Kingsland, Southland join 9-man football race

Spring Grove’s Wyatt Murphy, shown here in pursuit of an R-T-R running back during a 2018 state quarterfinal, is a returning two-way starter from last year’s state championship team. File photo
S. Lee Epps

Kingsland and Southland are two of several teams that will be playing 9-man for the first time in 2019. 

For the fifth year, the regular season in football is determined by the Minnesota State High School League, which assigns teams to districts (instead of self-determined conferences as in most team sports). 

In 9-man, there are three districts statewide - West, South and North. During the regular season, teams in southeast Minnesota are assigned to the South District, 

This fall, there are 64 teams playing 9-man football. The South district, stretching from the South Dakota border to Houston County, now contains 22 teams and has divided itself into two sub-districts - the East Sub-district with nine teams and the West Sub-district with 13 teams. That assignment is mainly geographical with Interstate 35 separating the two sub-districts.

The East Sub-district will be a nine-team league this year, losing Randolph (which moves to 11-man) but adding Kingsland and Southland while retaining Mabel-Canton, Lanesboro, Houston, Grand Meadow, Lyle/Pacelli, Spring Grove and LeRoy-Ostrander.

Lye/Pacelli is the only team that will face each of the other eight teams. The others will play seven of their eight East rivals plus one crossover non-district contest versus a West Sub-district team.

For the next two regular seasons, Spring Grove will not play Lanesboro. Mabel-Canton will not face Kingsland; Southland will not meet Grand Meadow. Houston will not play LeRoy-Ostrander

In previous sub-district seasons, everyone opened with a crossover game. This year, there will be one crossover game each week with Spring Grove the only team with a crossover game the first week (at Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman on Thursday, Aug. 29.) 

All other openers are scheduled for Friday, Aug. 30 (Labor Day weekend). Grand Meadow will host Kingsland while Houston hosts Southland and Mabel-Canton hosts Lanesboro. The other week one contest finds LeRoy-Ostrander hosting Lyle/Pacelli.

Other crossover games in order are Lanesboro hosting Sleepy Eye St. Mary's in week two, Kingsland hosting Mountain Lake Area in week three, Southland traveling to Red Rock Central (Lamberton) in week four, Grand Meadow hosting Cedar Mountain/Comfrey in week five, LeRoy-Ostrander away at Fulda/Heron Lake-Okabena in week 6, Houston hosting Madelia in week 7 and Mabel-Canton away at Nicollet on the Wednesday night game eight.

The playoffs

Postseason playoffs are the same as always, determined by the MSHSL and organized into eight sections with eight champions advancing to the state tournament.

Every 9-man Section One Tournament game will be a rematch as the section contains eight of the nine East Sub-district teams. Lyle/Pacelli will play in Section 3.

Rivalry resumed, rivalry begins

The Southland versus Spring Grove series will resume after an 18-year hiatus. The Rebels won eight of the 12 previous games (including the last five) when Southland was a member of the Southeast Conference from 1991 through 2001. The Rebels shared the first SEC football championship with Harmony and the 2000 title with Rushford-Peterson. 

The Lions have never met Kingsland, which was established in 1992 by combining the Spring Valley and Wykoff school districts. But Spring Grove went 2-3 versus Spring Valley (from 1951 through 1958) and 9-5 against Wykoff (from 1955 through 1982). 

The start

Football workouts began this week on Monday (Aug. 12,) with one week of conditioning followed by two weeks of practice. The annual multi-team scrimmages at Grand Meadow begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24. Games may be played starting on Labor Day weekend.

Spring Grove

Aug. 29 at GHEC/Truman 

Sept. 6 home vs. LeRoy-Ostrander 

Sept. 13 at Mabel-Canton

Sept. 20 home vs. Kingsland 

Sept. 27 at Houston 

Oct. 4 home vs. Grand Meadow 

Oct. 11 away at Lyle/Pacelli (Lyle)

Oct. 16 home vs. Southland