There's a stigma that comes with changing conferences and being the new kid on the block. Especially if you're a smaller, private school with a rich, winning tradition.
That may have put some muscle into Totino-Grace's Northwest Suburban Conference debut at Coon Rapids, where they defeated the Cardinals 48-6 on Thursday night.
"We just want to show everyone that we're not everyone's little brother," sophomore defensive back Ben Mezzenga said. "We just want to take control of this conference and be the team to beat."
Mezzenga shone with two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the second quarter. All 48 points were scored in the first half. The defense recovered five Cardinal sturnovers.
Kai Barber, Mason Kaliszewski and Carlton Djam scored rushing TDs in the first quarter.
A.J. LaPanta threw a 15-yard scoring pass to Charlie Miller in the second quarter before the defense took over. Mezzenga's interception scores were followed by another from Djam.
After jumping from Class 4A to Class 5A last season, the Eagles finished 11-2. This year, they're sliding over from the North Suburban to the Northwest Suburban Conference, with hopes of facing tougher competition.
Administrators already are considering bringing back Totino-Grace next year because of continuing conference shakeups. The Eagles showed Thursday that they belong with the big boys.
It was just one game against a struggling opponent. But the Eagles -- at least for the first half -- looked like a team ready to challenge for the new conference championship. Head coach Jeff Ferguson quickly dismissed any notion of complacency or entitlement from his players.
"Not worried," Ferguson said. "This staff won't let them. We play Edina next week. We've got our hands full."