Past Trojan teams invited to Prep Bowl celebration

Members from all seven New Prague High School state football tournament teams are among those invited to the 2016 Prep Bowl, the first to be held at the new US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

The Minnesota State High School League, in conjunction with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and the Minnesota Vikings, announced that all players and coaches who took part in the state football playoffs between 1972 and 2015 will be honored during this year’s Prep Bowl games Nov. 25- 26.

The first 1,400 alumni players and coaches to register will receive a special commemorative Prep Bowl tag. During the Class 6A championship game on Friday, Nov. 25, Prep Bowl record-holders will be recognized at halftime. Former players and coaches, along with their guests, will be seated together in Section 120 on the lower level of the stadium.

On Saturday, Nov. 26, all head coaches of championship football teams from 1972 to 2015 will be honored during halftime of the Class 5A championship game.

Tickets and more information is available by going to www.mshsl.org/prepbowl.

Trojans playoff history The state football tournament playoffs began in 1972, with five classes. In its original format, each conference was assigned a classification based on the average size of schools. New Prague, then a member of the Minnesota River Conference, was a Class B school. Back then, teams played a nine-game schedule and conference champions were allowed to play a 10th game against another conference champion. Teams were ranked by a computer program based on wins, losses and strength of schedule and the top four teams were selected for the state tournament.

In 1973, the second year of the playoff format, Coach John Bush’s New Prague team won the MRC title and defeated Kenyon of the Hiawatha Valley Conference. With a 10-0 record the Trojans were selected for the playoffs and defeated Dassel- Cokato to advance to the state championship game. New Prague defeated Appleton to win the state championship, 13-7.

In 1974, the Trojans again went unbeaten and defeated Little Sioux Conference champion Ortonville to qualify for the state tournament. They defeated Mahnomen in the semifinals and then traveled to Austin, where they beat Caledonia 41-12 for the title.

In 1985, the Trojans, under Coach Dan O’Brien, were coming off a winless season, but the team put together a strong effort in the Missota Conference. By this time, the playoff format was changed and schools were placed in classes by enrollment and each team was assigned to a section. New Prague won its section and advanced to state, beating St. Peter and Mahtomedi. With the new format, two Missota Conference teams were in the Prep Bowl, with New Prague playing in the Class A championship and Apple Valley in the AA game. The Trojans won the Class A championship with a 16-12 win over Mora, with a late punt return providing the winning score. Burnsville defeated Apple Valley in the AA game, preventing a Missota sweep.

The Trojans have been back to the state tournament four times since then, advancing to the semifinals three times. Coach O’Brien’s 1989 team lost to Albany in the semifinals in a snowstorm. Then, after a long absence from the playoffs, Coach Tony Buthe took the team to state three straight years, from 2005-07, losing to Mahtomedi and Totino- Grace in the semifinals the first two years, and Mahtomedi again in the first round in 2007.

The Trojan program has seen its share of ups and downs. After the two state titles and 25 straight wins from 1973-75, the team had a dry spell in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s before O’Brien turned the team into a consistent winner in the mid-80s. And while Buthe may have had a successful run as coach, his early seasons in the late 1990s saw the team struggle at times, including one winless season, before the team turned into a state contender.

The last few years have been a struggle for the Trojan program, with just eight wins in the last four seasons. But there are signs that Coach Drew Danner’s team is heading in the right direction. Players and coaches are optimistic that 2017 will see a change in the program’s fortunes.