Nobody involved with football at Wayzata High School is asking for sympathy. A little bit of understanding would be nice, however.
The Trojans are 3-0 this season after Thursday night’s 23-7 victory over Edina. The oddity of that 3-0 record is that Wayzata has reached the halfway point in the regular season. Yes, instead of the usual eight games, the Trojans are playing only six this fall.
They belong to the Lake Conference (the former Classic Lake), which consists of only five teams. That means each team has four conference games and must find four non-conference opponents. Wayzata opened the season with non-conference games against Owatonna and Lakeville South. A scheduled Oct. 1 home game against Bradenton (Fla.) Prep Academy is now off the books because the Florida school has disbanded its football team.
This isn’t just a problem for the schools in the Lake Conference. Schools of all sizes, from all around Minnesota, face scheduling issues every year (in sports other than football, too) and the problem is not going away.
Discussions are underway about the possibility of revamping the football format in Minnesota. At the Fall Area Meetings -- which began last week in St. Cloud and will continue through early October in Mankato, Marshall, Fergus Falls, Thief River Falls, Chisholm, Rochester and Brooklyn Park – football scheduling issues are part of the agenda.
One possible change is adding a “zero week” to the season, allowing schools to play their first game one week earlier than usual and take a week off (without practicing) later in the season. Also under discussion is the possibility of adopting football schedules partially based on section alignment, with all teams advancing to the postseason or the top four teams in each section advancing.
Any such advancements would be welcome at Wayzata.
“It causes dilemmas because as we’re looking to fill the schedule, we literally start thinking, ‘How far can we get on a bus and drive?’ ” Trojans coach Brad Anderson said after Thursday’s game. “We were willing to drive all the way to Fort Wayne, Indiana, play a game, get right back on the bus and come home.
“It’s not good for kids, it’s really not what high school sports is about. I’m disappointed in the fact that it’s come to this point, and people don’t see it as a problem for all high schools. I think they’re looking at it like, ‘Oh, that’s Eden Prairie’s or Wayzata’s problem,’ but I would say this is a blemish on all high school sports right now and it’s something that has to be solved by everyone. We can’t solve the problem by ourselves. People who are higher up have to make the decision that this is not good for kids and make a change.”
The six-game schedule means Wayzata will essentially have two bye weeks in the final month of the regular season. After playing Hopkins on Sept. 24, they will have two weeks of practice before meeting Minnetonka on Oct. 8. Then comes another nearly two weeks off before facing Eden Prairie on Oct. 20 in the final regular-season game.
“We kind of started talking about that and we really didn’t want to get too focused on that,” Wayzata senior tailback Aaron Roth said. “Initially it was like, ‘This is the end of the world’ and ‘What are we going to do now?’ It wasn’t really panic mode, but we were all a little nervous. Now that we’ve got some games under our belt, we’re just going to take it step by step."
Roth was limited to six games last year because he suffered an injury that prematurely ended his season. This time around, it’s tougher to take.
“It’s frustrating because last year I broke my ankle and that was hard enough,” he said. “It’s tough because I come back for my senior year and we only had seven games to start with, so that’s kind of a bummer.”
Anderson said he has stressed to his players that they can’t worry about things that are out of their control.
“What I told our players is that we can only play the games that are on our schedule. Don’t worry about what we don’t have control over,” he said. “We’re going to play every game as hard as we can. The week in between, we’ll figure out how to turn it into a positive.
“Our players just want to play, but the bottom line is we don’t have games those weeks. It does us no good to complain about it, and all we can do is try and figure out how we can make our team better during that week.”
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 40
*Miles John has driven: 1,956
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