Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There is yet another huge Friday night on our hands in high school football across Minnesota as we’re turning the corner on the regular season.
It’s hard to believe that just three weeks remain for teams to get big victories and to position themselves for the playoffs. This is also that time where the elite teams begin to separate themselves from the rest, while some surprise teams are still out to prove where they belong. It’s the time where every big play means a little more, and every turnover is magnified.
It is indeed October, when it’s nearly dark by kickoff and the air feels crisp. They call it football weather. There are several big games Friday night with more than just conference implications and rivalries on the line. There are many match-ups between ranked teams, and here’s our “Big 4.”
Featured Game: Eden Prairie (4-0) at Minnetonka (5-1)
It’s always a big game when Eden Prairie and Minnetonka face off in the Lake Conference. This match-up had all the makings of No. 1 against No. 2 in Class 6A, which can be rare in the regular season. But the Skippers didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, losing to a tough Edina squad last week. That meant Minnetonka fell to No. 6 in the rankings, but it’s still a fantastic match-up on paper between rivals that will have fantastic athletes all over the field on both sides of the ball.
The Eagles travel to Minnetonka Friday having won four straight games and haven’t been truly tested yet this season. Their closest game so far was a 35-21 win over Prior Lake in Week 2. Eden Prairie didn’t play last week after topping Edina two weeks ago 37-21. The Eagles use a dominant attack at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, but especially in the run game. That’s led by Anthony Anderson, who is averaging 112 yards per game and has four touchdowns on the year. Dan Fisher is right behind him with more than 108 yards per game and five touchdowns.
Minnetonka tries to beat you with its skill, speed and athleticism, and it’s worked so far. The Skippers had won five straight before falling to the Hornets in Edina last week. They’re led by one of the top quarterbacks in state, Nick Rooney, who has thrown for more than 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns this season with just one interception. His top target is Mitch Felknor, who has 42 catches for 623 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. The Skippers also have balance in the run game with five players who have at least 100 yards rushing on the season. That group has also combined for 12 touchdowns.
Both teams can score and both can play defense. This one will come down to the team that wins the line of scrimmage and doesn’t turn the ball over. I’ll pick Eden Prairie in a game that will go down to the very end.
Delano (5-0) at Hutchinson (5-0)
There will be a one heck of a football game with a conference title game on the line Friday night west of the Twin Cities as Hutchinson hosts Delano in the Wright County Conference. Both squads are unbeaten and ranked in the top five of Class 4A. Hutchinson will need its rushing trio of Tory Adams, Robbie Grimsley and Jayden Fleck to come up big once again this week for the win. Delano is led by running back Jack Nelson’s 733 yards and nine touchdowns as well as Toby Hanson’s 403 passing yards and four passing touchdowns. This one will come down to the line of scrimmage, and Hutchinson is incredibly tough to beat at home. I’ll take Hutchinson as they seem to have a couple more weapons than Delano, but it should be a great game.
Rogers (5-0) at Monticello (4-1)
Monticello is desperate for a win to keep pace in the Mississippi Eight Conference title race as the Magic host unbeaten Rogers Friday night. They’ll certainly be looking for some of that home magic, and they’ll need it from running back Jake Olson. He has 428 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the season. They feature balance in the run game with Kodi Schroeder and Nick Bomersine. Rogers is always tough up front, and this year the Royals are led by Gunnar Bloom’s 494 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Nate Weber also has more than 250 rushing yards and seven scores, and quarterback Connor Henderson has thrown for 538 yards and four touchdowns. Rogers has too much depth on offense and will be too tough on defense in this one despite Monticello having home field, so I’ll take the Royals.
Totino-Grace (4-1) at Andover (4-1)
There’s a big match-up between a pair of 4-1 teams Friday night north of the Twin Cities as Andover hosts Totino-Grace. The Huskies will be hungry on their home field, coming off a 20-7 loss to Osseo. It was their first loss of the season. The Eagles have won two straight with relative ease after losing 42-7 to Eden Prairie in Week 3. Andover is led by quarterback Connor Wilkie’s 1,300-plus passing yards and 13 touchdowns. Running back Derek McLaughlin also has 551 rushing yards and nine scores. The Eagles are led by the three-headed rushing attack of Kez Flomo, Lance Benick and Kai Barber. Flomo and Barber have combined for nine touchdowns on the season. I’ll take Totino-Grace in a contest that will go down to the wire and one that will form a great rivalry in the Northwest Suburban Conference. The Eagles won a 14-12 nail-biter last year.
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 show with Steve Thomson starting at 7 p.m. on 830AM.