The 2012 season has been more of a challenge for the Annandale Cardinals.
Increased expectations will do that.
Annandale’s football team was everybody’s Cinderella in 2011. The Cardinals lost their first four games and were 3-5 heading into the playoffs. Then, they unexpectedly won a section championship, earning their first state berth.
A 49-22 win over Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin got Annandale to the Metrodome, where the Cardinals lost in the semifinals to 21-9 to Fairmont.
That set the table, so to speak, for Annandale in 2012. Anything less than a Metrodome appearance again would be somewhat of a disappointment.
The Cardinals made it back Saturday, beating New London-Spicer 20-17 on a John Kalthoff touchdown run with 38 seconds left.
Annandale (11-1) plays Rochester Lourdes (12-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Metrodome in the Class 3A state semifinals.
Lourdes was ranked No. 1 in the state’ final Class 3A poll by The Associated Press. The Eagles have been in the state playoffs five times in the past seven years.
Annandale gets to be an underdog again, at least for one week.
Cardinals coach Matt Walters said Saturday he really didn’t know much about Lourdes, except that the Eagles are a very good running team and that head coach Mike Kesler is a great guy.
Walters and Kesler were coaches for the Lions All-Star game last year, though on different sides.
Lourdes will be another challenge for the Cardinals, who obviously would like to take it a step further now that they’re back in the Dome. A win Saturday gets them into the Prep Bowl.
Here’s a quick look at the rest of the week:
* Becker vs. Hutchinson football, 4:30 p.m. at the Metrodome.
Two tradition-laden outstate programs meet in the Class 4A semifinals with a berth in the Prep Bowl XXXI at stake.
* State girls swimming and diving championships, noon at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center in Minneapolis.
Preliminaries take place in Class A at noon on Thursday and Friday, with the finals set for noon Saturday.
Class 2A has preliminaries at 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, with the finals taking place at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Sartell is the defending state Class A champ and brings another full contingent of swimmers to state.
Melrose and Foley also had strong showings in the respective sections and should have some potential all-staters. (Melrose took second to Sartell in Section 6A). Foley was third in Section 5A.
* Willmar vs. St. Cloud Icebreakers girls hockey, 7:15 p.m. at the Municipal Athletic Complex.
This is the Icebreakers’ home opener.
St. Cloud, which is made up of players from Apollo, Cathedral and Tech, will open the hockey season Tuesday at Waconia.