>Prep Football Preview

27 Aug

>Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where we’re in such good shape that we never break a sweat during two-a-days.

Tomorrow night (already!) is the unofficial beginning of fall and the 2008-09 sports season, as high school football teams from across the area lace ’em up for the first game of the year. I look forward to this day every year, and it’s not just because I’m a football TV announcer in Bloomington. We finally have something else to read about in the sports section besides the Lynx and offseason NFL news…

As a self-dubbed Lake Conference football expert, here’s my preview for the upcoming season. Teams are ranked in the order that I pick them to finish.

1. Eden Prairie
The two-time defending state champs are a bit short on star power this year, and they have to replace nearly all of their starters. But they haven’t lost in almost three years, and that’s primarily because of their truly awesome depth. Eden Prairie will be there at the end…you can count on that.

2. Eastview
These guys went 11-2 and made it to the Dome last year, with both losses to Eden Prairie. Much of that team is back, and they’re hungry.

3. Lakeville North
They went to state last year, and they have a good chunk of skill position players coming back. If there’s one thing you can count on from Lakeville football teams, you can expect them to play 48 minutes of tough, hard-nosed football every time out. That will keep them in games, and now they have the talent to win them late.

4. Lakeville South
They have one of the best coaches in the state in Larry Thompson and a boatload of returning players from a middle-of-the-pack team. No real stars here, but the Cougars will do the little things right. The real travesty: the two Lakeville teams do not play each other this season. Not only is it a great crosstown rivalry in a big football city, but these two teams would have put on quite a show this year.

5. Apple Valley
They lost their first seven games last year, thanks partially to a bunch of players being suspended, but then won three in a row (including over 2-seed Kennedy) and ran to the section finals. A lot of the team is back, and with their late run last year, they think they can win. Keep an eye out for Varmah Sonie, a dynamite, lightning-fast corner who had 8 INTs and 2 TDs last year, not to mention several electrifying kick returns.

6. Bloomington Jefferson
They have a freak of nature athlete at QB, and he’s committed to Minnesota for next year. But this is the year when he needs to put it all together and start playing like the top recruit he is. If he can do that on a consistent basis and emerge as a strong leader, this team could be one of the real sleepers in the metro.

7. Burnsville
This team has been down for a couple of seasons now, and knowing Burnsville football, you just can’t keep them down for this long without them roaring back. They’re bound to improve, but they just don’t have the horses to reach the upper echelon yet.

8. Chaska
They’re supposed to be good in the backfield and the wideouts, but what about the QB? And the defense? The jury’s still out on this team.

9. Rosemount
These guys lost a heartbreaker to Apple Valley in last year’s playoffs, and it seems their bumper crop of talent has been lost to graduation. Can they re-stock and surprise?

10. Bloomington Kennedy
No team, outside of Eden Prairie, lost more to graduation this year than the Eagles of Kennedy. They had their best team in 24 years last fall, and took third in this ultra-tough conference, but they fell hard in the playoffs and I don’t think they can keep up the pace this year. They have some very talented players, but they don’t have nearly the talent they did and they’re not very experienced or deep. The hunch is they’ll wear down over the course of the season.

11. Eagan
They’ve won just two games in the past two years, and this season doesn’t figure to be any better. Eagan fans, be sure to catch some volleyball this fall…you may actually see some wins in the gym.

I don’t think the 5A state champion will come out of the Lake this year (my money’s on the Classic Lake, with Wayzata, Minnetonka, Edina, etc.), but you have to think the conference will put 2-3 teams in the state tournament for the fourth year in a row. With this tough conference as a training ground, someone always makes a run at the end…the only question is who it will be.

And my first announcing game of the year: Eden Prairie at Jefferson. Oooh…I can’t wait…

I’m out like the Twins’ defense.

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