‘Battle for the Apple’ is Friday night

Traveling trophy added to AV-Eastview football rivalry

Eastview quarterback Mark Dwyer throws the ball against Eagan. The Lightning will play at Apple Valley on Friday night. Photo by Rick Orndorf

They’ve created a trophy for the winner of Friday’s Apple Valley-Eastview football game, but there’s even more at stake for the teams than pride, or a piece of hardware.

Both teams still have a chance to win or share the South Suburban Conference football championship with three games remaining. Apple Valley, Lakeville North and Prior Lake are in a three-way tie for first place at 4-1, while Eastview is 3-1.

A conference scheduling quirk will make it tougher for Eastview to catch up. The Lightning was one of six teams in the South Suburban to play a non-conference game, while Apple Valley, Lakeville North and Prior Lake will play all eight of their games within the league.

Kickoff for what has been billed as the “Battle for the Apple” will be 7 p.m. at Apple Valley High School. Both schools will sell T-shirts and collect donations for the “Tackle Cancer” program benefiting the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.

Apple Valley coach Mike Fritze said having the schools work on a joint fundraising project also might temper any acrimony that comes with two rival high school teams playing each other.

“The coaching staffs have always gotten along,” Fritze said. “The two teams had a barbecue on Monday. We’re trying to make it into a community celebration, so our people aren’t anti-Eastview and theirs aren’t anti-Apple Valley.”

As for the trophy, “it’s incredible,” Fritze said. “Jostens donated it. It’s like a Super Bowl trophy.”

Apple Valley is trying to break a four-game losing streak against Eastview. The Eagles last beat the Lightning in September 2008. Eastview is ahead 11-6 in the series, which started in 1997.

Apple Valley has had its best start in several years. The Eagles improved to 4-1 after routing Bloomington Kennedy 35-6 on Sept. 28 and are ranked ninth in Class 5A.

Quarterback Tommy Singer leads an Apple Valley offense capable of picking up large chunks of yardage through the air. Dustin Fronk and Steven Wilson are the Eagles’ top receivers. Linebackers Dom McDew-Stauffer and James Horton, along with defensive back Harry Sonie, lead an improved defense.

Eastview is 3-2 overall. The losses were against Wayzata and Lakeville North, both of which were ranked in the top three in Class 6A at the time the Lightning played them.

Eastview typically features a powerful rushing attack, and this season is no different with 215-pound sophomore Will Rains carrying the ball. Rains rushed for three touchdowns in the first half of the Lightning’s 35-14 victory over Bloomington Jefferson on Sept. 28.

“They run the power off-tackle as well as anybody in the state and always have,” Fritze said. “We’ve got to win the battle up front against their offensive line, that’s No. 1. Second, we’ve got to have great pursuit. We also have to make them try to drive the length of the field by not giving up big plays.”

Ben Oberfeld (6-foot-9, 230 pounds) and A.J. Stockwell (6-6, 285) also give the Lightning an intimidating pair of defensive linemen.

This will be the only time the schools face each other in a varsity football game this season. They have met in the section playoffs twice before, but that’s not possible this year. Eastview was assigned to Class 6A in the Minnesota State High School League’s revamped playoff format. Apple Valley fell just below the enrollment cutoff for Class 6A and is in Class 5A this season.