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By Chris Hrapsky

Three Rivers Conference

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It's one of the toughest Conferences in the State - and it always represents Southeast Minnesota very well. Here's more on the Three Rivers Conference.

CALADONIA -- For the second time in two years, a State Championship trophy came back to the Three Rivers Conference. In '07, it was Caledonia taking the 2A title, defeating Laverne 14-7 behind the legs of senior Zach Gran. In 14 games, the Warrior had one blemish on the record, losing to Southland in the last game of the regular season.

One year ends, and a new one begins, but that State Championship experience is the Warrior's biggest challenge, with the loss of Gran, and the Codys, Peterson and Moore.

Only four of the 22 starters are returning this season. But Caledonia has never been short of hard hitters and sharp athletes.

Wide Out Andy Buaer racked up 14 TDs and almost 1,000 yards receiving last year. And a new core of linebackers will lead the D. For the Warriors, a State Championship is still on the menu..

SOUTHLAND -- They had a dream season last year - at 9-1, the Conference Champs ended their run in the Section Semi's. But coach Shawn Kennedy's dream has turned to a young team now without stud running backs Chapek and Smith.

So they turn to size. 13 players are over 200 pounds, making them one of the biggest offensive and defensive lines in the Conference.

The new threat is the 6'1'' 230 pound fullback, Dave Schotanus, aka Beaver.

RUSHFORD-PETERSON -- With the State Chamionship still in recent memory, the 7-3 Trojans admit size is not their strength this year, but speed is.

Also, seasoned D-linemen Mark Agrimson and Kayle Pich look to show they are a force against Onalaska-Luther in the opening game.

With half their starters returning, look for R-P to advance.

CHATFIELD -- Once a young team, they are now a heavy hitting squad packed with vets. 16 returning starters will try to revamp the program which finished 2-7 last season.

Running back Josh Laplant is excited to show his skills after missing four games last year and still rushing for 700 yards.

Bryan Neis returns as a multi-threat QB.

FILLMORE CENTRAL -- After a disappointing 1-7 record in 07, the Fillmore Central Falcons finished on a high note, winning their last game.

They've lost their three-year starting quarterback, but have 11 seniors returning, and six years of starting experience in their defensive ends. In his second season with the Falcons, Coach Chris Mensiink says they are ready to be a contender in the Conference.

KINGSLAND -- An injury-plagued '07 season left Kingsland empty in the win column, but those injuries created on field experience for its young players. The Knights look to come out of the shadows with senior tail back Jordan Olsgard and sophomore Joe Strike.

PLAINVIEW ELGIN MILLVILLE -- Just one play away from a conference championship last season, the 6-4 Bulldogs are returning deep and heavy with 4 of the 5 starting offensive linemen coming back.

That's good news for 3rd year starter Ross Grobe and junior Blaine Miller.

The largest team of the Conference hopes to be the best.

ST. CHARLES -- Disappointed by ending in the Section semi's last season. This year, the Saints are looking to pound the ball between the guards.

Not satisfied with a 500 season last year, the team brings back 8 hungry starters including running back and linebacker Jake Braun.

Right now, there's an open trial between Putsier and Handon to see who will be taking the snaps.

DOVER-EYOTA -- Dover-Eyota was crowned as co-North champs. For just the third time in more than 30 years, DE's got a new coach. Tom Passe made the switch after time spent with the Century Panthers. He brings the spread offense to accommodate the Friday night special, Billy Martini who rushed for 1700 yards last season.

Light on D, the Eagles will introduce 11 new tacklers opening night.

LEWISTON-ALTURA -- Like everyone else, they were rolled by Goodhue in the playoffs, but not before sharing a Conference title .

Plagued with injuries early this season, coach Brent Olson says a veteran line and strong arm in the pocket will keep them in the hunt this year.

To move the pile, two-year starter, Center Ethan Franzen.

WABASHA-KELLOGG -- Fresh off a 1-7 season, this passing threat looks to add run game to the arsenal.

With record turnout in the offseason, the Falcons could soar as the turn-around team in the Conference.

Back with a gat, Junior Jordan Dick leads the conference throwing just under 1000 yards and Brendon Willis will return as the go-to running back and linebacker.

After Goodhue switched to the HVL, Onalaska-Luther will join this highly competitive conference. They'll have to wait in line for a rivalry - these teams already know who they want to beat this year.

The Defending State Champs from Caledonia will open the season on the road against St. Charles. Rivals Chatfield and Dover-Eyota also lock horns in Week One.

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