MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s hard to believe that there are just two weeks left in the high school football regular season.
It’s now also that hectic time of year as teams will play Friday night, then get just a couple days to prepare for their final regular season game next Wednesday. The Minnesota Education Association annual conference means it’s a short week for everybody, but it’s nothing teams haven’t dealt with before.
There’s plenty of great match-ups this week as teams battle for conference titles and the chance to host at least one playoff game if not get home field advantage throughout. We can only choose four games every week to prognosticate on, so here they are:
Ada-Borup (6-0) at Ulen-Hitterdal (6-0)
Head about four hours north and west of the Twin Cities and you’ll be on hand to witness one of the great battles in 9-Man football Friday night. Ada-Borup, the No. 2-ranked team in 9-Man, travels to Ulen-Hitterdal, the No. 5-ranked team in that class. It’s also our featured “Game of the Week” for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.
Neither team has a blemish on its record, and it’s the kind of football most fans can appreciate. The field is cut 20 yards shorter than normal football, and there’s only nine guys on the field on each side of the ball during play. Teams also feature mostly players who play on each side of the ball, so there’s no such thing as an offensive or defensive lineman: They’re lineman. Running backs head to the other side and play linebacker, and receivers and QBs tend to play in the secondary on defense. You also won’t see a lot of kicking, and you should see plenty of going for a two-point conversion after touchdowns.
Ulen-Hitterdal is led by junior QB Landon Schultz, junior RB Taylor Stumbol and senior RB Calvin Oberg. Ada-Borup, a perennial state power, is led by senior QB Jace Hennen and senior running backs Ian Halle and Kevin Erickson.
I would be lying if I said I knew anything specific about either team. I’m not a great 9-Man football mind, but I’ll take Ada-Borup in this one because of their history and ability to win tough games.
Rogers (6-0) at Elk River (5-1)
It’s a potentially huge match-up in the Mississippi Eight Conference, and our own Sparky the Sea Lion has the task of picking this week’s winner. Sparky is now 0-3 after Shakopee won at Holy Angels last Friday.
Rogers is 6-0 and the No. 4-ranked team in Class 4A. Elk River is 5-1 after a rough season in 2010 that included a hazing scandal, but the Elks have rebounded and are for real. Elk River relies on its balanced rushing attack, led by senior Moses Saygbe. He’s one of the better rushers in the metro with nearly 600 yards and seven touchdowns. Dylan Chambers also has 337 yards and three touchdowns and Corey Collins has 205 yards and three touchdowns. Bryan Edwards leads the team in tackles with 68, including 44 solo tackles.
Rogers is one of the top teams in the state for a reason. They lost to Totino-Grace in last year’s state semifinals and can do a little bit of everything. The Royals can grind you out in the run game and they can pass it all over the field. Matt Weber leads the team in passing with 515 yards and three touchdowns. But it’s their ground game that’s most impressive. Jack McGuire is the team’s top rusher with 625 yards and nine touchdowns, and Kyle Williams has 413 yards and six touchdowns.
Rogers also has a stifling defense that doesn’t give up much yardage and turns the ball over. The team that wins the line of scrimmage wins this game.
Elk River has had a great turnaround after a tough 2010 season, but Rogers will be too tough in this one. They have the slight edge being battle tested on the road. Let’s also hope Sparky gets her first correct pick of the season this week too.
Totino-Grace (5-1) at Fridley (1-5)
Don’t let the records fool you in this one as Totino-Grace travels to Fridley Friday night in a battle for city bragging rights.
There’s no love lost between these two teams that are separated by all of a few miles and Moore Lake. The Eagles have won five straight games since a season-opening loss at Minnetonka, while the Tigers have a Week 3 victory over Columbia Heights as their lone win of the season.
Totino-Grace has a trio of weapons on offense as Bob McDaniel leads the team at quarterback with 744 yards passing and nine touchdowns. Andrew McDonald is the team’s top rusher with 344 yards and three touchdowns. Andy Moritko is the top receiving threat with 188 yards and three scores on the season.
Fridley quarterback Nick Rathke (890 yards, 5 TDs) and running back Kenben Parker (518 yards, 5 TDs) lead the Tigers’ offense.
I give Totino-Grace the edge in this one. They have too many weapons and too much depth for the Tigers to say with them.
South St. Paul (6-0) at Mahtomedi (4-2)
There’s a big game in Mahtomedi Friday night as the Zephyrs host South St. Paul in the Classic Suburban Conference. For the first time in a while, Mahtomedi will try to play the spoiler as the Packers are tied with St. Thomas Academy for the top spot in the conference.
The fact that South St. Paul is 6-0 is impressive enough, but the Packers have allowed just 14 points all season. They’re ranked No. 3 in Class 4A and are led by quarterback Harrison Rund and running back Sam Sura. Rund is just as big a threat to pass (268 yards, 6 TDs) as he is to run (479 yards, 6 TDs). Sura leads the team in rushing with 933 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Mahtomedi is led by junior QB Jordan Goodmanson (832 yards, 7 TDs) and a trio of running backs who have a combined 539 yards and five touchdowns. Goodmanson also has five rushing TDs on the year. Michael Harris, a senior receiver, also averages more than 11 yards per catch and has four scores on the year.
South St. Paul has the edge until somebody beats them. I think the Packers win a close one on the road Friday night. I just wish they played St. Thomas Academy this season so we wouldn’t have to share the Classic Suburban title.
Other big games: In two other big match-ups across the metro Friday, Orono (2-4) travels to Delano (6-0), the No. 7-ranked team in Class 4A. St. Cloud Cathedral , 6-0 and the No. 7-ranked team in Class 3A, travels to 5-1 Zimmerman in the Granite Ridge Conference.
Tune into WCCO’s High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Lauritsen will have all the football action covered. We’ll be in Ulen for a full coverage of the Ada-Borup/Ulen-Hitterdal match-up.