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Hustle play: Minnesota prep teams rush for one last game before shutdown

By JIM PAULSEN and DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune, 11/19/20, 6:15PM CST


Plus expanded picks and the full schedule of games.

Champlin Park players ran out of their inflatable Rebels tunnel before Tuesday night’s game. They will play at Shakopee in the season finale on Friday. Photo: AARON LAVINSKY • aaron.lavinsky@startribune.com

This is it: The last day of the high school season for the fall of 2020.

It wasn’t intended to be so. When football and volleyball were resumed in September, the Minnesota State High School League set final postseason dates of Nov. 28 for football and Dec. 12 for volleyball.

But COVID-19 had other ideas and to date, the pandemic has shown its ability to dictate terms. It grew stronger, Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education fought back and thus, for the next four weeks at least, all high school sports are in a holding pattern.

The sooner-than-expected end of the football season led many teams to react swiftly, moving postseason games scheduled to be played Saturday up a day to get one more game in before Friday’s 11:59 p.m. deadline.

Most of the Class 6A teams moved their second-round games to Friday. Blaine and Wayzata took it a step further, playing Thursday.

“We’re striving for closure,” said Stillwater coach Beau LaBore, whose Ponies will play host to Centennial.

In other sections, such as Class 5A, Section 6, the semifinal matchups were reconfigured, putting the top two remaining seeds — in this case No. 1. Rogers and No. 2 Elk River — against each other in hopes of determining a section champion. Their original opponents, Monticello and Armstrong, were matched up for third place.

Last call: Link to today's schedule of high school football games on Prep Spotlight TV

For others — Edina and Minnetonka, for example — the opportunity never arrived. COVID issues forced an ending before they got the chance to don uniforms one last time.

The loss of those two yielded an unexpected dividend, however. Their Class 6A opponents — No. 1 Lakeville South and No. 3 St. Michael-Albertville — used the newly created opening as a chance to play each other in one of the best matchups of the season.

For volleyball teams, the situation is even more unfortunate. Walz’s four-week pause, announced Wednesday, came with a week left in the regular season, shocking and saddening players, coaches and fans alike.

As disappointing as it is, the pandemic is spreading faster than anyone expected. Sports will resume, hopefully stronger, when the pause is lifted.

“If this is the worst thing these kids face in life,” opined Centennial football coach Mike Diggins, “they’re going to have a great life.”

Podcast: What should we make of the pause in prep sports

Pick six to end the season

Star Tribune preps reporter David La Vaque (17-6) has one last chance to catch his colleague Jim Paulsen (19-4) in their last round of football picks.


Jim says: Hats off to St. Michael, which hasn’t shied from anyone, playing arguable the state’s toughest schedule. The Knights will give Lakeville South all it can handle, but the Cougars look unbeatable right now. Lakeville South 38, St. Michael-Albertville 24

David says: This is the closest we will get to a Class 6A championship-type game. Even tougher than defending South’s power-T offense is doing it with what little preparation time the Knights have had. Lakeville South 28, St. Michael-Albertville 14

ROSEMOUNT (5-0) AT EAST RIDGE (4-1), 6 p.m.

Jim says: This one screams defense. East Ridge was shut out by Stillwater in its regular season finale and the Rosemount defense poses an even bigger challenge. Rosemount 16, East Ridge 10

David says: East Ridge hasn’t been offensively dynamic this season. And Rosemount hasn’t played a top team in a few weeks. But the Irish haven’t allowed a first half point this season. Rosemount 21, East Ridge 7


ELK RIVER (4-2) AT ROGERS (4-2), 5 p.m.

