Mark your calendars, football fans: One game to watch for each team in southeastern Minnesota
Rivalries, homecomings, coaching debuts, rematches. The 2022 high school football season will feature all of those must-see games at nearly every school in southeastern Minnesota. Here's one game to
(Editor's note: This article is part of the 2022 Pigskin Preview, which will appear in the Saturday, Sept. 3, Post Bulletin print edition. A PDF version of the Pigskin will be available at PostBulletin.com on Thursday, Sept. 1.)
Whether it’s a rivalry game, a season opener, or a big rematch, every team in southeastern Minnesota has at least one game they circled when their schedule was announced. Here’s a game to watch for every team in the area this season:
Big Southeast — Red
• AUSTIN: at Northfield, Friday, Sept. 2. The Packers have won just once, each of the past two seasons. Both of those victories came against rival Albert Lea. Austin nearly had a second win a year ago, falling to district rival Northfield by just one point, 21-20, in Austin. The Packers don’t have to wait long to face the Raiders again. They meet in the season opener, a big game for both teams as they try to build momentum.
• CENTURY: vs. Austin, Saturday, Oct. 1. This starts the second half of the regular season for the Panthers, and it jumps out as a possible momentum-turning game on the heels of a tough three-game stretch against Owatonna, Mayo and Mankato West. Jon Vik’s teams are always built to get better as the season goes along. The schedule sets up for Century to really gain some momentum heading into the playoffs.
• JOHN MARSHALL: at Century, Friday, Oct. 14. Not only is this a second rivalry game in three weeks for the Rockets, it’s also the first time new JM head coach Kyle Riggott will return to his old stomping grounds as a head coach. Riggott is a 2011 Century grad and had been on the Panthers coaching staff since 2017, before being hired at JM in February. He is still an assistant coach in Century’s track and field program.
• MANKATO WEST: vs. Mankato East, Wednesday, Oct. 19. Only two teams came within a touchdown of beating West last season, when the Scarlets went 13-0 and won the Class AAAAA state championship. Mankato East gave it one of those scares, falling just 23-20 in the regular season finale. East’s 20 points were more than West gave up in the rest of the regular season combined. The teams meet again in the final week of the 2022 regular season.
• MAYO: at Owatonna, Friday, Sept. 2. What a way to start the season. These Big Nine powers have brought new life to this rivalry in recent years. Mayo lost a talented senior class to graduation, but it has some weapons returning, namely junior athlete Carter Holcomb. Mayo beat the Huskies twice a year ago — including a tight Section 1AAAAA title game — after Owatonna had done so the year before.
• NEW PRAGUE: vs. Mayo, Friday, Oct. 7. New Prague went 7-3 last season, its first above-.500 finish since 2012. The Trojans lost to just two teams — falling twice to Class AAAAA state champ Mankato West and once to Section 1AAAAA champ Rochester Mayo. The Trojans don’t face West during the regular season, so it’ll likely have the Oct. 7 meeting against Mayo circled. It’ll also be the last home regular season game for New Prague’s seniors.
• NORTHFIELD: vs. Faribault, Wednesday, Oct. 19. Northfield went 4-6 a year ago, with nine of its 10 games decided by two touchdowns or more. One of those was a 36-7 loss to Faribault in the regular season finale. It’s been four years since Northfield has defeated the Falcons — a stretch that includes a double-OT loss in the 2020 season opener. This year’s matchup is again in the final game of the regular season, on Northfield’s home turf.
• OWATONNA: vs. New Prague, Thursday, Oct. 13. Owatonna doesn’t get shut out. It happens so rarely that it’s very noticeable when it does. The Huskies were shut out twice last season. One of those came at the hands of eventual state champion Mankato West. The other came at New Prague in the next-to-last week of the regular season, 27-0. The Huskies have to wait until Week 7 to get a chance to avenge that loss. Don’t bet that they’ve forgotten about it.
Big Southeast — Blue
• ALBERT LEA: at Austin, Wednesday, Oct. 19. Albert Lea has had two consecutive winless seasons, not coming within three touchdowns of an opponent in that span. It’s hoping to snap a 13-game winless streak long before the regular season finale this year, but whether or not that happens, the Tigers always have their rivalry game against Austin circled. Albert Lea last beat the Packers in 2019.
• BYRON: vs. Kasson-Mantorville, Friday, Sept. 2: The Bears had a tough start to last season, dropping their first five games before going on a tear in October and winning four of their final six, their season ending with a loss at Kasson-Mantorville in the Section 1AAAA title game. Guess who’s up first on the Bears’ schedule in ’22? It won’t define the season for either team, but winning the opener against a rival can do a world of good for players’ confidence.
