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“No Mo Meth” campaign seeks to lower meth usage in Missouri

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“No Mo Meth” campaign seeks to lower meth usage in Missouri

JOPLIN, Mo. – Drug abuse is the focus of a statewide initiative — specifically helping those who are using meth or at risk for doing so.

The campaign is called “No Mo Meth” – and it’s targeting our area to hopefully reduce drug use.

“I mean somewhere in the neighborhood of 2% of the population,” said Steve Miller, “No Mo Meth.”

That’s Jasper County residents using methamphetamines.

“If you talk to any law enforcement agency and said what do you think’s the most insidious drug out there, the one that causes the most damage, I think most law enforcement would say, methamphetamine, simply because by nature how addictive it is and how it can create such turmoil in the user’s life,” said Miller.

And meth is now the focus of a statewide campaign called “No Mo Meth.” That includes commercial ads on local airwaves.

“From the aspect of someone who has recovered from it, someone who is has been impacted a family member, a friend, a loved one, as a spouse, so that’s been impacted and they’re kind of telling that story,” said Miller.

The goal is to raise awareness and offer resources to help. If it goes well, it could have an impact well beyond the state line.

“That’s what we’ve talked about in some of the focus groups we’ve had here in Joplin is building something that at the end of the day, we could hand off to another community and with some tweaks they could find success with it there,” said Miller.

The five-year campaign is being funded by a national grant. They’ve also got a website with more resources – that link is here.

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Red Sox ratings on NESN increase across all demographics in 2021

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Red Sox ratings on NESN increase across all demographics in 2021

It turns out that people were watching the Red Sox this season.

The Red Sox’ surprising 2021 season in which they won 92 games and advanced to the American League Division Series was met with their best ratings in a decade among adults aged 18-34, according to a NESN release.

NESN’s ratings across 152 Red Sox games televised this season experienced growth in every demographic, per the release:

* The A18-34 rating was 1.62, a 41 percent increase from last season and highest since 2011.

* The A25-54 rating was 1.70, an 80 percent increase from last season and 19 percent growth from 2019.

* The Male 25-54 rating was 2.16, a 97 percent growth from last season and 10 percent increase from 2019.

The Red Sox saw their ratings fall 54% overall during their dreadful 2020 season, which was the largest drop of any team that reported ratings data.

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Senate dodges US debt disaster, voting to extend borrowing

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Senate dodges US debt disaster, voting to extend borrowing

By KEVIN FREKING, ALAN FRAM and ALEXANDRA JAFFE

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate dodged a U.S. debt disaster Thursday night, voting to extend the government’s borrowing authority into December and temporarily avert an unprecedented federal default that experts warned would devastate the economy and harm millions of Americans.

The party-line Democratic vote of 50-48 in support of the bill to raise the government’s debt ceiling by nearly a half-trillion dollars brought instant relief in Washington and far beyond. However, it provides only a reprieve. Assuming the House goes along, which it will, Republican and Democratic lawmakers will still have to tackle their deep differences on the issue once more before yearend.

That debate will take place as lawmakers also work to fund the federal government for the new fiscal year and as they keep up their bitter battling over President Joe Biden’s top domestic priorities — a bipartisan infrastructure plan with nearly $550 billion in new spending as well as a much more expansive, $3.5 trillion effort focused on health, safety net programs and the environment.

Easing the crisis at hand — a disastrous default looming in just weeks — the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, offered his support for allowing a short-term extension of the government’s borrowing authority after leading solid GOP opposition to a longer extension. He acted as Biden and business leaders ramped up their concerns that a default would disrupt government payments to millions of Americans and throw the nation into recession.

The GOP concession to give up its blockade for now was not popular with some members of McConnell’s Republican caucus, who complained that the nation’s debt levels are unsustainable.

“I can’t vote to raise this debt ceiling, not right now, especially given the plans at play to increase spending immediately by another $3.5 trillion,” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said shortly before the vote.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said the Democrats had been on “a path to surrender” on the process used to lift the debt cap, “and then unfortunately, yesterday, Republicans blinked.”

But Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was among those voting to end debate and allow a vote on the bill.

“I’m not willing to let this train go off the cliff,” she said.

Eleven Republicans voted to end debate, providing the threshold needed to move the bill to a final vote. However, no Republicans sided with Democrats in the final vote for the measure. McConnell has insisted that the majority party will have to increase the debt ceiling on its own.

