MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s one of the most exciting times of the year for a football fan, especially high school football fans in Minnesota.
After a couple weeks of tryouts and practice, it’s finally time to strap on the pads and lace up the cleats for that first big game. For most communities, there’s nothing like a Friday night football game under the lights and for some, those aspirations for a state championship start this week.
A new season brings renewed hope. It’s a chance for some teams who have been strong to continue their tradition, and for other programs it’s a fresh start with a new slate. Teams back to defend state titles include Eden Prairie, Hutchinson, Chatfield, Grand Meadow, Mahnomen, St. Croix Lutheran and Owatonna.
For “Zero Week,” there are 19 games between Friday and Saturday. The first full week is next week across Minnesota, and here are the top story lines as Minnesota’s prep football season kicks off.
Can Eden Prairie Three-Peat?
Eden Prairie is on a 17-game winning streak dating back two seasons, which includes state championship wins over Lakeville North two seasons ago and Rosemount last year. The Eagles, led by legendary coach Mike Grant, are always ready to play and seem to reload rather than rebuild from their graduated class of athletes. Their approach doesn’t change much from year to year because after all, if it’s not broken why fix it? They play tough, physical defense, dominate the line of scrimmage and run the ball. The journey starts at Minneapolis South next week, but the Eagles’ schedule is back-loaded with Edina, Minnetonka, Wayzata and Hopkins.
What will new conferences look like?
There have been a few shakeups in some conferences around the state, so there could be some new conference champions crowned by October. In southern Minnesota, Northfield and Red Wing were added to the Big 9 Conference. It’s a league that lately has been dominated by Owatonna and Mankato West. Two other leagues have been newly formed starting this year. The Metro West conference includes Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Bloomington Jefferson, Bloomington Kennedy, Chanhassen, Chaska, Richfield, Cooper and St. Louis Park. The new Metro East Conference looks a lot like the old Classic Suburban Conference. It includes Hastings, Henry Sibley, Hill-Murray, Mahtomedi, North St. Paul, Simley, South St. Paul, St. Thomas Academy and Tartan. The change there is Hastings leaving the Suburban East Conference. Farmington and Shakopee have also left the dissolved Missota Conference for the South Suburban Conference.
State Tournament Semis Spread Out, Prep Bowl at TCF Bank Stadium
The biggest change in the playoff format this year will be where games are played. Since the Metrodome is no more, this year’s state championship games will all be held outside at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. Semifinal games that used to take place at the Metrodome are also being moved to various sites, including St. Cloud State.
2 Big Names Among New Coaches
Two coaches in their first year with a new program are very familiar to Minnesota football fans. Todd Bouman, a former collegiate star at St. Cloud State, is taking over at Buffalo. Bouman was a quarterback in the NFL for 12 seasons, including six with the Minnesota Vikings. He’s taking over a Buffalo program that was won just 12 games the last four seasons.
Rickey Foggie, a former University of Minnesota great, now has the task of rebuilding a struggling Red Wing program. The Wingers went 0-9 last year and are on a 17-game losing streak. Foggie will be looking for leadership from senior lineman Nick Connelly, who has committed to play football for the Gophers. Foggie was a star quarterback at Minnesota for four seasons before playing in the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League.
Who’s the new QB at Roseville? How will Seth Green be at East Ridge?
East Ridge and Roseville were at the top of the Suburban East Conference last year, and one of the two schools will replacing its quarterback. Jacques Perra led Roseville to a 6-2 league mark and a run to the state semifinals, but is now a walk-on at the University of Minnesota. His replacement will likely be senior Jake McKenzie. On the other hand, there’s no question who is running the show at East Ridge. After winning the league last year, junior Seth Green is the leader of the offense in 2014. He’s a highly-touted Division I recruit who threw for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns last year in a balanced offense.
Who are this year’s top seniors?
As we head into the football season, it’s time to take a look at who could be some of the state’s top players by season’s end. It all starts with Cretin-Derham Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell, who is committed to Ohio State. Gophers commits Bronson Dovich and Nick Connelly should stand out on the line of scrimmage, and Drayton Carlberg at DeLaSalle will be a force in the Tri-Metro Conference. Also keep an eye on Hutchinson running back Robbie Grimsley, Prior Lake linebacker Alex Hart, Park Center wide receiver/defensive back Adam Buirge, Lakeville South linebacker Josh Corcoran and Mankato West quarterback Ryan Schlichte.