A search for schools of similar size and better competitive balance pushed Columbia Heights' football program into independent status for two seasons.
The Minnesota State High School League classifies sports by enrollment and Columbia Heights, the smallest school in the North Suburban Conference, was the only Class 3A football program.
Since being placed in the North Suburban Conference in 2006, Columbia Heights is 3-39 in conference games and 7-48 overall.
"I don't think anyone was bad to us," Columbia Heights activities director Mark Corless said. "But kids get discouraged when they are always getting beat up. Our numbers have dropped -- that's part of it. But our middle school numbers are up, so we'll see."
Next season, the Hylanders will play three Class 3A teams from the St. Paul City Conference (Como, Harding and Humboldt) and four outstate programs (Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, Maple River, St. James and St. Peter). The Hylanders will also play the St. Paul City Conference team that does not participate in the regular-season crossover finale with Minneapolis.
"The whole point is to play teams more our size," Corless said.
Corless said the team's booster club will feed the players from the three outstate teams traveling to Columbia Heights, including homecoming opponent Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin.
The Hylanders might also start their season a week early with a Zero Week game against St. Paul Humboldt.
Irondale and Blaine keep rolling
With two victories against strong Class 1A programs, Irondale's girls' hockey team started this week 7-0. The Knights edged Blake (No. 3 Class 1A) on Nov. 29 and defeated Proctor/Hermantown (No. 15) three days later. A 3-2 victory against Northwest Suburban Conference rival Anoka helped move Blaine's record to 6-0-1.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574