Prep Blog: Week 3, Previewing ‘The Big 4’
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s Week 3 in the high school football season. Many teams point to Week 3 as the early turning point in the season.
It’s where confidence can be built if you’ve won in the first two weeks or a season can be saved if it’s gotten off to a rough start. After three weeks, most teams know where they’re at and what their season will entail.
This week has plenty of big match-ups on the slate, but we can only give in-depth previews to four. And here they are:
Brainerd (2-0) at Sartell-St. Stephen (0-2)
It’s one of the great rivalry games in northern Minnesota as Brainerd, led by coach Ron Stolski, travels to Sartell-St. Stephen, a perennial Class 4A contender. It’s also our featured “Game of the Week” for High School Sports Rally on WCCO-TV.
Brainerd, the No. 9-ranked team in Class 5A, has all the momentum as the Warriors beat Rocori 28-20 in their opener and cruised past Willmar 31-7 last week. Sartell has lost a pair of nail-biters, 21-20 to St. Cloud Tech and 25-22 to Sauk Rapids-Rice. Brainerd is led by quarterback Mitchell McLain, who is their leading passer and rusher through two weeks, and running back Dillon Solid.
These two teams have a great rivalry that’s backed up by a winning tradition. Brainerd has been to the state semifinals three of the last four years, highlighted by last year’s win over Eden Prairie. Both schools have made a combined eight state tournament trips in the last 10 years.
Stolski’s teams are known for sound fundamentals and ball control, and they’ll look to push forward in what should be a packed house for a great contest Friday night in Sartell. I give Brainerd the edge even though they’re on the road.
St. Thomas Academy (2-0) at Mahtomedi (2-0)
It’s probably the game of the night around the Twin Cities metro area. St. Thomas Academy is ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, while Mahtomedi is right behind them at No. 3. These two Classic Suburban rivals always seem to have games that go down to the last play.
The Cadets haven’t allowed a point yet this season after beating Simley 42-0 in their opener and Richfield 45-0 last week. The Zephyrs have been nearly just as stingy with a 19-7 victory over Tartan in their opener and a 28-0 win over Simley last week. Both squads are loaded with talent on offense and have defenses that don’t give much wiggle room.
Mahtomedi has a slight edge in this one only because they’re playing on their home turf.
Blaine (2-0) at Champlin Park (1-1)
Blaine, ranked No. 6 in Class 5A, travels to Champlin Park Friday night in one of the most heated rivalries of the Northwest Suburban Conference.
The Bengals are 2-0 after beating Coon Rapids and edging Hopkins in overtime. The Rebels are 1-1 after losing to Eden Prairie in their opener and beating Maple Grove last week. This is a great chance for Champlin Park to get in the win column over a ranked opponent on their home turf, but Blaine is for real.
They’ve scored seven rushing touchdowns in their first two games and are averaging more than 250 yards on the ground. Quarterback Duke Anyanwu is a player to watch in this game. I give Blaine the edge in this match-up, but it will be a close game.
Rogers (2-0) at St. Michael-Albertville (2-0)
It’s probably the biggest rivalry in the Mississippi Eight Conference. Both teams have friends on each side, but they’re enemies when they hit the field. Both are legitimate programs with state tournament experience and they have great battles every year. Rogers is coming off an appearance in the Prep Bowl, where it lost to Totino-Grace.
The Royals are 2-0 after shutting out Sauk Rapids-Rice 33-0 and coasting past Monticello 29-8. The Knights are 2-0 after shutting out Princeton 21-0 and winning at Becker 28-14. Quarterback Cole Krutzig and running back Ryan Lyzhoft, both juniors, are the keys to the St. Michael-Albertville offense.
Rogers enters the contest ranked No. 5 in Class 4A. As much as I want to give the Knights the victory, I give the slightest of edges to Rogers. They beat the Knights in both the regular season and section championship last year.