• FARIBAULT: vs. Mankato East, Thursday, Oct. 13: The last time Faribault beat East, this year’s seniors were in fourth grade. Yes, it’s been awhile. That was back in 2014, when the Falcons topped East 30-20 early in the regular season en route to an 8-3 year and a trip to the Class AAAAA state tournament. There have been close games since — Faribault lost to the Cougars by a touchdown last year — but East has won seven consecutive meetings.
• KASSON-MANTORVILLE: vs. Stewartville, Friday, Oct. 7. The 2021 Section 1AAAA champions and state runners-up went 9-4 last season, with their three regular-season losses coming by a combined total of 17 points. K-M thought it might have a chance to avenge one of those losses, a 28-21 setback at Stewartville in Week 7 of the regular season, but Byron knocked off Stewartville in the section semifinals. No added motivation is necessary when these rivals meet.
• MANKATO EAST: at Mankato West, Oct. 19. Not only is the natural intra-city rivalry in play with these teams, but East remembers well its meeting with West a year ago. West went unbeaten en route to a Class AAAAA state title. Its toughest test along the way was from East, which played its arch-rival to a three-point game — a 23-20 score — in the last game of the regular season. It was the most points West gave up all season.
• RED WING: vs. Mankato East, Sept. 10: The Wingers face a challenging lineup of opponents in 2022, and this may be as challenging as any. But, this will be their first home game under new head coach Brett Stinson, the former Kingsland coach who was an assistant coach with the Wingers the past two seasons. This will be the first chance for Red Wing fans to get a look at any changes in philosophy or attitude under Stinson.
• STEWARTVILLE: vs. Byron, Sept. 23. There may not be a coach in southeastern Minnesota who takes pride in seeing his players improve in the offseason more than Stewartville’s Garrett Mueller. He has worked tirelessly to help his players improve their speed and conditioning in recent years, knowing how valuable those attributes are late in a season. And be certain that as the Tigers went through their offseason workouts this spring and summer, the end to last season — a one-point loss to rival Byron in OT in the section semifinals, a loss that ended the Tigers’ year after an 8-0 regular season — was at the front of their minds.
• WINONA: vs. Century, Wednesday, Oct. 19. Despite Winona’s more consistent success over the past decade, none of the current Winhawks have been on a team that has defeated Century. Winona came close a year ago, falling 22-20 at Century. This year, the teams will meet in the regular season finale, with Winona looking to snap a short losing streak, and both teams looking to gain momentum heading into the playoffs.
• CALEDONIA: vs. Lewiston-Altura, Friday, Sept. 9. This one makes sense for a number of reasons. First, it’s the Warriors home opener, coming off a season with a losing record for the first time in most of the players’ memories. Second, Caledonia went 4-5 a year ago and two of those losses came against L-A. One of those was a somewhat stunning 31-14 loss in the Section 1AA playoffs, coming on the heels of a dominant three-game Warriors’ winning streak in which they recorded two shutouts and outscored opponents 95-22.
• CANNON FALLS: at Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Friday, Sept. 9. Last fall, just 31 seconds separated Cannon Falls from a third trip to state in four seasons. The team that rallied in the final minute of the Section 1AAA title game to beat it — P-E-M — made it all the way to the Prep Bowl. In fact, both of Cannon Falls’ losses last season came to teams that made state title games (its other loss was to Class AA state champ Chatfield).
• CHATFIELD: vs. Caledonia, Friday, Oct. 7. Since 2007, only two teams have gone to state out of Section 1AA — Chatfield (2013, 2021) and Caledonia (all other seasons since 2007 when a state tournament has been held). Regardless of records or rankings, the Gophers and Warriors look forward to the test they offer each other every season. Chatfield won handily at Caledonia last season (30-0), the Gophers first win against the Warriors since the 2013 Section 1AA final.
• DOVER-EYOTA: vs. St. Charles, Friday, Sept. 23. St. Charles has controlled this Highway 14 rivalry for most of the past decade. Dover-Eyota last beat the Saints in 2015; since then, the Eagles have dropped five consecutive meetings with St. Charles, including a narrow 40-32 decision in 2021. The Eagles will have this midseason matchup circled; a win against their rival would be a perfect way to kick off a stretch of three home games in four weeks.
