Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The fields are now set across seven classes for the state football playoffs in Minnesota.
Last week’s section champions advanced to this week’s state football quarterfinals, which are being held across the state Thursday and Friday on turf fields at neutral sites. Now every team is hitting the practice field this week and most of them have realistic goals of playing for a state championship the weekend after Thanksgiving.
In the state tournament, every game is more magnified and every play is more meaningful. There are a lot of big match-ups featuring great teams playing against each other, which is exactly what you want to see in a state tournament. Our featured games start with a pair of traditional powerhouses with games at the Metrodome Friday night.
Class 6A State Tournament
Eastview (7-3) vs. Wayzata (8-1)
Eastview and No. 2-seeded Wayzata face off at 5 p.m. Friday at the Metrodome in one of four state quarterfinals in the newest class for high school football. It’s one of two featured games for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.
It’s one of the few times where a state quarterfinal results in two teams who actually met during the regular season. Wayzata and Eastview met in Week 2, with the Trojans breezing to a 24-7 victory. But that was when Wayzata had star running back Mitch Underhill, who has since been lost for the season with another torn ACL. The Trojans’ leading receiver, Jeff Borchardt, has been moved to running back to fill that void. That leaves Michael Smith and Jonathon Skar to pick up the slack in the receiving corps for quarterback Reid Pettersen.
Wayzata also relies on a fast and physical defense, which will be a great test for Eastview. The Lightning use a large offensive line to move the ball in the run game. Will Rains leads the team in rushing with more than 100 yards per game and at least seven touchdowns. The Lightning will also try to throw it between quarterback Mark Dwyer and his top receiver, Henry McIsaac.
Wayzata’s strength is its defense, and its ability to make big plays on offense will carry the Trojans to a win and a spot in the state semifinals. Eastview will put up a good fight, but I’ll pick Wayzata by a touchdown or less.
Class 6A State Tournament
Eden Prairie (8-2) vs. Minnetonka (5-5)
After two consecutive losses to end the regular season, Eden Prairie recovered to win their section in Class 6A and advance to the state tournament. The No. 3-seeded Eagles will face a familiar opponent at 8 p.m. Friday at the Metrodome in the Minnetonka Skippers.
Not much has changed in either team’s approach to the game, as it shouldn’t as they’ve both been successful at it.
The Skippers are paced by quarterback Nick Rooney, who averaged more than 120 passing yards a game and had nine touchdowns during the regular season. Minnetonka also features a balanced run game that averages nearly 178 yards per game. Ian Cote leads that attack with eight rushing TDs, while KeAndre Singleton has four touchdowns on the ground.
Eden Prairie is always a favorite to win at the state tournament until somebody beats them. The Eagles love to run the football, and they’re led by Dan Fisher, Grant Shaeffer and Charlie Venable. Eden Prairie wins games by dominating at the line of scrimmage, and I expect nothing different in this game. I’ll take Eden Prairie by a touchdown.
On the other half of the bracket, Rosemount faces No. 1-seeded Edina, and No. 5-seeded Lakeville North takes on No. 4-seeded Prior Lake. Both of those games are Thursday night at the Metrodome. I’ll pick Edina and Lakeville North to advance.
Class 5A State Tournament
Elk River (6-5) vs. St. Thomas Academy (9-1)
There are a couple great match-ups in the Class 5A State Quarterfinals this week, and one of them is at Osseo High School Friday night as St. Thomas Academy faces Elk River. The Cadets have been a traditional power in the class, while Elk River is a bit of a surprise after beating Rogers and then St. Michael-Albertville in its section bracket. St. Thomas Academy has too many big plays and too many athletes in its arsenal for this game. The Cadets will pull away eventually and beat the Elks by 10 or more points.
Class 5A State Tournament
Apple Valley (8-2) vs. Totino-Grace (10-0)
On the other side of the bracket, Apple Valley and Totino-Grace square off Saturday night at Griffin Stadium in St. Paul. Totino-Grace was in the big school class until the Minnesota State High School League developed Class 6A, and the Eagles were competitive in it last year, making the state semifinals. Apple Valley had a 6-2 regular season before beating St. Louis Park and Farmington to reach the state tournament. Totino-Grace, the top ranked team in the class, beat Mahtomedi and No. 2-ranked Spring Lake Park for its section title. Totino-Grace, with its size and skill at several key positions, will win the battle of the Eagles Saturday night.
Other Key Match-Ups
Hill-Murray (8-2) takes on Holy Family Catholic (8-3) Friday night at Macalester College in what should be a close battle in the Class 4A State Tournament. DeLaSalle (10-0) and Becker (9-1) also face off at Hopkins High School Friday night in what I expect to be a high scoring game that the Islanders should pull out.
The returning state champions this year include Dawson-Boy (A), Caledonia (AA), St. Croix Lutheran (AAA) and Eden Prairie (AAAAAA). There will be new champions in 9-Man, 4A and 5A.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and John Laurtisen will have all the action covered.