In the midst of a pandemic, there were mythical state champions



Junior Judah Thomas launches the ball into the air for a reception.

The COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020 high school football season, resulting in no Minnesota Prep Bowl, the high school football championship. While there could be no actual competition, the Associated Press determined the top ten teams in each class through a series of polls voted on by prep sports journalists from across the state.
Junior Judah Thomas and sophomore Joey Stolpestad, teammates on SMB Wolfpack, agree that there is no validity to the state champion awards since there was no competition or even a full season. Thomas said, “I feel like it is completely fake. If we had won we would obviously be bragging about it but to anyone who isn’t in the “winning” program it means absolutely nothing.”

While choosing state champions had no harm, and the selection process was unbiased, the nature of the pandemic-led season made it impossible to accurately select which team was the best. “I think it’s impossible to really say that any team was a state champ because no one played a full season. Just because some teams had an undefeated season doesn’t mean they couldn’t have lost,” Stolpestad said.

Like many teams, the SMB Wolfpack had a rough start to the season due to COVID-19 exposure that took starters out for the last few games of the season. Additionally, exposure and injuries to key players at different times throughout the season caused the team to not compete at their highest level consistently. In the AP’s mythical state champion decisions, teams who went undefeated ranked higher. Teams who could consistently compete at their highest abilities without the loss of players due to exposure to COVID-19 were far more likely to be awarded a state champion due to their ability to win against teams who lost their best players.

The Minnesota State High School League started the state tournament system in 1972. The team who won played another game, and the season was over for the team who lost, eventually leading to one last team — the champion. Prior to 1972, Ted Peterson from the Minneapolis Tribune, along with other sports reporters in the state, would name a champion based on record, ranking, and conference championship. The Star Tribune revived the age-old tradition by having two reporters, David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen, state their cases for the Class 6A mythical champ. Paulsen decided with Rosemount, whereas La Vaque decided with Lakeville South.

“Who knows what could’ve happened. That’s the fun part about sports, anyone can beat anyone on a given day so like I said before, being the mythical state champions doesn’t mean much,” Thomas said.

News organizations such as the Star Tribune and the Associated Press tried to continue the decades-old tradition of state championships, but without the teams getting to play, Wolfpack players didn’t see the point.

Class 6A
1. Lakeville South (8-0)
2. Eden Prairie (7-0)
3. Rosemount (6-0)
4. St. Michael-Albertville (6-2)
5. Blaine (6-1)
6. Farmington (5-1)
7. Shakopee (6-2)
8. Maple Grove (4-1)
9. Totino-Grace (4-2)
10. TIE: East Ridge (4-2)
Stillwater (4-3)

Class 5A
1. Moorhead (7-0)
2. St. Thomas Academy (6-0)
3. Mankato West (6-0)
4. Andover (6-0)
5. Chanhassen (6-0)
6. Spring Lake Park (6-1)
7. Mahtomedi (5-1)
8. Bemidji (5-2)
9. Rogers (5-2)
10. Minneapolis Washburn (6-1)

Class 4A
1. Fridley (7-0)
2. Rocori (7-0)
3. Hutchinson (5-2)
4. Grand Rapids (6-1)
5. Becker (4-2)
6. Kasson-Mantorville (5-1)
7. Willmar (6-2)
8. Marshall (5-2)
9. Princeton (6-1)
10. Jordan (4-1)

Class 3A
1. Annandale (7-0)
2. Albany (8-0)
3. Cannon Falls (7-0)
4. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (6-0)
5. Waseca (6-1)
6. Litchfield (6-1)
7. Mora (5-0)
8. Pierz (7-1)
9. Rochester Lourdes (4-1)
10 Aitkin (6-1)

Class 2A
1. Caledonia (3-0)
2. Blue Earth Area (7-0)
3. Barnesville (7-0)
4. Minneapolis North (6-1)
5. Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta (6-1)
6. TIE: Chatfield (4-1)
Eden Valley-Watkins (5-1)
8. Moose Lake-Willow River (3-1)
9. St. Agnes (5-1)
10. Redwood Valley (5-2)

Class A
1. Blooming Prairie (5-0)
2. Minneota (8-0)
3. Mayer Lutheran (7-0)
4. Mahnomen-Waubun (5-0)
5. Wabasso (6-1)
6. Murray County Central (6-1)
7. New York Mills (4-0)
8. BOLD (5-2)
9. Breckenridge (6-1)
10. Lester Prairie-Holy Trinity (6-1)

1. Hills-Beaver Creek (7-0)
2. Hancock (7-0)
3. TIE: Mountain Iron-Buhl (5-0) Stephen-Argyle (6-0)
5. TIE: Grand Meadow (6-1) Lanesboro (7-1)
7. Renville County West (6-0)
8. Win-E-Mac (6-1)
9. South Ridge (6-1)
10. Ogilvie (5-1)