The Burnsville football team will open the season with a rematch.
Last year, the Blaze lost 17-10 at Mounds View in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. Burnsville will begin this season in the same spot.
The opener is set for Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. The Blaze are coming off of a 4-5 overall season a year ago, and there’s some talent back from that squad.
Burnsville Coach Vince Varpness is hoping his team can compete with the top clubs, but it will need to find some depth on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“We are a young team in general,” Varpness said. “We need experience. We should improve each week over the course of season. Several players have stepped up and are working hard to replace a large senior class of starters who graduated last year.”
The Blaze had some good wins last year, beating Minnetonka and Lakeville South in the regular season. Both of those teams were in the state semifinals.
The last time Burnsville made the state field was in 2015, which was the program’s first berth since 1995.
The Blaze this fall look to have plenty of speed and one of the area’s top linebackers in senior Gabe Johnson. Senior Landon Rocheleau-Schultheis returns to the secondary, as does senior Jordan Tompkins. Rocheleau-Schultheis led the team in interceptions last year with five.
On offense, Tompkins will take over the quarterback duties, while senior Lucas Volk and junior Myiion Hodges will be in the backfield. Rocheleau-Schiltheis will double as a wide receiver.
Juniors Derek Olsen and Chase Vongham return to the offensive line. Both were starters last year as sophomores.
“Jordan started at safety last year,” Varpness said. “He’s a talented, athletic leader. Lucas has great speed and the ability to be a game changer. Myiion has a good combination of size, strength and agility.”
Senior Isaac Koralewski will be one to watch at linebacker for the Blaze, along with Hodges. Senior Noah Juliar is expected to contribute in the defensive secondary.
“We have a solid group of running backs with athletic quarterbacks on offense,” Varpness said. “Our defense has good team speed with many linebackers who can contribute.”
Varpness sees Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Rosemount as three teams to beat in the state. Eden Prairie was the state runner-up last year to Lakeville North.
The Class 6A playoffs are seeded with four brackets. Teams are seeded based on their seed from their section. Burnsville is in a strong section with the likes of Rosemount, Lakeville North, Prior Lake and Lakeville South along with Eagan, Eastview and Farmington.
Burnsville earned the No. 5 seed last year with a 4-4 regular season record. The Blaze have lost in the first round of the playoffs the last two years after going 1-1 in 2016.
Burnsville’s first two games are on the road, including playing at Eastview in week 2 (Sept. 6). The Blaze’s first home game is Sept. 13 versus Lakeville South. Both games start at 7 p.m.
The Blaze’s other five regular season games are at Lakeville North (Sept. 20), versus Farmington (Sept. 27), at Eagan (Oct. 4), versus Rosemount (Oct. 11) and home to Wayzata (Oct. 16).