MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Every high school football player that steps on the field in August has the goal of playing football in November. That means you’re in the state tournament, where anything is possible.
There are 56 teams left playing in Minnesota, and by Saturday night number will be cut in half. Some teams expect to get to the state playoffs every year, and it’s a disappointment if they don’t at least get to the Prep Bowl. Others are there for the first time, soaking up the moment and hoping this week isn’t the last time they put on a uniform.
There are a lot of great match-ups between great teams in this week’s state playoff quarterfinals that all deserve to be there. Here’s a look at one match-up in each bracket.
Class 6A: Eden Prairie (10-0) vs. East Ridge (9-1)
(Friday, 7 p.m. at Woodbury High School)
One of the best match-ups in the quarterfinal round for the state playoffs is at Woodbury High School Friday night as undefeated and No. 1-ranked Eden Prairie faces No. 7-ranked East Ridge. The Eagles are the three-time defending 6A state champions.
The Eagles have won 27 straight games entering Friday’s contest and really haven’t been tested other than a 19-15 win at Eastview in early September. They breezed to the state quarterfinals with wins over Shakopee and Burnsville by a combined 87-14. Their approach is simple: Run the football and dominate at the line of scrimmage.
Eden Prairie is led by running back in Division I recruit Will Rains, who runs for about 70 yards per game and had 23 rushing touchdowns during the regular season. The Eagles are also tough defensively as they’ve only allowed more than 14 points three times this season. They’re an experienced group led by one of the best high school coaches around in Mike Grant.
East Ridge set an early-season goal of playing football into November, and now the Raptors are there after outlasting Osseo 20-17 last week. They’re led by quarterback Seth Green, the top junior in Minnesota who is committed to Oregon. Green throws for about 180 yards per game and had 16 passing touchdowns during the regular season. He also ran for about 62 yards and three scores in the regular season.
The Raptors are led in rushing by Dominik London, who runs for more than 100 yards per game and had nine rushing touchdowns in the regular season. East Ridge is as tough defensively as teams come as well. The Raptors have allowed more than seven points in a game just twice this season.
I’ll pick East Ridge to pull off the victory and advance. The winner faces the Maple Grove/Prior Lake winner Nov. 14.
Class 5A: Bloomington Jefferson (7-3) vs. Mankato West (9-1)
(Saturday, 2 p.m. at Lakeville North High School)
Mankato West is no stranger to the state football playoffs, and the Scarlets are back again this year as they face Bloomington Jefferson Saturday in the quarterfinals at Lakeville North High School. Mankato West is led by quarterback Ryan Schlichte, who passed for nearly 260 yards per game in the regular season and 33 touchdowns with just one interception. The Scarlets scored at least 38 points in all but one game this season, which was their only loss.
The Jaguars lost three of their last four games to end the regular season, but reached the state playoffs after victories over Aple Valley and Minneapolis Southwest. They’re led by quarterback Zach Ubben’s 157 passing yards per game and 15 touchdowns. Colton Myles also runs for than 100 yards per game and had 12 scores in the regular season. The winner faces the Bemidji/St. Michael-Albertville winner Nov. 15.
Class 4A: Holy Angels (10-0) vs. Hutchinson (10-0)
(Friday, 7 p.m. at Minneapolis Washburn)
Hutchinson has been without a doubt the best team in Class 4A in recent memory. The Tigers have won 36 straight games and are the state’s two-time defending champions. That’s on the line Friday night as they face a talented Holy Angels squad. The two teams met last year for the state title, with Hutchinson winning 49-7. The Tigers are led by running back Robbie Grimsley’s 157 yards per game and 23 touchdowns. Holy Angels is led by dual threat quarterback Anthony Eckholm, who passes for about 100 yards per game with nine touchdowns and runs for nearly 115 yards per game with 12 rushing touchdowns in the regular season. The winner advances to play the DeLaSalle/Cloquet winner Nov. 15.
Class 3A: Blue Earth (9-1) vs. Glencoe-Silver Lake (8-3)
(Saturday, 6 p.m. at Burnsville)
After a 1-3 start to the season, Glencoe-Silver Lake has figured some things out with seven straight wins on the way to another state tournament berth. The Panthers are always tough, and they’ll face Blue Earth Saturday night. They’re led by quarterback Keaton Anderson, who had seven passing touchdowns and six rushing scores during the regular season. Blue Earth has won nine straight games since a season-opening loss to Marshall. The Buccaneers feature a tough defense that’s allowed more than eight points in a game just once and recorded three shut outs. The winner faces the Esko/New London-Spicer winner Nov. 15.
Class 2A: Maple Lake (10-1) vs. Caledonia (11-0)
(Friday, 7 p.m. at RCTC)
Caledonia is back in the state playoffs after a brief absence and is looking to finish a perfect season with a state title. Maple Lake is back after reaching last year’s state semifinals. The two squads meet Friday night at Rochester Community and Technical College. Maple Lake’s only loss of the season came in Week 2, and they’ve won nine straight since. Caledonia’s defense has paved the way to its season with six shutouts. The winner faces the Hawley/BOLD winner Nov. 15.
Class A: Minneapolis North (11-0) vs. Blooming Prairie (11-0)
(Friday, 7 p.m. at Richfield)
Minneapolis North finds itself in some unfamiliar territory, undefeated at 11-0 and in the Class A state playoffs. The Polars breezed through the Section 4A playoffs, and now they put their high-scoring offense up against Blooming Prairie Friday night in the state tournament. The Awesome Blossoms are also 11-0 and are largely outscoring opponents this season. With two high-octane offenses going to battle, it should be a high-scoring game. The winner advances to face the Mahnomen/Dawson-Boyd winner Nov. 15.
9-Man: Grand Meadow (11-0) vs. Underwood (10-1)
(Saturday, 1 p.m. at Irondale)
Grand Meadow is back to defend its 9-Man state title from last year and is looking to cap off an undefeated season this year. Standing in its way, at least in the state quarterfinals, is Underwood. The two teams meet Saturday afternoon at Irondale. The Superlarks have won largely with defense this year, allowing double-digits in points just twice. That includes shutouts in two of their past three games. The Rockets have won nine straight games since a Week 2 loss to Verndale in overtime. The winner gets the Kittson County Central/Cromwell winner Nov. 14.
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.