Congress has just days to act before the Oct. 18 deadline after which the Treasury Department has warned it will quickly run short of funds to handle the nation’s already accrued debt load.

The House is likely to approve the measure next week. After the Senate action, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the House is being called back to session Tuesday evening for votes.

Republican leaders worked through the day to find the 10 votes they needed from their party to advance the debt limit extension to a final vote, holding a private huddle late in the afternoon. It was a long and “spirited” discussion in the room, said Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.

McConnell allowed for an airing of all views and ultimately told the senators he would be voting yes to limit debate.

The vote started with McConnell and South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Republican, waiting patiently as slowly, but surely, nine of their GOP colleagues came and gave the anticipated thumbs up. When Cruz voted no, McConnell joked: “I thought you were undecided. Thanks for showing up.”

The White House signaled Biden’s support, with principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre saying the president would sign a bill to raise the debt limit when it passed Congress. Jabbing the Republicans, she also said, “It gives us some breathing room from the catastrophic default we were approaching because of Sen. McConnell’s decision to play politics with our economy.”

Wall Street rallied modestly Thursday on news of the agreement.

The accord sets the stage for a sequel of sorts in December, when Congress will again face pressing deadlines to fund the government and raise the debt limit before heading home for the holidays.

The $480 billion increase in the debt ceiling is the level that the Treasury Department has said is needed to get safely to Dec. 3.

“I thank my Democratic colleagues for showing unity in solving this Republican-manufactured crisis,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “Despite immense opposition from Leader McConnell and members of his conference, our caucus held together and we have pulled our country back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to push us over.”

McConnell saw it quite differently.

“The pathway our Democratic colleagues have accepted will spare the American people any near-term crisis, while definitively resolving the majority’s excuse that they lacked time to address the debt limit through (reconciliation),” McConnell said Thursday. “Now there will be no question: They’ll have plenty of time.

McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans still insist that the Democrats go it alone to raise the debt ceiling longer term. Further, McConnell has insisted that Democrats use the same cumbersome legislative process called reconciliation that they used to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill and have been employing to try to pass Biden’s $3.5 trillion measure to boost safety net, health and environmental programs.

On Wednesday, Biden had enlisted top business leaders to push for immediately suspending the debt limit, saying the approaching deadline created the risk of a historic default that would be like a “meteor” that could crush the U.S. economy and send waves of damage worldwide.

At a White House event, the president shamed Republican senators for threatening to filibuster any suspension of the $28.4 trillion cap. He leaned into the credibility of corporate America — a group that has traditionally been aligned with the GOP on tax and regulatory issues — to drive home his point as the heads of Citi, JP Morgan Chase and Nasdaq gathered in person and virtually to say the debt limit must be lifted.

“It’s not right and it’s dangerous,” Biden said of the resistance by Senate Republicans.

Once a routine matter, raising the debt limit has become politically treacherous over the past decade or more, used by Republicans, in particular, to rail against government spending and the rising debt load.

___

AP writers Lisa Mascaro, Farnoush Amiri and Josh Boak in Washington and AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise in New York contributed to this report.

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Teenage boy injured in apparent drive-by shooting on St. Paul’s East Side

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Teenage boy injured in apparent drive-by shooting on St. Paul’s East Side

A teenage boy who was injured during an apparent drive-by shooting Thursday afternoon in St. Paul is expected to survive his injuries, according to police.

Police spokesman Steve Linders said that about 4:20 p.m., officers were called to the 500 block of Sims Avenue on reports of gunfire. Witnesses at the scene in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood said they heard as many as 20 shots and saw two men flee the scene in an SUV. More than 15 bullet casings were found.

Shortly thereafter, a teenage boy with a gunshot wound was dropped off at Regions Hospital.

The shooting is under investigation. No further details were available Thursday night.

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White Bear Lake middle school gets rid of ‘F’ grades. Parents raise concerns.

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White Bear Lake middle school gets rid of ‘F’ grades. Parents raise concerns.

Under a new grading system at a White Bear Lake middle school, students no longer will be given an F grade — no matter how bad they did on an assignment or test or if it was turned in late or not at all.

Instead, the grading system that began last month at Sunrise Middle School will start out at 50 percent, with nothing below that for assignments, tests, quizzes and projects. School officials say the approach, which one teacher described as “equitable grading” and a districtwide initiative, is aimed at ensuring that grades accurately reflect how well the students know the material and take out behavioral factors.

