MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Many high school athletes are enjoying their last week of the summer. It’s the last week to work full-time, hit the pool or play a round of golf. That’s because next week, practices start around the state for fall sports.

But for at least 22 football programs, 21 of them in Minnesota, this past Monday signaled the start of the fall season. Though they can’t be in full pads yet, some teams were out on their fields holding their first practices this week.

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Some love it, while others call it a necessary evil. Certain teams start their regular season a week earlier than the others, so they’re allowed to start practice a week earlier. In exchange they get a bye during the regular season. Some use that extra week to fill out a gap in the schedule, while others just use the extra week as preparation for the season.

There will be 11 games on Friday, Aug. 23. In the Twin Cities metro, Holy Angels will host Edina in a non-conference tilt, and Minnetonka will host Hudson (Wis.), St. Louis Park is hosting Jackson County Central, Chaska hosts Hopkins and St. Agnes is hosting Spectrum at Concordia University in St. Paul. Three-time defending AA champion Caledonia will also take on Chatfield.

The “Zero Week” idea is now entering its third season, and Minnesota State High School League officials are hoping it makes it easier for teams to fill out their schedule even if it means starting a week earlier than others. Prior to this idea, many teams would have to scramble and travel out of state to find a game that would fill out their schedule, or convince a team from another state to come to Minnesota to play them.

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Many schools who have been involved have communicated with Wisconsin high schools, like this year as Hudson will travel to face Minnetonka. But trips to Iowa and even Michigan haven’t been ruled out. But the purpose, the MSHSL contends, is to find an equally competitive opponent without having to travel that far.

The logistical concern among some coaches is that some schools are starting fall workouts three weeks to a month before all students return for the start of school. Many kids plan late summer family vacations, others have jobs they have to stay committed to and for some, it’s important for kids just to be kids before the grind of football season starts.

Many high school football players will tell you they enjoy workouts and games, when possible, when school is not in session. It allows them to concentrate on one thing at a time and keep the game simple.

Here’s a look at the complete Zero Week game schedule.

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Chatfield at Caledonia, 7 p.m.
Edina at Holy Angels, 7 p.m.
Hayfield at Goodhue, 7 p.m.
Hopkins at Chaska, 7 p.m.
Hudson, Wis., at Minnetonka, 7 p.m.
Jackson County Central at St. Louis Park, 7 p.m.
Kingsland at Wabasha-Kellogg, 7 p.m.
New Ulm at Luverne, 7 p.m.
Pipestone at St. James, 7 p.m.
Rushford-Peterson at Southland, 7 p.m.
Spectrum vs. St. Agnes at Concordia University, St. Paul, 7:30 p.m.