This is the big week for a lot of prep football programs, with many playing two games this week. The bottom line: Win Saturday and you are in a section final. Most programs have that as a preseason goal.
Even if you lose in a section final, it means you are in the top 16 in the state in your class (except for the new Class 6A, which is all Twin Cities teams and Brainerd). Most programs would welcome a crack at a state berth and a section runnerup as a good season, no matter what happened before then.
It looks like it is going to be cold Saturday night, so dress warmly. I’ll be at the St. Cloud Apollo-Sartell game at St. Cloud State, which means I have a comfortable, warm press box in which to watch. I know the vast majority of you aren’t so lucky, but I’ve always considered it kind of fun to endure the weather. That’s what makes us Minnesotans, right?
Anyway, enjoy the games.
Here’s a quick look with some picks:
* No. 3 Apollo (4-5) at No. 2 Sartell (6-2) — The Sabres opened the season with a 6-0 win over Apollo at Husky Stadium. A lot has changed since. Most notably, the Eagles now have a four-game winning streak instead of a long losing streak to deal with. Sartell is improved, too. Erik McAfee remains one of the best running backs in the area, but the Sabres have put together a fine passing game led by quarterback Parker Hagen and wide receiver Pat Fischer. Fischer also is an excellent defensive back. I’m guessing this is going to be close and interesting. I’m taking Sartell, 21-20.
* No. 4 Zimmerman (6-3) at No. 1 Becker (7-1) — The Bulldogs won the first meeting easily, 56-22. I don’t see why Becker won’t win again, though the Bulldogs are dealing with injuries. Becker wins 35-21.
* No. 3 Fergus Falls (6-3) at No. 2 Rocori (5-3) — I’m guessing this game will be close, too. Take the home team Spartans to win, 21-20.
* No. 4 Mora (3-6) at No.1 Annandale (7-1) — I like Annandale here. I think the Cardinals win easily, 35-14.
* No. 3 St. Cloud Cathedral (4-5) at No. 2 Foley (6-2) — I believe the Falcons should win this one handily. Take Foley, 35-14.
* No. 4 Albany (5-4) at No. 1 Morris (8-0) — Albany has not fared very well on the road this season and this will be the Huskies’ first exposure to FieldTurf. Morris plays its home games at the University of Minnesota-Morris’ Big Cat Stadium. I don’t know if this helps Albany or not. But I know the Huskies have the long bus ride. Take Morris 28-21.
* No. 3 Kimball (5-4) at No. 2 Maple Lake (6-3) — I think the Irish win big here, 28-14.
* No. 3 Paynesville (5-4) at No. 2 Minnewaska (5-4) — Minnewaska beat Paynesville 14-6 last week in Glenwood, but the Bulldogs had a tremendous yardage advantage and did everything but beat the Lakers on the scoreboard. Let’s turn it around this time and take Paynesville, 21-20.
* No. 3 Pierz (8-1) at No. 2 Holdingford (8-1) — I think this is the game of the night. Holdingford beat Pierz 12-7 in the second week of the season, but Pierz certainly had its opportunities to win. I’m guessing the Pioneers are going to pull off the mild upset tonight, 21-20.
I was 9-2 picking winners on Tuesday night, making me 100-35 (74.1 percent) for the season. I was also 9-2 against the mythical point spread, leaving me at 83-52 (61.5 percent) for the season.
Not shabby, but first-round playoff games shouldn’t be that difficult. That said, I got two wrong.
Alexandria smoked St. Cloud Tech 39-12 and I had it the other way around. And Pine River-Backus, a fifth seed, beat No. 4 Royalton, 20-8.