1 Awkward: Created by former Classic Suburban Conference schools in an attempt to cut ties with St. Thomas Academy, Metro East is essentially the same group. Richfield is out. Hastings is in. And the Cadets ultimately got placed in the conference by the Minnesota State High School League. Watch for St. Thomas Academy to get both mad and even this fall.

 

2 Reloading rules: Conference coaches agreed on two things: St. Thomas Academy is the favorite to win the inaugural (and only) Metro East title, and inexperience reigns. State tournament entrant South St. Paul graduated 19 starters, one fewer than conference champion Tartan. Mahtomedi returns just five starters. Even the Cadets must rebuild the offensive and defensive lines. That makes Hill-Murray, with 17 returning starters, worth considering as a dark horse.

 

3 Games to circle: From St. Thomas Academy at South St. Paul on Friday to Hill-Murray at Tartan for the regular-season finale on Oct. 15, the Metro East schedule offers key meetings almost weekly. Intriguing nonconference matchups include Mahtomedi at East Ridge on Sept. 12. A revenge game awaits on Oct. 10 when Henry Sibley visits the Academy. On their most recent trip last fall, the Warriors upset their Mendota Heights counterparts in the Class 5A, Section 5 championship game and reached the state tournament for the first time since 1980.

DAVID LA VAQUE