Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque pick Saturday’s state semifinal games.
Owatonna (10-1) Vs. Brainerd (9-2), 7 p.m.
Jim says: Two things Owatonna does well: 1. Run the ball. 2. Pass the ball. Which are the two things that make up offensive football. Brainerd has a serious threat in running back Charlie Gereats, but two dimensions are clearly better than one. Huskies should prevail.
Pick: Owatonna 24, Brainerd 14
David says: Junior running back Jason Williamson ran for seven Owatonna touchdowns last week but he’s only half of what makes the Huskies dangerous. Senior quarterback Abe Havelka has 2,564 passing yards and 33 touchdowns this fall. Stopping one won’t be enough.
Pick: Owatonna 38, Brainerd 24
St. Croix Lutheran (11-0) Vs. Pequot Lakes (9-2), 4:30 p.m.
Jim says: Few teams have the discipline of St. Croix Lutheran. For the Crusaders, prosperity is in the details. And the legs of RB Mike Stern and hands of WR Garrett Maag.
Pick: St. Croix Lutheran 36, Pequot Lakes 20
David says: St. Croix Lutheran’s Crusaders are on a mission. They crushed Rochester Lourdes last week to avenge last year’s Prep Bowl loss. The high-powered Crusaders aren’t done yet.
Pick: St. Croix Lutheran 42, Pequot Lakes 17
Jordan (9-3) Vs. Pierz (11-0), 2 p.m.
Jim says: It seems these teams have been on a path toward a Prep Bowl collision all season. Jordan QB Jonathan Draheim hasn’t been shut down and the Hubmen will get their yards, but the salty Pierz defense will make them earn each one.
Pick: Pierz 34, Jordan 16
David says: Pierz ran wild last week, rolling up 298 yards. That puts Jordan on notice because the Hubmen gave up 204 rushing yards per game in the section playoffs and seven touchdowns. Running the ball well usually brings good things.
Pick: Pierz 28, Jordan 21
Mayer Lutheran (11-1) Vs. Minneota (12-0), 11:30 a.m.
Jim says: Experienced Minneota won state titles in 2009, 2014 and 2015. If Isaac Hennen isn’t running past you, QB Alex Pohlen is throwing it over you.
Pick: Minneota 41, Mayer Lutheran 21
David says: Mr. Football finalist Isaac Hennen, a Swiss Army Knife in cleats, scored four touchdowns last week. State semifinal first-timer Mayer Lutheran counters with a balanced attack.
Pick: Minneota 28, Mayer Lutheran 21
Wabasso (12-0) Vs. Ada-Borup/ Norman County West (12-0), 9 a.m.
Jim says: Before this season, Ada-Borup and Norman Co. West were separate programs. The co-op has pitched five shutouts and held three foes to single digits. The Cougars will be ready for speedy Wabasso RB Cooper Taylor.
Pick: Ada-Borup/NCW 24, Wabasso 16
David says: The only meeting of unbeatens in the semifinal field. Twin brothers Cooper and Colton Taylor pace Wabasso. The Rabbits, who fell last year to eventual champion Minneapolis North, are eager to advance.
Pick: Wabasso 20, Ada-Borup/NCW 14