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Prep Football: West Central has 'new old' look

What was once new will be old again -- or, what was once old will be new again. Something like that.

The old, single-division West Central Conference is back this season. Sort of.

This season, the West Central Conference will not be divided into North and South divisions, as it had been for many years.

Albany and New London-Spicer -- which begins its first season in the Wright County Conference -- have departed. Teams like Foley and Milaca, briefly members of the conference, also have left recently to join other leagues.

As such, the West Central is a single-division, 10-team conference this year.

But while some of the helmets across the line will be a different color, few in the WCC anticipate the move will amount to much.

"I don't think it will make much of a difference," said Montevideo head coach Dave Vik. "We played New London-Spicer and Albany last year, so that will change. The only difference is we won't play everybody (in the new WCC) this year."

Paynesville head coach Max Meagher, whose team also played NLS and Albany last season, said that might be the only aspect of the transition that might create a blip on the radar of WCC teams.

"The only thing that will change in comparison to last year is that we won't be playing all the teams in the conference," Meagher said. "There could be some conference title issues and tiebreaker issues. And we won't have any cross-over games this year (between West Central South and West Central North teams)."

More changes are likely in the offing next year, with Lac qui Parle Valley expected to move to the Little Sioux/Camden conferences and current independent Melrose joining the WCC.

That means the WCC will lose its third-smallest program, based on 9-12 enrollment, and Melrose will become the league's largest school. The Dutchmen program will be more than double this size of the WCC's smallest school district, ACGC.

"What options are there? Not many," said ACGC head coach Terry Karlsgodt. "For us, being the smallest school, the competition gets bigger and bigger every year. We've competed well over the years, but football is a numbers game, that's for sure. Hopefully, we'll be able to be competitive with a relatively small roster."

BOLD's Steve Solem, coach of the WCC's second-smallest program, said the only foreseeable difference is the lack of a preseason against non-conference opponents.

"The only thing I can see is that we don't get any break (from conference opponents)" Solem said. "But I've been at this 28, 29 years and have been through a lot of crap. We'll make it work. I'm a year-to-year kind of guy."

Owls prepare for 'zero week' game

Because of scheduling problems last season, two area teams -- Minnewaska and MACCRAY -- had to prepare for and play "zero week" games a week earlier than other programs. This year, the Hancock Owls were thrust into that position when Eagle Valley left the Pheasant Conference to pair up with Parkers Prairie. That left four conference schools having to begin practice a week earlier and begin play a week in advance on Aug. 24. The Owls open against Bertha-Hewitt at home.

But Hancock head coach Brandon Christianson said bumping its schedule up a week wasn't a hardship, even though several players had to miss time to compete in 4-H at the Stevens County Fair last week. The Owls will have two games under their belt before the school year begins Sept. 4.

"It's not too bad," Christianson said. "We had to fight the fair a little bit, with kids leaving early (from practice) for that. We have a lot of 4-H kids. But the weather's been good and we're doing OK."

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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