' could never have imagined: The Worthington Trojans are now a power in boys soccer.
Worthington was in the state Class 1A tournament in 2017 and 2018, losing in the quarterfinals to Holy Angels and Orono. The soccer playoffs were limited to section play in 2020 and the Trojans lost to Bloomington Kennedy in the Section 2A final.
"That was tough to take,'' Isaiah Noble said. "We were playing at home, there was a big crowd, and we lost 1-0 in overtime.''
Home for soccer and football in Worthington is now a spectacular stadium as the centerpiece of a new $7 million athletic complex that opened fully this summer.
The Trojans are back in the state tournament this week. They are now in Class 2A, with Minnesota's move to three soccer classes.
They are 19-0, with 123 goals scored and five against. Those are numbers that belie a fifth seed in Class 2A, but coach Juan Flores knows the reason.
"They don't think we play a tough enough schedule in this part of the state to be seeded higher,'' Flores said. "We need a win in the state tournament to change that."
The Trojans meet Willmar, the No. 4 seed, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Waconia. The winner plays Orono in a semifinal next Wednesday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Prep Spotlight TV: Worthington vs. Willmar and more state soccer livestreams
The 22-player roster is primarily Hispanic, with family roots in Mexico, El Salvador and elsewhere in Central America. There are also athletes of African and Asian descent.
Isaiah and Mathias Noble are white, and the sons of Joshua Noble, Worthington High's principal.
"I played football through the seventh grade,'' said Isaiah, one of the senior captains. "I decided to try something new. I enjoyed soccer, and the way everyone is involved.''
Noble is tall, and his blond head towers over teammates during a practice. He's a defender, and said to be dangerous with a header when near the net.
The player who's always dangerous is Jonathan Banegas. He's a 5-7 sophomore, thin of frame, and has become magical in 2021 with a state-leading 43 goals.
123-5: Worthington game-by-game scores
Smitty Ektnitphong, an early promoter of Worthington soccer and the former varsity coach, said of Banegas: "From the get-go, he was quicker and faster. He has a low center of gravity and an excellent right foot.''
Banegas was asked about the goals and mentioned Menkem Mehri (14 assists) and Ulises Barrera (nine assists) as outstanding set-up men.
The Mehri family is from Ethiopia. "Most of the athletes in Ethiopia are in track — long-distance runners,'' he said. "I managed to play a lot of soccer.''
As for the melting pot angle, Mehri said: "We have no differences. We fight for each other.''
Doug Wolter, longtime sports writer for the Daily Globe, said: "There were big crowds for matches late in the season. And those included people who have been here for decades.
"One look and even people without a soccer background realized Worthington had a winning, exciting team.''
One blip in the giddiness. There were only 40 football players this fall in a school with 1,000 students. The Trojans lost 23-7 at Luverne on Tuesday to finish 1-8.
"We have friends on the team,'' Banegas said. "We are always hoping they can win."