• GOODHUE: vs. St. Charles, Friday, Oct. 7. These teams clashed in what proved to be one of the most entertaining games of the regular season in southeastern Minnesota last fall. Saints QB Brady Koeppel ran in a 2-point conversion with 1:11 remaining in the game to give the Saints a 34-33 victory. That late St. Charles PAT conversion was all that stood between Goodhue and a 5-0 start to the season.
• LaCRESCENT-HOKAH: vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Friday, Sept. 9. This season is the start of a new era for Lancers football — new coach, new uniforms, new outlook. Long-time Kasson-Mantorville offensive coordinator Terry Donovan has made the move south to become a head coach. Donovan helped guide K-M to a Section 1AAAA championship and a trip to the Prep Bowl last season. While the Lancers don’t have Prep Bowl expectations yet, their home opener against Z-M just might be a first step in an upward climb under Donovan.
• LAKE CITY: vs. P-E-M, Friday, Sept. 30: Lake City put its football program back on the map in 2021 — spending much of the season, behind a nearly unstoppable offense, ranked in the top 10 in the state. The one team that was able to tame the Tigers? Plainview-Elgin-Millville. The Bulldogs held Lake City to just 13 points in the regular season, a game the Tigers won 13-7. The P-E-M ‘D’ one-upped itself in the postseason, holding the Tigers in check in a 23-7 Section 1AAA semifinal win.
• LEWISTON-ALTURA: at Triton, Friday, Oct. 7. The Cardinals and Cobras put on another of the “instant classics” played in southeastern Minnesota last fall. Triton pulled out a thrilling 43-42 victory in double-OT at L-A in Week 6. Both teams dropped their final two regular season games before winning their first postseason game. They’ll meet again — though it’ll be hard to live up to last year’s clash — in Week 6, this time at Triton.
• LOURDES: at Chatfield, Friday, Sept. 2. It’s been more than 15 years since Lourdes and Chatfield have met on the football field. That changes with the season opener this year, when the two traditionally strong programs go head-to-head. It’s a good test for Lourdes on two levels: One, to face a defending state champion on its home field in the first game of a new season; and two, to determine how its players will react to a pressure matchup right off the bat.
• PINE ISLAND: at Lourdes, Friday, Sept. 16. Though the Panthers went 2-7 last season, they had some bright spots. They fell to Goodhue by 6, held high-powered Lake City to 27 points and took Triton to OT. Pine Island’s final two games of the season didn’t go so well — being shut out by Lourdes twice in six days, including a season-ending 28-0 loss in the playoffs. The Panthers don’t have to wait long to get another shot at the Eagles — they go to Lourdes in Week 3.
• PLAINVIEW-ELGIN-MILLVILLE: vs. Cannon Falls, Friday, Sept. 9. Defending section champions always have a bullseye of some size on their backs. P-E-M will be no exception to that rule; the Bulldogs — the Class AAA state runners-up in 2021 — avenged both of their regular season losses in the Section 1AAA playoffs, beating Lake City in the semis (23-7) and Cannon Falls in the final (21-18). PEM and the Bombers will again go toe-to-toe in Week 2, at Elgin.
• ST. CHARLES: vs. Triton, Friday, Sept. 30. Four points were the difference between four wins and six wins for the Saints a year ago. And those four points belonged to Triton. The Cobras beat the Saints 22-20 in the regular season. They met again in the Section 1AA quarterfinals, when Triton watched a two-touchdown lead get whittled to two points, then it survived a pair of onside kicks as well as a St. Charles drive that was halted at the Cobras’ 1-yard line, to win 30-28.
• TRITON: at Chatfield, Thursday, Oct. 13. Triton was the king of close calls in 2021. The Cobras won two overtime games and played in three other games decided by a total of five points. One of those was a narrow 21-20 loss to Chatfield — the eventual Class AA state champion — in Week 2. The rematch wasn’t as close; Chatfield beat Triton 54-0 in a Section 1AA semifinal. The Cobras haven’t forgotten either of those losses and they’ll be ready when they face the Gophers in Week 7 this fall.
• ZUMBROTA-MAZEPPA: at Pine Island, Friday, Sept. 30. The natural rivals, separated by less than 10 miles, meet in Week 5 this season. Z-M has just one win against the Panthers in five seasons and has dropped two consecutive meetings against P.I., including a 34-6 decision a year ago.
Mid Southeast — Blue
• FARIBAULT BETHLEHEM ACADEMY: vs. Fillmore Central, Saturday, Sept. 24. The Cardinals had an excellent season in 2021, going 7-3. They held their opponents to 21 or fewer points in all three of their losses, but in two of those, they couldn’t solve the Fillmore Central defense. That included a 21-16 Fillmore Central win in the Section 1A semifinals. FBA gets another crack at the Falcons in Week 4 this season, a 1 p.m. Saturday game.
