MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It sometimes doesn’t always get the credit it deserves being filled with smaller schools, but the Classic Suburban Conference is always competitive and has just enough talent to keep you on your toes.

That said, it’s a league that’s been dominated recently by St. Thomas Academy and South St. Paul. Not to be forgotten is Mahtomedi, which always has a squad that puts up a good fight every week.

The Classic Suburban Conference churned out two state tournament teams in 2012. The Cadets reached the Class 5A state semifinals before falling to Owatonna 30-27. Hill-Murray got to the Class 4A state playoffs before losing to Holy Family Catholic in the quarterfinals.

Who’s the favorite? St. Thomas Academy or South St. Paul?

It’s a unique league in that the perennial top four teams are all very tough, while the bottom five struggle to build anything consistent. For at least the last three seasons, St. Thomas Academy has shared the Classic Suburban with South St. Paul. Technically, St. Thomas Academy won the league last year by virtue of its win over the Packers in the regular season.

But in two of the last three years, the two schools have finished with a share of the league title. In 2010, they each went 7-0. In 2011, St. Thomas won the league with a 7-0 record and last year, the Cadets’ only league loss last season came to Mahtomedi, who finished one game behind in the standings.

St. Thomas can threaten you in multiple ways. The Cadets have always had a mobile quarterback who isn’t afraid to run or throw. Their receivers always seem to make plays, and their running game combines speed and toughness. The St. Thomas Academy defense also is stingy and just doesn’t give much up in scoring or yardage.

South St. Paul wears you down with its offensive line and ability to run the ball with multiple weapons. They’re always a tough opponent that refuses to let you run them over.

Don’t forget about Mahtomedi, Hill-Murray

Both Mahtomedi and Hill-Murray finished last fall with 5-2 records in the Classic Suburban. The Pioneers have a new head coach in Tony Danna and are coming off a run to the Class 4A State Tournament, which ended in the quarterfinals.

Last fall was and up and down year for the Zephyrs, who are always one of the toughest and most competitive teams in the Twin Cities metro. They lost to Totino-Grace, the eventual 5A state champion, in the section semifinals. Mahtomedi loves to use its size at the line to wear you down and always features talent both running and throwing the ball. On defense, they’re always tough up front and in the linebacking corps.

It will be a four-horse race to the Classic Suburban Conference title this fall, but St. Thomas Academy is my favorite until somebody knocks them out. They seem to have too much skill, athleticism and mental toughness to let a lesser team pull an upset.

Regardless of how it turns out, there will be some great match-ups in the league this year. St. Thomas Academy and Mahtomedi meet Inver Grove Heights on Sept. 27, and the week before the Cadets host Hill-Murray. The Zephyrs travel to South St. Paul Sept. 20, but the league title could come down to the regular season finale when South St. Paul travels to face St. Thomas Academy.

Classic Suburban Conference 2012 Standings

St. Thomas Academy 6-1 (10-2) — Lost to Mahtomedi
South St. Paul 6-1 (8-2) — Lost to St. Thomas Academy
Hill-Murray 5-2 (8-3)
Mahtomedi 5-2 (6-4)
Richfield 3-5 (3-6)
Simley 2-5 (4-6)
Henry Sibley 2-5 (3-6)
Tartan 2-5 (3-7)
North St. Paul 1-6 (1-8)


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