MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s what every kid who has ever put on a football uniform dreams of: Playing at the Metrodome the weekend after Thanksgiving for a state championship.
Between Friday and Saturday, 14 teams will play for titles and seven will finish their seasons as state champions. Six teams have a chance to finish their season with a perfect record, and three could repeat as state champions. There’s a guarantee of new state champions in four of the seven classes.
All the action starts Friday morning, and for the last time it’s all at the Metrodome in Minneapolis before the stadium gets torn down and construction for a new Vikings stadium starts. The first game of the Prep Bowl is at 10 a.m. Friday, and all the action wraps up with the final kickoff at 4 p.m. Saturday. In between, there figures to be great moments, thrilling games and emotional wins.
Here’s a look at all seven match-ups.
Class 6A, 7 p.m. Friday
Eden Prairie (11-0) vs. Rosemount (11-1)
Eden Prairie can clinch its third straight state championship, second in Class 6A, if it can find a way to beat Rosemount in the primetime game of the Prep Bowl Friday night. Coach Mike Grant is also going for his ninth state championship as head coach of the Eagles.
Eden Prairie is on a 16-game winning streak dating back to last season, and the Eagles have largely done it by playing big up front on both sides of the ball. The Eagles love to run the ball Dan Fisher (123 yard per game, 5 TDs in the state playoffs) and Anthony Anderson (114 yards per game, 2 TDs in the state playoffs). If that’s not enough, they can bruise you with Charlie Venable, who also has two touchdowns in the state tournament. Eden Prairie’s defense has been just as tough, not allowing opponents to score until the game is well in hand.
Rosemount has quietly gone along as one of the top teams in the state all season. The Irish have won 11 straight games since losing their season opener, and they’ve had a similar formula with defense and running the football. Other than a shootout win over Roseville in the semifinals, Rosemount has not allowed more than 14 points in a game since Week 3. The Irish allowed seven points in two playoff games before beating the Raiders 35-28 to get to the Prep Bowl. They’re led by quarterback Jackson Erdmann and running backs Dimitri Williams and Tyrek Cross. The trio has combined for four touchdowns.
I think this one will be closer than most expect, but the Eagles will wear down Rosemount in the second half to claim the victory.
Class 5A, 4 p.m. Saturday
Owatonna (12-0) vs. Brainerd (12-0)
It’s not often two teams from outside the Twin Cities in the state’s second-biggest class meet for a state championship. That’s exactly the case for the final Prep Bowl game in the Metrodome, and it figures to be a fantastic match-up of unbeaten teams in Owatonna and Brainerd. One team will leave Minneapolis with its storybook perfect season, and the other comes up heartbroken.
The Huskies got to the Prep Bowl with a 27-7 win over St. Michael-Albertville, and they’re led in the running game by Aaron Peterson. He’s averaging 155 yards per game on the ground and has five touchdowns in the state tournament. Owatonna is also led up front by Andrew Stelter, a University of Minnesota football commit.
Brainerd got to the Prep Bowl with a stunning 20-19 win over Chaska last week. The Hawks were thought to be one of the favorites to win it all. Look for the Warriors to run the ball with a trio of backs, led by Conor Gessell’s 123 yards per game and two touchdowns. Tommy Stoxen and Logan Davis combine to average 126 yards per game and three touchdowns in the state playoffs.
I’ll take Owatonna in a contest that should go down to the wire, perhaps even the last possession.
Class 4A, 4 p.m. Friday
Hutchinson (12-0) vs. Holy Angels (7-5)
It’s the epitome of David versus Goliath in Class 4A as undefeated Hutchinson faces Holy Angels in the Prep Bowl Friday afternoon. The Tigers haven’t really been tested since beating Becker in overtime in its season opener. They got to the Prep Bowl with a win over Wright County Conference rival Delano in the semifinals.
Hutchinson pushes you around at the line of scrimmage and is very deceptive in its run game. The Tigers are led by Tory Adams, who is averaging 139 yards per game and has four touchdowns in the state tournament. Quarterback Marcus Hahn also has three passing and three rushing touchdowns in the state playoffs.
