It’s getting real on the Minnesota high school football scene. We are officially now on the road to the Prep Bowl.
The playoffs are here. This is where all that time spent in the weight room over the summer, the captain’s practices and all the extra time devoted to football matters. Teams either win and advance to get one step closer to the state playoffs, or you lose, turn in your gear and wonder what might have been.
There are section semifinal games Friday and Saturday, with the winners getting one step closer to a state tournament bid. Here are four of the top match-ups in the semifinals.
Armstrong (5-3) at Champlin Park (5-3)
Champlin Park at one point in the season was a top-10 team in Class 6A. The Rebels finished the regular season losing two of its last three, but gained some confidence in the finale with a 46-16 win over Andover. The Rebels host Armstrong, also a 5-3 squad, Friday night for the right to advance to the Class 6A round of 16.
The Rebels are led by quarterback Bennett Otto, who threw for 180 yards per game and 15 touchdowns in the regular season. He had two top targets in Marcus Hill and Cameron Witt, who combined for almost 1,000 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. The Champlin Park run game is led by Ernest Worjloh, who averaged 80 yards per game and had five touchdowns in the regular season.
Armstrong struggled early, getting off to a 1-2 start. But the Falcons rallied with four wins in its last five games, including a 23-19 win over Benilde-St. Margaret’s in its regular season finale. The Falcons are led by the balanced running attack of Cartier Reid and Jesse Sherwood. Reid averaged 152 yards in just two games in the regular season with four touchdowns. Sherwood ran for 90 yards per game with nine scores.
It’s a great match-up on paper and it should be a great battle on the field with the season on the line.
Hill-Murray (2-7) at New Life Academy (5-3)
Hill-Murray is looking to be the surprise football team of the playoffs this year. The Pioneers, under first-year coach Pete Bercich, beat Simley 13-12 in Week 7 for their first win of the season. They finished 1-7, then beat St. Paul Johnson 55-26 on Tuesday in the section quarterfinals. The reward is a Saturday afternoon match-up at New Life Academy, who went 5-3 in the regular season and finished with three straight wins. The winner gets the South St. Paul/Simley winner next Friday with a state tournament berth at stake.
Monticello (7-2) at Elk River (8-0)
It should be a great match-up Saturday afternoon as Elk River, the No. 1-ranekd team in Class 5A, hosts Monticello in semifinal match-up. The Elks have dominated opponents all season and haven’t scored less than 33 points in a game the whole year. They’re rushing for nearly 450 yards per game, led by Nick Rice and Sam Gibas. The two are combining for nearly 240 yards and 27 touchdowns on the season. The Magic are 7-2 with losses to Alexandria and St. Michael-Albertville. They knocked off perennial power Rogers 24-19 in the playoffs on Tuesday.
Glencoe-Sillver Lake (6-3) at Belle Plaine (7-2)
There’s another great match-up Saturday afternoon in southern Minnesota as Belle Plaine will host Glencoe-Silver Lake in the Section 2AAA semifnals. The Tigers went 6-2 in the regular season and recovered from a 45-7 loss to Marshall in the finale with a 12-0 win over Holy Family Catholic in the playoffs on Tuesday. They rush for nearly 200 yards per game, led by March Walsh’s 88 yards per contest. Walsh, Alec Ruud and Carsen Ladd have combined for 12 rushing touchdowns on the year. Glencoe-Silver Lake recovered from a three-game losing streak in the regular season to win its last four games and finish 5-3. The Panthers beat Watertown-Mayer 36-20 on Tuesday to advance. They have a balanced rushing attack as Michael Forar, Carsen Streich and Spencer Lepel all rush for more than 60 yards per game and have a combined 16 touchdowns on the year.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max and Frank Vascellaro will have all the action covered.