by Rob LaPlante
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
A year removed from the additions of Duluth East and Duluth Denfeld to the Mississippi 8 football conference, this year sees the conference grow from eight to 12 teams with the additions of Princeton, North Branch, St. Francis and Chisago Lakes.
The Rogers Royals are in defense of a fifth consecutive M8 title. The Royals return 17 starters from last year’s squad that went 6-1 in the conference and 7-2 overall. The following list is last year’s order of finish with key losses and key returners and this year’s predicted order of finish.
1. Rogers Royals: 2012 record: 6-1, 7-2 overall. Key departures: Beau Hallberg, OL; Josh Malin, DL; Josh Garner, LB; Mitch Grupa, LB; Jake Karls, OL; Travis Stewart OL; Levi Simpson, WR; Kyle Halseth LB. Kent Hoover, RB. Key returners: Nate Weber, RB, Connor Henderson, QB, Gunnar Bloom, RB; Joel Ende, DL; Jake Owens, RB; Reid Sagehorn, RB. Prediction: first place
2. Monticello Magic: 5-1, 7-2 overall. Key departures: Birk Olson, DB; Will Bauman, RB; Matt Bonk, QB; Michael Witschen, DB; Paul Fair DL/OL; Jack Fair, DE; Hayden Laimer, WR; AJ Potter, OL; Key returners: Jake Olson, RB; Sam Johnson, DB, Jake Berthiaume, DB. PREDICTION: Sixth place
3. Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets: 5-2, 6-3 overall. Key departures: Chance Laidly, RB; Travis Holt, RB; Sam Thomas, RB; Mark Gossen DL; Key Retuners: Hunter Vavra, LB; Dakota Johnson, OL; Darren DeBaere, DL; John Solberg, QB. Matt Swanson, WR; Mark Gossen, OL; James Gallas, OL. Prediction: Second place
4. St. Michael-Albertville Knights: 3-3, 7-4 overall. Key Departures: Sean Scharlau, OL; Bennie Wilson, FB; Cole Krutzig, QB; Mike Kessler, DL; Erik Johnson, DB; Allen Giller, DL; Ryan Lyzhoft, RB; Tony Bork, WR; Brian Ferry, WR. Key Returners: Chris Kartes, RB; Dallas Freeman, WR; Matt Krutzig, OL; Cody Fox, DL; Joe Kilian, LB; Tyler Berg, LB; Andrew Winans, DB. Prediction: Third place
5. Buffalo Bison: 3-3, 3-6 overall. Key Departures: Jason Senger, QB; Austin Youngs, WR; Ethan Freer, WR; Brennan Gilyard, LB; Connor Mann, OL. Austin Ellefson, RB. Key returners: Levi Bean, TE; Adam Trepteau, DL; Mason Jacobs, LB; Andrew Iverson, WR; Hunter Thompson, RB. Prediction: Fifth Place
6. Duluth East Greyhounds: 1-4, 2-7 overall. Key Departures: Alex Toscano, QB; Chase DeDominces, TE; Nate Atkinson, OL. Key Returners: Brian Lansing, RB; Joe Yernatich, OL. Prediction: 11th place
7. Big Lake Hornets: 1-5, 2-7 overall. Key Departures: Cody Knaeble, RB; Cole Knaeble, RB; Michael Blume, OL. Key Returners: Austin Poe, WR; Tyler Halverson, QB; AJ Sandford, RB; Kyle Wakefield, RB. Prediction: Seventh place
8. Duluth Denfeld Hunters: 0-5, 0-9 overall. Key Departures: TJ Vaillie, DB; Jerome Strother, TE; Matt Klang, QB. Key Retuners: Nick Malec, RB; Ben Halverson, FB; Jack Monson, OL. Prediction: 12th place
9. Chisago Lakes Wildcats: 5-2 North Suburban, 7-3 overall. Key Departures: Eric Brown, RB; Dan Sargeant, LB; Joe Davis, LB; Quade Zupko, RB. Key Returners: Mitch Berg, QB; Josh Parks, RB; Kaleb Paehlke, RB; Josh Dutche, LB. Prediction: Fourth place
10. North Branch Vikings: 3-4 NSC, 4-6 overall. Key Departures: Zack Sundly, QB; Rance Ashley, RB; Jake Schmitz, OL; Mason Niederkorn; OL; Brady Grummons, TE. Key Returners: Seamus Hunter, OL; Nick Helms, OL. Prediction: Ninth place
11. St. Francis Fighting Saints: 1-6 NSC, 2-8 overall. Key Departures: Sam Wellman, RB; Zach Daniels, DL; Ben Monnier, WR. Key Returners: Mitch Wenker, QB; Tim Merihart, WR; John Santiago, RB; Dustin Raum, LB. Prediction: 10th place
12. Princeton Tigers: 3-4 Granite Ridge, 8-5 overall. Key Departures: Zack Ludwig, QB; Aaron Borg, WR; Thomas Klaphake, WR; Austin Feero, RB. Key Returners: West Bailey, DL; Mitch Hibbard, OL; Warren Cole, RB; Tanner Erickson, DL. Prediction: Eighth place