Prep Blog: State Semifinals, Previewing ‘The Big 4’
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s state semifinal week in high school football, which means it’s going to be a busy weekend over at the Metrodome.
There will be six games played Friday and Saturday each, one semifinal match-up in each class, with 9-Man action starting at 8 a.m. and the Class 5A game starting around 8 p.m. Every team left in each bracket can now legitimately say it has a chance of hoisting a trophy as a state champion at the Prep Bowl.
There are some great match-ups this weekend, and out of 12 games we can choose four to preview. So here they are:
Eden Prairie (10-1) vs. Totino-Grace (11-1)
It’s the exact type of match-up football fans were begging for when Totino-Grace decided to opt up to Class 5A for this season. Can the Eagles compete with the state’s best? Well, an 11-1 record and a No. 9 ranking in 5A suggests that they’ve exceeded all expectations in competing with the big boys.
Totino-Grace has won 11 straight since falling to Minnetonka in its season opener. Until the section playoffs, most of those wins were against 4A schools. Now they get their toughest test yet as they battle Eden Prairie Friday night at the Metrodome.
The Eagles are ranked No. 6 in 5A and rely on the combination of Grant Schaeffer behind center and running back Andrew Larson, who has been playing slightly injured virtually all season. That, and a stingy defense that’s been one of the toughest in the state all season. Eden Prairie has three shutout wins on the season, three other wins where they allowed just seven points and a playoff win where Minnetonka managed only a field goal against them.
Totino-Grace has had no problem scoring points this year thanks to quarterback Bob McDonald, who has 10 passing touchdowns and three rushing scores. Totino-Grace has three other running backs who have combined for 11 touchdowns, and receiver Andy Moritko leads the team with five touchdown catches. Moritko is also one of the team’s defensive leaders.
I want to pick Totino in this one, but I have a feeling Eden Prairie will be more physical, athletic and dominate the line of scrimmage. I pick Eden Prairie in the hopes of a rematch with Wayzata for the state championship.
Wayzata (11-0) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (11-0)
The game of the weekend might be the battle of the two unbeatens left in Class 5A as No. 1-ranked Wayzata faces No. 2-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall Saturday night at the Metrodome.
The Trojans had their offense working on all cylinders in a 49-14 win over Moorhead. Meanwhile, Cretin surprised Lakeville North, using a field goal as time expired in regulation to beat the Panthers 25-22. The Raiders have managed to win despite having several key players injured.
Wayzata hasn’t avoided the injury bug either as star running back Mitch Underhill has been out since the first game and Erik Roti missed last week with an injury. It’s not known if Roti will be back this weekend, but the Trojans proved they have enough weapons with running back Antonio Ford, quarterback Nick Martin and receivers Jeff Borchardt and Ethan Zeidler to carry the load.
Cretin is led by Connor Rhoda at quarterback, who has seven touchdowns on the year. Running back Kendrick Brewster has 12 scores on the year to lead a slew of talented running backs.
This will be a great test for both teams. I think Wayzata wins a close game to create the rematch of the Trojans’ 9-0 win over Eden Prairie in the regular season.
Annandale (7-5) vs. Fairmont (11-1)
Annandale and Fairmont will do battle Friday afternoon in what should be an intriguing match-up in the Class 3A Semifinals at the Metrodome.
Annandale is probably the feel-good story of this year’s football playoffs. The Cardinals went just 3-5 in the regular season, then went on to beat New London-Spicer, Albany and Zimmerman to win the Section 6AAA title. They advanced to the Metrodome after beating Greenway last week.
Fairmont has also been a surprise even though they’re ranked No. 5 in Class 3A. They beat No. 3-ranked Montevideo to get to their section final, then beat No. 4-ranked Glencoe-Silver Lake to earn a trip to the state tournament. If that wasn’t enough, they earned a trip to the Metrodome after beating No. 6-ranked Holy Family Catholic last week.
Both teams are hot, but I give Fairmont the edge in this one. They’ve beaten ranked opponents in their last three contests and have proven to be battle tested.
Providence Academy (10-2) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (12-0)
Two of the best teams in Class 3A will face off in the other semifinal on Saturday at the Metrodome, and ironically they come out of the same conference.
St. Croix Lutheran, the No. 1-ranked team in 3A, faces Providence Academy, and both teams are out of the Tri-Metro-Conference. The two teams met during the regular season, with St. Croix Lutheran running over Providence Academy 52-6.
The Crusaders will run it down your throat with Wesley Tucker (951 yards, 11 TDs) and Jackson Goplen (1,110 yards, 15 TDs).
The Lions are led by running back Marshall Klitzke, who has 946 rushing yards and 13 TDs on the season. Kellen Carney also has four receiving touchdowns on the season.
It should be closer than their season opening match-up, but I give St. Croix Lutheran the advantage in this one with their rushing attack.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. Friday for a recap of all the action on Friday at the Metrodome and a look ahead to Saturday’s match-ups with Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Lauritsen.