MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There are 48 high school football teams still playing in Minnesota after section champions were decided last Friday and Saturday around the state.
But the celebration is over and the preparation is back underway as those teams will do battle Friday and Saturday in the state quarterfinals. In six classes, all teams will play on artificial turf and at neutral sites around the state. For the first time in recent memory, the Metrodome will be one of the quarterfinal sites. It will continue as the site for all semifinals and Prep Bowl games.
There are some big match-ups this week as teams vie for their chance to get one step closer to the Prep Bowl. We can only choose four of the 32 match-ups, so here they are.
Mankato West (10-0) vs. South St. Paul (10-1)
It’s not a 5A game but it might be the biggest game there is Friday night. Mankato West, the No. 1-ranked team in 4A, faces South St. Paul, the No. 9-ranked team in 4A, at 7 p.m. Friday at Chanhassen High School.
Few though South St. Paul would beat St. Thomas Academy in the Section 3AAAA title game, but they did 32-31 in overtime. What better test for the Packers after beating the Cadets than facing the team that’s ultimately the favorite to win the 4A Prep Bowl.
The Scarlets are led by Phillip Nelson, a three-plus year starter for the Scarlets, is a Gopher recruit and one of the best passers in the state. Some say he could compete for the starting job with the Gophers next fall. He currently has nearly 1,800 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, and his favorite target it Hunter Friesen. He also has more than 700 yards rushing and 13 rushing TDs.
The Packers are led by quarterback Harrison Rund and running back Sam Sura. Sura has more than 1,500 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns, while Rund is the team’s second-leading rusher with more than 1,000 yards and 15 scores. That includes three in the win over St. Thomas Academy.
It should be a great match-up, but the best way for South St. Paul to win is keeping Nelson off the field. I give Mankato West the edge.
Lakeville North (10-0) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (10-0)
It’s one of the few match-ups of unbeaten teams as Lakeville North faces Cretin-Derham Hall at 5 p.m. Friday at the Metrodome. It’s also a match-up of top five teams in Class 5A is Lakeville North is No. 3 and Cretin-Derham Hall is No. 2.
Panthers quarterback Trey Heid will have a big test against a fast and physical Raiders defense. Heid has more than 1,600 passing yards and 16 touchdowns to go with 322 rushing yards and six scores. Charlie Hayes is his favorite wide receiver with seven touchdowns.
The Raiders are led by quarterback Connor Rhoda and running back Kendrick Brewster. Cretin-Derham Hall always features and offense that can make a big play at any time.
In a game that should go down to the wire, I’ll give Lakeville North the edge in an offensive shootout.
Plainview-Elgin-Millville (11-0) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (11-0)
It’s almost a shame that these two teams face each other in the Class AAA state quarterfinals and not the Prep Bowl. Plainview-Elgin-Millville and St. Croix Lutheran, both 11-0 and the top two teams in Calss AAA, face off at 7 p.m. Friday at Lakeville North High School.
It should also be an interesting match-up as neither team has really had a tough test yet on the way to their undefeated records.
The Crusaders are led by the dual threat rushing attack of Wesley Tucker and Jackson Goplen. Tucker has 951 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Goplen has more than 1,100 yards and 15 scores on the season.
Plainview-Elgin-Millville is always a tough opponent that grinds you with its ground game and plays extremely tough defense.
This should be a great game between two top teams, and I’ll give the edge to St. Croix Lutheran with its rushing attack.
Eden Prairie (9-1) vs. Anoka (9-1)
Two top teams in Class 5A that have a combined two losses will do battle Friday night as Anoka takes on Eden Prairie at 7 p.m. Friday at Osseo High School.
The Eagles proved they were human this year, getting shutout in a 9-0 loss to Wayzata in their regular season finale. But they’re always a tough team to beat, and this year is no different.
Eden Prairie will be relying on running back Andrew Larson, quarterback Grant Schaeffer and a stiff defense to get them to the Metrodome.
Anoka has relied on a balanced attack all season, and Friday won’t be any different. Josh Werness is the team’s leading rusher with more than 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ryan Rand has 550 yards and six scores, and D.J. Johnson has 625 yards and six scores.
It all comes down to Anoka’s offense, which can keep Eden Prairie off the field if it sustains long drives. I like Anoka in a close game.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Lauritsen will recap Friday’s quarterfinal action from the state tournament.