Mabel-Canton executes backfield handoff in 2013. JON SPELTZ/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Mabel-Canton executes backfield handoff in 2013. JON SPELTZ/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
It can be dizzying keeping up with the upcoming changes for Mabel-Canton and Southeast Conference football. The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) doing away with traditional high school football conferences in 2015, 2016 and presumably beyond is certainly a major alteration; the final SEC grid season of 2014 will be different as well.

Football was a major factor in the conference approving the membership of Randolph that begins this fall (2014). Formerly, eight of the 10 SEC programs played football, all except Hope Lutheran and Schaeffer Academy. That convenient eight-team football alignment was jeopardized when declining numbers threatened to eliminate a team with the possibility of Lyle/Pacelli and Glenville-Emmons combining in football.

With only one football game a week, an odd number of teams make it difficult for each team to play the standard eight-game schedule without seeking opponents outside the conference. The addition of Randolph would counteract the loss of a team with the expected L/P and G-E grid merger. It would preserve the eight-team/eight-game format.

But after the Rockets were admitted, G-E and L/P announced they intended to continue with individual football programs. Randolph then makes it a nine-man, nine-team inconvenient odd-numbered configuration.

The MSHSL solution for conferences with odd number of teams is the "Zero Week" provision. Approved first for the 2011 football season, it gives approved schools the chance to start their season one week earlier, schedule a regular-season game that wouldn't normally be available, and then have a bye - or zero week - later on during the season.

Thereby, a nine-week season permits the desired eight games and one bye week. Many neighboring 11-man teams had a zero week schedule last year.

For zero week teams, the first week of practice and the first game begins a week earlier. One team, however, will draw a bye on that first playing date.

In the SEC, every regular season game will now be a conference game. In the past few seasons, the eighth game in the SEC was playing one close neighbor twice - the first game and the final game - with only the latter counting in the conference standings.

The four easternmost teams have rotated that two-game series every two seasons. The most recent two seasons in that rotation have seen Mabel-Canton and Spring Grove meet first and last while Lanesboro and Houston also played each other twice.

This year, there will be no rematches during the regular season. In postseason, Section One still consists of last year's eight SEC teams while Randolph will continue in the Section Two tournament.

The opening gridiron game has traditionally been on Labor Day weekend (this year Aug. 29). But zero week leagues begin this season on Aug. 22 (also the second day of the state fair). Randolph will play its inaugural SEC football game that Friday night hosting Mabel-Canton.

Grand Meadow has drawn the bye that first week and will then play eight straight weeks. M-C has the bye in week seven.

Playing games a week earlier than usual necessitates starting practices a week earlier as well, this season on Aug. 4.

M-C football 2014

8-22 at Randolph

8-29 LYLE/PACELLI

9-05 at Houston

9-12 GRAND MEADOW

9-19 at LeRoy-Ostrander

9-26 SPRING GROVE

10-03 bye/open

10-10 at Glenville-Emmons

10-15 LANESBORO

Next week - MSHSL district football supplants the SEC in 2015.