It’s section championship weekend in high school football. Across the state Friday and Saturday, state tournament bids are on the line as teams battle to become one of the eight left battling for a championship among the seven classes in the state.
In Class 6A, it’s technically the round of 16 in the playoffs but the concept is the same. The high seeds are hosting, and starting next weekend, all games will be played on turf fields at neutral sties. The ultimate goal: Getting the opportunity to play at TCF Bank Stadium in the middle of November for a state championship.
There is simply nothing better than two good football teams going to battle with everything on the line. Some teams go into a season expecting to get to a state tournament. For some programs, it’s just one step in the process for getting to the Prep Bowl. Others have exceeded expectations and are now looking for the cherry on top with a section title.
It’s also a new opportunity for teams that might have struggled in the regular season but are figuring things out at just the right time. Regardless of the situation, having a state playoff bid at stake creates for some nervous moments and great match-ups. Here are this week’s top match-ups.
Featured Game: St. Michael-Albertville (8-1) vs. Rogers (8-1)
It doesn’t get much better than two top-10 teams squaring off with a trip to the state tournament on the line. That’s exactly the case Friday night at St. Cloud State University as a pair of programs very familiar with each other square off for the Section 6AAAAA Championship. No. 4-ranked St. Michael-Albertville faces No. 6-ranked Rogers for a trip to the state tournament. It’s the second time in three years the programs have met for a section championship.
When the two teams met in the regular season, St. Michael-Albertville controlled the line of scrimmage in a 26-7 win over Rogers. It’s our Featured Game for WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally.
The Knights’ only loss of the season came in its season-opener, 26-16 to Moorhead, in a game marred by seven turnovers. They’ve won eight straight since and are doing it largely with defense. St. Michael-Albertville has allowed more than 20 points just twice this season and have allowed 12 points or fewer in five of their eight wins. They are led offensively four very talented athletes. Quarterback Jacob Veire is averaging 134 passing yards per game on the season and has 10 passing touchdowns. Nine of those have gone to Isaiah Weston, who is averaging nearly 22 yards per catch. The Knights are led in the run game by the duo of Mitchell Kartes and Eric Sjellin, who both rush for more than 90 yards per game and have a combined 15 touchdowns.
The Royals have won six straight games since losing to the Knights in Week 3. They advanced to the section title game with a 36-20 win over Monticello. Rogers is led by running back Blayne Kasper, who averaged about 117 rushing yards per game in the regular season and had 10 touchdowns.
The two schools are separated by the Crow River, and it’s a battle for bragging rights in a great rivalry game with a state tournament bid at stake.
Alexandria (6-3) vs. Moorhead (9-0) (Fergus Falls)
The No. 2-ranked team in Class 5A, Moorhead, puts an undefeated season on the line Friday night as the Spuds face Alexandria in Fergus Falls with a trip to the state tournament on the line. The Spuds have dominated opponents most of the season by winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. They have a balanced run game, led by Mike Duginski’s 95 rushing yards per game and nine touchdowns in the regular season. Quarterback Matt Bye is throwing for about 137 yards per game and has seven passing touchdowns on the year.
Since losing two straight to start the season, Alexandria has won six of its past seven. The Cardinals outscored Bemidji 49-35 to get to Friday’s section final. They rush for about 200 yards per game, and the attack is led by Micah Christenson’s 131 yards and 12 touchdowns. Quarterback Jaran Roste is also having an impressive season with 231 passing yards per game, 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
Armstrong (7-2) at Maple Grove (7-2)
Armstrong started the Class 6A Playoffs last week with a convincing 43-27 win over Woodbury, and the reward for the Falcons is a match-up Friday night against one of the top teams in the Twin Cities. They travel to No. 6-ranked Maple Grove in the round of 16. The Falcons rush for 220 yards per game, a balanced attack led by Evan McCellon’s 76 yards per game and seven touchdowns. Quarterback Collis Barber throws for 135 yards per game with 12 touchdowns, and linebacker Thomas Barber is one of the top players in the Twin Cities with 78 tackles in the regular season.
The Crimson have won five straight since a 28-20 loss at Eden Prairie in Week 4. They beat Eastivew 28-6 last week to advance and are led by running back Isaac Collins, who is rushing for nearly 150 yards per game with 18 touchdowns. Lukas Burrington led a strong Maple Grove defense in the regular season with 49 tackles.
It should be a great game between two very talented teams in the northwest Twin Cities metro.
Hopkins (3-6) at Osseo (6-3)
By all accounts, Hopkins had a disappointing regular season as its 2-6 record didn’t meet the program’s typically high standards. Then the Royals went and sprung a 28-21 upset win at Rosemount last week. The Irish had been one of the metro’s top teams all year. The Royals head to Osseo Friday night, with the winner advancing to the 6A final eight. The Royals are led by quarterback Oscar Johnson-Dorothy, who throws for nearly 270 yards per game and has 16 touchdowns. Running back JaMichael Ellis leads the rushing attack with 80 yards per game and 13 scores.
Osseo has won three straight since battling through a three-game losing skid in the middle of the season. The Orioles advanced to the round of 16 with a 48-21 win over White Bear Lake. They’re led by quarterback Malik Gaillard’s 157 passing yards per game and 11 touchdowns. He also has six rushing scores. Prince Kruah leads the rushing attack with 108 yards per game and six scores.
Extra: Stillwater (6-3) at Lakeville North (8-1)
It should be a great match-up Friday night in the south Twin Cities metro as No. 4-ranked Lakeville North hosts Stillwater. The Panthers have been one of the state’s best teams all year, with their only loss coming to Rosemount in Week 8. They beat Buffalo 34-24 last week to advance. Lakeville North is led by quarterback Drew Stewart, who is throwing for 162 yards per game on the season and has 16 passing touchdowns. Running back Wade Sullivan averages about 122 rushing yards per game and has 12 touchdowns.
Stillwater has recovered from a 1-3 start to win five straight games. In their last three victories over White Bear Lake, Forest Lake and Champlin Park, the Ponies have outscored opponents 91-9. The Ponies shut out the Rebels 23-0. Stillwater is led by running back Stephen Wagner’s 126 yards per game and 12 touchdowns.
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.