Cretin-Derham Hall players warmed up before a 2019 game against Prior Lake in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. The Raiders will move to Class 5A starting in the fall of 2021.
Cretin-Derham Hall, one of the state's tradition-rich football programs, is moving to Class 5A after competing in Class 6A for several years.
The Raiders won two state championships (1999, 2009) playing among the state's largest schools by enrollment. But declining enrollment and on-field struggles led leadership within the St. Paul private school to make a change for at least the next two seasons.
With its current enrollment of 940 students, Cretin-Derham Hall would be classified by the Minnesota State High School League as a 4A program. The football program, which traditionally played in the largest available class, opted up to play in Class 6A against schools with enrollments of at least 1,711 students.
The move to Class 5A means the Raiders will now play against schools with enrollments of at least 1,086 students.
Since reaching the Class 6A state tournament semifinals in 2017, Cretin-Derham Hall finished 5-4 in 2018 and 4-5 in 2019 before plummeting to a 1-6 record last fall. The Raiders allowed 40.1 points per game in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.
Activities director Phil Archer, a 1999 Cretin-Derham Hall graduate and former football standout, said the decision "was received 99.9% positively by students, their families and other community stakeholders. They are excited about it, which was a little unexpected, to be honest. As an alumnus myself, I know we always took pride in being the little guys that competed well with the big guys. But the conversations I've had showed people believe this will be better in the long run."
The decision affects only football. The school will learn its football district and section placement later this spring. Schools can make their case for classification changes every two years.
Archer said the school is "putting together plans with our coaches, our president and our athletics administration to return to Class 6A in possibly two years, though it could take up to four."
Football coach Chuck Miesbauer, a 2003 graduate and former football player, said in the school's Wednesday news release, "We are in a new time, and our football program now has an opportunity to build on our proud history and enhance the program for our student-athletes, as well as our fans. Our players are pumped to play against the best schools 5A has to offer. We hope to find our friends from St. Thomas Academy on our schedule for the next two years."