Farmington's varsity football team ran plays during practice. (Kyndell Harkness/Star Tribune)
Farmington and Shakopee both endured South Suburban Conference football a year ago in the section playoffs. Neither hopes it’s an indication of their future in the 10-team league.
“It’s going to be a challenge that we are well aware of,” Farmington coach Mark Froehling said. “There are a lot of quality programs in the South Suburban Conference.”
Both Farmington and Shakopee played in the now-defunct Missota Conference in 2013. Shakopee (5-4) finished third and Farmington (4-5) tied for fourth in the final year of the eight-team league. They replace Bloomington Jefferson and Bloomington Kennedy, which moved out of the South Suburban this season.
“It was a move that was going to become inevitable because of the discrepancy in the size of the schools in the Missota,” Froehling said. “So instead of waiting to be placed in a conference, we were proactive. We’re excited to be in the South Suburban. Our size school fits in with the other schools in the conference.”
Where it might not fit in from the outset is on the gridiron. In the section quarterfinals last season, Farmington was shut out by Rosemount 49-0. Shakopee suffered a 47-7 setback at the hands of Prior Lake.
“This is going to be another level of difficulty on a weekly basis,” Froehling said. “The big question is, ‘Are we going to have enough athletes to compete at this level?’ ’’
Unlike Farmington, Shakopee and Prior Lake will be moved to West Metro District for the 2015 season. The remainder of the South Suburban Conference will compete in the East Metro.
“Our hands are going to be full just making the first change,” Shakopee coach Jody Stone said. “We look forward to doing the best we can with the task at hand.”
The biggest chore will be learning a new opponent on a weekly basis once the season kicks off on Aug. 28. The one exception will be in the sixth week of the season, when Farmington and Shakopee will meet.
“It will be a challenge for us learning seven new opponents. The other teams in the conference only have to learn one,” Stone said. “We will learn through trial and error.”
The biggest area of concern for both will come on the line of scrimmage. Both teams were noticeably smaller and less physical than their opponents in their playoff thumpings a year ago.
“You have to be able to compete on the line of scrimmage,” Froehling said. He returns two starters on each side of the ball, three of which are linemen. “If you can’t do that, you’re going to be in for a long night.”
Prior Lake experienced a couple of those nights when it made the transition from the Missota to the South Suburban in 2010. The Lakers went 4-5 in their initial season in the new conference but have posted three consecutive winning seasons.
“We are not afraid to look at other programs and the process they went through,” Froehling said. “The transition can be made. Sometimes it can be made quickly, and other times not.”
Farmington was hit harder by graduation than Shakopee. The Sabers welcome back four starters on each side of the ball.
“We’re going to build a new team just like we do every year,” Froehling said. “It’s going to be a learning process.”
The long-range goal?
“We’re not going to worry about wins and losses, but we are going to approach every game to win,” Froehling said. “The reality of it is that you play games to win.”
Ron Haggstrom • 612-673-4498