Jason’s Blog: Owatonna High School, Triton Schedule
*Note: This is Part Three in a three-part series on how the new district scheduling will affect area football teams for next fall. Part One focused on Blooming Prairie; Part Two analyzed New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and Medford.
In the first two parts of this series, we noticed instances where the Minnesota State High School League's new district football scheduling was a mere shakeup of schedules for Blooming Prairie, NRHEG and Medford -- giving these teams a fresh set of opponents, ones that were not necessarily in its playoff section.
Now in Part Three, we see two examples with Owatonna and Triton where the new system will give teams a complete look at its playoff section. For Owatonna, even though the Big 9 was technically dismantled by district scheduling, its district is composed of the same 12 teams, with one exception -- New Prague replaces Albert Lea.
Section 1AAAAA is likewise almost identical from last season -- with the only adjustment being defending champion Faribault replaced by Northfield. Thus, Owatonna's football schedule will look very similar to last year and, like last year, the Huskies will see all five of its section opponents in the regular season. It all starts when Owatonna travels to Mankato West to open the season on Aug. 22.
The Huskies will keep Faribault on its schedule (home on Sept. 4), despite the Falcons dropping down to Section 1AAAA. Then Owatonna closes out the year with four of five section opponents (Sept. 11 vs. Northfield, Sept. 18 vs. Austin, Sept. 25 at Rochester Mayo, Oct. 2 vs. New Prague and Oct. 9 vs. Rochester Century).
I'll be honest, I'm still going to miss the Big 9 Conference for football, but now that it has become a 12-team league, determining a true champion would be difficult to do in any event. The good news is Owatonna still plays all of its area rivals and really doesn't travel much at all. I also think moving Albert Lea out of this district, at least temporarily, will help the Tigers get their feet underneath them after suffering through a 17-84 record since 2004.
As for Triton, the Southern Football Alliance was a two-year experiment that comes to an end with district scheduling, but the Cobras will see many of the same teams it has during that stretch. They keep their Dodge County rival Kasson-Mantorville on the schedule (the Cobras open the season at K-M on Aug. 22). From there, the Cobras will face six of the seven remaining teams in Section 1AA (home vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa on Aug. 28, at Winona Cotter on Sept. 3, home vs. Caledonia on Sept. 11, at Chatfield on Sept. 18, home against St. Charles on Sept. 25 and home against Dover-Eyota on Oct. 9).
The only other non-section opponent aside from Kasson-Mantorville is Pine Island, whom the Cobras will host on Oct. 2. In this case, the major change from previous seasons in the Southern Football Alliance for Triton is they will get to see Chatfield and Caledonia in the regular season. This should prove to be a nice advantage since the Gophers or Warriors have won Section 1AA every season since 2006 (Caledonia won seven of those eight titles).
So if you're the Cobras, there's really no complaining about this set-up. The Hiawatha Valley League has been gone for three seasons and now you're getting no-nonsense opponents, which should prepare Triton for the toughest section in Class AA. The only thing that may have been better for the Cobras is if they had been moved back to Section 2AA, which led them to state championships in 2000 and 2006, and four other state appearances in 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
One final thought on next year's football schedules as a whole before revisiting the issue in August -- the sharing of TCF Bank Stadium between the Gophers, Vikings and the Prep Bowl means that high school teams are forced to begin games a week earlier in 2015. This means it will literally be a hot schedule for area teams. Saturday, Aug. 22 is opening night for Owatonna, Blooming Prairie, NRHEG, Medford and Triton.
This also means the regular season will wrap up a week before the Education Minnesota school break and the first two rounds of playoffs will be held during that week. Selfishly, I'm hoping that means fewer cold nights for those of us who broadcast high school football.
Still, I won't complain. It's what makes fall great.
Jason Iacovino can be heard Tuesdays and Fridays on KRFO-AM 1390 and the RadioPup app at 3:50 p.m. Leave a comment below and follow him on Twitter @JasonIacovino.