Section realignments affect several Laker teams for next year

Every two years the Minnesota State High School League realigns each section in every sport, based on school enrollment and activity classifications.

Every two years the Minnesota State High School League realigns each section in every sport, based on school enrollment and activity classifications.

These realignments certainly determine each team's chances of making it through their respective section tournaments or meets, and each time a realignment occurs, there will be one of three outcomes.

It stays the same with very little change, it gets more difficult or it gets easier.

Starting next fall, the new section realignments take effect and there are some major movements for Detroit Lakes teams, including football, volleyball and boys' hockey.

But first, let's take a look at the method of determining each sport's classification, based on the standards set by the MSHSL for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.


We'll just look at football classifications for our example, since it has the most classes out of the 18 different sport categories.

Football has six different classes, starting from the smallest -- nine man -- to the largest, which is Class 5A.

Each school's enrollment is based off this year's numbers, with Detroit Lakes' total at 737.

The classification for football is as follows: Class 5A: 1,246 students-plus make up this class; Class 4A (which is DL's class): 623 to 1,245 students; Classes 1-3A, divided equally in thirds; Nine-man: 165 and below students.

Now, that's how the classes are made up.

Sections are made up of geographic standards and other considerations.

On the MSHSL website, they explain their section realignments as trying to move as few schools as possible in each sport.

What the MSHSL does not take into consideration is the strength of the program or the strength of the other programs in the section, district or conference rivalries and requests to their office.


What is taken into consideration is geographic sections should not overlap (boundaries are drawn), numerically balance the Class 2A or higher sections to within two teams and to within four for Class 1A and lower, and travel concerns or time out of school is only considered if all of the above can still be satisfied.

Occasionally, the MSHSL will move a certain team completely out of its section and place it into another, or a school's enrollment will change to reclassify that team into another class class.

That's what happened to the Laker football, boys' hockey and volleyball programs.

The Laker football team has been in Section 8-4A for well over a decade. The section boasted such traditionally talented teams as Sartell, Alexandria and Sauk Rapids, along with rival Fergus Falls.

The new realignment has sent DL north to Section 7-4A -- which will have only six teams, compared to the usual eight -- with teams residing there including Bemidji, Duluth Central, Grand Rapids, Hermantown and Hibbing.

"There are good things and bad things about it," said DL head coach Flint Motschenbacher. "We are somewhat familiar with the teams in Section 7-3A, after playing Grand Rapids and Duluth Central the last few years.

"But there are some tough teams, like Bemidji, who have been exceptional the last few years."

One potential advantage is the chance of gaining a top two seed, which will be a first-round bye.


"It's not as balanced as Section 8, but there are some good teams up there," Motschenbacher said.

"Duluth Central will be gaining some kids after one of their schools closed, so they should be better."

DL's schedule will have a big makeover, since the Lakers will be joining the Heart O'Lakes Conference as well.

The Laker volleyball team had a more extreme move, after DL was bumped up to Class 3A, which is the largest class in the sport.

DL will be in a deeper, bigger school section, which includes Alexandria, Bemidji, Big Lake, Brainerd, Fergus Falls, Monticello, Moorhead, Rocori, St. Cloud Apollo, St. Cloud Tech, Sartell and Sauk Rapids-Rice.

Over the last several years, DL was one of the larger schools in Section 8-2A, with Fergus Falls and Thief River Falls near the same size, while schools such as Perham, Wadena-Deer Creek, Breckenridge, Crookston and Hawley also resided there.

The new classification for volleyball includes the biggest 96 schools being Class 3A, the next 128 Class 2A and the remainder Class 1A.

DL is right on the bubble between Class 3A and 2A.


"I understand the process and why they do it," said DL head coach Jim Wood.

"I must admit, I'm not too happy about it, but I am confident the girls and the program can meet that challenge of being bumped up to Class 3A."

The Lakers remain in the Mid-State Conference and will basically have the same schedule, but Wood wants to add some more Class 3A competition.

"A part of me believes there should be another class added," Wood said.

"If we would ever make state, we would be facing schools which have 3,000-plus students, that's a big disparity."

Boys' hockey will be seeing some familiar competition after they were switched from Section 6-1A back to Section 8-1A.

The Lakers resided in Section 8-1A four years ago, and it's considered one of the toughest sections in the state.

The section contains traditional state powers Warroad, Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks, while having talented teams such as Bagley/Fosston, Crookston, Kittson Central, Lake of the Woods, Park Rapids and Red Lake Falls included.


DL was in Section 6-1A, which had rivals Fergus Falls, along with Little Falls, Alexandria, St. Cloud Apollo, Willmar, Morris/Benson, Prairie Centre, Northern Lakes and Wadena-Deer Creek.

Not exactly as balanced as Section 8-1A teams.

Each of the Lakers boys' and girls' basketball teams stayed in their respective Section 8-3A slot, but some teams were exchanged.

The Laker boys, who played to the Section 8-3A championship before losing to St. Cloud Apollo (which had played to the title game four years in a row), will not have to face the Eagles next year, nor will they have to see traditional powers Rocori or Bemidji.

The Section 8-3A now consists of DL, Alexandria, East Grand Forks, Fergus Falls, Little Falls, Sartell, Sauk Rapids-Rice and Thief Rivers Falls (which played to the Section 8-2A championship against Perham).

"It's an advantage only that we have smaller schools replacing some larger ones, but you still have to be playing at the top of your game to get out this section," said DL head coach Robb Flint.

The Laker girls' section is the same, but their task gets a bit more difficult, since Sartell and Alexandria coming in with talented teams.

DL gymnastics is still in Perham's section, which the Section 8-1A remains the same, while the Laker softball team's Section 8-2A loses powerhouse Ottertail Central.


The Frazee wrestling Section 8-1A, in which the Hornets have dominated, has two former Class 2A schools coming in, both Walker/Hackensack-Akeley and Blackduck/Cass Lake-Bena.

There were not any significant changes for the Lake Park-Audubon sports teams.

But in the end, making it to state shouldn't be easy, it should be a challenge to make the accomplishment that more important.

There really are no positive or negative changes when teams switch sections -- just new challenges set forth for players and coaches to concentrate on.

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