MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s always a fun and exciting time when you enter the meat of the high school football schedule.

We’re now two games in for every team, and for some teams it’s three games. By now, most teams have a sense of what they can do and what their identity is. Now it’s just a matter of implementing that every week against the opponent.

It’s also that time where conference races start to take shape as teams jockey for that important positioning before they start preparing for the playoffs. This week, Minnesota will welcome the national TV scene to the Twin Cities as ESPN will be in St. Paul to broadcast the Cretin-Derham Hall/Stillwater game at the University of St. Thomas. The Raiders have a stud in Jashon Cornell, who is the No. 1 overall recruit in the nation for the class of 2015. The junior already has several scholarship offers, including the Gophers.

This week, WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally heads west of the Twin Cities to feature a key game in the Wright County Conference. That starts off this week’s “Big 4.”

Featured Game: Orono (2-0) at Hutchinson (2-0)

Hutchinson is on a roll since winning the Class 4A title last year, and the Tigers are off to a 2-0 start this fall with wins over Becker (16-13 in overtime) and rival Glencoe-Silver Lake. Don’t sleep on Orono, who enters Friday night’s contest also at 2-0. The Spartans beat Litchfield 41-14 in their opener and got past Dassel-Cokato 26-21.

Hutchinson hosts in a key Wright County Conference clash where the winner stays in contention for the league title. When the two teams met last year, the Tigers cruised to a 41-14 win over the Spartans so Orono will be seeking revenge this year. The Tigers feature a run game full of deception from coach Andy Rostberg. Hutchinson is led by Robbie Grimsley and Tory Adams in the run game, who combined for five touchdowns in last week’s win.

Orono likes to spread the defense out and throw the ball down the field, but they can also run it as Charlie Schmid leads the Spartans in rushing. He has 217 yards and four touchdowns through two games. Orono is led by quarterback Hank Seward, and his favorite receivers are Chandler Perry and Sam Challgren. Calvin Groenke leads the Orono defense with 18 tackles in two games.

Hutchinson is extremely tough to beat at home as the Tigers always seem ready to play in front of their fans. That’s why I’ll take the Tigers in a close one over the Spartans.

Stillwater (2-0) at Cretin-Derham Hall (1-1)

ESPN is headed to St. Paul Friday night as Cretin-Derham Hall hosts Stillwater at the University of St. Thomas. It’s a key game in the Suburban East Conference as Stillwater looks to stay unbeaten, while the Raiders look to win their second straight after falling to Roseville in Week 1. The Raiders are led by Ricardo Johnson’s four touchdown passes and Blake Banham’s 265 yards and three scores in two games. Friday’s tilt will be televised live on ESPN2. The Ponies have opened with wins over Park of Cottage Grove and Forest Lake. They’re led by quarterback Trevor Tillett’s 268 passing yards and two touchdowns, and Zach Knox’s 283 rushing yards and four touchdowns. I’ll pick Cretin in a close one, they always seem to rise to the occasion in big games and players on both squads will be pretty excited to play in front of a national audience.

Owatonna (2-0) at Mankato West (2-0)

A fantastic rivalry in the Big Nine Conference has formed over the last several years between Owatonna and Mankato West, and the two teams clash Friday in Mankato with the inside track at the league title on the line. The Scarlets and Huskies have combined to win the last six league titles, with Owatonna winning it last year. Mankato West had won it the three previous years before last fall. Owatonna is coming off an appearance in the Class 5A Prep Bowl, which was a loss to Totino-Grace. The Huskies beat Rochester Mayo 41-14 in Week 1, then shut out Winona 49-0 last week. They’re led by running back Aaron Peterson’s 266 yards and five touchdowns through two games. Mankato West beat Albert Lea 84-14 in its opener, then beat Austin 57-14 last week. The Scarlets are led by quarterback Ryan Schlichte’s 468 passing yards and eight touchdowns. He also leads Mankato West in rushing at 112 yards and two scores. I’ll take Mankato West in a close on its home field.

Monticello (2-0) at St. Michael-Albertville (2-0)

There’s a big game in the Mississippi Eight Conference Friday night as St. Michael-Albertville hosts Monticello in a battle of 2-0 teams. The league is in a logjam with five 2-0 teams through two weeks, and the winner of this one creates a small amount of conference separation. The Knights beat Buffalo 21-3 in the season-opener and St. Francis 28-12 last week. They’re led by running back Chris Kartes, who has 250 yards and three touchdowns in two games. Quarterback Jackson Greenwaldt also has two rushing touchdowns on the year. The Magic beat Princeton 20-6 in its opener, then beat North Branch 13-7 last week. Monticello is led by quarterback Jake Berthiaume’s 184 yards and two touchdown passes. Jake Olson leads the rushing attack with 218 yards and two touchdowns.

Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and David McCoy will have all the action covered. Also tune into the WCCO Radio High School Football Rally with Steve Thomson starting at about 7 p.m.


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