MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There are 56 high school football teams still playing in Minnesota, and all of them will be in action between Thursday and Saturday night as the state playoffs get underway at various sites.
While many teams and different approaches to the game will be on display, a couple things will remain constant. Every state playoff game is played at a neutral site, wiping out a potential home field advantage, and every game will be played on artificial turf. With the exception of two Class 6A games at the Metrodome, all games will be played outdoors.
Are the eight best teams in every class playing in the state tournament? That’s not the case as some of the highly-ranked teams are in the same section playoff bracket, and others were upset at one point or another in the playoffs. There are still fantastic match-ups on tap this week as all the winners advance to the Metrodome and the state semifinals next week.
Here are some our favorite games as we look ahead to the final outdoor night of the prep football season.
Totino-Grace (8-2) vs. Osseo (9-1)
These two teams will form one heck of a rivalry in the Northwest Suburban Conference in the years to come, but Totino-Grace will battle Osseo Friday night at the Metrodome for the right to go back there in a week for the state semifinals. It’s a great match-up between two teams who have had fantastic seasons.
There wasn’t a lot of talk about Osseo heading into the fall, but that didn’t stop Orioles from having a 7-1 regular season and beating Prior Lake on a late field goal last week to advance to the state tournament. They’ve done it with a balanced attack on offense and a physical defense. Quarterback Matt Miedtke is one of the best in the metro as he passed for more than 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns in the regular season. He had four passing touchdowns in the section playoffs and most importantly, didn’t turn the ball over. Connor Kittleson and Josh Goldschmidt are his go-to receivers as they combined for three touchdowns in the playoffs. Prince Krauh and Jamien Hampton provided run balance with a combined four touchdowns.
It’s a formidable offense for the Eagles to try and stop, but they’ve built their championship tradition around shutting offenses down. Totino-Grace is led by quarterback Seth Sullwood’s even touchdowns in the regular season. The Eagles also come at you in a variety of ways in the run game, led By Kez Flomo’s 113 yards per game and seven touchdowns. Flomo, Lance Benick and Kai Barber combined for 23 touchdowns in the regular season.
It’s a game that should come down to the last possession, and I’ll take Miedtke to lead the Orioles to a big victory.
Chaska (10-0) vs. Andover (7-3)
Edina Community Center
There are two big games in the Class 5A tournament, but we’ll start with Chaska facing Andover Saturday night at the Edina Community Center. The Hawks haven’t been beaten this year and are coming off an impressive 27-6 win over Mankato West to win a section title. They’re led by quarterback Justin Arnold’s 12 regular season touchdowns and Kolby Seiffert’s 140 rushing yards per game and 14 touchdowns. Their defense might be more impressive. Since beating Shakopee in mid-September, they haven’t allowed more than 14 points in seven games.
Andover is led by quarterback Connor Wilkie, who passed for more than 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns in the regular season. Running back Derek McLaughlin averaged more than 100 yards per game and scored 12 touchdowns.
Chaska is the favorite until somebody beats them, and I’ll take the Hawks in a close one.
Hutchinson (10-0) vs. South St. Paul (9-1)
Chanhassen High School
Last year’s 4A state champion is back to defend, and the undefeated Hutchinson Tigers have the toughest game of the quarterfinal bracket against South St. Paul Thursday night at Chanhassen High School. Hutchinson hasn’t really been tested since a 16-13 overtime win over Becker to start the season. The Packers finished in a three-way tie for the Classic Suburban Conference title and coasted to two playoff wins after dropping their regular season finale to St. Thomas Academy.
The Tigers are led by running back Tory Adams, who finished the regular season with almost 1,000 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Robbie Grimsley and Jayden Fleck provide balance in one of the most physical and deceptive run games in the state as they combined for almost 800 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season. South St. Paul is led by quarterback Bill Brandecker and one of his favorite targets, Christian Rund.
Nobody has stopped Hutchinson this year, and I expect them to grind out another win and advance to the Metrodome in what should be a great game.
DeLaSalle (9-1) vs. Detroit Lakes (9-1)
St. Cloud State University
DeLaSalle is back in the Class 4A State Tournament after a tough loss to Becker in last year’s quarterfinals. DeLaSalle will face Detroit Lakes, a perennial state tournament team, Saturday night at St. Cloud State University. The Islanders have had quite the season, with their only loss coming in early October to a team from Wisconsin. DeLaSalle is a perfect 9-0 against Minnesota teams, including last week’s 27-23 win over Benilde-St. Margaret’s to earn a trip to state. The Islanders have a plethora of talent, led by quarterback Billy Hart, who is also their second-leading rusher. Chris Williams leads them in rushing with more than 140 yards per game and has four rushing touchdowns in the postseason.
Detroit Lakes has recovered from a late season loss to Perham with three straight victories, including a 43-29 win over Thief River Falls to earn its trip to the state tournament. The Lakers were in the state playoffs last year, but lost in overtime 34-31 to Princeton. They stick to the ground game as Michael Herzog and Jarett Nosal both have averaged close to 150 yards and have two touchdowns each in the playoffs.
The Islanders have too much athleticism and depth in this one. I’ll pick DeLaSalle to advance.
Glencoe-Silver Lake (8-2) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (8-2)
One of the best quarterfinal match-ups around takes place Friday night at Macalester College as Glencoe-Silver Lake and St. Croix Lutheran square off in a game featuring perennial powers. The Crusaders were a state tournament team last year before being knocked off in the quarterfinals by Blue Earth. The Panthers lost in a section final to eventual state champion Hutchinson.
Glencoe does a little bit of everything, but the Panthers like to run it with the combination of Jake Stuedeman, who had 242 yards and five touchdowns in a recent playoff game, and quarterback Keaton Anderson.
St. Croix Lutheran has won eight straight games since starting 0-2. The Crusaders are led by quarterback David Ponath’s 142 passing yards per game and eight touchdowns during the regular season. He’s also their leading rusher with 11 scores in the ground game. It’s a team that can score in bunches. Since their first two losses, they haven’t had less than 40 points in a game. I’ll pick Glencoe-Silver Lake in a tight one.
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.