MSHSL recommends Grand Rapids join Central Lakes for football
WILLMAR -- When it comes to football, it appears the Willmar Cardinals are up a creek and headed from a little falls to a grand rapids.
A Minnesota State High School League committee is recommending that Grand Rapids High School be placed in the Central Lakes Conference for football beginning in the fall of 2012. The Raiders would be the 10th team, replacing Little Falls, which leaves in all sports at the end of this school year to join the new Granite Ridge Conference.
Since 2006 the CLC has scheduled independents Moorhead and Bemidji in football, though not as conference members. Willmar traveled to Moorhead in 2006 and this fall and to Bemidji in 2008.
For Willmar, the trip to Grand Rapids is 198 miles, according to the state highway map. But at the south tip of the sprawling conference, Willmar is accustomed to long trips: 188 miles to Bemidji, 158 to Moorhead, 116 to Brainerd and 109 to Fergus Falls. Little Falls is 85 miles.
The same committee has recommended Duluth East and Duluth Denfield be placed in the Mississippi 8 for football starting in 2012.
Willmar football coach Jon Konold said the recommendation caught him by surprise and reserved comment while noting the long trips the team already makes.
Willmar activities director Jamie Thompson indicated more could be known after the Central Lakes Conference administrative meet-ing on Nov. 17.
Grand Rapids finished with a 7-3 record this year, losing to Bemidji 33-18 in the title game of 7AAAA, a six-team section.
The Thunderhawks' schedule included Two Harbors (AAA) and Deer River (AA).
In 2009 after the end of the North Country Conference, Grand Rapids (3-7) traveled to the metro area in search of games on three occasions, playing Richfield, Farmington and Waconia.
Next fall, in a one-year deal, Grand Rapids will play seven schools in the Wright County Conference.
Little Falls was competitive in most programs, including boys hockey, which they recently dominated. Football was tough and they looked at options for a dozen years. The Flyers have won a single championship (1985) since forming the original eight-team league in 1977-78 and had only five conference wins since 2001 until this fall when they finished 3-4.
Grand Rapids and the two Duluth schools (a third Duluth high school, Central, closes next May and reopens as Denfield) had asked the MSHSL to place them in football.
The League will address the committee's recommendation at the Dec. 6 board meeting.
There is an appeal process.
Conference secretary Roger Wilson told the Duluth News Tribune that the league would learn to live with the MSHSL decision and an appeal made little sense since "You're appealing to the same group that just placed them."