The Wright Call
By Dave Wright
When the word got out that Cretin-Derham Hall was going to drop down a level to Class 5A for football this year, some people presumed it might add a new chapter to the school’s past gridiron glories, which include 23 state tournament trips, seven appearances in the Prep Bowl title game, two state championships, and a slew of graduates who went on to play in the National Football League.
Time will tell how the Raiders will fare this season, but one thing remains a constant. Any success they have in football is made even more remarkable by the fact they don’t even have their own stadium. Alumnus and current CDH athletic director Phil Archer said he dreamed of making enough money in the NFL to come back and build a football stadium for the Raiders. “I didn’t play long enough in the NFL to do so,” he said with a laugh.
Practices are held on the CDH campus, but the Raiders have always had to play their varsity home games elsewhere. A few years ago, the school’s practice field was spruced up, including the installation of artificial turf and goalposts at both ends. As a result, the younger Raider football teams can play their home games there.
In their Saint Paul City Conference days, CDH’s varsity home games were played at Central High’s Griffin Stadium. When the Raiders left that conference, most of their home games moved to O’Shaughnessy Stadium at the University of Saint Thomas.
For a variety of reasons, the Raiders have only one regular-season game at O’Shaughnessy this fall—their October 8 homecoming game against Irondale. CDH’s season-opening 34-24 loss to Spring Lake Park was played at Concordia University’s Sea Foam Stadium. The Raiders will return there on October 14 to face Two Rivers (formerly Henry Sibley). CDH will also be the home team at TCO Center in Eagan on September 17 when it faces Saint Thomas Academy for the first time in a decade.
CDH head coach Chuck Miesbauer is unfazed by it all. “One thing it does do is make road games less difficult,” he said. “We get on the bus every week and go somewhere to play a game. Sea Foam and O’Shaughnessy are great places to play. It’s really not an issue at all.”
When the Raiders moved to the Suburban East Conference, they found themselves going against schools who often had larger squads and kids who mainly played one sport. Thus, moving to Class 5A this year was an easy decision to make for CDH, which now has 940 students.
“It puts us on a more level playing field,” Archer said. “Football is a big deal here. We have a lot of coaches who are alums (nine between the varsity and freshman teams) who put everything they have into the program.”
The Raiders were 1-6 in last year’s shortened season and posted a 4-4 regular-season mark in 2019. Much of that can be attributed to the quality of CDH’s big-school opponents. In 2020’s truncated season, the Raiders played Lakeville North, White Bear Lake, Central, Mounds View, Stillwater, Totino-Grace and Lakeville South. Totino-Grace was the only opponent with fewer students in grades 9-12 than CDH.
Dropping down a level didn’t lower the quality of competition much. Last week, CDH trekked to longtime grid power Mahtomedi and lost a close one. This week, it’ll be an emotional—and challenging—game against the undefeated Cadets.
As with the field issue, Miesbauer embraces the challenge of building the Raiders’ grid fortunes one step at a time. “We got off to a slow start against Spring Lake Park,” he said, referring to early turnovers that led to a 27-0 deficit in the second quarter.
Senior running back Will Haider sparked a comeback with three touchdown runs and the Raiders found themselves down just 27-24 with 5:53 left to go. Then the Panthers broke off a 55-yard touchdown run to seal the win. “It’s a matter of what we learned from the game,” Miesbauer said. “We came back on Monday and had a great practice.”
With the multitalented senior Tre Holloman on offense and defense, the Raiders have a player who can turn any game around in an instant. As a result, CDH’s grid story this fall still has a lot of ground to cover.
Welcome back, Mac
It’s been a while—7,262 days to be precise—since Macalester College played a football game that will count in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings. That will end on September 25, when the Scots travel to Northfield to take on Saint Olaf in their conference opener.
Since the last time the Scots played an MIAC opponent —a 35-7 loss to Hamline in the 2001 season finale—they have been on a football odyssey, first playing as an independent and then spending a couple of seasons in the Midwest Conference. After an initial success—in 2014 they won the conference playoff game and made a first-round appearance in the NCAA Division III playoffs—the Scots fell back in the pack.
Their stay in the Midwest league dissolved recently and, after some discussion, the Scots are returning to their MIAC roots this fall.
KiJuan Ware took over for Tony Jennison as head coach in the summer and started off on the right foot with a 38-32 non-conference win over Minnesota-Morris on September 4. The Scots had a lengthy road swing last weekend at Trinity (Texas) and have a week off before starting conference play.
“I was proud of our effort,” Ware said about the win over the Cougars. “We had 26 guys playing their first college game.”
Things have changed slightly since the Scots’ last MIAC football forays. UST is out and Saint Scholastica is in. More important, the conference broke into two divisions. The Scots are aligned with Augsburg, Bethel, Concordia and Hamline in the Skyline Division, with a few crossover games against the Northwoods Division tossed in. (The good news for Mac is that Saint John’s is not on the slate.)
The regular season finale for all teams will have the fifth-place team from the one division playing the other, fourth playing fourth and so on up the ladder with the first-place teams playing for an automatic NCAA berth.
Ware is going into his new alignment with eyes wide open. Carleton and Hamline have been non-conference foes for the Scots for quite a while. “And we’ve scrimmaged Bethel a few times,” Ware said. “So we know what the league is all about.”
As has been the case with schools like Carleton and Hamline, having an adequate number of players is a persistent problem for Macalester. Its current roster numbers in the 60s, which is respectable. However, if an injury occurs, the falloff from playing a first-teamer to a second-teamer can be problematic. Still, just being back with the schools Mac plays in all other sports—except water polo—is likely to be a plus.
Dave Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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