Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, May 13, 2002

Bulldogs placed in MCAA, but not 'til 2003-04

By Aaron Schultz

After months of speculation and uncertainty, Lester Prairie has a new conference to call home.

The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) placed the Bulldogs in the Minnesota Christian Athletic Alliance (MCAA) Thursday.

With the Bulldogs accepting the placement, Lester Prairie will be a full member of the MCAA in all sports, except football, starting in the 2003-04 season.

Since current MCAA schools do not have football, Lester Prairie will be part of the Gopher Valley Conference for that sport.

But for other sports, the Bulldogs will be playing an independent schedule next year unless arrangements can be made to come into the conference early in certain sports.

While it is all but a sure thing that the Bulldogs will be joining the MCAA, there is still one more hurdle to clear.

The MCAA has a 10-day window to appeal the decision to the MSHSL board, although that appears unlikely.

"I don't think an appeal will occur," Lester Prairie Dean of Students Joe Miller said.

Miller added: "It was a very interesting process ­ a little long, but very fair."

"It was interesting to sit there and hear representatives of the different conferences tell the MSHSL why they did not want us, but in the end, I think it all worked out," Miller said.

The Bulldogs are heading to a conference (MCAA) which will look all together different than what it is now.

Besides Lester Prairie, old Tri-Valley rivals Holy Trinity of Winsted and Lutheran of Bloomington will join the MCAA.

There is also the possibility that additional schools could be added to the MCAA with the conference breaking into two divisions.

Other current members of the MCAA are:

· Rivers Christian Academy of Elk River

· Bethany Academy of Richfield

· Fourth Baptist Christian of Plymouth

· Meadow Creek Christian of Andover

· Heritage Christian of Maple Grove

· New Life Academy of Woodbury

· Southwest Christian of Chaska

· Trinity Schools of Bloomington

· West Lutheran of Plymouth

· Maranatha Christian Academy of Brooklyn Park

However the MCAA looks, the feeling around Lester Prairie school is that it is glad to be in a conference.

"I am very happy about it. I think that the MCAA will give us the best chance to compete. It is a little different for football with us being in the Gopher Valley, but for the school, I think it is a good thing," head football coach Joe Scoblic said.

"I am just happy to be in a conference. Not being in a conference for baseball is tough. I am a little concerned about the lack of JV teams," head baseball coach Rick Baumann said.

"I think it is a good fit for the size of our school. Our student numbers, per grade, are very comparable to those in the MCAA," head basketball coach Brian Korf said.

While the Bulldogs are not assured a place in the MCAA until the fall of 2003, some maneuvering could occur.

There is the possibility of Lester Prairie joining the conference for spring sports in 2003, with some winter coaches hoping to make the move to the MCAA by next season as well.

One of the main downfalls for the Bulldogs in entering the MCAA is the lack of junior varsity teams in many of the sports.

Many of the JV schedules would need to be played out of conference.

While not all the wrinkles have been ironed out yet, one fact still remains. The Bulldogs are only a week and a half away from the end of the Tri-Valley Conference.

For eight full seasons, Lester Prairie has called the Tri-Valley Conference home, but with the end of the 2002 spring season, that all changes.

The Bulldogs joined the Tri-Valley in the spring 1994, and it did not take Lester Prairie long to bring home its first Tri-Valley Conference championship.

In 1994, the Bulldogs' first season in the Tri-Valley Conference for football, Lester Prairie shared the conference title with Mayer Lutheran.

The Bulldogs went on to win conference championships in wrestling and baseball during the 1994-1995 season.

Not only did the Bulldogs capture a number of conference titles through their years in the Tri-Valley, but some fierce rivalries grew.

While Lester Prairie already had a rival in Holy Trinity of Winsted, the rivalry with Mayer Lutheran became something special.

Match-ups with the likes of Mayer Lutheran and Maple Lake will no doubt continue, but it will no longer decide a conference championship.

As old conference rivals find new homes, new rivalries are sure to begin.

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