But some parents say the White Bear Lake’s new approach won’t motivate kids to excel and get work done on time.

The new method is among several efforts to change the way schools grade students, especially during the pandemic. For the 2020-21 school year, the Minnesota Department of Education urged schools to maintain a “do-no-harm” philosophy. Students, the department said, should get to choose the option of receiving a letter grade if it’s going to help their grade-point average, or a pass/fail grade if it won’t.

In a Sept. 24 video to parents, Sunrise Principal Christina Pierre explained their thinking by offering up a common situation from the past, when an F grade was classified as an I, or incomplete. Say a student received a B on one test, a C on another and then missed a third, which resulted in an incomplete test grade, or zero percentage points toward the overall grade. Taking all three grades into account, the student’s grade would also be an incomplete.

“That doesn’t seem fair, if two of the three grades are already passing grades, and only one of them, the student missed,” she said, “they shouldn’t have an overall grade of an ‘I.’”

So, the “solution,” she said, is to treat the incomplete grade the same as the B and the C by giving it a 50 percent, instead of zero.

In an interview Thursday, Pierre said that students would still get an overall grade of incomplete in the class if they score less than 60 percent.

Students will be given 10 days to retake or revise tests and quizzes and projects to better their scores. That window will allow teachers to work with students so they can learn the material, instead of just taking them as soon as possible when perhaps they are not ready, she said.

“We realize that not every kid gets it the first time,” she said. “Some students need more time to learn something than others.”

Also as part of the new system, Sunrise is now going to include in overall grades “exactly what the student knows based on what we want them to learn,” she said, and therefore grades no longer will include behavior, attitude, tardiness and whether an assignment was turned in late.

“There’s other ways that we can communicate those things to parents, and so they’re not going to be included in grades,” she said. “We recognize that this is really increasing the rigor of grades, we’re insisting that students make sure that they learn the material.”

CONCERNED PARENTS

Rebekah Bradfield, a Sunrise parent and candidate for the White Bear Lake School Board, said she first was told about the new grading system from her seventh-grade daughter’s language arts teacher about a week into the school year. In the email, which Bradfield forwarded to the Pioneer Press, the teacher explains that it was implemented schoolwide this year “as we move forward with more equitable grading practices throughout the district.”

Pierre said Thursday that the term “equitable grading” is “just another word for standards-based grading, which has been been around for 20 to 30 years. Standards-based grading is just about making sure that the grades communicate exactly what the student knows and is able to do.”

When asked about whether “equitable grading” involves addressing racial disparities in education, Pierre said, “I wouldn’t say it has nothing to do with it, but I wouldn’t say that it has everything to do with it. With everything we do, we need to be cognizant of how it impacts all of our students and our sub-populations.”

Bradfield said she dug into the goals of the district’s equity policies and they have a lot to do with grading. According to the district’s latest workforce and achievement and integration progress report, which was presented to the school board Sept. 27, the district wants enrollment in advanced high school courses to mirror the general student population in terms of race and family income.

Bradfield also pointed to a recent news release on the district’s website announcing that Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak was named this year’s “Superintendent of the Year” by the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. It states the district has conducted an equity audit and, “in light of the killing of George Floyd and how conversations across the nation have evolved during this past year,” the district is “positioned to develop and implement both meaningful and actionable equity strategies, including through grading.”

“Grading can be one of the largest areas in which systemic racism and inequities are perpetuated,” the release states. “Kazmierczak and WBLAS believe grades should be a measure of what a student knows and has mastered in a given course. Grading should not be a behavior punishment and should not be a measure of how well a student can survive stress at home. Under Dr. Kazmierczak’s leadership and in line with the district’s strategic plan and commitment to eliminating systemic racism, the district began tackling grading disparities a year ago when they dramatically changed their grading practices.”

HOW ABOUT OTHER SCHOOLS?

Pierre said other secondary schools in the district are also doing some aspects of the new strategy, but was unsure Thursday to what extent.

“As a district, as any functional organization should, we are always reviewing our policies and our procedures and our systems to make sure we’re functioning as well as possible,” she said. “And so we should always be updating and improving what we do, and so this is just part of it.”

But Bradfield said the new grading system gives students little to no incentive to do the work on time — and she is not alone. She said she’s heard concerns from parents and has read them in parent Facebook groups.

“They have very similar concerns as I do,” she said, “where they’re saying that it’s going to look good on paper, but the kids are not going to be ready for real life.”

