Cretin-Derham Hall, Totino-Grace have more in common than football prowess

| August 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

Pictured above (left-right) Totino-Grace’s 2006 and Cretin-Derham Hall’s 1999 state football championship teams were among the storied squads in the Catholic schools’ histories. The two Christian Brothers-sponsored schools and high school football powerhouses will meet for the first time Aug. 31. File Photos/The Catholic Spirit

Cretin-Derham Hall and Totino-Grace own 12 Minnesota state football titles but never met on field until Aug. 31.

The two Christian Brothers-sponsored Catholic schools and high school football powerhouses collided for the first time as Totino-Grace prevailed 13-12.  The defending Class 6A champion Eagles overcame a 10-0 halftime deficit as they slowed down the Raiders offense and scored two touchdowns in the second half.

Based in Fridley, Totino-Grace has amassed eight of its 10 state titles in its rise through the classes over the past 15 years. CDH won big school state titles in 2009 and 1999 but also boast a plethora of big-name athletes who played football there. That list includes Joe Mauer, Matt Birk, Chris Weinke and Michael Floyd, who currently plays for the Minnesota Vikings.

Christian Brother Robert Smith, who has ties with both schools, has seen that both football programs’ successes don’t end with the scoreboard or becoming famous. He said the coaches “are as committed to the mission of the school…and the building of young men…as wins and losses.”

“I think it reaffirms the school’s mission and its foundation and that it exists to help develop young men into young adults of Christian value and commitment and work ethics,” said Brother Robert, who currently serves on Totino-Grace’s board of directors.

Brother Robert also attended Cretin for high school in the early 1970s. He currently lives in community with the Christian Brothers at CDH’s campus but splits time at St. Mary’s University in Winona where he serves as the chief academic officer. He hoped to attend the game, as did other Christian Brothers, but didn’t confirm who he will cheer for.

“I will be judicious in the way in which I cheer,” Brother Robert said the week before the game.

CDH athletic director Phil Archer, who attended and played football for CDH in the late 1990s, said that faith plays an important role in the life of the football team as it does with the rest of the school. Raiders teams usually have a Mass Thursdays before their games.

Head coach Brooks Bollinger said his staff tries to “use football as a tool help them [the players] become the best version of themselves and learn those lessons and those values and apply them in all areas of their lives.”

Totino-Grace keeps faith central on and off the field, too, where prayer is part of practice. The Eagles also have a Mass before their games when possible.

“All of our coaches are called to have a faith plan — how do you bring  Christ to your players,” Eagles head coach Jeff Ferguson said.

Both schools were founded by the Christians Brothers, also known as Lasallians. The order founded by St. John Baptist de La Salle in 1680 has founded Catholic schools around the world.

Lasallians came to Minnesota in the late 1880s and opened Cretin in 1889. The all-boys school merged with all-girls school Derham Hall in 1986 to become CDH. The brothers founded Totino-Grace in 1966.

CDH has excelled in football since the school’s early years. Success continued when CDH and other Catholic schools joined Minnesota State High School League in 1975. The Raiders went to the state football tournament regularly in the largest class based on enrollment.

Having small enrollment kept Totino-Grace in a different conference and class from CDH throughout their existence. Totino-Grace dominated the smallest MSHSL class for football with its first two state titles in the late 1970s.

When Ferguson took over the program, the Eagles started winning Class 4A titles and soon moved up in classes for stronger competition. The Eagles hit the pinnacle by winning the Class 6A Prep Bowl last year against Eden Prairie.

While Class 6A playoffs had yet to bring Totino-Grace and CDH together, the district realignments by the MSHSL this year did. Both schools joined sub districts in the new Metro East District, which set up the season-opening matchup.

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