MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s the final week of the regular season in high school football. It didn’t feel like it was that long ago that we were projecting preseason expectations. Now, teams are gearing up for the playoffs.
Before we enter the “win or go home” scenario, conference titles are on the line across the state Wednesday night. Top seeds are also at stake for the playoffs, and with some of those come first-round byes. It’s that time of the year you have to love as a high school football fan.
It’s also a tough week for many programs as their preparation week is cut in half. Instead of the normal Friday night games, most schools play on Wednesday this week because of the annual State Teacher’s Conference. It’s less time to practice, less time to watch film and maybe most importantly less time for football injuries to heal.
There are a lot of big games this week, and we’re switching things up a bit on the Prep Blog. We have our usual previews of four games, but I’ve added one that was too good to pass up. My featured match-up this week: The Twin Cities Championship, which puts Minneapolis Washburn against St. Paul Central.
Minneapolis Washburn (7-0) at St. Paul Central (7-0)
A pair of unbeaten and ranked teams square off in St. Paul Wednesday night for the Twin Cities Championship. Minneapolis Washburn, the No. 9-ranked team in Class 4A, faces St. Paul Central, the No. 6-ranked team in Class 5A. Both teams feature a lot of speed and playmakers, so there should be plenty of action. It’s also a rematch of last year’s Twin Cities championship game, which the Millers lost 35-0.
The Millers are paced offensively by quarterback Morley Mathewson (14 TDs, 7 INTs) and running backs Jeffrey Jones and Raymone Maynard. Jones averages 123 yards per game on the ground and has 10 touchdowns, while Maynard averages 117 yards and has seven scores on the year. Noah Scarver leads the receiving corps with six touchdowns, and Jones has three. Washburn also features a defense that has shut out two opponents and not allowed more than 20 points in a game this season.
Central is paced offensively by running backs Elijah Campbell (870 yards, 9 TDs) and Gabriel Walker (685 yards, 13 TDs). The Minutemen also have a strong defense that has allowed 10 points or fewer in five of its seven wins this season.
I think Washburn will be motivated by last year’s 35-0 shutout loss and will make it a much closer game, but Central wins by a touchdown or less.
Wayzata (5-1) at Eden Prairie (6-1)
It was billed as the most highly-anticipated football game of the year with the Lake Conference title likely on the line, but that all changed last week after Eden Prairie lost at home to Edina. There might be a few Hornets letter jacks at Eden Prairie Wednesday night as the Eagles host Wayzata. The Hornets locked up the conference title by beating the Eagles last week, but this match-up has playoff implications. Wayzata shut out Eden Prairie 9-0 to end the regular season last year, then the Eagles beat them in the Prep Bowl 13-3. It’ll be another great battle, but I just don’t see Eden Prairie losing two in a row at home to end the regular season. I’ll take the Eagles in a close one.
Cambridge-Isanti (6-1) at Rogers (6-1)
At least a share of the Mississippi 8 Conference title is on the line Wednesday night as Rogers hosts Cambridge-Isanti. Both teams are 5-1 in conference play, and the winner gets at least a share of the conference title. The team that wins needs St. Michael-Albertville to win at Monticello to win the conference outright. When the two teams met last year, the Royals beat the Bluejackets 20-0. Cambridge-Isanti is much-improved, but Rogers is awfully tough to beat at home. I’ll take the Royals in a close one.
Totino-Grace (7-0) at Osseo (5-2)
If not for two forfeits by Osseo for using an ineligible player earlier this season, the Northwest Suburban Conference title might be at stake Wednesday night when the Orioles host Totino-Grace. Now, the Eagles need a win and would need Maple Grove to lose to Champlin Park to win conference outright. Totino-Grace is coming off a 42-6 win over Armstrong, while Osseo beat Elk River 36-10 last week. The Eagles run for more than 122 yards per game, while the Orioles run for more than 260 yards per game on average. I don’t think Osseo has seen a defense like Totino-Grace yet, so I’ll give the Eagles the slight edge on the road in a big game.
St. Thomas Academy (6-1) at South St. Paul (7-0)
The Classic Suburban Conference title is on the line Wednesday night as South St. Paul, ranked No. 2 in 4A, hosts St. Thomas Academy, No. 4-ranked in 5A, in a great rivalry game. The Packers have the edge and have already claimed a share of the conference title, but the Cadets need a win Wednesday night to share it. The two squads met last year in the Section 3AAAA title game, with South St. Paul prevailing 32-31 in overtime. Both squads have several talented athletes, so there’s no reason to think this match-up won’t be just as close. I’ll take the Packers on their home turf to win the Classic Suburban title in another close game.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Lauritsen recap Wednesday’s action and glance ahead to the playoffs.