It doesn’t seem right that this week already marks the end of the regular season in high school football. It feels like fans just got comfortable in their seats, and district races just started to take shape.
But the reality is Week 8 is here. After this week, every prep football team in Minnesota is guaranteed only one more game. The playoffs start next week, which means many teams are playing for seeding purposes this week.
That means the difference between a win and a loss is huge. It could determine whether a team gets a home game for the playoffs or even a bye in the section playoffs. It has all the feelings of a huge week in high school football, especially when you look at some of the match-ups on paper.
There are games between top-10 teams, games between unbeaten teams and games with district titles on the line. It’s everything you would want in the last week of the regular season for prep football. There are several great match-ups, but we highlight four of the biggest this week.
Lakeville North (7-0) at Rosemount (6-1)
It’s arguably the biggest game of the week around the Twin Cities as two Class 6A powerhouses meet Friday night in the south metro. No. 3-ranked Rosemount hosts No. 2-ranked Lakeville North. It’s an old South Suburban Conference rivalry and this year, the White Sub-district title in the East Metro District is at stake. It’s our Featured Game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.
Lakeville North can win a sub-district title and lock up home field for the 6A playoffs with a victory. The Panthers are unbeaten, and their closest contest came in a 38-28 win over rival Lakeville South in Week 5. The Panthers are balanced offensively, running for about 194 yards per game and passing for 166. Leading the passing game is quarterback Drew Stewart, who has 13 passing touchdowns on the season with just four interceptions. Running back Wade Sullivan leads the rushing attack with 130 yards per game and 12 touchdowns. Nick Fossey leads the Panthers with eight receiving touchdowns.
The Irish like to run the football and stop the run. Rosemount runs for nearly 193 yards per game, and it’s an attack that’s led by Blake Storholm’s 55 yards per game and eight touchdowns. Austin Valenzuela also runs for more than 50 yards per game. Quarterback Jared Hansen has seven passing touchdowns on the season.
It’s a great match-up on paper with both teams featuring stiff defenses that just don’t give up much. When the two teams met last year in the Class 6A state playoffs, Lakeville North escaped with a 14-13 victory. The Irish will be a hungry and angry group this week, coming off its only loss of the season, 20-17 to Burnsville. They also need a win for a share of the sub-district title.
Wayzata (6-1) at Eden Prairie (7-0)
There’s another top 10 match-up between Class 6A schools in west Twin Cities metro Friday night as Eden Prairie hosts Wayzata. It’s also a battle for the West Metro South sub-district title. The Eagles win it outright with a victory, while the Trojans can claim a share with the upset.
The Eagles have won 37 straight games dating back three seasons, and this year it’s all about Nebraska commit J.D. Spielman. He leads Eden Prairie with 115 rushing yards per game and 10 touchdowns. He’s the player they go to whenever they need a big play. Alec Hethering is also averaging 61 rushing yards per game with nine touchdowns. Since a 28-20 win over Maple Grove in Week 4, Eden Prairie has won three straight games by a combined 133-37.
Wayzata’s only loss of the season came to that Maple Grove squad in Week 5. The Trojans have beaten Hopkins and Edina since. Wayzata is led by quarterback Jake Marsh’s 125 passing yards per game and 11 touchdowns on the season. Foster Conzet leads the run game with 61 yards per game with four touchdowns. Wayzata will need its best defensive give of the season to pull the upset.
Albany (7-0) at Becker (7-0) (Thursday)
It doesn’t get much better than when two unbeaten teams meet at the end of the regular season with a title at stake. That’s the case Thursday night as Becker, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, hosts Albany, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, with the winner claiming the North sub-district title in the East Central District.
The defending state champion Bulldogs are riding a streak of shutout victories over Foley, Milaca and St. Cloud Cathedral. They outscored the three by a combined 165-0. Becker is averaging more than 50 points per game on the season, and its strength is in the run game, which accounts for almost 270 yards in total offense. Gabe Dertinger and Milan Kent combine to average more than 160 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season.
Albany has held opponents to single digits in points in five of its seven wins. They Huskies are also rushing for more than 330 yards per game, led by Kyle Birr’s 125 yards per game and 11 touchdowns on the season. Quarterback Taylor Fourre also has a combined 13 scores on the season, with eight coming on the ground.
Grand Meadow (7-0) at Spring Grove (7-0)
It’s always fun to look at 9-man games, where rosters are limited and players often see action on both sides of the ball. It doesn’t get any more exciting than when two top teams meet in the regular season. No. 1-ranked Spring Grove hosts No. 2 Grand Meadow Friday night.
The two teams have combined to win the last four section titles, and Grand Meadow has won consecutive state championships. Both teams have been equally dominant this season. Spring Grove has held opponents to single digits in six of their seven games, and the other was a 44-12 victory. Grand Meadow has scored more than 50 points in five of its seven victories.
Extra: Fairmont (5-2) at Waseca (6-1)
There’s a big game in southern Minnesota Friday night between a pair of rivals as Waseca hosts Fairmont. The Cardinals have won three straight games over St. Peter, Worthington and Albert Lea since losing two straight to Tri-City United and Marshall. The Bluejays are looking to end the regular season with six straight wins after losing to Marshall in Week 2. Waseca is led by its defense, which has posted three shutouts this season. Fairmont has scored at least 27 points in its five victories.
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.