The first day of September falls on a Thursday this year and is also the first game of the 2016 season for many Minnesota high school teams. And in an odd quirk, all but one defending state champion open their schedules on the road.
Two marquee matchups highlight the slate of district games on Sept. 1 as Class 6A champion Osseo begins its title defense at rival Maple Grove on Sept. 1, while Class 4A champion Becker travels to Hutchinson.
The Orioles defeated the Crimson 22-15 in the opener last year and ended the regular season with a 5-3 mark before make an improbable run in the playoffs, which included rallying to upset Totino-Grace in the state semifinals and scoring a touchdown with 24 seconds remaining to edge East Ridge 14-13 in the state championship game.
The Bulldogs started their run to the state title with a 41-14 victory over the Tigers in season opener and closed out the year with a 13-0 record after defeating South St. Paul 35-14 in the title game.
The remaining state champions kickoff their schedules on Friday, with St. Michael-Albertville (Class 5A) traveling to Moorhead and Pierz (3A) visiting Annandale. Caledonia (2A) is at La Crescent while Minneota (1A) heads to Wabasso.
Only Grand Meadow (9-man) opens at home, hosting Lanesboro on Sept. 2.
This is also the last season teams will play in the East and West Metro districts. The Minnesota State High School League board of directors decided earlier in June to realign the districts for 2017 and 2018 to provide programs the opportunity to schedule more competitive regular-season games.
“Last year there were several schools that got some relief in their schedule and what that did for their program and school was amazing,” said Kevin Merkle, league associate director in charge of football. “You don’t have to win all the time, but having competitive games is what we’re looking for — especially with the state of football right now, the injury concerns. It makes for better games on both ends.”
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