Orioles, Crimson keep Northwest Suburban rivals
by Bob San and Matthew DAvis
SUN PRESS Newspapers
Osseo’s and Maple Grove’s brutal regular season football schedules will continue on.
In fact, scheduling it just became easier. Their 2014 schedule could repeat swimmingly in 2015 as almost all it consists of future West Metro District teams.
“We feel we have the number one schedule in the state of Minnesota this year,” Orioles coach Derrin Lamker said.
Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Totino Grace alone will make it tough. All three teams will join the West Metro next year. Most Northwest Suburban Conference and Lake Conference teams will make up that district in 2015.
“It wasn’t right for Wayzata, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie to have to go wherever they go, Illinois or wherever,” Lamker said. “Those kids shouldn’t have to go there on Friday nights.”
“The scheduling is not final, so it still is a work in progress, but I am excited by the way it looks,” Crimson coach Matt Lombardi said. “Our district involves tough teams and involves teams from the Northwest Suburban Conference, Lake Conference and Shakopee and Prior Lake, so there will be great competition and that’s all you can ask for!”
The MSHSL the League Board of Directors voted in favor of the decision on June 2 to realign regular season high school football around the state. This change will cut down on travel for schools and alleviate scheduling challenges for getting in eight games each fall.
“Everybody needs to keep in mind that this is just a step in the process of developing actual schedules for our member schools,” said MSHSL Associate Director Kevin Merkle in presenting the plan to the Board. “Some districts have a wide range in school enrollment and geography, but once the districts determine their sub-district alignments, most of the enrollment and geographical issues will be solved.”
Districts divide up the teams around the state based on geography and enrollment. Rivalries also stayed mostly intact through the work of the District Placement Committee.
Sizes vary for the districts and can be divided into small sub districts. The realignment only applies to regular season play, and sections will remain the same for postseason play. The MSHSL has encouraged the 18 new districts to have their 2015 and 2016 schedules completed by Nov. 1.
The West Metro Division will consist of Osseo, Champlin Park, Coon Rapids, Centennial, Blaine, Anoka, Andover and Maple Grove. Hopkins, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Wayzata, Edina, Shakopee, Prior Lake and Totino-Grace will also play in the 16-team district.
Osseo activities director Ray Kirch said the West Metro will split into two eight-team subdivisions. Each team will play seven games and has one cross-over game with teams from the other subdivision. He said the schools will decide Aug. 7 on the make-ups of the two subdivisions.
“It won’t affect us that much. We will play the same schedule as we have,” Kirch said. “The genius of this plan is it allows schools to keep their rivalries. And we won’t have to travel that far. We may have to go to Prior Lake or Eden Prairie for the crossover game.”
The Orioles and the Crimson will miss some neighboring rivals. NWSC teams Park Center and Robbinsdale Armstrong will play in the Suburban District among suburb schools with smaller enrollments than the West Metro. The OssPar game between the Orioles and the Pirates has already discontinued after the 2013 season, so districts has little impact on any traditional rivals.
“They were looking for some teams that match their numbers,” Lamker said.
“It is an exciting change in the landscape of high school football, and I think it will create some new, great match-ups and it will allow us to compete against some of the best football teams in the state,” Lombardi said. “That part is exciting because there is nothing better than getting to compete against teams that truly are the best out there. We are very excited about it at Maple Grove.”
The recent MSHSL football changes will not affect sectional playoffs. Regular-season schedules will be made at the district level, with most games being intra-district.