The Minnesota State High School League board of directors approved significant regular-season football schedule changes Monday for some large metro-area schools in their 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Just one year after the league’s district-based plan rendered conferences obsolete, the East and West Metro districts are set to be dissolved, creating new-look Metro and Suburban districts. Some of the 58 metro area programs in those districts welcome the chance for fresh scheduling partners and a more competitive slate of eight regular-season games.
Class 5A state champion St. Michael-Albertville, a program and community on the football rise, joins the Metro District and could schedule with the likes of Class 6A champion Osseo plus traditional powers Cretin-Derham Hall, Eden Prairie and Wayzata.
Meanwhile, success-starved programs such as Coon Rapids and Hopkins will join the Suburban District, where only two programs — Hastings and Mahtomedi — have won a state title in this millennium.
Flexibility, said Kevin Merkle, league associate director in charge of football, was the purpose of district scheduling. Assuring parity, though not a priority, became a welcome result.
“Last year there were several schools that got some relief in their schedule and what that did for their program and school was amazing,” said Kevin Merkle, league associate director in charge of football. “You don’t have to win all the time, but having competitive games is what we’re looking for — especially with the state of football right now, the injury concerns. It makes for better games on both ends.”
At Robbinsdale Armstrong, activities director Patti Weldon said the Falcons are satisfied with their place in the current Suburban Red district and that moving with many of their opponents to the new Suburban district means continued hope. The Falcons finished 6-3 last season, a long way from their struggles in the Northwest Suburban and Classic Suburban conferences.
“There’s nothing better on a Friday night than an evenly matched game,” she said. “In the past, we lost a lot of kids who might have played football because we weren’t in the game. We gained confidence last year.”
Coon Rapids activities director Kelley Scott said his school, with declining enrollment, likely will drop from Class 6A to 5A in a year. Playing more similar-sized schools will be a better fit. At Hopkins, activities director Dan Johnson believes getting away from the likes of Eden Prairie and Wayzata, if only in the regular season, could help the Royals gain momentum.
“We could use a more competitive schedule,” Johnson said. “It’s a hard conversion because we’re a Lake Conference school in all other sports. But it’s not like we’re world beaters in everything.”
Other items from Monday’s meeting: