The changes you need to know before high school football kicks off this week

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The 2015 high school football season kicks off for most Minnesota schools on Saturday, and with it will come a new era of districts rather than conference alignment.

Minnesota State High School League officials approved the alignment change in an attempt to make sure every school plays a full, eight-game regular-season schedule against Minnesota teams.

While football fans won't see recognizable conferences like the Wright County, South Suburban, Suburban East and Central Lakes, they will still see a lot of the same teams against each other. What you need to know is:

  • Sections remain the same.
  • Old conference rivals aren’t changing much.
  • There are 18 districts across the state.
  • Conferences are still intact in other sports.
  • Conference titles are gone, but there are sub-districts within each district, and winners of those sub-districts will be the equivalent to a conference champ.

The MSHSL has a list of districts and sub-districts to view.

The Star Tribune has a helpful Q&A with prep sports reporter David La Vaque that can help answer questions about changes this season.

There seems to be a believe that the MSHSL made the switch to districts to benefit big schools, like former Lake Conference teams Eden Prairie, Wayzata, Minnetonka, Hopkins and Edina, who have often times in recent years played only seven games due to scheduling conflicts, or have traveled across state borders just to fill an eighth game. But the Star Tribune says 41 percent of teams have had scheduling difficulties over the past 10 years.

6A Playoff Format Changed

Sections will remain the same but the Class 6A playoffs will be constructed differently.

Minnesota's largest 32 schools compete in 6A, and this year's playoff format will feature an NCAA basketball tournament-style bracket, where 32 teams are narrowed to 16 and eventually eight. The final eight teams will be considered state tournament qualifiers.

Other Changes

Teams are wrapping up two weeks of preseason conditioning and practice. Rule changes this year meant that teams couldn't practice more than 11 times, with no more than four practices involving contact. Two practices per day were not allowed on consecutive days.

The result of a shorter training camp is that most teams won't truly know its depth chart until the first game of the season is over. Mounds View normally plays in a four-team scrimmage before its first game, but that opportunity went out the window with the rule changes.

"So, personnel-wise, that'll be one of the biggest issues that we'll have in our first game," Galvin told the Pioneer Press. "We'll probably have to play more kids, and some kids are going to play better than we expect and some kids are not going to play up to expectations. And we usually find that out in the scrimmage, but we're not going to find it out until the first game now."

By the time students begin the school year they will have already played three games.

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