Twins Conner, right, and Carter Yepsen lead the Rosemount secondary.
A not-so-warm thought: Next year at this time, the semifinals of the high school football state tournament will be played outdoors. And so will the Prep Bowl championship games in each of the seven classes, most likely at TCF Bank Stadium, until the new Vikings stadium provides a new climate-controlled home in 2016.
But starting at 11:30 a.m. Thursday and continuing through Saturday evening, the Metrodome will play host to 14 semifinal games in Nine-man through Class 6A. Winners advance to the Prep Bowl on Nov. 29-30.
The field includes four defending champions — Mahnomen in Class 2A, Hutchinson in 4A, and Eden Prairie and Totino-Grace in 6A. Totino-Grace was the Class 5A winner last year but is competing in Class 6A this year. Ten of the 28 teams are unbeaten.
Below is a look at Thursday’s games by Star Tribune staff writers David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen. Check for in-game updates and results on the Star Tribune Football Hub at mnfootballhub.com. Previews and picks for the five games on Friday and the five games on Saturday will appear in each day’s sports section and on the Football Hub.
CLASS 6A Thursday • 7 p.m.
Rosemount (10-1) vs. Roseville (9-2)
Jim says: Neither team was in my Metro Top 10 to begin the season, which probably says more about me than anything else. Rosemount has looked like a championship-caliber team all season. The offense has better balance than in the past and the defense is studded with big-time players like lineman Tra Peterson, linebackers Craig Szymanski and Nate Sackett, and the Yepsen twins, Conner and Carter, at defensive back. Roseville deserves a lot of love for getting this far, but the Rosemount train will just keep rolling. Pick: Rosemount 36, Roseville 19.
David says: What’s so intriguing about this game is the individual matchups. The key here: Rosemount cornerbacks Conner and Carter Yepsen, great athletes who measure about 5-10, 150 pounds, vs. Roseville’s Jesper Horsted, a 6-3, 185-pound receiver who has caught a touchdown pass in every game thus far. Rosemount’s offense, featuring quarterback Jackson Erdmann, do-it-all dynamo Dimitri Williams and tough-running Tyrek Cross, will score. If the Yepsens can limit Horsted, Roseville’s best chance to stay in the game goes away. Pick: Rosemount 35, Roseville 20
CLASS 4A Thursday • 4:30 p.m.
Delano (10-1) vs. Hutchinson (11-0)
Jim says: Hutchinson is nothing if not relentless, pounding away until the obstacle in its way breaks. Teams have competed with the Tigers for large segments of games — Becker took them to overtime in the season-opener — but eventually Hutch’s constant bludgeoning takes a toll. Delano’s Tigers have the talent to win and a makeup similar to their opponent. But Hutchinson has won 24 consecutive games and 33 of its last 34. Pick: Hutchinson 26, Delano 14.
David says: Delano led through the third quarter in its previous matchup with Hutchinson this season before falling 30-14. Hutchinson churned out 317 rushing yards while holding Delano to a season-low 117 rushing yards. The disparity wore down Delano’s two-way starters. To use a boxing analogy, Delano can land occasional head shots with its passing game. Hutchinson, meanwhile, works the body and takes over in the late rounds. Pick: Hutchinson 31, Delano 21
CLASS 2A Thursday • 2 p.m.
Minneota/Lincoln HI (12-0) vs. Maple Lake (8-4)
Jim says: Minneota/Lincoln HI (the HI stands for Hendricks-Ivanhoe) has been underrated all season after moving up from Class 1A. The Vikings’ offensive balance is just too difficult to defend. Pick: Minneota/Lincoln HI 43, Maple Lake 23.
David says: An undefeated Minneota team that beat tough Moose Lake-Willow River in the quarterfinals deserves the favorite status. Pick: Minneota/Lincoln HI 35, Maple Lake 21
NINE-MAN Thursday • 11:30 a.m.
Ely (12-0) vs. Underwood (9-3)
Jim says: I’m going size over speed in this one. Underwood has powered its way to more than 4,000 yards rushing. The Rockets will wear down the Timberwolves. Pick: Underwood 44, Ely 28.
David says: Ely (12-0) is enjoying its first trip to the semifinals in 26 years thanks in large part to a strong running game and opportunistic defense. The Timberwolves will return to the Dome in two weeks. Pick: Ely 42, Underwood 28
DAVID LA VAQUE, JIM PAULSEN