- Article by: JIM PAULSEN
- Star Tribune
- August 30, 2011 - 5:10 PM
(1) CONFERENCE CAROUSEL
The changes in conference membership that reached an apex in the metro in 2009 has spread outstate. There is a new league on the prairie, the Granite Ridge. Its current members are Little Falls, formerly of the Central Lakes; St. Cloud Cathedral, Foley, Milaca and Mora, all of whom left the West Central; and Princeton and Zimmerman, who were in the Mississippi 8. The West Central also lost Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, which departed for the Prairie Conference, and is expected to lose Albany, New London-Spicer and Melrose after this season.
West Central Area (not to be confused with the West Central Conference) is joining the Prairie Conference and will replace departed Eagle Valley, Parkers Prairie and Pillager.
(2) SOUTHEAST SUPREMACY
Outside of the metropolitan area, no region in the state has been as successful at winning state championships than southeast Minnesota.
Teams from the area, roughly defined as Mankato to the Wisconsin border and south of the Twin Cities to Iowa, have won 16 state championships since 2001. Over that span, Caledonia and Rushford-Peterson have won three championships each, but 10 other schools have won one.
The region looks loaded again, with Caledonia and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown looking like the class of Class 2A and Rochester Lourdes hoping to defend its Class 3A state championship.
(3) BLUE EARTH GOES BIG
Home-grown beef is not unusual in rural Minnesota. Each year a handful of large, physical young men come in off the prairie or down from the Iron Range to mete out punishment on the football field. But it isn't often that a school the size of Blue Earth -- a Class 2A school with an enrollment of 322 -- can boast of two such players in the same season.
On a Blue Earth roster that lists 24 juniors and seniors, two names stand out: offensive line recruits Jonah Pirsig, a 6-9, 300-pound tackle who committed to the Gophers after receiving offers from nearly every Big Ten school, and Sam Lee, a 6-5, 300-pound guard who is being recruited by Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Who says size doesn't matter?
(4) GRAND RAPIDS BECOMES METRO
Because of scheduling issues created by Grand Rapids' acceptance into the Central Lakes Conference in 2013, the Thunderhawks are playing what amounts to a Wright County Conference schedule. They will travel to the western edges of the metro area four times on alternate weeks, playing at Dassel-Cokato, Glencoe-Silver Lake, Orono and Hutchinson. They will play host to Delano, Annandale and Waconia. Their only game that could be considered local is their Sept. 30 home game against Duluth East.
(5) ST. CLAIR DROPS FOOTBALL
A school with a short-but-successful gridiron history -- the Cyclones won the Nine-Man state championship in 1989 during a run in which they made the state tournament four times in six years -- is citing low turnout and player safety issues for dropping varsity football and playing a JV-only schedule. The school hopes to revive the varsity program in 2012-13.
10 TO WATCH
Players are listed alphabetically.
• Adam Bungum, Triton, DB
• Patrick Flaherty, Grand Rapids, WR
• Brandon Larson, Bemidji, LB
• Sam Lee, Blue Earth, G
• Daniel Maras, Red Rock Central, RB
• Harvey McMahon, Fergus Falls, LB
• Joe Mollberg, Detroit Lakes, QB
• Phillip Nelson, Mankato West, QB
• Jonah Pirsig, Blue Earth, T
• Zach Riopelle, Warren-Alvarado-Oslo, LB
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