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Football: Area schools ready for new conference

With practices under way for Cannon Falls, Goodhue, Lake City and Zumbrota-Mazeppa, all four schools are preparing for a new landscape in southeastern Minnesota: the Southern Football Alliance.

The SFA is a two-year agreement between the Hiawatha Valley League and Three Rivers Conference, combining the two conferences into three divisions by school size.

While teams are going about their business, area schools are rolling with the punches that come with new opponents.

“There’s good and there’s bad,” said Goodhue head coach Tony Poncelet, whose team will play in the Blue division. “There’s some 2A (in our division), but most are 1A. Last year we played five 3A and three 2A schools.”

Z-M head coach Willie Rauen added, “In the long run, it’ll be beneficial for all our programs in that kind of enrollment (in the White division).”

The Blue division pits the smallest schools between the HVL and TRC, with defending 2A state champion Caledonia coming in as the biggest school with an enrollment of 300, according to the Minnesota State High School League.

Going into the new conference will bring issues. 

“It’ll be weird because we’re doing a lot more film work,” Poncelet said. Goodhue ranks as the third smallest school in the nine-team SFA Blue with an enrollment of 194. 

The SFA White division features eight schools in Class 2A and 3A with an average enrollment of 285. Z-M is the biggest school in the White with 339. 

Then in the SFA Red division, the HVL and TRC’s eight biggest schools collide, with an average enrollment of 460.

While both teams reached their respective section finals in 2012, Cannon Falls and Lake City face a tough task in the Red, coming in as the smallest schools in the division with enrollments of 355 and 348, respectively. Along with the enrollment concerns, two state qualifiers from 2012 – Kasson-Mantorville (4A) and Rochester Lourdes (3A) – also take up residence in the Red division.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Bombers’ head coach Josh Hofstedt. “There’s not a dog in the bunch. … The positive is that it’s going to be great competition. If we stay healthy, we should be ready to go.”

And that lack of team size and depth compared to the Red’s 4A schools like Byron (512) and Kasson-Mantorville (568) are causefor concern for both Cannon Falls and Lake City.

“Football is a game of numbers, and we simply won’t have the numbers that compare to most of the rest of the division,” Tigers’ head coach Trevor Narum said. “We have to stay healthy, especially at certain positions.”

The landscape has changed, but the focus remains the same for all four area schools: getting ready for the 2013 season.

“We always preach to the fact that the only team we have control over is us,” Narum said. “We’re focused on our own preparation and being the best we can be.”

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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