Before the start of the season, most coaches felt the switch from conferences to districts would have a marginal impact at best. A few teams, however, have enjoyed positive results from the change, none more so than Park of Cottage Grove.
The Wolfpack languished for years in the Suburban East Conference, struggling to keep up with established programs like Cretin-Derham Hall, Mounds View and Stillwater. That has changed this fall as Park has been placed in the East Metro Red district, which is primarily made up of teams from the Metro East.
That has led to the Wolfpack’s best start in nearly two decades. It beat Simley, which played in the 2014 Class 5A championship game, 28-20 in the season opener and held off a late rally by rough-and-tumble South St. Paul to emerge with a 28-27 victory in its home opener.
One of the biggest reasons for Park’s strong start has been the play of junior quarterback Brendan Beaulieu, who has stepped in as Brandon Alt’s replacement. Beaulieu had never started a varsity game before this season, but in two games he’s 30-for-43 for 305 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Things don’t get any easier for the Wolfpack this week as it plays at St. Thomas Academy on Thursday in a matchup of undefeated teams.
The week ahead
Thursday: Armstrong at Cooper, 7 p.m. The first regularly scheduled meeting between the two Robbinsdale school-district rivals since 2004.
Friday: Wayzata at Prior Lake, 7 p.m. Both are undefeated in the West Metro South district and need a victory to keep pace with Eden Prairie.
Wednesday: Chaska at Prior Lake, 7 p.m. Prior Lake, the No. 1-ranked team in the Class 3A preseason state polls, looks to bounce back from Saturday’s five-set loss to Champlin Park by hosting the defending Class 3A state champs.
Saturday: Eden Prairie Invitational, 8:30 a.m. Minnetonka, Bloomington Jefferson, Chanhassen, Alexandria, Hill-Murray, Blaine, Holy Family, Woodbury, Cambridge-Isanti.