Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Before football teams hit the field Friday night, there are 16 squads left in seven classes across the state who all have a shot at the state tournament. By the end of the night, that number will get cut in half.
This is the week that pretty much every kid who grows up playing football dreams about. Especially for the small-town communities, the ones that rally behind their football team, this is the week that has everyone in the town buzzing. You think about the state tournament when you’re throwing the football around with your friends in the summer, when you’re attending camps and finally when you’re putting on the pads in fall practices.
All the preparation, all the hard work and the season comes down to one night and 48 minutes. The winner at the end of the night is hoisting a section championship trophy and excited about at least one more week of practice. The loser is left to wonder what might have been and turn in their pads.
It is section championship week in high school football, where eight teams in seven classes will earn the right to play in the state playoffs. It makes for some great match-ups and emotional games with everything on the line. There are plenty of great games Friday, and here are a few of our favorites.
Class 6A Round of 16
Prior Lake (7-2) at Osseo (8-1)
Prior Lake hits the road to take on Osseo Friday night in the Class 6A round of 16 as the South Suburban Conference’s second-place team meets a Northwest Suburban Conference squad that shared the league title with Maple Grove. The Lakers and Orioles did not meet during the regular season, and it’s our featured game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally. The winner will be one of eight teams left in the biggest football class in the state.
Prior Lake is led by running back Blake Weber, who is actually known more for his defense than running the ball. Weber averages about 73 yards per game on the ground and has nine touchdowns on the year. Alex Hart leads the team in rushing with more than 103 yards per game and 10 touchdowns in the regular season. Nick Vanek leads the Lakers at quarterback with four passing touchdowns, but make no mistake about it, the team has thrived this year running the ball.
Osseo is led by Matt Miedtke, one of the best quarterbacks in the Twin Cities. He led the Orioles with more than 1,700 yards passing and 21 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He has a pair of favorite receivers with Connor Kittleson’s 101 yards per game and nine touchdowns. Joshua Goldschmidt also has eight receiving touchdowns on the season. Osseo also features a standout running back in Jamien Hampton, who averages more than 100 yards per game and has nine touchdowns.
The Lakers have won four straight and five of their past six heading into Friday night. Osseo has won seven straight and is coming off a 42-0 dismantling of Champlin Park. I’ll pick the Orioles in a close one with the home field advantage.
Section 6, Class 5A
St. Michael-Albertville (8-1) at Rogers (9-0)
It’s a classic rivalry in the Mississippi 8 Conference as two of the top teams in Class 5A will meet for the Section 6 title Friday night with a trip to the state playoffs at stake. Rogers hosts St. Michael-Albertville just a few weeks after the Royals came away with a 38-37 overtime win over the Knights. Rogers overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to kick a game-tying field goal as time expired to force overtime. Both teams scored touchdowns, but the Knights try at a two-point conversion to win the game failed.
Quarterback Jackson Greenwaldt, who is also a threat to run, leads the Knights’ offense. He throws for about 103 yards per game and has eight passing touchdowns. They’re led on the ground by Chris Kartes’s 99 yards per game and nine touchdowns. Greenwaldt and Noah Evans have also combined for 12 rushing touchdowns.
Rogers is led by Gunnar Bloom’s 121 yards rushing per game and 13 touchdowns. Nate Weber adds about 45 yards per game and 13 touchdowns, and quarterback Connor Henderson throws for about 111 yards per game.
This game should be just as good as the classic was a few weeks ago. I’ll pick St. Michael-Albertville to get revenge and advance to the state playoffs.
Section 4, Class 5A
Spring Lake Park (7-3) at Andover (6-3)
Andover has recovered nicely from a three-game losing streak to win two straight games and earn a home game for the Section 4, Class 5A title game against Spring Lake Park Friday night. The Panthers have won two straight playoff games since losing to Benilde-St. Margaret’s 31-28 in the regular season finale. They snuck by Mahtomedi 15-14 last week to advance. Spring Lake Park is led by Grant Walter’s 121 yards per game and 14 touchdowns. Andover is led by quarterback Connor Wilkie’s 2,055 passing yards and 18 touchdowns. Derek McLaughlin leads the run game with 105 yards rushing per game and 12 scores. The Huskies seem to have too many weapons and are bigger up front on both sides, so I’ll pick them to beat Spring Lake Park.
Section 2, Class 5A
Mankato West (8-1) at Chaska (9-0)
It’s a great game on paper as unbeaten Chaska host Mankato West Friday night for the Section 2, Class 5A title and a trip to the state tournament. The Scarlets feature a tough defense and an offense that spreads the ball all over the field. Quarterback Ryan Schlichte averages more than 227 passing yards per game and has 22 passing touchdowns. He’s also their leading rusher with about 76 yards per game and nine touchdowns. Chaska is led by running back Kolby Seiffert’s 139 yards per game and 14 touchdowns. The Hawks’ defense will get their biggest test of the season, but Mankato West has too many weapons and should come away with a close victory.
Class 6A Round Of 16
Minnetonka (6-3) at Maple Grove (9-0)
Maple Grove has quietly gone along as one of the state’s top teams all season, and the Crimson will get a big test against Minnetonka Friday night in the Class 6A round of 16. Maple Grove is led by a pair of running backs in Tahi Nomane (118 yards per game, 8 TDs) and Clark Wieneke (132 yards per game, 9 TDs). The Skippers snapped a three-game skid last week with a playoff win over Edina, a team that beat them a few weeks ago in the regular season. Quarterback Nick Rooney leads Minnetonka with about 220 yards passing per game and 15 touchdowns. Mitch Felknor leads the Skippers in receiving with 11 touchdowns. Minnetonka will be put to the test against Maple Grove, which has scored at least 30 points in six of its nine wins. I’ll pick the Crimson to advance.
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 at about 8 p.m.