MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s what every kid who plays high school football dreams of: The chance to play on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving for a state championship.
This game is what makes the two-a-day practices, the early weight lifting sessions, the drills, extra film work and fighting through injuries worth it all. The teams that have gotten this far have relied on coaching, talent and team chemistry. A little luck never hurts either.
There are six games left in the high school football season between Friday and Saturday. The main event is at 7 p.m. Friday as Wayzata faces Eden Prairie in the 5A title game.
Here’s a quick look at all the Prep Bowl match-ups.
5A: Wayzata (12-0) vs. Eden Prairie (11-1)
It’s the biggest match-up of the weekend and will draw the biggest crowd of all the games at the Metrodome. The two teams drew close to 10,000 fans in the regular season when they met, which resulted in a 9-0 Wayzata win.
The team that wins the line of scrimmage wins this game, and the Trojans won that battle earlier this season on both sides.
They’ll rely on that, plus a balanced offensive attack with Nick Martin behind center, Antonio Ford’s speed and Erik Roti’s elusive ability, if he’s healthy. They also have offensive weapons in Jeff Borchardt and Ethan Ziedler.
The Eagles need big nights out of QB Grant Schaeffer and their horse, Andrew Larson at running back. Larson has gutted out the second half of the season through injuries and been a dominant force running the ball.
The difference maker: Wayzata’s defense. The Trojans have shut out Cretin-Derham Hall, Eden Prairie and Osseo, and they’ve limited Minnetonka, Eagan and Edina to just seven points. The Trojans win another title with a gritty defensive effort in a close game.
4A: Bemidji (12-0) vs. Rocori (11-1)
It wasn’t the match-up most people anticipated for the 4A Prep Bowl, but it should be a great battle between two greater Minnesota teams at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Metrodome.
Bemidji came to the Metrodome last week and stunned No. 1-ranked Mankato West 45-26 behind Carey Woods and QB Mitchell Hendricks. Rocori had a 37-21 lead over Hill-Murray before it had to hang on for a 37-35 win.
Bemidji has a solid linebacker corps that doesn’t miss tackles, and the Lumberjacks showed Mankato West they can make big plays on offense. Mac Mueller and Nate Meyer pace the Rocori offense, which has had no problems scoring this season (28.25 per game average).
I give Bemidji the edge based on their ability to make big plays and the strength of that group of linebackers.
2A: Moose Lake/Willow River (13-0) vs. Caledonia (12-1)
Moose Lake/Willow River and Caledonia will battle at 4 p.m. Friday at the Metrodome for the Class 2A title. It looks to be a great game between two teams that have a combined one loss on the season.
Caledonia breezed to a 37-0 win over Warroad in the semifinals behind 164 yards and two touchdowns on the ground from Connor McCormick. Kenning Bruening also passed for two scores and ran for another.
Jake Disterhaupt was a one man wrecking crew for Moose Lake/Willow River. He ran for 244 yards and four TDs, including scores of 80 and 66 yards in the victory.
Caledonia has a history of success at the Metrodome. I give them the edge in this one, but it should be a great battle.
1A: Mahnomen (13-0) vs. Dawson-Boyd (13-0)
Friday’s slate is full of great action, and the 1A Prep Bowl between a pair of unbeaten teams in Mahnomen and Dawson-Boyd will be no exception.
Both teams relatively breezed through two state tournament victories to advance to the Metrodome. Jacob Pavek put Mahnomen on his back with 173 yards and four touchdowns in a semifinal win over Sleepy Eye/St. Mary’s.
Zach Stelter and Joey Lee led Dawson-Boyd to their win over Blooming Prairie. Stelter caught three TD passes from Lee, and Lee also had three rushing touchdowns in the win.
Having seen only one of these two teams play at the Metrodome, I’m guessing at best. But I like the depth that Dawson-Boyd presents in their offense. I’ll give them the slight edge over Mahnomen in what should be a great match-up.
3A: Fairmont (12-1) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (13-0)
St. Croix Lutheran will face Fairmont at noon Saturday for the Class 3A Prep Bowl in a weekend filled with big games, and that’s the way it should be on championship weekend.
Fairmont took care of Annandale, the feel-good story of the state tournament, to advance to the Prep Bowl. Brandon Martin led the team’s offense with 76 yards rushing and a touchdown, and they got a big boost from Justin Barnes, who took an interception 58 yards for a touchdown.
St. Croix Lutheran uses a punishing ground attack to wear down its opponents. Quarterback Matt Olson had a huge game in the Crusaders’ win over Providence Academy, passing for three TDs and running for three more. Wesley Tucker and Jackson Goplen also combined for 332 yards rushing and two scores.
St. Croix Lutheran has too many weapons in this one. I give them the edge over Fairmont.
9-Man: Wheaton-Herman-Norcross (12-1) vs. Edgerton/Ellsworth (13-0)
Nine-man football is one of the highlights of the Prep Bowl as small towns converge on the Metrodome and memories are made.
Wheaton-Herman-Norcross and Edgerton/Ellsworth will do battle at 10 a.m. Friday for the 9-Man title in a game featuring two teams who have a combined one loss. Wolfgang Brink is clearly the horse for Wheaton-Herman-Norcross as he ran for 265 yards and six touchdowns in their semifinal win.
Edgerton/Ellsworth has a variety of weapons, highlighted by junior QB Isaac Heard. He passed for 292 yards and two scores. Devin Hulstein had 106 yards rushing and two scores.
I love the name Wolfgang Brink, but I have to side with the depth that Edgerton/Ellsworth shows on the stat sheet. I’ll give them the slight edge.
It should be a great weekend of action as six state champions are crowned. Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at 10:20 p.m. as Mike Max and Frank Vascellaro will have all the action covered.