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Star Tribune metro subdistrict outlooks and predictions

By Star Tribune, 08/29/18, 3:37PM CDT


2018 season predictions from staff writers Ron Haggstrom, David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen. NOTE: Records are from 2017.

Armstrong quarterback Jake Breitbach (19) returns to the Falcons this season. They are the Star Tribune's pick to win the Suburban Blue subdistrict.(Star Tribune file photo by DAVID JOLES)

Metro • East

Cretin-Derham Hall shed its recent reputation as underachievers by finishing 2017 strong, winning six straight before falling to Minnetonka in a tight Class 6A semifinal. The Raiders have talent on both sides of the ball and harbor legit title hopes. Woodbury has high hopes for junior QB Jake Wenzel and, with nine starters back on offense, enough experience to buffer his development. Injuries crushed Stillwater’s hopes in 2017 but the Ponies should bounce back, thanks to experience on the lines.

1. Cretin-Derham Hall (8-3)

2. Woodbury (4-5)

3. Stillwater (2-7)

4. Roseville (7-3)

5. Mounds View (3-6)

6. East Ridge (3-6)

7. White Bear Lake (0-9)

Metro • North

St. Michael-Albertville, new to Class 6A a year ago, was a gut-wrenching last-minute loss to Maple Grove from reaching the semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Totino-Grace had its roughest regular season under coach Jeff Ferguson, losing three regular season games. Expect the Eagles to rebound and reclaim the district title. They’ll get a strong challenge from the Knights, who will be christening a new stadium this fall. Champlin Park, Centennial and Blaine have talent but also significant question marks. Champlin Park, with the return of QB Bennett Otto from injury, looks to be the best of that bunch.

1. Totino-Grace (6-4)

2. St. Michael-Albertville (9-2)

3. Champlin Park (5-5)

4. Centennial (8-2)

5. Blaine (6-4)

6. Anoka (0-9)

7. Osseo (3-6)

Metro • South

Lakeville North and Prior Lake have beefed up offenses to match their typically stout defenses. The Panthers have perhaps their deepest set of skill position players in coach Brian Vossen’s tenure, all set to operate behind a big and physical offensive line. Prior Lake coach Matt Gegenheimer brought in former Mankato West coach Mark Esch to work with the offense, which has tended to sputter in past. Rosemount, always dangerous and disciplined, has game-breakers on offense.

1. Lakeville North (7-4)

2. Prior Lake (7-4)

3. Rosemount (6-4)

4. Shakopee (5-5)

5. Lakeville South (4-6)

6. Farmington (2-7

7. Eastview (2-7)

8. Burnsville (2-7)

9. Eagan (1-8)

Metro • West

Top to bottom, the toughest subdistrict in 6A and likely the state. Expect defending 6A champ Eden Prairie to get a strong push from Minnetonka, the 2017 runners-up who might be the most talented team in the class. Both teams boast elite-level QB play (Cole Kramer for Eden Prairie, Aaron Syverson for Minnetonka), which will make their late-season matchup a whole lotta fun. Edina is developing a reputation as a straight-forward physical bunch. Maple Grove has the state’s best running back in Evan Hull. Wayzata has stockpiled talent and looks poised to return to prominence.

1. Eden Prairie (13-0)

2. Minnetonka (11-2)

3. Edina (8-3)

4. Maple Grove (8-4)

5. Wayzata (2-7)

North Central • Blue

Elk River has made back-to-back Prep Bowl appearances, winning the Class 5A crown in 2016 and falling to Owatonna in the 2017 final. The Elks are positioned to make another title run thanks to a talented roster led by RBs Adam Nelson and Kevin Egbujor and two-way lineman Lafayette Bade. Coach Steve Hamilton said this “could be our best team we have had.” Andover lost the entire backfield from the squad that scored 50 or more points seven times last year, but will be able to lean on a veteran defense. Keep an eye on Buffalo, which has D-I talent at QB (Aidan Bouman), WR (Treyton Welch) and OL (Hunter Poncius).

1. Elk River (11-2)

2. Andover (8-3)

3. Buffalo (4-5)

4. Rogers (6-3)

5. St. Francis (3-8)

6. Monticello (1-8)

7. Chisago Lakes (3-7)

8. Cambridge-Isanti (3-6)

North Central • White

Quality abounds, led by Rocori, which has made four consecutive state tournament trips and has a stud RB in senior Matt Koshiol. Perennial power Hutchinson returns QB Lane Glaser and RB Josiah Nelson. Another traditional powerhouse, Becker, is in QB Josh Fobbe’s capable hands. The dark horse is talented Big Lake, led by DE DeVonne Harris and RB DeAndre Hill. Nick Keenan, who coached Big Lake before leaving for Champlin Park this year, called Big Lake “a state tournament team.”

1. Rocori (10-1)

2. Hutchinson (7-3)

3. Big Lake (5-6)

4. Becker (7-5)

5. Willmar (4-5)

6. St. Cloud Apollo (5-5)

7. Princeton (0-9)

Suburban • Blue

Coon Rapids made the most of taking on programs its own size, winning five games or more for the first time since 2010. Though also clear of the better Class 6A programs, Hopkins and Forest Lake didn’t fare as well and hope to rebound. Armstrong looks to remain solid and maybe add a few more victories. A Week 7 matchup of Coon Rapids and Armstrong could settle the subdistrict title.

1. Armstrong (5-4)

2. Coon Rapids (5-4)

3. Hopkins (1-8)

4. Forest Lake (2-7)

Suburban • Gold

Mystery abounds in a subdistrict with new head coaches at Spring Lake Park, North St. Paul and Park Center. John Stewart, the new Spring Lake Park coach, most recently served as offensive coordinator so expect the Panthers to remain a physical and disciplined running team. Cooper, on the other hand, is known for playmakers who have produced long gains but short playoff runs. Veteran coach Willie Howard hopes to change that this season. From there, Irondale and Park Center look to move up.

