St. Thomas Academy became the first school other than Mahtomedi to win the conference title outright last year since it formed in 2001. The Cadets are now the favorites to garner back-to-back league championships, also only accomplished by Mahtomedi. The Zephyrs and Tartan are the logical choices to possibly prevent the feat from happening in 2007.
(In predicted order of finish)
St. Thomas Academy Cadets
Coach: Dave Ziebarth, fifth year
The lowdown: The Cadets will seek a return a trip to the Prep Bowl by utilizing their speed. Senior Fritz Waldvogel (5-8, 160) is small but makes a big impact. He led the team in rushing and receiving during last year's state runner-up finish. St. Thomas Academy will be young up front on both sides of the ball as well as in the secondary.
Coach: Darin Glazier, second year
The lowdown: Senior QB Sam Ryan and RB Jordan Johnson make up one of the best backfield tandems in the metro area. Junior Marc Sonnen gives Ryan an excellent target at WR. The play up front and the defensive unit will determine Tartan's fate.
Coach: Dave Muetzel, first year
The lowdown: The Zephyrs defense, headed by Division I recruit senior LB Matt Groff (6-2, 215), will be quick to the ball. Muetzel welcomes back five starters on both sides of the ball.
Coach: Ray Betton, third year
The lowdown: Simley had its first nonlosing season (4-4) in conference play in 2006. It will look to have its first winning season this year. The Spartans will be much better defensively with seven starters coming back. Senior RB/SS Michael Hunter (6-0, 178) will play a huge role for Betton's squad.
Coach: Lee Herman, second year
The lowdown: Herman is eager to get his second season underway. The Spartans should be much improved over a year ago with seven starters coming back on defense and six on offense. They will also have plenty of speed at the skill positions, led by senior TB Warren Matthews.
Coach: Vince Conway, 10th year
The lowdown: The offensive unit behind graduate B.J. Otto has been the focal point for Hill-Murray the past few years. That all switches to defense this year. The Pioneers have seven starters coming back on defense and only two on offense. Their strength will be up front in the lines.
North St. Paul Polars
Coach: Eric Longtin, first year
The lowdown: The Polars were young a year ago with only three senior starters. Longtin will look to take advantage of that experience in his initial season.
Henry Sibley Warriors
Coach: Tom Orth, eighth year
The lowdown: The Warriors defense will be better than in 2006, and it will have to be. Eight starters are back from a group that yielded 31.7 points per game. Only one starter returns on offense.
South St. Paul Packers
Coach: Chad Sexauer, fourth year
The lowdown: A senior-laden defense will look to bring the Packers out of the conference depths. Sexauer welcomes back eight defensive starters, seven of whom are seniors. The Packers also have an experienced quarterback returning to lead the offense in senior Cody Schwantes.