1Can history repeat itself?
The first year of Class 6A in the state tournament proved beneficial to the South Suburban Conference. Eastview, Lakeville North, Prior Lake and Rosemount comprised half of the eight-team field. Lakeville North wound up as the state runner-up to perennial power Eden Prairie. The four schools are once again expected to duke it out for conference supremacy.
The conference enters its fourth year, and Lakeville North has been the league champion the past two years after finishing second in the conference’s inaugural season. The Panthers hope to maintain their lofty status with a young and inexperienced squad. They have only four starters back from a defensive unit that held opponents to 10.7 points per game.
3New mentor in league
Chad Clendening replaces longtime Apple Valley coach Mike Fritze at the helm of the Eagles program. He has been an assistant coach under Fritze since 2000. The Apple Valley graduate becomes the fourth coach in school history. He inherits a team that could be on the upswing. The Eagles went 8-3 in 2012 after five consecutive losing seasons.
4Getting off on the right foot
The two Bloomington schools — Jefferson and Kennedy — open the season with a crosstown matchup. Both programs went 0-9 in 2012, when the two didn’t play each other. Jefferson has dropped its past 17 games while Kennedy is mired in a 10-game losing streak. The Eagles won the last meeting against the Jaguars, 41-14 in 2011.
5Top players to watch
One player from each school to keep a close eye on this season: Apple Valley senior Tommy Singer (QB); Bloomington Jefferson senior Austin Hilgert (C); Bloomington Kennedy senior Travon Hearns (QB); Burnsville senior Steven Christopherson (OL/DL); Eagan junior Joe Kovach (LB); Eastview junior Will Rains (RB); Lakeville North senior Greg Menard (DE); Lakeville South senior Tyler Lattery (LB); Prior Lake senior Blake Weber (RB/LB); Rosemount junior Dimitri Williams (RB).