(Cover Photo: Maple Grove Crimson Activities)
Much like last year, this subdistrict will be the most wide-open of any in the Metro. At least four of the seven teams figure to be in the mix for a championship, led by last year’s co-champion St. Michael-Albertville.
The Knights return just seven starters from 2017, but three offensive linemen (TJ Duerr, Conner Heyerman, Zach Nyhus) should make their running game tough to stop. Having running back Desean Phillips back should help too, but replacing almost the entire defense will be a challenge for coach Jared Essler.
Like STMA, Totino-Grace also returns three linemen that will boost the offense. The Eagles get back six starters on defense too, including Luke Kubesh and Sam Quick, which could help them get back to the top spot. Blaine also has a talented defense returning in 2018, with eight starters led by Jason Kaul and Lucas Becker. That should help the Bengals get through any early-season turbulence offensively without most of their playmakers from last fall.
Champlin Park and new coach Nick Keenan could also rise to the top of the subdistrict behind senior quarterback Bennett Otto, who’s healthy after missing the entire 2017 campaign.
The usual contenders in the old South Suburban Conference are now the perennial favorites in the South subdistrict. 2017 champion Prior Lake looks to repeat after going undefeated against league foes, but Lakeville North and Rosemount will both challenge for the crown again.
The Lakers are slight favorites over the other two schools because of their balanced returners on offense and defense. Senior Hunter Koenig anchors the offensive line, while junior safety Dylan Bair leads an aggressive defense. Two-time All-District player Spencer Shaver will be a force on both sides of the ball too.
North will have a good mix of speed and size as well, headlined by Bryce Benhart at offensive tackle. Brian Vossen’s defense should be solid again, but they will have to find many replacements in the back end and get consistent quarterback play to contend.
Rosemount’s consistency makes them a contender in both the South subdistrict as well as Class AAAAAA. The Irish’s chances do benefit again this season from not playing the Lakers or Panthers in the regular season. They also possess two of the top skill players in the subdistrict in University of Minnesota commit Jonathan Mann (NFN No. 2 in 2020) and senior defensive back Evan Geiwitz.
Cretin-Derham Hall went unbeaten in subdistrict play last season, winning the regular-season showdown with Roseville in Week 8 to take the title. Those two teams should battle it out again for supremacy, with another regular-season finale looming at Roseville to decide the champion. CDH’s strength will be its skill players on offense, including Peter Udoibok and junior running back Zion Guerra, while Roseville is paced by defensive linemen Christien Hurt and Will Peterson.
East Ridge or Woodbury could sneak into contention too. The Raptors and Royals boast some of the best individual talent in the East, led by offensive lineman Nick Basten (East Ridge) and defensive lineman Raphael Orubo (Woodbury).
The Metro West subdistrict should again be the best league top-to-bottom in Minnesota. The grouping boasts three of four state semifinalists from last year, along with two teams with second-year head coaches.
Minnetonka and Eden Prairie will fight it out for the top spot, as the Skippers and Eagles, led by quarterback Aaron Syverson (Minnetonka) and Cole Kramer (Eden Prairie), are the top-two teams in Class AAAAAA to begin the season. Mike Grant’s crew travels to Minnetonka in Week 7, which should determine the subdistrict champion, although we’ll learn a lot about Eden Prairie in their back-to-back cross-district contests against Lakeville North and Prior Lake in Week 2 and 3, respectively.
Maple Grove is the lone team positioned to be a spoiler to either of the favorites. Running back Evan Hull returns after a spectacular junior campaign with 2,174 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Crimson will have to replace almost all of its defense from last season, although defensive tackle Ben Bristol should provide some leadership in the trenches.