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Prep football: Central Lakes Conference adding Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Moorhead

Just like the Big 10 — minus the uptick in revenue — the Central Lakes Conference football league is growing.

Bemidji, Grand Rapids and Moorhead are in as of this fall. All have been independents, like Notre Dame.

The three newbies will form the North Division with Brainerd, Fergus Falls and Alexandria.

In the South Division, Willmar’s companions will be St. Cloud Tech and St. Cloud Apollo, Sartell, Sauk Rapids and Rocori.

Willmar will play each of those five team plus three teams out of the North: This fall that will be Brainerd (home on Sept. 6), Grand Rapids (home on Sept. 20) and Alexandria (away on Sept. 27). Per rotation, two of Willmar’s three games vs. the North will be road games in 2014.

Willmar will not have a road trip this fall over 65 miles in its eight-game schedule.

By agreement, Moorhead and Bemidji were already plugged into Central Lakes scheduling, though the results were non-conference.

Grand Rapids was a loner long searching for a conference home.

Last fall, the Thunderhawks, a Class AAAA-sized program, played Bemidji, Moorhead, four CLC teams and two Duluth schools. Two years ago, GR locked into an agreement with the Wright County Conference for seven games. The T-Hawks were 1-8 last year and 4-6 in 2011.

Moorhead and Bemidji, playing in Class 5A, finished 10-1 and 9-4, respectively. The Lumberjacks gave the Spuds their only loss while Bemidji lost to Totino-Grace of Fridley in the state semifinals. The year before the ’Jacks lost to Rocori in the 4A championship game.

Both the North and South will crown a champion; it’s unfortunate but obvious there would be no opportunity in the postseason for an interdivision championship.

“These are big changes but I think they will be good for us,” commented Cardinals head coach Jon Konold, who begins his fifth season at the Willmar rudder this fall.

Conference alignments are less stable these days than sand castles at high tide but the CLC will complete it 36th school year this spring. Willmar, Apollo, Tech, Alexandria and Brainerd are the remaining original members. There’s some talk that Fergus Falls, a 4A school with only Alexandria a “short trip”, is looking for another conference home.

Willmar will open the season on Aug. 30 at the Sauk Rapids Storm.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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