• FILLMORE CENTRAL: at Rushford-Peterson, Friday, Sept. 9. Rushford-Peterson stood between Fillmore Central and a couple of big accomplishments last season. R-P was the only team to beat the Falcons (who finished with a 9-2 overall record), and R-P ended Fillmore Central’s season with a tightly played 7-0 win in the Section 1A championship game. Their regular season matchup in 2022 comes quickly, as Fillmore Central visits R-P for the Trojans’ home opener in Week 2.
• HAYFIELD: vs. Faribault Bethlehem Academy, Friday, Sept. 9. The Vikings have a gauntlet to run at the beginning of the season, playing at Blooming Prairie, home against Bethlehem Academy and at Fillmore Central. Those three teams combined for 26 wins last season. Hayfield’s home opener against FBA is a good place to start building some confidence.
• KENYON-WANAMINGO: at Randolph, Thursday, Oct. 13. K-W went 3-6 a year ago, winning one of its last five games, but the Knights played an inspired game in the first round of the Section 1A playoffs, pushing Randolph to the final buzzer in a 36-32 loss. Just 11 days prior, K-W had lost to the Rockets by three touchdowns. The Knights will have to wait until Week 7 to attempt to avenge their season-ending loss of a year ago.
• RANDOLPH: at Rushford-Peterson, Friday, Oct. 7. The Rockets have averaged exactly 6 wins per season over the past four years, including the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. In 2021, Randolph finished 6-4, but was oh-so-close to winning eight games, losing twice by one score. One of those was a season-ending 21-14 loss to R-P in the Section 1A semifinals, which came just three weeks after a 39-point loss to the Trojans in the regular season. These section and district rivals will again meet late in the regular season, as Randolph makes the long trip to R-P in Week 6.
• RUSHFORD-PETERSON: at Medford, Friday, Sept. 2. R-P was unbeaten until the state semifinals a year ago, finishing the 2021 season with a 12-1 record. The Trojans lost some talented seniors from that team, but that season is over and R-P is ready to see what the 2022 version of its team will look like. It will begin to find out in the season opener at Medford, a team they beat 24-6 last season.
• WABASHA-KELLOGG: vs. Winona Cotter, Friday, Sept. 16. W-K is looking for its first victory since Week 7 of the 2019 season. That win came at home against Winona Cotter, 40-6. This fall, Cotter visits W-K once again, in Week 3. The Falcons hope to have their winless streak snapped by that point, but a matchup at home with Cotter — which beat W-K 33-12 last year — is one they’ll be up for.
• WINONA COTTER: vs. Kenyon-Wanamingo, Friday, Sept. 9. The Ramblers were 2-7 a year ago, and all seven of their losses were by double digits. The closest of those seven? A 24-14 setback at Kenyon-Wanamingo in Week 2. After making a two-hour trip (one way) to Alden-Conger for the season opener, the Ramblers will be fired up to return home and face K-W in the home opener at Winona State University.
Mid Southeast — White
• BLOOMING PRAIRIE: vs. Hayfield, Friday, Sept. 2. The Blossoms had their streak of three consecutive section championships and a 28-game winning streak snapped with a loss against Maple River in the Section 2AA championship game last fall. Maple River isn’t on Blooming’s regular season schedule, so the Blossoms will have to take out an offseason’s worth of frustration — and begin building this season’s identity — against the opponents who are. That starts Sept. 2 at home against Hayfield.
District 9-South — East Division
• GRAND MEADOW: vs. Lanesboro, Friday, Sept. 2. It’s the season opener for two teams that had their seasons ended by Section 1 9-Man champion LeRoy-Ostrander last fall. Lanesboro lost to L-O in the section final; Grand Meadow ended its season 8-2 after losing to L-O in the section semis. That was also the last game for long-time Superlarks head coach Gary Sloan, who retired after nearly three decades. That makes Grand Meadow’s season opener this year — against Lanesboro — the beginning of a new era, the debut of 2007 G.M. grad Josh Bain as the team’s head coach.
• HOUSTON: vs. Kingsland, Saturday, Sept. 10. Houston has a daunting three-game stretch to open the season, going to Spring Grove before hosting Kingsland and Grand Meadow. The matchup against Kingsland is Houston’s home opener and though it will be a challenge, a strong showing by the Hurricanes against the Knights could do wonders for the team’s confidence early in the season.
