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Prep football kicks off this week - Bulletin Area
The football teams at Irondale, Mounds View and St. Anthony Village high schools, thanks in large part to their well-organized conferences, avoid the scheduling issues that have plagued other teams in the state. Because of that, the Knights, Mustangs and Huskies haven't had to utilize the Zero Week scheduling exception.
All three teams play their first games this week. Here's a look at each team leading up to their season openers.
With the North Suburban Conference down to six football teams in its final year of existence, scheduling was a bit more of a challenge this season. Irondale was able to avoid playing a week earlier than normal with the addition of three non-conference opponents.
The Knights open the season on Friday at home against Northfield of the Missota Conference, another league that is folding at the end of the 2013-14 school year.
Irondale's other non-conference games are against South St. Paul on Sept. 13 and Simley on Sept. 20. Both of those schools are members of the Classic Suburban Conference, which is also disbanding next year but will reemerge a year from now with a new name and most of the same member schools.
The Knights are coming off of a 5-4 season that saw them go 4-0 at home but just 1-4 away from Wendt Stadium. At one point last season, Irondale was 4-1 but went just 1-3 in its final four games.
Once they're done with Northfield, the Knights will turn their attention to their conference opener on Sept. 6 at home against defending North Suburban champion Spring Lake Park. The Panthers' 32-13 victory over Irondale in week six last year started the Knights' late-season swoon.
After four straight trips to the state tournament from 2007 to 2010, the Mustangs have come up short the last two seasons. In order to get back to state, Mounds View needs a lot of players with little or no varsity experience to step up when the Friday night spotlight shines on them.
Mounds View returns only five starters from last year's team that lost to Eastview in the section final.
"With only five starters coming back, we are inexperienced at all positions," said Mounds View head coach Jim Galvin.
Galvin, in his 13th season as the Mustangs' head coach, is confident the newcomers can hang with the better competition in the state.
"We're inexperienced but still expect to compete with the top teams around," said Galvin. "Sophomore team was undefeated last year so we're hoping those guys step up and play well."
Of the five returning starters, three are offensive players. Senior center Sam Kimball is back after an all-conference honorable mention season in 2012. Senior lineman Josh Bertsch also returns, as does senior fullback Matt Hunt. Hunt carried the ball 33 times for 252 yards and four touchdowns a year ago.
New players to watch on offense include senior running back Sola Olateju, who rushed for 194 yards last season; junior tight end Ryan Kaczynsky, who Galvin described as very athletic; and senior lineman Nick Gedig.
On defense, Mounds View returns lineman Tim Hanson, an all-conference honorable mention selection who tallied 50 tackles and four sacks, and senior linebacker Austin Teske, who had 45 tackles.
Newcomers worth watching include senior linemen Eric Martin and Josef Molenaar, junior defensive back Alec Abercrombie, junior linebacker Nick Schwartz and junior lineman Charlie Callahan.
As has been the case since the Suburban East Conference expanded to 10 schools in 2009, Mounds View plays only SEC opponents in the regular season. The Mustangs are the defending co-champions along with Stillwater.
Galvin predicts that East Ridge, which went 4-4 with a very young roster a year ago, will win the league this year with Stillwater, Cretin-Derham Hall and Mounds View also in the title hunt.
Mounds View opens the season Thursday on the road at Woodbury. The Mustangs' home opener is Sept. 6 against Park-Cottage Grove.
St. Anthony Village
For the first time since 2010, the Huskies have non-conference games on their regular-season schedule. For the past two seasons, St. Anthony has played only Tri-Metro Conference teams but some restructuring has some teams in the conference playing one or two non-conference games.
St. Anthony gets into the non-conference action early as it hosts Maple Lake on Thursday.
Also on the Huskies' schedule is St. Louis Park of the North Suburban Conference on Sept. 20.
St. Anthony is back after posting a 7-3 record a year ago. The Huskies finished second in the East Division of the Tri-Metro Conference, one game behind division champion St. Croix Lutheran. The Crusaders and DeLaSalle were responsible for St. Anthony's two regular-season losses.
In the post-season, St. Anthony beat Blake in the first round and lost to Robbinsdale Cooper in the second.
Brian Meyers can be reached at email@example.com.