By Jake Schroer
Crow River News Sports
A new era begins in St. Michael-Albertville football this fall. The Knights have moved up to Class 6A and will play in the North division of the Metro district along with Champlin Park, Blaine, Osseo, Centennial, Anoka, and Totino Grace.
The 2017 season will be all about the Knights trying to figure out where they fit in a new class and a new district; something the Knights had to do in 2011 when they moved up to Class 5A.
That first season saw the Knights finish 6-3, beating the likes of Elk River, Buffalo and Monticello before losing big to Maple Grove in the section quarterfinal. They would never go one-and-done in the Class 5A s
ection playoffs again. STMA made the section final five straight years, winning three times and winning a state title in 2015.
Last year, the Knights saw their season end in anticlimactic fashion against a historically good Elk River team, which won the Class 5A title for the first time ever. With that, STMA’s time in Class 5A came to an end.
Head coach Jared Essler said that the team is excited about the move up to 6A.
“We’re just kind of worried about ourselves and being the best team we can be,” Essler said.
A new class means new rivalries for the Knights. In 2017, STMA welcomes Champlin Park, Totino Grace, Stillwater and Osseo to Middle School West. Their road opponents are Mounds View, Blaine, Centennial and Anoka.
“Whoever they put out there, we’re going to try to play our best anyway,” Essler said.
The Knights will have to get some games in against their new division before they know where they fit, according to Essler. STMA is trying to build more depth as they will need it for the move to 6A.
“We’re excited about the challenge, but I think when we look back at the end of November, there’s going to be a lot of things in the process that we’ve learned,” Essler said.
STMA brings back several seniors for the initial 6A campaign, including Mitchell Kartes, who led the team’s rushing efforts in their final 5A season. Kartes is one of four team captains along with Marcus Krupke, Zach Sjelin and Matthew Feldick.
Other players of note include running back Ethan Briggs, tight end Brecken Murkins, and linemen Andrew Provost, Jericho Siegle and TJ Duerr.
Essler said that the Knights will miss their great rivalries with area schools like Monticello, Buffalo and Rogers, but the time for a new era is now.
“This is really where we belong,” Essler said.
The new era starts Thursday at the Mounds View Mustangs. Game time is 7 p.m.