Staff writers David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen disagree on just about everything. After losing five of seven last week, David thinks he's given Jim a big enough head start. Time to get serious. Tally so far: Jim 24, David 13.
David says: Anoka 30, Blaine 20
The Anoka offense, which even Blaine coach Shannon Gerrety admitted was the Northwest Suburban's finest this fall, will make the difference. Three capable running backs keep the down-and-distance favorable, and an underrated passing game makes you pay for cheating.
Jim says: Blaine 32, Anoka 28
Blaine took a midseason 59-32 loss to Anoka as an insult. The Bengals are playing in-your-face football since then, likely because they are as healthy as they have been all season. They have a score to settle. Anoka better be ready to rumble.
David says: Delano 21, Rogers 14
Ground-and-pound isn't always the most fashionable approach, but it plays well in November. It will lead a tough, physical Delano team past Rogers and into the state tournament. And don't overlook an opportunistic Tigers' defense.
Jim says: Rogers 30, Delano 27
Rogers gets the nod because the Royals play with an edge that breaks down opponents, whether through a swarming, ball-hawking defense or a host of running backs who relish contact. Pad-smackin' football at its best. Time to man up.
David says: Eagan 41, Cretin-Derham Hall 34
It doesn't happen often, but the most dangerous quarterback on the field won't be wearing Cretin-Derham Hall colors. Drew Bauer has run and passed the Wildcats to most of the 113 points they have scored in their past two section playoff victories.
Jim says: Cretin-Derham Hall 36, Eagan 20
When talk turns to Cretin-Derham Hall this year, what comes up first is ... defense? For a program known for offensive star power, this year's Raiders, with big Jonathan Harden in the middle of the defensive line, have a reputation for stopping the other guys. Isn't that what wins games this time of year?
David says: Hutchinson 28, Mankato West 20
A tough Wright County Conference schedule has Hutchinson -- the "other" undefeated team in this game -- afraid of no one and primed to beat anyone. The Tigers limited Marshall's potent offense last week and will do the same to Mankato West.
Jim says: Mankato West 38, Hutchinson 16
Most of the buzz around West QB Philip Nelson has been about his arm, but he showed off his legs against Waconia with 146 yards rushing. For Hutch, holding down the Marshall offense in the section semifinals is one thing; doing the same to West is far more difficult.
David says: Mahtomedi 21, Hill-Murray 14
Upstart Hill-Murray is a nice story, but Classic Suburban Conference rival Mahtomedi always has an extra gear in November. Count on the Zephyrs to clean up the four-interceptions performance against the Pioneers in the regular-season finale.
Jim says: Hill-Murray 33, Mahtomedi 23
Hill-Murray is playing with confidence right now, largely the result of a 42-27 beatdown of Mahtomedi. With a nice mix of run and pass and their first state tournament appearance since 1987 at stake, the Pioneers won't let this opportunity slip away.
David says: Holy Family 35, Mpls. Washburn 14
Washburn, bullies of a diminished Minneapolis City Conference, has been exposed at times outside the city. Holy Family presents another challenge. The Fire plays with offensive skill and speed that the Millers will struggle to contain. And Holy Family will enjoy the intangibles of playing a tougher slate of games.
Jim says: Mpls. Washburn 38, Holy Family 36
It never pays to underestimate Washburn. Quarterback Tony Ayala and receiver Kyle Hughes are a potent tandem. Hughes has moves that make Justin Bieber look awkward. Throw in sophomore running back Jeffrey Jones, who is just now realizing his talent, and there's an upset brewing.
David says: Minnetonka 14, Eden Prairie 10
Once the rulers of prep football, Eden Prairie lacks a suitable Plan B when an opponent stops the run. Minnetonka has regrouped on offense after a rash of injuries earlier this season and gives the Eagles' defense concerns with a physical offensive line.
Jim says: Eden Prairie 24, Minnetonka 10
With a first-team defense that has given only one touchdown all year, Eden Prairie doesn't need a Plan B. It's all about the postseason for the Eagles, which is why I expect them to throw a few offensive wrinkles at Minnetonka that they didn't show in the regular season.
David says: Mounds View 17, Totino-Grace 14
Ask the defending Class 5A state champion Wayzata Trojans which team hit them hardest in the mouth last fall, and they will say Mounds View. Players graduate, but an expectation for power football remains. Totino-Grace better tighten those chin straps.
Jim says: Totino-Grace 16, Mounds View 10
Haters snickered when Totino-Grace -- winner of six Class 4A championships in eight years -- opted up to Class 5A, hoping to see the Eagles fall on their beaks. Surprise! Thing is, good football is good football, and the Eagles always seem to play their best when it counts most.
David says: Osseo 21, Wayzata 18
You can't allow a great defense like Wayzata's to dictate the game, and Osseo has the skill players to keep the Trojans guessing. D.J. Hebert and two solid running backs, Bridgeport Tusler and Timmy Searcy, are talented enough to exploits cracks and score points.
Jim says: Wayzata 23, Osseo 7
Wayzata had its hiccup in an ugly section semifinal victory over Champlin Park. Don't expect the same mistakes to happen again. The Trojans' resilient defense will set the tone early while their rushing attack controls the ball, shortens the game and stifles the Orioles.
David says: St. Thomas Academy 28, South St. Paul 20
Here's a wrinkle: The Cadets will spot an inspired South St. Paul team a lead somewhere during this game before coming back to win the rematch of Classic Suburban Conference heavyweights. St. Thomas Academy is just too fast and too diverse on offense.
Jim says: South St. Paul 26, St. Thomas Academy 20
Predicting South St. Paul will take a lead, David? I think so, too, but I also think the run-hard, kick-butt Packers are the type of team built to hang on to leads. Which they will. Every team has a time to shine, and this is it for South St. Paul.
Tag(s): South Metro East Minneapolis City Northwest Suburban Wright County Mankato West South St. Paul St. Thomas Academy Mahtomedi Hill-Murray Wayzata Eden Prairie Minnetonka Minneapolis Washburn Rogers Totino-Grace Blaine Osseo Anoka Eagan Marshall Cretin-Derham Hall Mounds View Park of Cottage Grove Delano Hutchinson Waconia