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Stillwater school board fills vacancy created by recent resignation

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Stillwater school board fills vacancy created by recent resignation

Stillwater school board members voted unanimously Thursday night to approve a resolution to appoint Vivian Votava to fill an open seat on the school board.

Votava, a principal quality engineer at DiaSorin in Stillwater, will serve until a special election is held in November 2022. The seat had previously been held by Matt Onken, who resigned last month citing the political divide in the school district.

Votava was one of three candidates who applied for the open seat. She will be administered the oath of office following the required 30-day period for petition.

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Rem Pitlick’s homecoming with the Wild is all business

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Rem Pitlick’s homecoming with the Wild is all business

As the clock on his dashboard approached midnight, Wild winger Rem Pitlick seriously considered pulling off at the nearest rest stop to get a few hours of shut-eye. He had a sleeping bag with him and everything.

Luckily for the 24-year-old Pitlick, his mom Lisa came through at the last minute. She found him a hotel near Quincy, Ill., meaning Pitlick did not have to sleep in his used Nissan Pathfinder. He slept for a few hours before continuing his trek to the Twin Cities.

After roughly 13 1/2 hours of driving, Pitlick finally checked into his hotel on Wednesday night before hurriedly making his way to Xcel Energy Center for a preseason game. Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind for Pitlick since the hometown Wild claimed him off waivers on Tuesday afternoon.

“Not really settled yet,” said Pitlick, who got placed on waivers by the Nashville Predators earlier this week. “I didn’t know if I was going to get picked at all. I actually had the time wrong with my agent, so I thought I didn’t get picked up. Then he called me and goes, ‘We’ve still got another hour.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’ Then I got picked up and finished the packing.”

Now that the dust is starting to settle, Pitlick is excited for the next chapter in his career, back where it all began. He cut his teeth on the outdoor rinks in Plymouth as a kid and starred for the University of Minnesota before turning pro.

Though his time with the Predators didn’t go as planned — he played in only 11 games in the NHL after signing on March 22, 2019 — Pitlick is excited that his path led him to the Wild. He grew up cheering for the hometown team and is pumped that he gets to wear the sweater for real.

That said, Pitlick made it clear that he’s not going to get caught up in the hoopla that can sometimes be associated with a homecoming.

“I’m here to play hockey and try to earn an opportunity,” Pitlick said. “It’s not trying to hang out with my family or my friends. I’m here to play hockey. And I’m going to take this very seriously.”

The biggest thing Pitlick has working in his favor is he already has been down this road. He arrived in Dinkytown as a prized recruit and managed to block out the distractions on his way to the next level. He’s confident he can do the same thing with the Wild.

“It’s like, oh my gosh, I’m here, it’s amazing, people are texting me, people want tickets,” Pitlick said of his time with the Gophers. “I was able to kind of figure out how to not be distracted during that time.”

Asked why he decided to bring Pitlick in so late in training camp, with the Oct. 15 season opener against the Anaheim Ducks right around the corner, Wild general manager Bill Guerin said he felt it was worth taking a chance on a highly-skilled kid.

“He’s the type of guy that we value,” Guerin said. “He can score. He’s got a great shot. He’s high character. In talking to people that know him well, like Bob Motzko at the U, they have great things to say about his character and his passion for the game. There’s very little risk. We just thought it made a lot of sense.”

In his conversation with Pitlick earlier this week, Guerin also made it clear that this is his job.

“I joked with him, I said, ‘You’re not coming home. You’re coming to work,’ ” Guerin said. “It can always be a big thrill playing for the home team. We are excited to have him.”

As for where Pitlick fits in the lineup, Wild coach Dean Evason said he wants to see him play before he makes that decision. The plan is for Pitlick to play in the preseason finale against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at the United Center.

“He’s got a skill set that we think is untapped obviously at this level,” Evason said. “He’s very excited about the opportunity and, speaking to him, very thankful to get an opportunity. Obviously he got put on waivers with the opportunity to probably get sent down. He’s here, and he’s going to get an opportunity for us, so we’re looking for him to be what he is.”

What exactly is Pitlick? Well, he has been a top-tier goal scorer at every level, including as a pro in the American Hockey League. All that’s left for him to do is prove it at the highest level.

“Obviously, I’ve been picked up,” Pitlick said. “But I don’t expect anything. I’m here to work. I haven’t fully established myself in the NHL. I’m coming here to work and see if I can earn an opportunity.”

