MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s playoff time, one of the most fun times of the year in high school football.
If your team had a rough regular season, it’s a time to wipe the slate clean and make the magic happen before it’s too late. If you’ve largely dominated the regular season, then the playoffs are all about meeting expectations that were set during two-a-days.
Whatever the goal, games have more meaning and a greater sense of urgency when you’re in the postseason. Win and you’re one step closer to celebrating. Lose and your season ends, you’re turning in your pads and you might have played football for the last time.
It’s a fun time of year where the great teams and special players stand out from the rest. There’s not a ton of great match-ups in the first round of sectional play, but there are several very good games out there. We chose four to preview for tonight’s action, and here they are:
Coon Rapids (2-6) at Blaine (6-2)
There’s a big game tonight in Section 7AAAAA as No. 3-seeded Blaine hosts No. 6-seeded Coon Rapids. The winner advances to play either St. Francis or Andover.
The Bengals won their first three games of the season and at one point were ranked in the top five in Class 5A. They lost to Anoka, then won three more games before losing to No. 5-ranked Osseo last week to end the season.
Watch out for two playmakers in this contest on Blaine’s side. Quarterback Duke Anyanwu has five more passing yards (679) than rushing yards (674) with three scores through the air and 13 on the ground. He’s the team’s second leading rusher behind Luis Sanchez (975 yards, 14 TDs).
Don’t sleep on Coon Rapids tonight. They lost their first six games of the season, including a 26-17 game to Blaine in the season opener, but won their last two games and are playing with confidence. Alex Aase (634 yards passing, 7TDs) and Maurice Ward (521 yards, 6 TDs) are their playmakers.
It will be closer than most think, but Blaine gets the edge playing at home.
Chaska (1-7) at South St. Paul (7-1)
It’s a new season for the Chaska Hawks, who struggled to a 1-7 regular season mark. They’ll have their hands full against South St. Paul, who will be their second straight ranked opponent.
The Packers won their first six games of the season, then lost a tough battle to Mahtomedi before dominating Tartan 61-7 to end the regular season. South St. Paul finished the year second in the Classic Suburban Conference standings, and it’s always one of the toughest leagues in the metro.
Quarterback Harrison Rund is a dual threat to run and pass, and Sam Sura is one of the toughest running backs to bring down in the metro.
South St. Paul has the edge at home and likely moves on to face the Holy Angels/Henry Sibley winner on Saturday. It could be a very intriguing match-up between the Stars and Packers, assuming both teams win tonight.
Hopkins (3-5) at Edina (4-4)
Don’t let the records of these two teams fool you. Hopkins at Edina is one of the big match-ups tonight for the opening round of playoff action.
They are perennial rivals who almost always play either tough, and Hopkins features one of the state’s top recruits in wide receiver Andre McDonald. He’s one of the best in the state with 15 touchdowns and nearly 20 yards per catch.
When the two teams met in the regular season, Edina prevailed with the 14-7 victory. But the Hornets also struggled to an 0-4 mark against ranked teams.
Whoever wins this match-up won’t get much time to celebrate. They’ll get an angry Eden Prairie team that is coming off getting shut out in a loss to Wayzata last week.
I don’t know why, but I have a feeling McDonald has a big game and leads Hopkins to the victory.
Irondale (5-3) at White Bear Lake (6-2)
It’ll be one of the closest games of the night in playoff action, and it should serve as an example of why playoff football can be a great thing.
Irondale finished fourth in what turned out to be a very competitive North Suburban Conference this year with a 5-2 record. White Bear Lake finished third in the Suburban East Conference behind two of the best teams in Class 5A in Cretin-Derham Hall and Mounds View.
The Knights won four of their last five games to end the season, while White Bear Lake won five of six.
The team that wins the line of scrimmage tonight wins this game. I’ll give White Bear Lake the slight edge playing at home.
Follow our Prep Blog at wcco.com for the latest info on the prep football playoffs and keep an eye out for a preview of section semifinal games, which will be happening Saturday throughout the state. Also tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally Friday night for more prep action with Mike Max and Frank Vascellaro.