1. Cooper (9-1)

2. Spring Lake Park (5-5)

3. Irondale (4-5)

4. Park Center (3-7)

5. North St. Paul (0-9)

Suburban • Grey

Mahtomedi faces fewer questions than other subdistrict teams when it comes to carryover personnel, giving it favorite status. South St. Paul, a Class 4A state tournament semifinalist, is reloading at every skill position. But the Packers are built to bump and grind, withfour returning offensive linemen. Simley welcomes back 18 starters. Second-year Tartan coach Matthew Diediker has the Titans in position to challenge the top teams.

1. Mahtomedi (9-2)

2. South St. Paul (9-3)

3. Simley (4-7)

4. Tartan (5-6)

5. Hill-Murray (3-7)

Suburban • Maroon

Great expectations greet first-year St. Thomas Academy head coach Dan O’Brien, a longtime Gophers assistant. The Cadets are expected to rebound and challenge for subdistrict supremacy. Meanwhile, Apple Valley must retool after a Class 5A state tournament semifinal run. The Eagles return only four starters, one on offense. With seven players back, Park of Cottage Grove’s defense must give its offense time to jell. Hastings returns its leading rusher and receiver.

1. St. Thomas Academy (6-5)

2. Park of Cottage Grove (6-3)

3. Apple Valley (10-2)

4. Hastings (3-7)

5. Henry Sibley (3-6)

Suburban • Red

The most competitive subdistrict in Class 4A football. Benilde-St. Margaret’s won the 2016 Prep Bowl, followed by Holy Angels last fall, when St. Louis Park made its Class 5A state tournament debut. But Orono wears the favorite’s crown to start, returning six starters on offense and five on defense. Quarterback Nick Prentice is already Orono’s career leader with 245 completions for 3,894 yards and 26 touchdowns.

1. Orono (6-5)

2. Benilde-St. Margaret’s (8-1)

3. St. Louis Park (7-4)

4. Holy Angels (12-1)

5. DeLaSalle (6-5)

6. Richfield (0-9)

Suburban • White

Quarterback Jacob Miller and RB/LB Cade Plath provide Chanhassen with a potent duo. About 20 seniors are expected to start for the Storm, though some are seeing their first extended action. A Week 3 visit to neighboring Chaska will be pivotal in the subdistrict title chase. The sleeper teams are Bloomington Jefferson, led by playmaking quarterback Isaiah Watts, and Waconia, which upset Chaska in the Class 5A, Section 2 playoffs.

1. Chanhassen (6-3)

2. Chaska (8-1)

3. Bloomington Jefferson (1-8)

4. Waconia (5-6)

5. Bloomington Kennedy (1-8)

Twin City • Blue

With plenty of experience coming back on both sides of the ball, including all of its skill position players, Spectrum will once again dominate this district. Its closest game a year ago in league play was four touchdowns (28 points). The Sting are led by senior quarterback/linebacker Fisher Marberg.

1. Spectrum (7-2)

2. Brooklyn Center (5-4)

3. Concordia Academy (4-5)

4. St. Agnes (4-6)

5. Minneapolis Edison (3-7)

6. St. Paul Humboldt (1-8)

7. Minneapolis Roosevelt (1-8)

Twin City • Gold

Mound Westonka hasn’t lost a district game in three years despite being in two different divisions. Minneapolis Southwest has the best chance to end that streak, considering it was in every game a year ago and has key players returning, led by junior running back/defensive back TK Marshall (6-0, 180). He was a 1,000-yard rusher as a sophomore.

1. Mound Westonka (8-2)

2. Minneapolis Southwest (4-5)

3. St. Paul Johnson (5-4)

4. Providence Academy (5-5)

5. Minneapolis Henry (0-9)

6. Academy Force (1-8)

Twin City • Maroon

St. Croix Lutheran senior quarterback Jonathan Liesener will be handing off and throwing to plenty of new faces as the Crusaders graduated players at skill positions. Liesener ran the option efficiently last season, and should do so again behind a solid offensive front. The Class 3A state tournament runner-up last year is seeking an eighth consecutive state trip.

1. St. Croix Lutheran (12-1)

2. St. Paul Academy/Minnehaha Academy/Blake (6-3)

3. Fridley (8-4)

4. St. Paul Highland Park (4-5)

5. Minneapolis Washburn (3-7)

6. St. Paul Central (2-7)

Twin City • Red

Minneapolis North averaged 53.7 points per game while going undefeated in district play a year ago. With most of its skilled position players back from that group, this year should be no different. Coach Charles Adams’ squad has won at least 10 games in each of the past four seasons and should do so again. Breck, returning 10 offensive and nine defensive starters, will pose the biggest threat to the Polars.

1. Minneapolis North (10-1)

2. Breck (5-4)

3. St. Anthony (6-3)

4. Columbia Heights (5-4)

5. St. Paul Como Park (6-3)

6. Minneapolis South (3-6)

7. St. Paul Harding (0-9)

East Central • South

This could wind up being the most intriguing subdistrict. Delano is the defending champion, and its two closest games last year were against Dassel-Cokato and Glencoe-Silver Lake. Those two teams welcome back more starters than the Tigers, so look for this to turn into a three-team battle for the No. 1 spot.

1. Delano (7-2)

2. Glencoe-Silver Lake (9-2)

3. Dassel-Cokato (5-5)

4. Holy Family (4-5)

5. Annandale (6-4)

6. Litchfield (2-7)

7. Watertown-Mayer (1-8)

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