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New Life Academy football: Eagles staying in Tri-Metro

New Life Academy will continue to play football in the Tri-Metro Conference despite the recent conference shakeup.

“It worked out pretty well for us because we’re going to be playing similar teams to the ones we played this year,” New Life Academy activities director Curt Wetsel said.

Unlike New Life, six private schools decided to leave the Tri-Metro after the additions of Holy Angels, Columbia Heights and Fridley to the conference two weeks ago. Both Holy Angels and Columbia Heights have enrollments above 590, which caused concern for the smaller, defecting schools. 

“For them it is not just a football decision,” Wetsel said. “They’re going to be in the Tri-Metro for everything.”

NLA only plays football in the Tri-Metro. The Eagles play the rest their sports in the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association. 

“For us, it was strictly a football decision,” Wetsel said.

The enrollment range in the Tri-Metro had been from the low 200s to high 600s, but those extremes include schools with football co-ops or no football involvement. New Life, with 227 students, co-ops for football with three other schools and a couple home school co-ops. This brings their enrollment numbers to 648. 

“We're deceptively enumerated in the first place with the co-op involving small private schools,” Eagles head football coach Paul Mork said. 

New Life only recently joined the Tri-Metro in 2011 after many years with the MCAA and a short time as an independent. The MCAA no longer has football.

Wetsel believes playing in a conference offers more benefits for the players compared to being independent. They can earn all-conference honors and playing for a conference title can add motivation.

“You’re playing your games, but all you have to look forward to is sectionals,” Wetsel said about an independent schedule.

Wetsel attended a meeting for Tri-Metro leaders on Monday, Oct. 14, to determine what to do with the recent changes in the conference. From that meeting came a new format for the conference.

Next year, the Tri-Metro will split into two divisions based on enrollment. NLA will stay in the Tri-Metro and play in the small school division with Brooklyn Center (286), Saint Croix Lutheran (444), Saint Agnes (209) and Concordia Academy (295). For football, two conference games can be played against teams from the other division.

“Saint Croix Lutheran is still a very tough team, but we can play with the other teams,” Wetsel said.

New Life will play Columbia Heights and Saint Anthony Village in their cross-over division games. The Eagles will also have two non-conference games, possibly with former Tri-Metro teams.

These changes may only last one season, however, since the Minnesota State High School has potential plans for realigning high school football in the state. In 2015, the MSHSL may have teams divided up by regions/sections instead of conferences for regular season play.

-Matthew Davis