Holy Angels is the story of the state playoffs so far. The Stars entered the playoffs with a 3-5 record, but have won four straight games to reach the Prep Bowl. Holy Angels beat Kasson-Mantorville 21-14 in the quarterfinals and got past DeLaSalle 32-21 to earn a trip to the Prep Bowl. The Stars are led by running backs Connor Moriarty and Connor McCarthy, who are combining to run for about 200 yards per game and two touchdowns in the state tournament.
I’ll take Hutchinson to win its second straight state title.
Class 3A, 1 p.m. Saturday
St. Croix Lutheran (10-2) vs. New London-Spicer (10-2)
St. Croix Lutheran and New London-Spicer were both state tournament teams last year, but they never met. The Crusaders and Wildcats were on opposite sides of the brackets, and both lost in the quarterfinals. The two teams meet Saturday afternoon at the Metrodome for the Class 3A title.
St. Croix Lutheran got to the Prep Bowl by beating Glencoe-Silver Lake 38-35, then getting just a field goal in a 3-0 win of Proctor. The Wildcats are in the Prep Bowl after beating Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 56-30 and Rochester Lourdes 36-16. Scoring hasn’t been much of an issue for either team, and I don’t expect it to change much with a state championship on the line. I’ll take St. Croix Lutheran in a tight one. The Crusaders average about 230 yards per game on the ground.
Class 2A, 1 p.m. Friday
Minneota/Lincoln (13-0) vs. Chatfield (12-1)
We’ll have a brand new champion in Class 2A this year as neither team was in the state playoffs last year. Minneota/Lincoln and Chatfield will square off for a state title, and it’s a great match-up on paper as the two teams have one loss combined.
Minneota/Lincoln is looking to complete a perfect 13-0 season, and the Vikings really haven’t been tested all year. They beat Moose Lake-Willow River 31-20 in the quarterfinals and Maple Lake 50-24 to get to the Prep Bowl. Chatfield has won 12 straight since winning its opener and got to the Prep Bowl by beating Jackson County Central 32-6 and Haley 41-21. The Gophers have scored at least 24 point in 11 of their 12 victories this season.
It should be a great game, and I’ll take Minneota/Lincoln to complete its perfect season.
Class A, 10 a.m. Saturday
Mahnomen (13-0) vs. Dawson-Boyd (12-1)
In a Prep Bowl filled with great match-ups, one of the best might be in Class A. The Saturday morning game features undefeated Mahnomen, which is looking to defend a state championship, against 12-1 Dawson-Boyd. The Blackjacks only loss of the season was to Minneota/Lincoln, who is playing Friday for the Class 2A title. They’ve won eight straight since, including a 27-8 win over Braham in the state quarterfinals and a 27-8 win over Sleepy Eye-St. Mary’s in the semifinals.
The Indians, winners of 27 straight, are in the Prep Bowl after shutting out Bethlehem Academy 19-0 in the semifinals. They’re led by quarterback Tom Pavek, who is much more of a threat to run. He’s averaging 118 yards per game on the ground and has four touchdowns in the state playoffs.
Two great teams are meeting Saturday morning, but I’ll take Mahnomen to repeat in a close game.
Nine Man, 10 a.m. Friday
Underwood (10-3) vs. Grand Meadow (12-1)
Nine-man football might be the most entertaining to watch for three reasons: There are fewer players on the field, the field is shorter and almost every player has a spot on offense and defense.
Grand Meadow got to the Prep Bowl last year and lost a tough one to Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, while Underwood wasn’t in the state tournament last year. Grand Meadow has won five straight since losing to Lanesboro in early October. That includes state tournament wins over Mountain Lake Area and Kittson County Central to get back to the Prep Bowl. Underwood has won five straight games and got to the Prep Bowl by beating Nicollet 34-21 and Ely 34-20. I expect unfinished business to be a big factor in this one, and that’s why I’m picking Grand Meadow to win a state championship.
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 of Friday’s action covered. They’ll also preview Saturday’s title games.