The Prior Lake football team’s expectations every fall are to be among the state’s elite squads.
Record-wise, the Lakers have not been there the last three seasons, including a 4-4 mark last year in the shortened COVID-19 campaign. Prior Lake also had 5-5 marks in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
However, the Lakers have played one of the toughest schedules in the state over the last few years, so their records can be deceiving.
Last fall, Prior Lake’s season ended with a 21-7 loss at perennial power Eden Prairie in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. It was the third straight year the Lakers have lost in the second round.
Prior Lake’s last state berth came in 2017.
“We feel we can be very competitive week to week both in our district and section play no matter who we play,” said Lakers coach Matt Gegenheimer, who is in his 15th season leading the program. “We will play mostly the west schools and south schools this year, which seem to keep being some of the top teams in 6A.”
If Prior Lake wants to advance in the postseason, they need to figure out how to win on the road.
The loss to Eden Prairie last fall was the 17th straight road defeat for Prior Lake in the playoffs since joining the top football class in 2003.
The Lakers have never won a postseason game away from home as a big-school program. They are 0-13 on the other opponents’ home field and 0-4 at neutral sites.
Conversely, Prior Lake is 16-1 at home in the playoffs since joining the top class. The one loss was 21-19 to Bloomington Kennedy in 2010.
The Lakers will have some holes to fill from last year’s team, but not at quarterback. Senior Kyle Haas is back for his third varsity season. He got some starts at quarterback as a sophomore.
Haas tossed 11 touchdown passes last year and had four rushing scores.
Junior receiver Joey Krouse could be one of Haas’ main targets. He had 10 catches for 134 yards last year as a sophomore.
Senior center Cole Indihar and senior guard Gavin Field return to anchor the Lakers’ offensive line.
Senior Ryan Anderson will also see time at receiver. He had seven catches and two touchdowns last year. Junior Greyson Spronk looks to start at running back for Prior Lake.
Juniors Greg Johnson and Evan Laughridge will also be part of the offensive line, while junior Trace Bowman will start at tight end.
On defense, Prior Lake has six returning starters, including senior linebackers Drew Johnson and Cole Edwards. Returning on the defensive line are seniors Christian Elert and Owen Dotseth and junior Martin Owusu.
Senior Jagr Leverson returns to the secondary.
Juniors Aidan Gegenheimer and Aidan McGowan look to be part of the linebacking group, while senior Carter Berggren will play at safety.
“We have a small group of returning starters,” Gegenheimer said. “We will have some new faces, but I like the progress they made this offseason.
“We have some guys without much Friday night experience, so they will have a learning curve to go through,” Gegenheimer added. “But they should be very good players for us when all is said and done. We don’t have the large numbers like we have had in past teams, but our quality is very good.”
The Minnesota State High School League reclassified sections for all sports last spring. Prior Lake was moved to Section 6AAAAA in football.
The Lakers have been seeded with teams from Section 3AAAAAA for the 32-team playoff bracket the last four years. Now, they will be seeded with the likes of Eden Prairie, Wayzata, Minnetonka, Shakopee, Hopkins, Edina and Burnsville.
Section 3AAAAAA teams include Lakeville North, Lakeville South, Rosemount, Eagan, Eastview, Farmington, East Ridge and Park.
Prior Lake ends the regular season at home versus Park Oct. 20. The Lakers open the season Sept. 2 at Hopkins at 7 p.m.
The six games in between those are at Shakopee (Sept. 10), versus Edina (Sept. 17), at Lakeville North (Sept. 24), versus Eden Prairie (Oct. 1), at Lakeville South (Oct. 7) and versus Rosemount (Oct. 14).