By Bob San
Osseo-Maple Grove Sports
Maple Grove football coach Matt Lombardi recently was named the Northwest Suburban Conference North Division Coach of the Year.
In only his third year as the head coach, Lombardi led Maple Grove to a second straight conference championship and its first section crown since 2002. The Crimson are 10-0 and ranked second in the state. They will enter the state tournament as the No. 2 seed.
Lombardi said the win over Minnetonka in last Friday’s section championship was the biggest in his tenure as Maple Grove’s head coach because it proved that the Maple Grove program is now on par with the elites such as Minnetonka. It is even more special to him because it was against one of the most successful and respected coaches in the state in Dave Nelson, who won state championships at Blaine and Minnetonka.
“In my Wayzata years Dave and I have gotten to know each other very well and played against each other,” Lombardi said. “There are few people in the state I respect as much as him. He is a wonderful coach. You see those kids hugging him with tears in their eyes. That’s why he is a wonderful coach. He affects kids in more ways than just wins and losses. He is a wonderful man.”
Maple Grove players certainly admire Lombardi the same way Minnetonka players admire Nelson.
“Since Lombo came here, he changed the culture and made us believe,” senior middle linebacker Emmanual Erich said. “Now we are going to state.”
Maple Grove coach Matt Lombardi was named the Northwest Suburban Conference North Division Coach of the Year. He chats with Minnetonka coach Dave Nelson after Maple Grove’s section final victory over the Skippers. (Photo by Bob San)