Denfeld News

Nov. 10, 2010
Duluth News Tribune

East and Denfeld get a conference, for now
By Rick Weegman

The ongoing saga of where the Duluth public high school football teams will play has been resolved — for now.

Late last week, a six-person Minnesota State High School League committee placed Duluth East and Duluth Denfeld in the Mississippi 8 Conference starting in 2012. The Duluth schools previously had applied to — and been rejected by — the Mississippi 8, Central Lakes and Sea-Range conferences, leaving the matter in the hands of the MSHSL.

“Ultimately, it was probably the right choice,” said Duluth Central activities director Tom Pearson, whose school will close at the end of the school year and reopen as Denfeld in 2011-12. “Geographically speaking, I would have loved to be in the Sea-Range, but size-wise it didn’t make any sense. Nobody wanted us, but the committee made a decision that works for our school. We’re used to travel, so that’s not too big of a deal. I think it’s a good fit for us.”

The Mississippi 8 is currently composed of Becker, Big Lake, Buffalo, Cambridge-Isanti, Monticello, Princeton, Rogers, St. Michael-Albertville and Zimmerman in all sports, with the addition of Elk River in football. Princeton, Zimmerman and, possibly, Becker are leaving in 2011 to form the Granite Ridge Conference with Foley, Little Falls, Milaca, Mora and St. Cloud Cathedral. Elk River has given indications it might leave by 2012.

“Our conference is really in flux,” Cambridge-Isanti activities director Mark Solberg said. “We’re trying to figure out who is the Mississippi 8.”

Concerns over transportation costs were cited by the CLC and the Mississippi 8 for originally denying Duluth schools entry, while disproportional school enrollments caused the Sea-Range to vote no. All sides had their say at a MSHSL placement meeting Oct. 27.

“We’re happy to be somewhere,” East AD Shawn Roed said. “We’re looking forward to being in a conference and play for something during the regular season and have a schedule ready to go.

“We’d love to be closer to home, but we already travel and being in the Mississippi 8 is probably closer than being in the Central Lakes.”

While East’s schedule is set for 2011, the same is not true at Denfeld. After adding Simley to the schedule Tuesday, Pearson said the Hunters still have four openings in 2011. He said he hadn’t signed contracts, hoping the school would be placed in a conference next year.

“We’re still on our own for scheduling and hoping to get some help from the Central Lakes and Mississippi 8 to fill some games,” he said. “At this moment, we’re scratching and clawing for every game we can find.”

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