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Prep football playoffs to begin for teams avoiding COVID issues; Final Metro Top 10

By JIM PAULSEN, Star Tribune, 11/15/20, 6:15PM CST


Some section brackets are looking sparse because of teams sidelined because of the virus.

Well, they got a season in. A regular season, at least. And that should be considered a victory for all high school football teams and for the MSHSL, considering less than two months ago that didn’t seem possible.

The end came to something of a sputtering finale last week. More than a few teams didn’t reach the last game, their seasons canceled early, bitten by COVID-19.

Section playoffs, which will have to suffice for postseason drama, begin Tuesday for a majority of teams. Not all, however. As the numbers of teams and schools that have prematurely wrapped up their seasons continue to rise, some brackets are looking sparse.

Take Class 5A, Section 7, for example. With its 6-0 finish, Andover has already been slotted in the championship game because only three teams are still standing. Coon Rapids and Cambridge-Isanti will meet on Thursday, with the winner advancing to play Andover on the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 25. As playoffs go, it lacks a little in speculative intrigue.

In Class 5A, Section 1, the entire tournament will be played out on Tuesday because of upcoming COVID restrictions. Owatonna, the No. 1 seed in the section, will play No.2 seeded Rochester Mayo for what is being labeled as the championship. Rochester John Marshall and Rochester Century play under the guise of a third-place game and Northfield plays at Austin for fifth place. And then they’re done.

It’s much the same in Class 4A, Section 1, where only four teams — Byron, Kasson-Mantorville, Faribault and Red Wing — are left standing, with cancellations looming. Similar situations abound in sections across the state.

It’s far from a typical satisfying end of the 2020 season, but this season has never been about being typical. It’s been about providing opportunity and making the best of an incredibly difficult situation. As coaches and players commented frequently, they were happy just to get the chance to play. They have gotten that, be it one game or six or even a few more over the next two weeks.

Mission accomplished.

1. Lakeville South (6-0):
 That was a dominant six games, with an average margin of victory of more than 33 points.
2. Eden Prairie (6-0): The saddest part of the season wrap-up? The Eagles and Lakeville South won’t get a chance to settle things on the field.
3. St. Michael-Albertville (5-1): Despite missing star RB David Collins for most of the game, the Knights went toe to toe with Eden Prairie on Wednesday.
4. Rosemount (4-0): The Irish didn’t get to play often, but when they did get the chance to show their stuff, their stuff was very good.
5. Farmington (5-1): The Tigers beat Lakeville North for the first time ever Wednesday. They have arrived.
6. Maple Grove (4-1): Just when the Crimson were hitting their stride, they were tripped up by COVID. 
7. Blaine (5-1): The Bengals offense was rolling downhill by the end of the season, averaging 477 yards over their final three games.
8. Shakopee (4-2): It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And the Sabers finished the regular season strong, winning four in a row.
9. Totino-Grace (4-2): No one wants the Eagles in their postseason draw right now.
10. St. Thomas Academy (5A, 5-0): The Cadets are 20-1 in the regular season since 2018.
Others: East Ridge, Andover (5A).

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