MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s one of the best weeks of the Minnesota high school football landscape. Not only is it the playoffs with the season on the line, but state tournament bids are at stake.
Every athlete that ever puts on football pads dreams of the chance to play for a trip to state. For 112 teams across seven total classes, the opportunity is there this week to celebrate a section championship when the clock hits zero.READ MORE: VeeCon To Brings Thousands, Including Some Big Celebs, To Downtown Minneapolis
That field will be cut in half next week when the state playoffs start and teams get even closer to a state championship, but this week is all about getting there first. It doesn’t get much better than two good teams doing battle on the football field with a spot in the state playoffs on the line. That’s when the playmakers step up, and the leaders emerge.
Here’s a look at some of Friday night’s top match-ups with everything on the line.
Class 6A: Eagan (5-4) at Prior Lake (8-1)
One of the best match-ups Friday night is in the Class 6A round of 16 crossover games, and it’s a pair of familiar teams in the South Suburban Conference as Prior Lake hosts Eagan. It’s our featured game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.
The Lakers enter the contest having won seven straight games after a 21-0 Week 2 loss to Rosemount. Prior Lake and Eagan met earlier this month. The Lakers escaped Eagan with a 15-14 victory. Prior Lake dismantled Armstrong 54-0 last week to advance in the playoffs. The Lakers are led by linebacker Alex Hart, a Division I recruit who is one of the team’s top tacklers on defense. He’s also a bruising running back on the offensive side of the ball. Hart ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the Lakers’ win over Armstrong.
Prior Lake has had a dynamic offense this season, scoring at least 33 points in all but two victories this year.
Eagan enters the contest looking to pull the upset. The Wildcats finished the regular season 4-4, but lost three of their last five to get there. They knocked off Lakeville South 30-29 last week to earn the rematch with Prior Lake. In that game, quarterback back Sam Zenner ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns to lead Eagan. He averaged 146 yards per game during the regular season.
If the Wildcats are going to pull off the upset over Prior Lake, they’ll need to get a few turnovers, win the line of scrimmage and keep Prior Lake’s offense off the field.READ MORE: What Are The Benefits Of Ramp Meters?
Elk River (7-2) at St. Michael-Albertville (8-1)
There’s a great match-up northwest of the Twin Cities with a state tournament bid on the line Friday night as St. Michael-Albertville hosts Elk River in the Section 6AAAAA title game. The Knights have won four straight, including beating rival Rogers two weeks ago for the Mississippi 8 Conference title, since losing to Chisago Lakes in late September. It’s their only loss of the season. St. Michael-Albertville beat Monticello 27-7 to get there. The Knights are led by quarterback Jackson Greenwaldt, who passed for 148 yards per game and 12 touchdowns in the regular season and added seven rushing touchdowns.
Elk River has also had a great season. The Elks’ only losses came in consecutive weeks to Totino-Grace and Anoka. The Elks beat Blaine to finish the regular season, then knocked off Rogers in a 42-34 shootout. Elk River is led by running back Zach Ernst, one of the best rushers in the Twin Cities. Ernst ran for nearly 168 yards per game during the regular season with 16 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Trent Pink also had 15 rushing touchdowns this season. Against Rogers, Ernst ran for 296 yards and three scores.
Mahtomedi (6-4) at Spring Lake Park (6-3)
Two perennially solid teams will square off Friday night in the north Twin Cities metro for a trip to the state tournament as Spring Lake Park hosts Mahtomedi in the Section 4AAAAA title game. The Zephyrs were in a rut after six games with a 2-4 record, but have bounced back to win four straight games and are one victory away from the state playoffs. Mahtomedi beat Irondale 25-14 and Cooper 20-14 to get to the section title game. The Panthers enter the contest having won three of their past four games, including a 25-19 victory over Andover last week. It should be a great game between two teams with great defenses who also like to run the football.
Holy Family Catholic (7-2) at Holy Angels (9-0)
Holy Angels, last year’s state runner-up in Class 4A, is ranked No. 2 this year and undefeated as it hosts Holy Family Catholic in the Section 3AAAA title game Friday night. The Stars are 9-0 and have really only been tested twice this season, a 35-34 overtime win at St. Croix Lutheran and a 16-12 win over a tough DeLaSalle squad. In their wins, they’ve scored at least 31 points eight times and more than 50 points four times. The Fire come in having won four of their past five games and they are also no stranger to scoring points. They’ve scored at least 26 points in every game this season and have scored at least 30 points five times. With two high-scoring offenses squaring off, the team with the better defense will advance.
Extra: Stillwater (7-2) at Totino-Grace (8-1)
A pair of top 10 teams will meet in the north Twin Cities metro Friday night for a spot in the Class 6A round of 16, and the contest will feature two of the top running backs in the Twin Cities as Totino-Grace hosts Stillwater. The Ponies are 7-2 after beating Roseville 53-20 in the opening round of the playoffs. They’re led by bruising running back Zach Knox, who would rather run over tacklers than go around them. Knox ran for 123 yards per game and 11 touchdowns during the regular season. The Eagles have won four straight since a 28-0 loss to Maple Grove in late September. They beat Anoka 35-14 last week to advance and are led by powerful running back Kez Flomo, who ran for 164 yards per game and 12 touchdowns in the regular season. The team that runs the football with success and stops the run has the best chance to win.MORE NEWS: Rising Water Levels Have Some Minnesota Resort Owners On Edge
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.