Lewiston-Altura getting a jump on the rest

Lewiston-Altura head coach Brent Olson directs practice on the field Thursday.

The way Jerrod Fort sees it, he’s not giving up much with his Lewison-Altura football team having started its practices a week early.

The Cardinals kicked things off Monday. All but 13 other teams around the state won’t begin until the following Monday.

"We practice from 7:30 (a.m.) until 12:30 (p.m.)," said Fort, a senior running back and free safety. "After that, I’ve still got my entire day and night to do what I want.

"I like this starting our season early. I think it gives us an advantage over other teams."

"Zero Week" — created this year by the Minnesota State High School League allowing such schools as Lewiston-Altura the early jump — wasn’t implemented to give any team an advantage. Its intent is to help those football programs that were having trouble scheduling a full eight-week regular season. On a case-by-case basis the MSHSL is allowing teams to start practices and games a week earlier than the rest of the state.


In exchange, those teams have one bye week during the regular season, when they can’t schedule a game and when they can hold just three full practices.

After examining Lewiston-Altura’s situation, the MSHSL deemed it "Zero Week" worthy. With an uneven number of teams in L-A’s Three Rivers Conference since Goodhue left it in 2007, each of the Three Rivers’ 11 teams has needed to schedule one non-conference opponent per season.

Starting in 2010, L-A had a two-year agreement to play Le Center. But the Cardinals were left scrambling when Le Center’s Valley Conference added a school after last football season, giving it an even 12. It meant a non-conference foe was no longer necessary for it, and that the scheduled game with L-A in Week Eight of the 2011 season was off.

Shortly after that discovery, then coming up empty after scouring the state for a different opponent, Lewiston-Altura football coach Brent Olson made another one: "Zero Week."

For Olson, one possibility came immediately to mind with that permitted early start. It was the idea of scheduling a Wisconsin opponent. Not only are Lewiston and Altura close to the Wisconsin border, but Olson was aware that Wisconsin begins its season two weeks earlier than Minnesota. L-A’s permitted early jump thanks to "Zero Week" wouldn’t be early by Wisconsin standards.

Well, Olson found an ideal partner, all right. On Aug. 26, the Cardinals will make a tiny 32-mile trip to Cochrane, Wis., where they will play Cochrane-Fountain City.

Olson does have one concern with C-FC, however. It’s that the Pirates will have had an even earlier start than his early-start Cardinals.

"They started (Aug. 3), so they’re already going to have a game under their belts when we play them," Olson said.


That’s going to be the same thing on Rushford-Peterson’s mind one week later, when it opens its season at game-tested Lewiston-Altura. They’ll be worried that this "Zero Week" L-A team has already gotten the kinks out.

Olson, whose team has been practicing five hours a day this week, hopes that Rushford-Peterson truly will have something to worry about.

But however things work out, Olson has been pleased with what he’s seen so far, one week early.

"The kids seem real upbeat about the early start," he said. "It seems a little early, one month before school actually starts. But there have been no complains from the kids."

L-A’s bye comes the week of Oct. 19, when the rest of Minnesota concludes its regular season. Olson likes that, too. It will allow his team a chance to rest up just before the playoffs.


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