Area high school boys hockey and boys basketball teams began practicing officially on Monday for the upcoming winter season, bringing to completeness the number of winter sports programs getting ready for the 2021-22 campaign.

Football is still part of the high school landscape, however. Championships in the seven Minnesota high school football classes (yes, there are only seven football classifications in the state) will commence Friday and Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis after the Thanksgiving turkeys are fully digested.

But for southwest Minnesota athletic programs, it’s all about winter sports now.

High school girls hockey teams are already, in fact, well into their seasons. The Worthington Trojans were scheduled Tuesday (Nov. 23) to play at Waconia -- already their fourth game of the campaign.

Saturday is a day for basketball in Worthington. At 4 p.m., the Worthington High School girls squad opens its season against northwest Iowa’s Sibley-Ocheyedan Generals at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington. Following that game, at 6 p.m., The Minnesota West Lady Jays host Bethany Lutheran JV.

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On Sunday, both West basketball teams are in action, with the women hosting Ellsworth Community College at 1 p.m. and the men taking on Ellsworth at 3 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 30, is the first busy night of high school action for the Trojans. At 5:30 p.m. the girls hockey team is at New Ulm, and at 7 p.m. the boys hockey team plays their counterparts at New Ulm. At 6 p.m., St. James Area competes in Worthington in the WHS gymnastics opener. At 7 p.m., the Trojan girls basketball team tips off at Spirit Lake, Iowa.

Thursday, Dec. 2, is another busy day. The WHS wrestling team participates in a quadrangular meet at Central Lyon High School beginning at 6 p.m. The girls hockey team hosts Windom Area at 7 p.m. And the boys basketball team plays its first game of the season against Southwest Minnesota Christian, at Worthington, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Though the southwest corner of our state has no team competing this year in the football championships, the matchups are sure to please any normal football fan.

At 10 a.m. Friday, Minneota and Mayer Lutheran square off in Class A. Also Friday in Class AA, Chatfield and West Central Area/Ashby have their showdown at 1 p.m. In Class AAAA Friday at 4 p.m., it’s Kasson-Mantorville and Hutchinson going at it. And in Class AAAAAA, Maple Grove and Lakeville South play at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, LeRoy-Ostrander and Fertile-Beltrami play for the 9-man title beginning at 10 a.m. In Class AAA, Plainview-Elgin-Millville and Dassel-Cokato contend at 1 p.m. And at 4 p.m., Mahtomedi and Mankato West take the field in Class AAAAA.

That’s it. Seven games in seven classes this post-Thanksgiving weekend. Officially, there are no plans at this time to expand to more high school classes. But if seven are not enough for you, write a letter of complaint to the Minnesota State High School League.

As far as southwest Minnesota prep football fans are concerned, however, you’re not forgotten. The 2021 All-Area Football Team is coming out on Saturday.