Prep football alignment set for major change

Kasson-Mantorville's Tanner Dufault is pursued by Takota Wieck and Brandon Hoth of Stewartville during the Section 1AAAA football championship game on Nov. 1. K-M and Stewartville tied with Rochester Lourdes for the Southern Football Alliance Red Division title last fall. Conference titles will be a thing of the past in two years, when all football teams in Minnesota are placed into districts for the regular season.

By all accounts, the first season of the Southern Football Alliance was a success.

The three-division league was formed by activities directors from Hiawatha Valley League and Three Rivers Conference schools and divided teams into three divisions, based on enrollment figures.

The idea worked, as three competitive divisions were formed from teams formerly belonging to the HVL and TRC.

As successful as the SFA was in its first year — Chatfield, Pine Island, Rochester Lourdes and Kasson-Mantorville all qualified for the state tournament, with Chatfield capturing the Class AA championship — it won't be around to see Year 3.

"We worked pretty hard to get the new conference up and going and now it's pretty much scrapped," K-M coach Broc Threinen said. "That's kind of frustrating."


Like the SFA, every football conference in Minnesota will be done away with beginning in 2015. The Minnesota State High School League board of directors approved a new plan Thursday, referred to as district scheduling.

For the regular season only, teams will be placed in districts, comprising approximately 12 to 16 teams.

The MSHSL will form a task force in the coming weeks whose job it will be to place teams into districts based on geography and school enrollment numbers. Once those districts have been finalized, the ADs from those schools will be able to fill their eight-game regular-season schedule with games against teams from their district.

Postseason play will not be altered, with teams remaining in their current sections.

"I guess all that hard work by a lot of people who helped form the Southern Football Alliance goes down the drain," Lourdes coach Mike Kesler said. "I really liked how that was set up. Of course everyone is anxious to see what district you're put into and who you will be playing."

Rochester Mayo AD Jeff Whitney said Rochester's three Big Nine Conference schools — Century, John Marshall and Mayo — won't be severely affected. He said there's a possibility that all 12 Big Nine teams — Red Wing and Northfield will join the conference next school year — could end up in the same district.

There's also a chance, Whitney said, that the Mankato schools could be placed in a district to the west, with teams such as Worthington and Marshall.

"This will do away with conferences for football," Whitney said. "We'll be in a district with other (Class) AAAAA schools and AAAA schools. I suppose we could maybe even see a AAAA team like Kasson-Mantorville in our district.


"We may see a school or two in our district that we haven't seen in our conference, but it won't be a major upheaval. We'll still have our rivals — JM, Century, Owatonna, Winona — and maybe a metro school would sneak into the district, but that's all to be determined."

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