Perhaps no league has as big a discrepancy from top to bottom as the Tri-Metro.
On one hand, there's DeLaSalle, with talent on its roster that is the envy of schools twice its size; St. Croix Lutheran, the defending Class 3A champion that piles up yards with its split-back veer offense, and Providence Academy, a first-time state tournament entrant in 2011 that has loads of talent in its pipeline.
Conversely, such schools as Brooklyn Center, St. Paul Academy and St. Agnes are consistently battling low turnouts and strive just to remain competitive.
BROOKLYN CENTER CENTAURS
Coach: George Leistikow
2011 record: 2-7
• Numbers are always an issue for the Centaurs, and this season could be particularly brutal, having graduated 17 seniors. "Wins will be tough to come by," Leistikow said.
CONCORDIA ACADEMY BEACONS
Coach: Brian Brown
2011 record: 6-4
• Brown said this year's team is still an unknown. He's counting on bowling ball running back Baeza Tensaie to run over people. He may have to; the Beacons lost their entire offensive line to graduation.
NEW LIFE ACADEMY EAGLES
Coach: Paul Mork
2011 record: 3-6
• The program's building process is showing dividends. Fourteen regulars are back, including eight on defense led by cornerbacks Sam Dufault and Cameron Mehls. Expect them to pull a surprise or two.
ST. AGNES AGGIES
Coach: Jim Stangler
2011 record: 1-8
• Football is the ultimate numbers game. The Aggies have notable talent, especially quarterback Akayla Porter, but just not enough of it.
ST. ANTHONY HUSKIES
Coach: Todd Niklaus
2011 record: 8-3
• Niklaus doesn't like to give away much about his team. It seems to work; the Huskies are 35-16 over the past five years. Eleven starters are back, making another successful season likely, but who will contribute to those victories is still a mystery.
ST. CROIX LUTHERAN CRUSADERS
Coach: Carl Lemke
2011 record: 14-0
• How to follow up a state championship? The defending Class 3A champs have some cornerstones to build on, led by 2,000-yard rusher Jackson Goplen, but senior Lincoln Hockmuth is a first-year starter at quarterback, a position in which experience is vital to knowing how to operate the Crusaders' complex veer offense.
Coach: John Coatta
2011 record: 2-7
• Growth will be measured with in-game goals -- consistency on offense, cutting down on turnovers, not giving up big plays -- rather than victories for a team that gave up nearly 30 points per game in 2011.
Coach: Brett Bergene
2011 record: 5-5
• The Mustangs coaching staff's task: Replace more than 2,000 yards of offense lost to the graduation of quarterback Austin Lommen and receivers Tyler Hudson and Kasey Robinson.
Coach: Sean McMenomy
2011 record: 6-3
• The best small-school team in the metro has Division I prospects in quarterback Reid Travis, cornerback Oscar Opara, offensive lineman Chad Fahning and defensive end Jareid Combs. Anything less than a November Metrodome appearance would be a disappointment.
MINNEHAHA ACADEMY REDHAWKS
Coach: Collin Quinn
2011 record: 6-4
• Quinn takes over a program that has had success on the field recently but less success retaining coaches. The Redhawks have 12 returning starters, an agile defense and a strong running game.
Coach: Nate Harrington
2011 record: 10-3
• A stout defense, led by Division I defensive line prospect Michael Warren, and nine starters back on offense will set out to show that last year's Class 3A semifinals appearance was no fluke.
ST. PAUL ACADEMY/MOUNDS PARK ACADEMY SPARTANS
Coach: Ed Perrault
2011 record: 0-9
• New head coach Perrault is enthused about a program that has been down for a long time. "It should be a positive season," he said. "We look to build on strengths from last year and limit mental mistakes."