Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s hard to believe the final week of the regular season is here, but that means it won’t be long before some players are handing over their pads after season-ending losses.
This is the last chance for many teams to gain some momentum before the start of the postseason. It’s also a week where some teams can clinch a conference championship. The final week of the regular season is the toughest time to do just that as it’s the shortest week. for teams to turn around and play.
Many teams hit the field Friday night for Week 7, and they’ll be back out there Wednesday night with the state teacher’s conference being held. With no practice on Sunday, there are just a few chances to get out and prepare for that final game before the playoffs. There are several big games on the schedule Wednesday night, and at least one puts two rivals against each other with a conference title on the line.
Featured Game: St. Michael-Albertville (7-0) at Rogers (7-0)
A pair of top 10 teams who are both undefeated in Class 5A meet in the northwest metro Wednesday night for the Mississippi 8 Conference title as No. 4-ranked Rogers hosts No. 6-ranked St. Michael-Albertville. This is a great game between two teams that know each other well, with many players for each team being friends off the football field. But between the lines, all that matters is winning.
Rogers comes in having won two of the last three meetings between the teams, but the Knights got the best of the Royals last year 28-14. Rogers is led by a strong offensive line that lets them dominate the run game. Gunnar Bloom averages more than 127 yards rushing per game and has 12 touchdowns on the year. He’s also their leading receiver with three scores through the air. Nate Weber is more of a short-yardage specialist with less than 50 yards per game, but another 12 touchdowns. Connor Henderson has 627 passing yards at quarterback and four touchdowns on the season.
The Knights also feature a balanced offense as Chris Kartes averages more than 103 yards per game on the ground and has seven rushing touchdowns. Noah Evans has six rushing scores on the year, and quarterback Jackson Greenwaldt has 681 yards passing and seven touchdowns on the season.
These two squads are pretty evenly matched, which means this rivalry game will come down to turnovers and the line of scrimmage. Rogers is a little bigger up front and tends to play a more physical style, so the Knights will need to counteract that with big plays in all three phases. I’ll pick Rogers in a close one to win the Mississippi 8 Conference title, but these two teams could likely meet in November with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
South St. Paul (7-0) at St. Thomas Academy (5-2)
South St. Paul, unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, can clinch the Classic Suburban Conference title outright with a win over St. Thomas Academy Wednesday night. It will also be the Packers’ biggest test of the regular season so far, and if the Cadets win, all sorts of scenarios could play out for the league title. South St. Paul is led by the duo of Bill Brandecker and Christian Rund at receiver. Brandecker has five passing touchdowns, three of them to Rund, but is the team’s second leading rusher. He also has 10 rushing touchdowns and has been a playmaker all season. The Cadets, who are led by running backs Ben Fiers and Chris Becker, combine speed and athleticism with a physical brand of football, and they’re very tough to beat on their home field. I’ll pick South St. Paul to take care of business in a close one and win the Classic Suburban title.
Lakeville North (6-1) at Rosemount (6-1)
There’s a huge game south of the metro in one of the most competitive leagues in the state Wednesday night as Rosemount hosts Prior Lake in the South Suburban Conference. The Irish are undefeated in league play and can win the conference with a victory. The Panthers can clinch a share of the crown with a victory. The Panthers are coming off a 24-0 win over Eagan. They’re led by Jamiah Newell’s 145 yards rushing per game and 10 rushing touchdowns. The Irish have won six straight since losing their opener, and they’re led by quarterback Jackson Erdmann’s 156 passing yards per game and 13 passing touchdowns. I’ll pick the Panthers to win a close one, and it could create a crowd at the top for the league title if Prior Lake beats Burnsville.
Osseo (6-1) at Totino-Grace (6-1)
One of the best quarterbacks in the Twin Cities will face a tough defense Wednesday night as Totino-Grace hosts Osseo in the Northwest Suburban Conference. The Orioles, who are led by quarterback Matt Miedtke, have won five straight games, including a 44-21 win over Elk River last week. Miedtke has more than 1,600 yards passing and 20 touchdowns with just four interceptions on the season. Jamien Hampton provides balance in the run game with about 100 yards rushing per game and eight touchdowns. Totino-Grace is led by the running duo of Kez Flomo and Lance Benick. Flomo averages more than 122 yards per game and has seven touchdowns, while Benick averages about 73 yards per game and six scores. Quarterback Seth Sullwold has five passing touchdowns on the season. In what I would consider a minor upset, I’ll pick the Orioles in a close one. Maple Grove would need to beat Champlin Park to claim a league title.
Tune into WCCO-TV for highlights of Wednesday night’s action and listen to the WCCO Radio High School Football Rally starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday with Steve Thomson.