BRIEFLY

Matt Dumba scored the game-winner in overtime as the Wild earned a 3-2 win over the rival Chicago Blackhawks. Joel Eriksson Ek and Alex Goligoski had the other goals for the Wild.

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Minnesota’s hospital capacity continues to tighten due to COVID-19

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Minnesota’s hospital capacity continues to tighten due to COVID-19

The number of available hospital beds, especially those for children, are dwindling across Minnesota because of increased demand and the ongoing fourth wave of COVID-19 cases.

Some parts of the state have no open hospital beds with the proper staff to care for patients, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Thursday. In other regions the number of available beds are in the single digits.

“We have been saying since the beginning of this pandemic that it is a top priority to protect the capacity of our health systems to make sure people are getting the care they need,” Malcolm said. “Capacity is tight everywhere, including pediatric hospital beds.”

Beds are full because of the nearly 900 COVID-19 patients requiring care and that larger-than-expected numbers of people are arriving with severe conditions like heart attacks and strokes. Health officials believe the increased need for hospital care now is due, in part, to people having deferred other care earlier during the pandemic.

Dr. Kevin Croston, CEO of North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale, said it was not unusual for a hospital to discharge 100 patients in a day only to see those beds immediately refill.

“It probably been the most challenging year I have experienced in my 30-plus year career,” Croston said. “Every element of our health system is incredibly stressed. It has been for a long time and it just keeps building.”

He noted that 75 percent of COVID-19 patients in regular hospital beds — and 100 percent of those in intensive care — are unvaccinated.

There are more people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 than any other time this year. The number of people requiring care is roughly half what it was at the peak of the state’s worst surge, in December, just before vaccines became available.

Hospitals leaders from across Minnesota say they are working together to find ways to maintain capacity and care for patients. In some cases that includes postponing procedures.

The biggest capacity challenge for providers is staffing shortages, something Croston said has hit a critical level. Nationwide, health care providers have been leaving the profession because of the strain of the 19-month long pandemic.

“The staff are exhausted and they are working harder than they ever have,” he said.

Dr. Marc Gorelick, Children’s Minnesota president and CEO, said there’s been a dramatic increase in pediatric patients over the past few months. This includes an unexpected rise in respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, as well as a rise in both trauma and acute mental health cases.

“We are doing everything we can. The good news is, it’s working,” Gorelick said. “It’s strained, but we are meeting the needs of the kids in the state.”

Rachelle H. Schultz, Winona Health president and CEO, said rural hospitals are experiencing the same capacity challenges as those in the Twin Cities metro.

Schultz, Gorelick and Croston all said that community members can help health care providers maintain hospital capacity by following coronavirus mitigation measures such as getting vaccinated, wearing masks in public and staying home when ill.

“We are here to help and we need the help of our communities to get through this together,” Schultz said.

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Timberwolves’ preseason road trip provides chance to bond and compete

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Timberwolves’ preseason road trip provides chance to bond and compete

The Timberwolves’ first extended road trip of the season is taking place earlier than usual. Starting Friday in Denver, Minnesota will play three road games in three separate cities over a seven-day span.

The Wolves will be in Denver on Friday and Los Angeles on Monday to play the Clippers before heading to Brooklyn to play the Nets next Thursday.

It’s rare for an exhibition road trip, but the getaway checks a couple of traditional preseason boxes. Many teams will hold destination training camps away from their home bases. The Wolves, for example, used to hold training camp in Mankato. A few years back, in Minnesota’s first season with Jimmy Butler under former coach Tom Thibodeau, the team held training camp in San Diego before departing to play two preseason games in China.

Those trips provide bonding opportunities for a team to attempt to unite itself further before the start of a grueling 82-game regular-season grind.

This trip gives the Wolves a chance to do some of that. Some of it has already taken place. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said Jarred Vanderbilt organized a dinner for the players Thursday night in Denver, where he started his NBA career. Finch and the coaches were not invited.

“Nor do I want to be,” Finch said with a laugh.

Timberwolves players gathered as a group in Miami before the start of training camp, where they worked out with one another, played some volleyball and spent time with new owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez. It was a similar trip to the one the team took a couple years ago to the Bahamas.

But not everyone was in attendance. Anthony Edwards, for instance, was filming his role in a movie. Everyone will be on this trip.

“Our guys are excited,” Finch said.

Karl-Anthony Towns said this week that what he loves most about this team thus far is its spirit.

