Although there’s been no word yet on whether high school sports can resume in the fall, there almost certainly will be a push toward something approaching normalcy.
And football will be a big part of that normalcy. Local teams already have released their 2020 schedules, so we can take a look at what’s ahead. Week 1 games are scheduled for Sept. 3, the Thursday before Labor Day weekend.
Football districts and subdistricts are unchanged in the second year of a two-year cycle. Burnsville, Eagan, Eastview, Farmington, Lakeville North, Lakeville South and Rosemount remain in the Metro South subdistrict. Each team will face the other six in the Metro South and go outside the subdistrict for two other games. Apple Valley remains in the Suburban Maroon with Hastings, Henry Sibley, Park of Cottage Grove and St. Thomas Academy.
One schedule quirk: The final regular-season games typically take place on a Wednesday in mid-October, the day before the annual Minnesota Educator Academy conference. This year’s conference, scheduled for Oct. 15, falls during Week 7 of the football season. The last regular-season games for Class 6A teams will be Oct. 23. Class 5A teams play their final regular-season games Oct. 21 because the first round of their section playoffs will be Oct. 27.
The Prep Bowl games are scheduled Nov. 27-28 in their customary Friday-Saturday slot following Thanksgiving.
Looking at some potential marquee regular-season games:
Week 1 (Sept. 3) - Lakeville North, the 2018 Class 6A champion and a semifinalist last year, opens at home against Woodbury. Lakeville South, with Ben Burk installed as permanent head coach, is host to a Totino-Grace team with a new head coach. Jay Anderson takes over at Totino-Grace for Jeff Ferguson, who retired after leading the Eagles to eight state championships (including one in Class 6A) in 18 years.
Also opening at home are Burnsville (against Mounds View), Farmington (against Stillwater) and Rosemount (against Prior Lake). Eagan is on the road at Shakopee, Eastview travels to Minnetonka and Apple Valley plays at Hopkins.
Week 2 (Sept. 11) - Lakeville South goes to Rosemount for a game between Metro South powers. The Irish won last year’s game 17-14, taking a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter and holding off the Cougars.
Week 3 (Sept. 18) - Farmington and Apple Valley will have their homecoming games, with Farmington taking on Eagan and Apple Valley playing Park of Cottage Grove. Rosemount, which has one of the toughest early season schedules in Class 6A, will go to Lakeville North.
Week 4 (Sept. 25) - Eagan has its homecoming game against Anoka. Eastview takes on Lakeville South at home. The emerging Rosemount-Farmington rivalry continues at Rosemount High, and Apple Valley takes on 2019 Class 5A runner-up St. Thomas Academy at home.
Week 5 (Oct. 2) - Apple Valley plays last year’s Class 5A finalists in consecutive weeks as the Eagles travel to defending state champion Chaska. Lakeville South goes to Prior Lake for a slugfest between run-oriented teams. Lakeville North is home against Eastview, Burnsville travels to Farmington and Rosemount plays at Eagan.
Week 6 (Oct. 9) - the battle of Lakeville resumes when South plays host to North. Lakeville South won last year’s game 34-19, ending the Panthers’ 18-game winning streak overall and their 11-game streak against the Cougars. Rosemount gets a rematch at Champlin Park, a team that defeated the Irish twice last season, including the Class 6A quarterfinals.
Week 7 (Oct. 14-15) - Wednesday games on the short week include Burnsville at Rosemount and Eastview at Eagan. On Thursday, Oct. 15, Farmington plays host to Lakeville South.
Week 8 (Oct. 21, 23) - Apple Valley is home against Hastings in a Wednesday night game. On Friday, Burnsville goes on the road to defending Class 6A champion Wayzata. Farmington is at Lakeville North, Eagan is at Lakeville South and Rosemount is at Eastview in other regular-season finales.
High schools in the Sun Thisweek and Dakota County Tribune coverage area took part in the #BeTheLightMN program, where stadium lights were turned on one evening a week to honor members of the class of 2020, which lost spring activities and had to complete their academic careers at home through distance learning.
May 11 was the last day the lights will be on at the stadiums of District 196 high schools Apple Valley, Eagan, Eastview and Rosemount. Construction projects are underway at the Eagan and Rosemount stadiums; both are having artificial turf installed, and the Eagan stadium is getting a new track and pressbox. A statement from the school district also noted that with improving weather and more daylight it was becoming more difficult to ensure social distancing protocol would be followed during #BeTheLightMN observances.