Last season Owatonna shared the Big Nine title with Rochester Century both with one conference loss on the season. A year later the Huskies are expected to again challenge for the title as they return known names like Bader commit Casey Dehn and the multi talented Kyle Melcher. Challenging them will be Mankato West led by the Richter twins and three other returning all-conference players.
Before the Big Nine Conference season hits full swing eight teams of the conference will challenge themselves against schools from the metro. Usually the first game of the year is the most frustrating and often where many lessons are learned. And while that is true the teams from the Big Nine still want to overcome their struggles against the metro and victories in week one would be a nice start.
Maybe the most interesting game will be Mankato West taking on Northfield in a big match-up of two of the top class AAAA teams. Owatonna will be traveling to Hopkins to face the Royals spread and this will give Wisconsin fans in the metro a chance to see their future Badger Casey Dehn.
Rochester Century is hosting preseason number one ranked Wayzata and Rochester Mayo is taking on Minnetonka in the Skipper's house. Next you have the Winhawks of Winona welcoming Maple Grove to their southeastern city and Faribault hosts perennial power New Prague. Austin is traveling north to face Red Wing and Rochester John Marshall hosts Robbinsdale Armstrong.
By no means is Mankato East sidestepping anybody as they are taking on Detroit Lakes who was 9-1 last year at the AAAA level. Albert Lea is the only team stepping down a class level for their non-conference game as they will face Waseca. The Bluejays are no cupcake though as they won seven games last season and feature big play maker Sam Millbrett who is one of southern Minnesota's most exciting players.
Albert Lea – Numbers not a luxury for some
"In Owatonna you have competition for every spot and you can pretty much groom what you have for your system and that is ideal," said Clay Anderson the Albert Lea head football coach in speaking with the Albert Lea Tribune. "I would say six or seven Big Nine schools can do that on a regular basis, us not being one of them. We're at the point where we're going to have very slim numbers this year. We really have to assess what we have and what we can do and what we can't do and try to develop a system that is going to work for that."
Austin – John Crape is amongst 15 returning starters
At 6-foot-1 John Crape was named all-conference last year and honorable mention all-state after recording 108 tackles from his linebacking position last year. Crape is a respected player in this conference because he's as hardworking and hard nosed as they come.
The Packers return 15 starters from a year ago including nine on offense as they continue to learn the spread from experienced coach Tim Hermann. "We should be very much ahead of the game in learning the ins and outs of the spread," said Hermann. "We should be improved overall from the last three years when wins were tough to come by. We have much experience back to lead."
Faribault – Falcons hurt by a transfer
The word transfer in the Twin Cities is like voodoo but what happened to Faribault is just natural in today's world. The Falcons lost Blayze Petersen, an all-conference running back who last year ran for almost 1,000 yards as a junior, when his mother bought a new home in Owatonna.
"Obviously not having Blayze is a huge loss for us," Faribault coach Ned Louis said Thursday to the Faribault Daily News. "I would guess that he would have carried the ball about 30 times a game and probably played every down on defense. He would have been a huge workhorse for us.
"We've got some guys who can handle the load that we're missing with Blayze and they're excited about their opportunity. We've just got to put it behind us and move on."
Mankato East – Frisell leading a new era
New Mankato East football coach Dave Frisell came from Bloomington Kennedy and has shaken up the offense.
"We're doing stuff that's completely different from what we've done in the past," quarterback Jordan Benesh said. "It's going to be a challenge. I didn't know what to expect, when I heard about coach Frisell and a new offense, and I didn't know if we had the guys to run that. But I think through the summer, we've found the guys."
Mankato West – Five all-conference players return
Five Scarlets earned all-conference honors last year and return. Quarterback Ray Teachout threw for 19 scores with 2,187 yards passing while also running for nearly 500 yards and seven TD's. He will have plenty of targets to throw to starting with twin brothers Mike and Aaron Richter. The brothers combined to receive for almost 1,600 yards last year along with scoring on 15 TD receptions. Aaron was more of the go to target catching ten touchdowns while Mike excels on defense where he had 71 tackles. The leading tackler coming back is Alex Dahkle who had 116 stops last year from his linebacking position. The fifth all-conference player returning is Paul Berndt who ran for seven scores and 913 yards.
Owatonna – Dehn is laying em out while the offense comes together
This weekend Owatonna traveled to Lakeville for a four team scrimmage and the highlight of the trip was of course a play from Casey Dehn. On the last play of the day a Robbinsdale Armstrong player stepped through the line breaking a tackle only to get laid out by Dehn who put a shoulder into the run decleating the Falcon.
Offensively it was a trial but coach Josh Williams told the People's Press that things went pretty good. "I thought our offense adjusted extremely well," Williams said. "We saw some pretty goofy defensive fronts we really haven't practiced against, and our guys up front did a great job adjusting. Add to that, they're pretty big and athletic, and we had a lot of nice holes to run through, and our backs did a good job of hitting them."
Rochester Century – Youth to step in
Century went 6-3 in 2007 and graduated some of it's top offensive weapons but youth will take control of the open spots.
"We have several young players who got some experience last season," said coach Jon Vik to the Breakdown Pigskin Preview. "They will be counted on to play major roles in skill positions this fall. We have good talent but are untested. We have some good linebackers who should provide stability to the defense."
Rochester Mayo – A dream come true for Landherr
"Mayo is a special place," Kevin Landherr said of his new head coaching position. "I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to play here and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to come back and coach here. From a coaching standpoint, this is a dream come true. I'm extremely excited and looking forward to what's to come."
Last year the Spartans were 5-5 on the season.
Winona – Bratland is a special player
Unless something crazy happens Winona linebacker Chase Bratland will be a three time all-conference player in the Big Nine Conference. Bratland has been a tackling machine throughout his career recording over 300 tackles the last two seasons. Bratland was also HM all-state last year and coach John Cassellius speaks highly of his star. "Chase is the best linebacker I have had a chance to coach," said the Winona head coach.