Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – If you’re looking for a fun high school football game to watch that’s also very competitive for late June, you’ll want to head to St. Cloud on Saturday.
Husky Stadium on the campus of St. Cloud State University is the host for the 40th annual Minnesota High school All-Star Football game. The game, put on each year by the Minnesota State Football Coaches Association, showcases the top seniors from around the state. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Players and coaches participating in the game are representing 82 schools in 35 conferences. For the third straight year, it puts players from the north against the south. Last year, the South beat the North 33-21. The overall series between the two squads is at 9-9-1.
This game used to feature a team of players from the Twin Cities metro against a team of players from greater Minnesota. The players from outside the metro often played with a chip on their shoulder as they usually get less attention than those from the Twin Cities, and thus feel they have something to prove. All in all, it’s a chance for the best seniors in the state to get together and play football for one more time before they head off to college.
Some are getting ready for college careers, while others might be putting on the pads for the final time. Here’s a look at some notable names for each squad.
The North team will be led this year by legendary coach Dwight Lundeen, who most recently led Becker to the Class AAAA state semifinals last season before the Bulldogs fell to Hutchinson. Lundeen is a coaching icon in Becker.
Among a large roster, four names really stand out to me as players to keep an eye on. Unfortunately it sounds like only three of the four will dress as Osseo running back Bridge Tusler, one of the metro’s best last season, is listed as injured on the game’s web site.
Among the players, Stillwater quarterback Nate Ricci stands out. He was one of the metro’s top passers last fall in helping to lead the Ponies to Class 6A round of 16. Charlie Miller played on both sides of the ball at Totino-Grace, leading the Eagles to another state championship last fall. He’ll suit up Saturday as a defensive back for the north squad.
One of the better athletes that fans might not be aware of is Jacob Pavek from Mahnomen. He’s listed at linebacker for the all-star game, but was the all-everything that helped lead the Indians to a perfect 14-0 season and a Class A state title. He was their quarterback and linebacker, and seemed to be around the football on every play.
The head coach across the field from Lundeen Saturday should look very familiar. It’s the guy he lost to in the state semifinals last year. Andy Rostberg of Hutchinson will lead the squad after his Tigers went a perfect 13-0 last fall on the way to a Class AAAA state title. He’s got plenty of athletes to get the ball to during this all-star game.
That group will be quarterbacked by Danny McManus of St. Thomas Academy, one of the top quarterbacks on the east side of the Twin Cities. He’ll have a favorite target suiting up as a teammate in wide receiver Nick Waldvogel, who is taking his talents to play college football at St. Thomas.
Look for Nick Larson of Shakopee to get the ball a fair amount in the run game. He was one of the Sabres top running backs last season. He’ll likely split time with Mitch Peterson of Hutchinson. When McManus isn’t behind center. John DenHartog of Hopkins will be. DenHartog was one of the more accurate passers in prep football last fall. On the defensive side of the ball, keep an eye on Wyatt Schmidt of St. Thomas Academy. He was a physical presence at linebacker for the Cadets.
The teams spent much of the week practicing together and getting familiar with each other leading up to Saturday’s game. it should be a fun afternoon of football, regardless of who you’re rooting for. Best of all, it’s the last chance for the kids to put on the pads as a high-schooler and have some fun. But make no mistake about it, both teams want to win the game. It’s about as competitive as it gets for an all-star game.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium on the campus of St. Cloud State.