Ruled ineligible for his senior year, top Minnesota prep football prospect Craig McDonald (pictured above, left) will get to suit up and play one more time in a high school uniform.
McDonald, a senior at Minnehaha Academy and a key member of SMB’s Class 4A championship team in 2018, ran afoul of a Minnesota State High School League bylaw limiting student-athletes to 12 consecutive semesters of eligibility from seventh through 12th grade.
But the 47th Minnesota High School All Star Game -- a partnership of the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Football Coaches Association -- is played outside of high school league auspices.
The game kicks off at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
McDonald started kindergarten at age 4 and attended public schools through eighth grade. When he enrolled at Minnehaha Academy, his parents chose to have him retake eighth grade to give him a chance to mature. Shaun’Rae McDonald said she wasn’t aware then that her son’s eligibility meter was running. The league denied the family’s two appeals.
McDonald, who verbally committed to Iowa State, is on the South team roster as a defensive back. Shaun’Rae McDonald received a phone call from her mother, who saw the news of Craig’s selection on television.
“Craig was so excited,” Shaun’Rae said. “He said to me, ‘I lost the battle but I won the war. I’m going to be able to play my last high school football game against all of my friends.’
“He was honored to be chosen,” Shaun’Rae said. “He earned the right for his prior three years.”
The inclusion of McDonald drew some grumbles, from metro-area activities directors to players left off the all-star rosters.
Minnetonka football coach Dave Nelson, chair of the Metro All-Star Committee, said his group of coaches “looked through the lens of ‘He’s got a Division I offer and he’s a great kid with no chemical violations.’ We thought he deserved to be in the game.”
Ron Stolski, Brainerd football coach and executive director of the Minnesota Football Coaches Association, wasn’t so certain.
“I see it as problematic,” Stolski said. “My concern is about precedent. I can understand people’s frustration. But we don’t specifically have a rule regarding a player who is ineligible absent a chemical violation.”
Nelson said McDonald was on the committee’s initial list of 22 top senior players, “so I don’t know that he really took anyone’s spot.”
SMB coach Chris Goodwin, who nominated McDonald for the all-star game, said, “It’s a sentimental thing for me. It’s nice that he gets to have one last high school game."
“He practiced with us all year and he’s bigger, faster and stronger,” Goodwin said. “He would have been a dominant player this year. When you watch him in the all-star game, you’ll see that he belongs there.”