MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s the final week of the regular season for high school football in Minnesota.
It’s the last chance to win a game before playoffs start. For many teams, winning or losing the final regular season game determines whether they’ll have a home playoff game. For others, it’s simply a tune-up before a loss can end your season short of the goal that was set in two-a-days: Getting to the state tournament.
Conference titles are won in Week 8 and playoff seedings are solidified shortly after. There are several big games on the slate, but we can only choose four. Here are our ‘Big 4:’
Eden Prairie (7-0) at Wayzata (7-0)
Simply put, it’s the game of the year in high school football. Eden Prairie (7-0), ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, travels to Wayzata (7-0), the No. 2-ranked team. In a perfect world, these two teams will meet for the state championship, but for now the final game of the regular season will have to be good enough.
It will be a packed house in Wayzata Wednesday night as the Trojans try to do what nobody has been able to do since Brainerd last year in the state quarterfinals: Beat Eden Prairie. The Trojans are led by quarterback Nick Martin, who has passed for more than 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns. It’s their run game that’s hard to stop, and that’s paced by Antonio Ford (576 yards, 7 TDs) and Erik Roti (527 yards, 8 TDs). Ethan Zeidler and Jeff Borchardt are also receiving threats with five scores each.
The Eagles haven’t really been tested at all this year, which is what figures to make this match-up so great. They’re led by running back Andrew Larson, who has 1,018 yards and 16 touchdowns on the year. Quarterback Grant Schaeffer has five touchdown passes this year also. But the Eagles are known for their stifling defense, which has three shutouts this season. Their first unit also hasn’t allowed more than seven points in a game.
It should be as close as any game between two great teams normally is, and four quarters might not be enough to determine a winner. I’ll give Wayzata the edge playing at home.
Shakopee (7-0) at Northfield (2-5)
Shakopee needs a win at Northfield Wednesday night to claim its second Missota Conference title in as many years. The Sabers are playing with as much confidence as anyone in the metro right now as they’ve won in many ways. They’ve blown teams out, they’ve won nail-biters and they’ve come from behind on the way to being ranked No. 7 in Class 5A.
Shakopee features an unconventional offense that mixes the run and the pass, but most of all, defenses are left wondering where the ball is and where it’s going after the snap. Nick Larson and Zak Hoffman have combined for six touchdown passes, but it’s their balance run game that gives them success. Hoffman and Jordan Gunhus have a combined 15 rushing touchdowns this year.
Bubba Sullivan always seems to field a competitive team in Northfield, but this year’s team lacks the talent to stay with Shakopee. The Sabers should win this one and clinch their second straight conference title.
Blaine (6-1) at Osseo (6-1)
Anoka needs to beat Champlin Park to win the Northwest Suburban Conference title, but the battle for second place figures to be a great match-up between Blaine and Osseo.
It’s a match-up of star players as Blaine quarterback Duke Anyanwu has a combined 14 touchdowns this season, 11 of which are in the run game. Luis Sanches leads the running attack with 850 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Osseo is led by star quarterback D.J. Hebert (622 passing yards, 8 pass TDs, 515 rushing yards, 7 TDs) and running back Bridgeport Tusler (705 rushing yards, 10 TDs, 348 receiving yards, 5 TDs).
Both teams have playmakers, so it will come down to a battle of defenses. I think Osseo has the edge playing at home.
Delano (7-0) at Glencoe-Silver Lake (6-1)
Delano can clinch a share of the Wright County Conference title Wednesday night with a victory, but they’ll have a tough road test at Glencoe-Silver Lake if they want to get there.
Delano is ranked No. 5 in 4A, while Glencoe-Silver Lake is No. 5 in 3A. The Tigers are led by their all-everything quarterback in Cody Mathisen, who has 903 yards and 15 touchdowns passing and 514 yards and seven touchdowns running. Bryan Sinkel also has six rushing touchdowns.
For Glencoe, quarterback Keaton Anderson is just as big a threat to run as he is to pass. He has 345 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air. On the ground he has 324 yards and four touchdowns. Halfback Tony Mizuhata is one of the team’s top rushers with 430 yards and six touchdowns.
With a share of a conference title on the line, I’ll give Delano the slightest of edges.
Other notable games: St. Michael Albertville (5-2) travels to Elk River (6-1), who is coming off an upset win over Rogers last week. The Elks can clinch a share of the Mississippi Eight Conference title with a win over the Knights. In the Three Rivers South Conference Caledonia (6-1) travels to Southland (6-1) with the winner taking the conference title. Caledonia is ranked No. 6 in Class 2A, and Southland is ranked No. 5 in 1A. In the Twin Cities Championship, Minneapolis Washburn (5-1), the No. 8-ranked team in Class 3A, hosts St. Paul Central (5-2) in what’s always a fun game.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. Friday with Mike Max and Liz Collin for a slightly different version of the Rally.