The Totino-Grace football program, an enduring power for the past decade, is opting up two classes to join Class 6A starting this fall.
Eagles coach Jeff Ferguson said the move, which is a two-year commitment, “seems like the right thing to do.”
Totino-Grace won six state titles from 2003 to 2010 in Class 4A, which during that span was the state’s second largest of six classes. In 2011, the Eagles opted up to Class 5A, played against the state's largest schools by enrollment and reached the state semifinals.
A seventh class, 6A, made up the state’s largest 32 schools by enrollment, was added in 2011. Enrollment at Totino-Grace dropped the Fridley school into 4A but the Eagles opted up to 5A and won the state title. Earlier in the season Totino-Grace defeated Edina, which went onto to hold the No. 1 ranking in Class 6A.
“We had a competitive season and after it was over we met as a coaching staff,” Ferguson said. “We felt we should go to 6A because we fit in with the schools in the middle of that class better than the schools in the middle of 5A
“We left it up to our kids and they agreed. We kind of think we’re a top-15 program in the state so maybe we should be in the best class.”
Ferguson said the program will re-evaluate its place after the two-year cycle. He expects the school to have about 800 students in 2013-14, which would put the football team in Class 4A.
Opting up two classes in a numbers-driven sport is unprecedented said Minnesota State High School League associate director Kevin Merkle. Cretin-Derham Hall also opts up into Class 6A but the St. Paul Catholic School’s enrollment would put them in 5A.
“I’m a little surprised but they’ve been awfully good,” Merkle said of Totino-Grace. “They certainly can compete so I commend them.”
Adding Totino-Grace to the 32-team field means a school will drop to 5A. Merkle said the smallest school by enrollment will be given the first option to move down to Class 5A. If that school does not wish to move, the next smallest school will be asked.
Classification and section placement in all sports will be determined in March.