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Edina and Rosemount high schools met in a Class 6A football quarterfinal game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn. Thursday night, November 8, 2012. Edina's Kevin Placide tried to break a tackle by Rosemount's Kwame Owusu while making a big gain in the

Football stadium lights will flick on Friday night at 11 high schools in Minnesota, a week earlier than for most teams because of “Zero Week’’ games. It signals the start of a season that will conclude in November with Prep Bowl championship games at the Metrodome for one last time before it’s demolished to make room for a new Vikings stadium.

What is Zero Week? It’s a Minnesota State High School League concept that serves as the best — or only — option for teams throughout the state to play a complete eight-game regular-season schedules. If two teams are interested in playing one another, but their schedules do not match up, Zero Week makes it possible. Those teams start practicing a week earlier than most teams and play their first games this weekend, while most teams start next Thursday or Friday. Later in the season, Zero Week teams receive a bye week, during which they must shorten the week of practice. The upside? Players enjoy a full slate of games. The downside? Zero Week encroaches on their summer breaks and forces coaches to work an extra week without pay.

Who is playing? The number of Zero Week teams has grown each of the three years it’s been in place. They range from large metro-area schools such as Minnetonka to smaller outstate schools such as Luverne in southwestern Minnesota. In 2011, 12 Minnesota teams and two from Wisconsin played. In 2012, there were 17 Minnesota teams, two from Wisconsin and one from Texas. On Friday, 21 Minnesota teams and one from Wisconsin are playing. Five teams — Edina, Holy Angels, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Pipestone — are playing Zero Week games for the second consecutive year. The Holy Angels-Edina game is a rematch of one of those games. Last season Edina won 28-14.

Will Zero Week continue? Until a better solution comes along, yes. Starting their season a week early has caused players to miss part or all of the first week of practice because of academic, church, work or family commitments or conflicts with other summer sports. High school league associate director Kevin Merkle previously said Zero Week “has helped solve at least some of the scheduling problems” but added, it “is not a preferred way to deal with [those issues]. But it’s an option if you just can’t find anything else.”

DAVID LA VAQUE

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Tag(s): Featured  Star Tribune  Edina  Hopkins  Minnetonka  Holy Angels  Luverne  Pipestone Area  Red