Owatonna's Solomon Havelka (6) came up after a tackle with his helmet askew against St. Thomas Academy in the 2018 Prep Bowl. Havelka and his teammates play the Cadets on Saturday in the Class 5A quarterfinals. File photo: Shari L. Gross, Star Tribune
And on the third day of football state tournament quarterfinal action, Class 5A gets its turn. Some of the finest teams from the metro area and beyond mix it up. That’s not to overlook some great games in the other classes, too.
ST. THOMAS ACADEMY (9-1) vs. OWATONNA (10-0) at Woodbury, noon
David says: A Class 5A Prep Bowl rematch. Defending champion Owatonna boasts a potent offense and a defense that’s hasn’t allowed more than seven points in a game since early October. Owatonna 35, St. Thomas Academy 20
Jim says: So why are these two playing in the quarterfinals? It should be, at minimum, a game played at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Cadets are legitimate state title contenders, but this is a terrible matchup for them. They don’t have enough offense to keep up with Owatonna. Owatonna 31, St. Thomas Academy 21
ELK RIVER (10-1) vs. MOORHEAD (8-3) at Monticello, noon
David says: Elk River has enjoyed three consecutive seasons of U.S. Bank Stadium appearances. Moorhead hasn’t been to state since 2015. Experience and a strong rushing attack give the Elks the nod. Elk River 30, Moorhead 13
Jim says: Elk River’s ball-control offense puts a lot of pressure on opponents to make the most of possessions. And the Elks defense is playing its best football of the season. Elk River 38, Moorhead 26
CHASKA (9-1) vs. MAHTOMEDI (5-6) at Shakopee, noon
David says: Good for Mahtomedi, rallying from a 2-7 regular season to one victory shy of U.S. Bank Stadium. A tough Chaska defense ensures the Zephyrs get no closer. Chaska 27, Mahtomedi 7
Jim says: Playing outdoors in the cold makes Chaska’s defense seem even more intimidating. I can’t see how Mahtomedi hopes to generate any significant offensive momentum against the grinding Hawks. Chaska 30, Mahtomedi 10
SPRING LAKE PARK (8-2) vs. COON RAPIDS (7-3) at Osseo, noon
David says: Coon Rapids, state tournament participants for the first time since 1983, beat the Panthers 23-14 in Week 3. Cardinals quarterback Jake Van Hulzen threw for 249 yards in that game and must be hot again. Coon Rapids 21, Spring Lake Park 14
Jim says: I’m a firm believer in the benefits of experience and a strong running game at this time of year. Coon Rapids has a legitimate shot, but circumstances have me leaning toward the team that has both. Spring Lake Park 27, Coon Rapids 21
SMB (10-0) vs. CHISAGO LAKES (5-6) at Centennial, 1 p.m.
David says: The Wolfpack, led by dazzling quarterback/defensive back Jalen Suggs, took Benilde-St. Margaret’s best punches last week. The Wolfpack, already so skilled, won’t be outmuscled, either. SMB 31, Chisago Lakes 14
Jim says: Defeating a Benilde-St. Margaret’s team that looked poised to win last week is an indication that SMB is serious about defending its Class 4A crown. The Wolfpack simply has too many playmakers. SMB 40, Chisago Lakes 18
MINNEAPOLIS NORTH (10-0) vs. BLUE EARTH (9-2) at Kasson-Mantorville, 5 p.m.
David says: Blue Earth’s playmakers, quarterback Gavin Storbeck and running back Koby Nagel, are underdogs against an athletic, active Polars defense led by end Quientrail Jamison-Travis. Minneapolis North 28, Blue Earth 21
Jim says: The Polars tend to struggle against teams that can line up and go toe-to-toe with them. But talent tends to win out, and North has the kind of speed Blue Earth rarely sees. The Bucs will score, just not enough. Minneapolis North 39, Blue Earth Area 25