• KINGSLAND: vs. Southland, Friday, Sept. 16. Kingsland has high hopes for this season and a quirky schedule to open it. The Knights open with a Zero Week game against Renville Co. West on Aug. 26, then are off until Saturday, Sept. 10, when they play at Houston. It’s all Friday nights for the Knights from there on out (until the regular-season finale on Wednesday, Oct. 19), starting with this game against Southland, a game Kingsland will be looking forward to. It’ll be in front of its home crowd against a Rebels team that beat it 36-14 last fall.
• LANESBORO: at LeRoy-Ostrander, Friday, Sept. 16. An early season rematch of the Section 1 9-Man championship game? Sounds like a must-see game. LeRoy-Ostrander not only cut off Lanesboro’s path to state last year, beating the Burros 30-6 in the section title game, but it also ended Lanesboro’s unbeaten season. Both teams will have some new faces in the lineup, but both have plenty of reason to get up for this game.
• LeROY-OSTRANDER: at Southland, Friday, Sept. 2. The Cardinals are the defending state champions, but last season is long over. Chase Johnson, Gavin Sweeney and Tanner Olson have graduated. The season opener at Southland is a chance for L-O to show what its 2022 identity is going to be.
• LYLE/AUSTIN PACELLI: vs. Houston, Friday, Sept. 30. The Hurricanes and L/P played one of the more competitive — and low-scoring — games of the 9-Man season in 2021, Houston pulling out a 12-6 win in double-overtime. Isaac Heyer scored on an 18-yard run in regulation and again on a 10-yard run in the second OT. It was one of two wins on the season for Houston, and it was the closest L/P came to earning a victory in 2021.
• MABEL-CANTON: at Spring Grove, Friday, Sept. 16. There has been no shame in losing a football game to Spring Grove over the past decade-plus, as the Lions have been one of the state’s best programs. Mabel-Canton was oh-so-close last year. It’s been a while for the Cougars; their last win against Spring Grove came in 2009. Even in 2016, when M-C went 7-3, two of its losses came against Spring Grove. Last fall, the Lions eked out a two-point win, 28-26, in Week 3. Mabel-Canton gets another shot to snap its streak in Week 3 this fall.
• SOUTHLAND: at Mabel-Canton, Wednesday, Oct. 19. After a 3-2 start last season, Southland struggled down the stretch, losing its final three regular season games. That stretch was capped by a narrow 21-20 loss at home to Mabel-Canton, when the Cougars scored with 1:33 left to win the game. Southland will look to return the favor against the Rebels in the regular season finale in mid-October.
• SPRING GROVE: at Southland, Friday, Sept. 30. Spring Grove is not accustomed to finishing a season below .500. It’s also not accustomed to being bounced in the first round of the section playoffs. Both happened a year ago, thanks in part to Southland. The Rebels beat Spring Grove 46-14 in the regular season, then survived a 19-12 game in the Section 1 quarterfinals. The Lions will have to set those memories aside until Week 5, when they play at Southland.
More Pigskin Preview
Pigskin Preview '22 stories at PostBulletin.com this week:
Monday, August 29
• 6 a.m. — Rochester's Noah Borgeson, Caledonia's Brent Robley a dangerous connection at St. Thomas.
• 9:30 a.m. — RCTC's Johnathan Douglas, player profile.
• Noon — Southeastern Minnesota's "Dangerous Dozen": 12 high school players to watch this fall
• 2:30 p.m. — Mark your calendars: A game to circle on the schedule of every team in southeastern Minnesota.
Tuesday, August 30
• 6 a.m. — Section 1 9-Man season preview
• 8:30 a.m. — Section 1AAAAA season preview
• 10:45 a.m. — Section 1AAA season preview
• 12:30 p.m. — Section 1A season preview
• 2:45 p.m. — Section 1AAAA season preview
• 7 p.m. — Section 1AA/2AA season preview
Wednesday, August 31
• 6 a.m. — Player Profile: Fillmore Central running back Bryce Corson
• 8:30 a.m. — Player Profile: Rochester Mayo lineman Ethan Kramer
• 11 a.m. — Player Profile: Goodhue WR Adam Poncelet
• 1 p.m. — Player Profile: Stewartville lineman Peyton Byrne
• 3 p.m. — Player Profile: Kasson-Mantorville lineman Reese Tripp
Thursday, September 1
• 6 a.m. — Player Profile: Kingsland tight end Mason Kolling
• 9 a.m. — Player Profile: Chatfield defensive back Drew Schindler
• Noon — Minnesota Vikings new-look offense hopes to be high-flying
• 1:30 p.m. — Minnesota Vikings defense getting a much-needed shakeup