“That takes care of a lot of things that may not be made up in talent is just our spirit is so good,” he said. “It makes up for a lot of things that we may be lacking.”

Finch has noted the team’s apparent chemistry on and off the floor. That’s why he thinks players are legitimately looking forward to spending time with one another. The trip also checks another box — getting prepared for the upcoming season. Minnesota’s three opponents — the Nuggets, Clippers and Nets — all won at least one playoff series last season.

While it’s still preseason, such tests figure to help the Wolves figure out where they are, and where they need to go.

“Kind of takes the place of the traditional go away for training camp. Covering a lot of ground on this road trip. And that was intentional,” Finch said. “We wanted to play good teams in good cities where our guys would feel like they could get out and be with each other.”

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High school football: Academy Force’s Peyton Gremmels is one of state’s top-producing receivers

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High school football: Academy Force’s Peyton Gremmels is one of state’s top-producing receivers

Running the football is in the DNA of Academy Force head football coach Noah Dombrovski and his offensive staff members.

Traditionally, Academy Force — an east metro co-op team based out of St. Croix Prep — prefers to run the ball about 70 percent of the time.

But then came a play last fall against Minneapolis Edison in which Dombrovski and Co. knew for certain it was time to adapt.

On a deep ball down the sideline, receiver Peyton Gremmels made an acrobatic grab between two defenders. It was so good, in fact, that the Edison head coach made a point to ask Dombrovski after the game about where this wide receiver came from.

“It was kind of an acrobatic catch and it was just like ‘Holy cow, alright, we know we can keep going to him and he’s going to make some crazy catches,’ ” Dombrovski recalled this week.

And he made the routine catches ones, too. Frankly, Gremmels would make all the plays. In that game alone, Gremmels finished with seven catches for 124 yards and a touchdown.

“I think that was like ‘OK, we can rely on him to move some things up for us,’ ” Dombrovski said.

And in this season, Gremmels’ senior campaign, the receiver has become the focal point of the Academy Force offense — for good reason.

Through five games Gremmels has 34 catches for 533 yards from quarterback Ethan Petersen, putting him among the state’s top-producing pass catchers. He has accounted for half of Academy Force’s eight offensive touchdowns, while adding four more two-point conversions.

It’s a rarity in high school, but it’s true for Academy Force — the offense is centered on the 6-foot-1 wide receiver. Academy Force (1-4), which hosts Minneapolis Roosevelt at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Croix Prep, has other weapons, such as first-year receiver Josh Louis. But Gremmels is who makes the offense go.

“It’s definitely like, ‘Alright, we need one, what can we do to get Peyton open?’ ” Dombrovski said. “Peyton is the guy that we run through, so that’s how we’ve got to roll.”

“Coach always has a game plan of what they run, what routes will be open and what to run,” Gremmels said, “and I just execute it.”

His junior season was the first time Gremmels played wide receiver at the varsity level, though this is his fourth year starting for Academy Force. The Woodbury product was Academy Force’s second-leading tackler from the defensive back position as a freshman, per Dombrovski, but he quickly showed a knack at receiver when given the opportunity.

“I kind of played a little bit in like middle school. I don’t know. Just the offense that we’re running, it works well,” Gremmels said. “I like just like the competition, man on man against the corner.”

He put in work in the offseason, mastering his routes and footwork. It has paid off in a big way this season. Gremmels has at least four catches in every game this fall. Over the past three games, he has 25 catches for 441 yards and four scores. That includes a 195-yard, three-touchdown showing in Academy Force’s Homecoming victory over Concordia Academy — Gremmels’ favorite game to date.

“Every play we threw at him, he made it. So we’re just like, ‘Alright, let’s keep doing it!’ ” Dombrovski said.

Gremmels has earned that trust. The receiver/defensive back is being recruited by area Division III schools, and said he has roster spots offered by Hamline and Augsburg. Quiet, calm and smart, Gremmels is “the most chill good player you’ll ever meet,” Dombrovski said.

While not boastful, Gremmels does carry a quiet confidence. This is the type of statistical season he was planning to put together, and he’s hopeful more wins soon follow.

Defenses have started to shade coverages in Gremmels’ direction. It’s becoming common for the receiver to hear opposing coaches yell out for defenders to “Watch No. 13.” All eyes on him.

Dombrovski noted Gremmels has always been a quick learner. On defense, Academy Force will push him into the box against strong running teams, and have him serve as the surveyor of the secondary when an opponent is set to pass. He’s a swiss army knife of sorts.

