Fall titles, winter sports; Southland returns to SEC

S. Lee Epps

While local athletes prepare for the upcoming winter sports season, the state football tournaments are down to the final four. State volleyball championships were decided last week.

Looking farther ahead, Southland will rejoin the Southeast Conference next school year.

State 9-man tournament

After six straight state championships, Section One will not be in contention as the state tournament moves indoors in Minneapolis this week.

Section One champion Grand Meadow was eliminated by undefeated state-ranked No. 1 Mountain Lake Area 42-14 last Friday.

The only state quarterfinal that was somewhat competitive was No. 4 Hancock's 32-20 win against No. 3 Renville County West. Mountain Iron-Buhl whipped South Ridge 42-8 while No. 5 Win-E-Mac walloped Warren-Alvarado-Oslo 48-6.

In the semi-finals, No. 1 Mountain Lake Area (12-0) faces No. 5 Win-E-Mac (12-0) while No. 4 Hancock (12-0) takes on No. 12 Mountain Iron-Buhl (10-1).

Caledonia again!

Four-time defending Class AA state football champion Caledonia won for the 66th straight time with a 56-14 flogging of Pipestone Area in the state quarterfinals.

The state-ranked No. 1 Warriors (12-0) next face No. 2 Barnesville (12-0) in the semi-finals on Friday, Nov. 15, at 11:30 a.m. in Minneapolis at U.S. Bank Stadium. The winner advances to the state title game at noon on Nov. 29.

Caledonia defeated Barnesville 21-0 in last year's state finals and 55-20 in the 2016 semi-finals.

In the other 2019 semi-final, No. 3 Minneapolis North (11-0) plays No. 5 Paynesville (10-1).

Minneota repeats

Minneota (33-3) won a second straight Class A state volleyball championship last week after finishing as runner-up three years ago.

Representing Section One, Stewartville won the Class AA title, their fifth championship overall, but first since 2014. In Class AAA, Wayzata earned its first state volleyball crown.

Basketball begins

Girls basketball could begin formal workouts on Monday of this week with many teams opening the season next week. The Fillmore Central, Lanesboro and Mabel-Canton girls all open on Friday, Nov. 22. The Burros host Kingsland while the Cougars travel to LeRoy-Ostrander and the Falcon bus heads to Hayfield.

The boys may begin basketball and wrestling practices next Monday, Nov. 18.

Southland back to SEC

Southland will rejoin the Southeast Conference, starting with the next school year 2020-21. That brings membership to 12 programs (13 schools with Pacelli and Lyle competing as one shared program).

That brings membership back to the original number of programs when the conference was founded 28 years ago.

The Rebels were one of the original 12 programs and competed in the SEC for the first 11 years. Then the SEC became an exclusively small-school league for school year 2002-03 when four schools moved to the Three Rivers Conference.