The conference gets a makeover, adding Duluth East and Duluth Denfeld and losing Becker and Elk River. St. Michael-Albertville and Rogers should once again fight for the top spot.

BIG LAKE HORNETS

Coach: Dan Johnson

2011 record: 3-6

• With a good chunk of the offense and defense back, the group hopes to overcome a 1-5 finish last season. All-conference fullback Cody Knaeble will be protected by three-year starters Michael Blume (center) and Zach Merkley (left tackle). The defense returns leading tackler Phil Duncan and all-conference middle linebacker Blume.

BUFFALO BISON

Coach: Gerard Rohl

2011 record: 2-7

• Injuries plagued the Bison last season and have Rohl worried once again. Senior captain Ethan Freer, who missed most of 2011, is back. If he and his teammates can stay healthy, the senior-led team could win more than a few games this year and possibly make a push for a conference championship.

CAMBRIDGE-ISANTI BLUEJACKETS

Coach: Mark Hennen

2011 record: 1-8

• A one-win season a year ago means nothing to the Bluejackets. Hennen and his players believe they will contend for a conference title and more. Two-way all-conference mentions Travis Holt and Chance Laidly are the only full-time starters returning, so experience will be a concern.

DULUTH DENFELD HUNTERS

Coach: Frank Huie

2011 record: 3-6

• Expect the Hunters to fit into the middle of their new conference. They averaged just over 18 points per game last season.

DULUTH EAST GREYHOUNDS

Coach: Joe Hietala

2011 record: 3-6

• Coach Hietala believes his team, if healthy, can compete with anyone on the schedule. Eight returning offensive starters and 10 on defense have the Greyhounds well-prepared to jump into the conference.

MONTICELLO MAGIC

Coach: Jason Telecky

2011 record: 6-4

• Experience and confidence shouldn't be a problem for the Magic. The returners are well-tested, and last year's junior varsity finished 7-1. Telecky called this year's group the fastest he's coached. If last year's JV steps up, Monticello could surprise some teams. All-conference running back/defensive end Birk Olson should compete for conference MVP.

ROGERS ROYALS

Coach: Marc Franz

2011 record: 9-2

• The Class 4A Section 5 champion lost most of its starters and will rely heavily on an incoming junior class to fill the void. The varsity experience is limited to five upperclassmen. Franz expects a few bumps early in the season but is confident his group will be competitive come playoff time.

ST. MICHAEL-ALBERTVILLE KNIGHTS

Coach: Jared Essler

2011 record: 6-3

• Experience at quarterback and running back should yield more scoring this season. All-conference quarterback Cole Krutzig and running back Ryan Lyzhoft combined for more than 2,000 yards last season. Four all-conference players form the defensive foundation. With less two-way playing required, the Knights will be better rested and more focused on one job.

JASON GONZALEZ