The Hidden Gems of Minnesota Football

Oct 3, 2012 at 9:16 am

When most of your life in Minnesota is spent living in the Twin Cities, it's easy to think anything about high school football worth mentioning is from the metro. The only time you even notice schools from the rest of the state comes when watching the games leading up to the top-division championship games, or if there's a plucky underdog in the top-division championship games.  This is especially true at the Xcel Energy Center during the state hockey finals.

Chris Weinke and Joe Mauer are two of the most well-known names to come from Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul (most people forget Mauer was offered a football scholarship at Florida State before signing with the Twins). Bud Grant's son Mike is cementing his own coaching legacy at Eden Prairie, one of heralded schools in the Lake Conference. For every powerhouse from a conference with the word "Suburban" in its title that considers the Prep Bowl another home game, and for every player from one of the schools inside the 494/694 corridor attracting most of the attention from major-college scouting departments, there's something for you in the Central Lakes and Granite Ridge.

With apologies to the Huskies and Johnnies, I am a Gopher. I have stumped for Grant to follow his dad's footsteps at the U of M.  I have also been one to proclaim loudly -- ask anyone if you need a reference -- that the key to Gopher football recruiting is not getting the 2-star and 3-star leftovers from Florida but to own the Dakotas and outstate Minnesota.  As a journalism student I encountered many people who were from those areas, people who considered a college life in Minneapolis as their ideal destination after high school.  Jerry Kill is missing the boat.

There is good football, and there are good football players, in central Minnesota. Teams to watch for on the road to the Metrodome for the Prep Bowl, most particularly Becker (dominating the Granite Ridge right now with a 5-0 start), Sartell-St. Stephen (never underestimate a defense allowing under 10 points a game once you get to the playoffs), and St. Cloud Tech (leading the Central Lakes in points per game). You can also see players who deserve a look from the Maroon & Gold. Tech is buoyed by Jacob Petersen, fresh off a six-TD performance (which includes one throwing) against a very good Moorhead team this past weekend. The previous weekend Mac Mueller of Rocori scored five times.

These aren't just kids piling up gaudy stats. These are players dominating their opponent and carrying their own team.  These are the kind of players a college program need to have to succeed. Both Petersen and Mueller are running backs. Unlike the NFL that places so much more value on passing, college football still revolves in many ways around the great running back. If you can't get to a local high school for a game you should at least follow the teams and players on the Metro Sports Commission broadcasts.

Don Lyons

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