SOUTHEASTERN, Minn. (FOX 47) — It’s hard to believe, but the high school football season is here. In just a few days teams across Southeastern Minnesota will kickoff their season.
From Caledonia to Owatonna, Lake City to Albert Lea, LeRoy-Ostrander to Rochester, it’s the dawn of a new season and plenty of teams are hopeful this could be their year.
Southeastern Minnesota has proven its football dominance once again, Owatonna, Lourdes, Caledonia and Spring Grove all won state titles in 2018.
And now it’s time for them to defend the championships they collected, but plenty of teams will be gunning for them this year.
“Last year is over. The kids understand we have a target [on our backs], but it’s this group of seniors turn. It’s their turn to lead the program,” said Lourdes Head Coach, Mike Kesler.
Even teams falling just short of the Prep Bowl feel that target.
“A lot of teams are gunning for us, they don’t have anything to lose against us really, so they’re all just trying their best against us and we just want to go all the way,” said Blooming Prairie Fullback/Linebacker, Luke Rennie.
There will be a new look in nine man this year, Southland and Kingsland move down to nine man, while ACGE and Randolph graduate to 11 man.
Spring Grove reigns as the current kings of nine-man, winning back-to-back titles. Houston has come close to knocking them off in recent years and the other perennial power, Grand Meadow won four straight Prep Bowls from 2013-16.
“I’m excited, we haven’t been as good the last couple years as what we expected or hoped to be and I think we’re gonna be a little bit better this year, so I’m looking forward to the season,” said Gary Sloan, Grand Meadow Head Coach.
Plenty of teams graduated all star talent and coaches know it’s time for new faces to step up.
“There won’t be a 22 on the field this year we’re going to have to look over and not see Jason Williamson and we’re going to have to say ‘okay, somebody else is going to have to step up and make a play,’ because we really relied on him an awful lot last year offensively,” said Owatonna Head Coach, Jeff Williams.
“Last year we only returned 3 starters on both sides of the ball and we filled in with 6 new guys and it turned out pretty well for us,” said Zach Hauser, Head Coach at Spring Grove.
But where stars are lost, there’s plenty of returners waiting to make their presence felt and lead their teams to big seasons.
“I’m just trying to make the most out of football season, this is my last year, so just trying to make the most out of everything,” said Dover-Eyota Quarterback, Brady Williams.
Century, Mayo and John Marshall all fell short of competing with Owatonna last year, but with no Jason Williamson, the Rochester schools could have a chance to compete.
“This team is very hungry, we’re going to do whatever we can do to win and use everyone to do it,” said Century Defensive Back/Wide Receiver, Jack Fisher.
Albert Lea will start on the road this, but will have a new stadium to unveil in week three.
Austin has the look, but can they turn things around with a new head coach? And they’re not the only ones, five other programs turn to new coaches looking for year one success.
But the game everyone will be circling this year comes on September 27th when Lourdes hosts Caledonia in a match up of two of the most dominant schools this decade.
“At the end of the day, that’s why you play. That’s why you’re a competitor. You don’t want to be somebody that’s everybody’s Homecoming,” said Carl Fruechte, Caledonia Head Coach.
There’s plenty of unknowns and plenty to look forward to this season, which starts on Thursday, August 29th.
John Marshall plays at Mankato West, Zumbrota-Mazeppa hosts Cannon Falls and Lourdes plays at Dover-Eyota.