Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We’re in the heart of a heat wave as Minnesota’s high school football teams have been practicing for the better part of two weeks.
As many as 21 teams have already played a regular season games with “Zero Week” action last week. The winners of those games turned out to be Jackson County Central, Rushford-Peterson, Edina, Chaska, Luverne, Pipestone, Caledonia, Wabasha-Kellogg, Hayfield, Minnetonka and St. Agnes.
This week, everybody is in action and most teams will be playing their first games of the season. For a lot of players, it’s the first chance to run out on the field as a varsity football player under the Friday night lights. It’s a thrill for any high school football player.
The WCCO Prep Blog is back to cover all things high school football this year, mainly previewing the big match-ups every week. For Week 1, we feature a Tri-Metro Conference match-up between two teams that were in their state playoffs last fall.
It’s important to note that due to this week’s heat wave, many games have been rescheduled for later in the day to let the conditions allow for all players, coaches and staff to compete safely. Many games that were slated to have 7 p.m. kickoffs are now at 8 p.m.
Featured Game: St. Croix Lutheran (0-0) at DeLaSalle (0-0)
St. Croix Lutheran and DeLaSalle have a great rivalry in the Tri-Metro Conference, and it helps that both are annual contenders in the league. DeLaSalle went undefeated in league play at 8-0 last year, while St. Croix Lutheran’s only conference loss of the season came to DeLaSalle in a 35-28 battle.
The Crusaders reached the Class AAA State Tournament last year and finished 9-2 on the season after falling to eventual champion Blue Earth in the quarterfinals. The Islanders had the tough circumstance of an undefeated regular season and a run to the Class 4A State Tournament before losing to Becker in the quarterfinals.
DeLaSalle was dealt a tough blow before the start of fall practice as quarterback Reid Travis, a Division I talent, decided not to play football this year after having a standout AAU season in basketball. He has several schools pursuing him to play basketball in college. DeLaSalle still has plenty of talent back to be a very good football team this year. They’ll be led by Billy Hart behind center, who completed 19 passes playing behind Travis. Chris Williams led the team in rushing last year with more than 1,400 yards, and James Lawson will look to lead the receiving group.
St. Croix Lutheran goes as its run game goes, and look for David Ponath to lead the team at quarterback. They’ll have plenty of new faces this year and may take some early lumps, but they’ll be as competitive as any team in the Tri-Metro Conference this year.
Eagan (0-0) at Prior Lake (0-0)
Eagan only won one South Suburban Conference game last year in a 1-8 season, and it’s not going be to an easy start for the Wildcats as they face a Prior Lake squad Friday night that shared the league title with Lakeville North last season. The Lakers finished 9-2 last year and reached the new Class 6A State Tournament before losing to the Panthers. I expect a good match-up in Friday’s opener, but my guess is that Prior Lake pulls away with its talent and depth.
Highland Park (0-0) at Washburn (0-0)
The St. Paul and Minneapolis City Conferences have at least one crossover game Friday night as Minneapolis Washburn hosts St. Paul Highland Park. Washburn won the Minneapolis City title last year before falling to St. Paul Central in the Twin City Championship. They’re led by Jeffrey Jones, one of the top seniors in the state and a current Gophers recruit. St. Paul Highland Park went 4-1 in St. Paul City play last year and 6-4 overall. I expect Highland Park to put up a good battle, but the only way to beat Washburn is to contain Jones. That won’t happen with the Millers opening at home.
Delano (0-0) at Dassel-Cokato (0-0)
There’s a solid rivalry game taking place Friday night in the Wright County Conference Friday night as Dassel-Cokato hosts Delano to kick off the season. In an unusual twist, both teams are looking to get back near the top after struggling some last year. Dassel-Cokato went just 1-3 on the west side of league play and finished 3-7 overall. Delano was slightly better with a 3-2 record on the east side of the league and a 7-4 overall season. Neither record matches up to the standards for both of these programs. I’ll give the Chargers a slight edge facing the Tigers at home. Both teams have some key holes to fill from graduation, but both should be competitive in 2013.
Thursday: Lakeville South (0-0) at Lakeville North (0-0)
We’ve added a bonus preview as the city of Lakeville will be buzzing Thursday night with prep football. Best friends will turn bitter enemies for at least a few hours as Lakeville North hosts Lakeville South in the annual battle for city bragging rights. The Panthers won a share of the South Suburban title last year and got to the Class 6A Prep Bowl, where they lost to Eden Prairie. The Panthers are led this year by running back Jamiah Newell and receiver Lee Edwards. The Cougars will be led by Brendon Larson-Gulsvig at quarterback as well as Dylan Lach, and Jordan Johnson. It’ll be a packed house in Lakeville for a great rivalry game, and I’ll give the Panthers the edge.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and David McCoy will have all the action covered.