Fifty-six teams remain standing in the quest for raising a high school football championship trophy one last time in the Metrodome.
One of them, Floodwood, is playing in its first state tournament, which begins with Thursday’s quarterfinal games.
In the seven classes, four defending champions are back — Eden Prairie in Class 6A, Totino-Grace in 5A, Hutchinson in 4A and Mahnomen in 1A. But, because Totino-Grace now competes in 6A, three at most can repeat.
Twenty-four teams that qualified last year are back. They include some of the 17 unbeatens.
By the end of Saturday’s last quarterfinal game, 28 teams will head to next week’s semifinals at the Metrodome. Prep Bowl championship games will be held two weeks later, on Nov. 29-30.
Here are eight games in the metro area that caught the prognosticating fancy of staff writers Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque:
Thursday • At TCF Bank Stadium
Eastview vs. Rosemount, 5 p.m.
Jim says: Eastview’s victory over East Ridge on Friday was shocking in its decisiveness. The Lightning won every facet of the game in a 38-3 rout. That won’t happen against Rosemount. The Irish have a championship look, having won nine games in a row by an average score of 41-9. They beat Eastview earlier in the season. They’ll do it again. Pick: Rosemount 21, Eastview 7
David says: Injuries prevented Eastview from finding a groove until late in the season. But even at full strength, the Lightning isn’t at Rosemount’s level. Few teams are. Per usual, the Irish can pound the ball. But quarterback Jackson Erdmann throws a nice deep ball and running back Dimitri Williams can hurt defenses in several ways. Pick: Rosemount 35, Eastview 7
Roseville vs Maple Grove, 8 p.m.
Jim says: Maple Grove needed a signature victory to get me on the Crimson bandwagon. Itfinally got one Friday in a gritty victory over Minnetonka. The defense has been difficult to puncture all year, and the running game wears opponents down. That wins in November. Pick: Maple Grove 31, Roseville 20
David says: Going to state is something new for players in each program. Factors such as nerves and colder weather are more easily overcome with a strong rushing attack and a stout defense. Maple Grove has both upon which to rely. Pick: Maple Grove 28, Roseville 14
Friday • At Metrodome
Eden Prairie vs. Lakeville North, 5 p.m.
Jim says: A rematch of the 2012 Class 6A championship game. Eden Prairie knows what it takes to win big games: The Eagles execute on offense, stay patient and don’t beat themselves. The return of Charlie Venable, who was injured early in the season, adds to an already potent backfield. Pick: Eden Prairie 34, Lakeville North 14
David says: Last season, a special Lakeville North team lost to Eden Prairie by three touchdowns. This year Eden Prairie is fielding a team that coach Mike Grant believes is his best. The Panthers are struggling with injury and an inconsistent passing game. Pick: Eden Prairie 42, Lakeville North 7
Totino-Grace vs. Osseo, 8 p.m.
Jim says: Osseo beat Totino-Grace 28-14 in the regular-season finale and defeated rugged Prior Lake on Friday. But Totino-Grace had its most impressive victory of the season in winning at Wayzata on Friday, trampling the Trojans with power and discipline on both sides of the ball. Beating a team like Totino-Grace twice in one season rarely happens. Pick: Totino-Grace 17, Osseo 14
David says: Beating Totino-Grace in the playoffs is a tough task, and Osseo is capable. Strong play from quarterback Matt Meidtke and the offense is important. But the Orioles defense, an undersized, overachieving bunch, must once again play to a high level. Totino-Grace averaged fewer than 3 yards per rush in the first meeting. Pick: Osseo 20, Totino-Grace 14
Saturday • At Edina C.C.
Chaska vs. Andover, 1 p.m.
Jim says: I thought the pressure of playing in the section final might get to the Hawks. But they stayed cool and true to themselves, using team speed and leaning on playmakers (RB Kolby Seiffert, QB Justin Arnold and WR Calvin Buesgens). Andover’s Connor Wilkie is a fine passer, but the Huskies will need to control the clock and limit Chaska’s offensive opportunities. Pick: Chaska 30, Andover 24
David says: Andover showed guts by finally winning a close game last week. Chaska has played with moxie all season. The Hawks’ well-executed option offense presents too many challenges. Andover’s inconsistent passing attack leaves too many questions. Pick: Chaska 28, Andover 14
Thursday • at Chanhassen
South St. Paul vs. Hutchinson, 7 p.m.
Jim says: A game many thought should be for the Class 4A title. Defending champion Hutchinson has a talented backfield trio in Tory Adams, Jayden Fleck and Robbie Grimsley, who have been unstoppable. South St. Paul has the defensive talent to do so, but it must stay disciplined for all four quarters. Pick: Hutchinson 27, South St. Paul 20
David says: It is indeed far too early in the playoffs for this game. A South St. Paul loss against rival St. Thomas Academy in the regular-season finale leaves me doubting if the Packers are for real. Hutchinson has won 23 consecutive games and has earned favorite status. Pick: Hutchinson 21, South St. Paul 17
Saturday • at St. Cloud State
DeLaSalle vs. Detroit Lakes, 8 p.m.
Jim says: The Islanders brim with talent at the skill positions, but they are vulnerable to teams that go all-in on the ground, as Detroit Lakes did when it rushed for 312 yards in a victory over Thief River Falls on Friday. Pick: Detroit Lakes 20, DeLaSalle 16
David says: Past DeLaSalle teams have struck me as being too soft to win games such as this one. Not this bunch. Running back Chris Williams is a hard-charging competitor who sets an example for teammates. Pick: DeLaSalle 24, Detroit Lakes 21
Saturday • at Macalester
Glencoe-Silver Lake vs. St. Croix Lutheran, 7 p.m.
Jim says: St. Croix Lutheran started the season with back-to-back losses to Class 4A teams DeLaSalle and Waseca but reduced its mistakes and reeled off eight consecutive victories. Glencoe-Silver Lake is a Class 3A rarity, fielding separate offensive and defensive units with no full-time two-way players. Pick: Glencoe-Silver Lake 24, St. Croix Lutheran 16
David says: Hardened by losses to Hutchinson (Class 4A) and Spring Lake Park (5A), Glencoe-Silver Lake is looking forward to taking it out on fellow 3A teams. The Panthers’ physical brand of football is tough to match. Pick: Glencoe-Silver Lake 28, St. Croix Lutheran 14
Tag(s): Star Tribune Hub Exclusive North South South St. Paul St. Thomas Academy Floodwood Detroit Lakes Thief River Falls Lake Eden Prairie Edina Minnetonka Wayzata Chanhassen Chaska Spring Lake Park Mahnomen Maple Grove Andover Osseo Totino-Grace Waseca Eastview Lakeville North Prior Lake Rosemount East Ridge Park of Cottage Grove Roseville St. Croix Lutheran DeLaSalle Hutchinson Glencoe-Silver Lake