Offensively, Gremmels doesn’t even need to see a route, but rather have it explained to him, and he’ll soon have it down. Dombrovski recalled a time when the coaching staff described a “whip” route to Gremmels in practice. He ran it in the game two days later for an easy score.

“He definitely has the football sense, the smarts, he’s a great route-runner,” Dombrovski said. “We can throw a fade to him, we can throw a whip route to him, we can throw any route to him and he’ll run it just perfect the first time and get open.”

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Michael R. Strain: Republicans need to be more than the party of Trump

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Michael R. Strain: Republicans need to be more than the party of Trump

Republicans are apparently too busy stoking cultural grievances and recounting votes from the 2020 presidential election to craft a policy agenda for the next election. Looking forward instead of backward would be a better way to build political support and to channel the populism of former President Donald Trump into programs to help working- and middle-class voters.

The alternative for the GOP is to contest the 2024 election as a referendum on Trump’s personality and his false claims of election fraud. Republican partisans are convinced; nearly 6 in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents state that believing the 2020 election was stolen from Trump is an important part of what it means to be a Republican, according to a recent CNN poll. And Trump’s fantasy is already a big part of the 2022 midterm elections.

But do Republicans really want voters to focus exclusively on Trump?

A healthy political party can’t be stuck in the past and it can’t be a cult of personality. This should be obvious from Trump’s loss in the personality-driven 2020 contest. That year, the GOP couldn’t even write a policy platform for its nominating convention. Instead, it released a bizarre statement of fealty to Trump.

If the GOP wants to make inroads among the many voters who aren’t loyal to the former president, it needs a policy agenda. Such an agenda would communicate the values the party stands for, as well as offering solutions to the challenges citizens face.

In addition to relitigating 2020, much of the party is sounding the alarm about the excesses of progressive social activism derided as “wokeism.” I, too, am concerned about the issue and think liberal society is undermined by treating people as members of groups rather than as individuals, and by shutting down the marketplace of ideas rather than engaging in it.

Some Republicans have attempted to marry the cultural grievances invoked by the “woke” label with policy. Take a new bill proposed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio which, according to his press release, “would enable shareholders to hold woke corporations accountable.”

Cultural differences have a place in political debate, but they shouldn’t be allowed to push out other imperatives. They are not as urgent as improving the quality of education, figuring out how to retrain workers who have been displaced, or reversing the decades-long decline in workforce participation among men. And they are not the top challenges facing households that need better access to affordable child care or higher education.

The GOP is wedded to Trumpian populism, an outlook of grievance that pits “the people” against “the elites,” foreigners and immigrants. This analytically impoverished view of the world takes policy debates in unfortunate directions, as Rubio’s bill shows.

But there are manifestations of populism that point a constructive way forward. A focus on the working and middle classes could channel populist energy in a healthier direction. To keep its coalition together — to keep businesspeople and free market enthusiasts on board — Republicans need to marry that focus with traditional commitments to the free enterprise system, individual liberty, personal responsibility and advancing economic opportunity.

One opportunity is to shape policies that can highlight the shortcomings of President Joe Biden’s agenda. For example, if Biden is able to expand the size and scope of government involvement in health care, child care and higher education, as he has proposed, this gives the GOP the opportunity to offer alternative policies that are rooted in a commitment to free markets, but that still address the legitimate concerns that working- and middle-class households have.

A second major fault line exists over the value of workforce participation. The progressive left is quick to brand large swaths of the labor market as consisting of “dead-end jobs” and is eager to divorce safety-net programs from work requirements. A marriage of free markets and populism could push back against this, arguing for the value of employment and for the inherent dignity of work, even flipping burgers and unloading trucks.

An agenda around this wouldn’t just be laissez faire. Instead, it could consist of expanding earnings subsidies, redistributing income to encourage employment by subsidizing it. Or it could scratch the populist “anti-elite” itch by chipping away at employer power in the labor market, restricting noncompete clauses in employment contracts and loosening occupational licensing restrictions, all of which advance the interests of big firms and incumbents ahead of workers.

Defining itself against Biden’s agenda and rallying around a pro-work flag are just two of several ways that the GOP might create a coalition that includes stop-the-steal Republicans without alienating the party’s traditional interests, and that avoids the trap of betting the next election on anger and grievance.

But moving forward productively will require the right leadership. It’s harder to say where that will come from than where it won’t: the former president.

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