Jim says: An intradistrict rivalry that has become one of the state’s best. Rogers won the previous matchup 28-12 in the season-opener, but Elk River is no longer the bunch of greenhorns they were then. Elk River 30, Rogers 28

David says: Rogers lost games against top teams in recent weeks. The smart bet is on the Royals using those lessons well. They can run and throw, a nice mix to give Elk River’s defense fits. Rogers 31, Elk River 24


Jim says: Washburn is a three-point loss to city-rival Southwest from being undefeated. The Millers’ offense is balanced, led by strong-armed QB Andrew Gotziaman. Washburn 40, Tartan 31

David says: The Millers haven’t seen the likes of Tartan’s offense. QB Brandon Lockhart, RB Jaylon Washington and WR TJ Fields are a solid triple threat with big-play capability. Tartan 35, Washburn 28


Jim says: Four of Cooper’s six games have been decided by a touchdown or less. It’s time the Hawks live up to the talent in their roster. Their team speed will be too much for Southwest. Cooper 32, Southwest 20

David says: Cooper’s defense can be had. And Southwest, led by RB Nick Flaskamp, can exploit the Hawks. The Lakers will prove they are better than they were in last week’s shutout loss to Minneapolis North. Southwest 27, Cooper 24

HOLY ANGELS (4-2) AT ORONO (4-2), 5:30 p.m.

Jim says: Holy Angels features perhaps the metro’s most underrated player in RB Emmett Johnson, who has rushed for 1,090 yards on just 158 carries. He’s a difference maker. Holy Angels 26, Orono 21

David says: Orono rose to No. 1 in the Class 4A Associated Press rankings and tumbled due to a pair of losses. Which Spartans show up? If it’s the 4-0 version, they will be in good shape. Orono 28, Holy Angels 22

Friday's final games

All games at 7 pm, unless noted

Second round
• Champlin Park at Shakopee, 5 pm
• Centennial at Stillwater, 6 pm
• Prior Lake at Eden Prairie, 6 pm
• Rosemount at East Ridge, 6 pm
• St. Michael-Albertville at Lakeville South

Section 2 • Semifinals
• Chaska at Mankato West
• Waconia at Chanhassen
Section 3 • Second round
• Henry Sibley at St. Thomas Academy
Section 4 • Semifinals
• Minneapolis Washburn at Tartan, 6 pm
• North St. Paul at Mahtomedi, 6 pm
Section 5 • Semifinals
• Minneapolis Southwest at Cooper, 5 pm
• Irondale at Spring Lake Park
Section 6 • Third place
• Armstrong at Monticello, 5 pm
• Elk River at Rogers, 5 pm
Section 8 • Semifinals
• Alexandria at Moorhead
• Sartell-St. Stephen at Bemidji

Section 2 • Semifinals
• Jordan vs. Marshall at Southwest Minnesota State
• Mankato East at Hutchinson
Section 3 • Semifinals
• St. Paul Harding at Hill-Murray, 5 pm
• South St. Paul at Simley, 5 pm
Section 4 • Championship
• DeLaSalle at Fridley, 6 pm
Section 5 • Third place
• Mound Westonka at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, 5 pm
• Holy Angels at Orono, 5:30 pm
Section 6 • Semifinals
• Delano at Princeton, 5 pm
• Big Lake at Becker, 6 pm
Section 8 • Third place
• Willmar at Detroit Lakes, 6 pm
• Grand Rapids at Rocori, 5 pm

Section 1 • Championship
• Plainview-Elgin-Millville at Waseca, 6 pm
Section 2 • Third place
• Dassel-Cokato at Glencoe-Silver Lake, 5 pm
• Rockford at Litchfield, 5 pm
Section 3 • Championship
• Sibley East at Luverne
Section 4 • Third place
• Lake City at Breck
• St. Croix Lutheran at Cannon Falls
Section 5 • Third place
• Foley vs. Pine City at Milaca, 5 pm
• Annandale vs. Milaca at Rockford, 5 pm
Section 6 • Third place
• New London-Spicer at Minnewaska Area, 6 pm
• Pierz at Albany, 6 pm
Section 7 • Semifinals
• Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin vs. Two Harbors at Proctor, noon
• Virginia at Aitkin, 6 pm
Section 8 • Championship
• Pequot Lakes at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, 6 pm

Section 2 • Third place
• St. Clair/Mankato Loyola at Medford
• Maple River at Blue Earth Area
Section 3 • Third place
• Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial at Pipestone Area, 6 pm
• Tracy-Milroy-Balaton at Redwood Valley, 6 pm
Section 4 • Third place
• Maple Lake at Concordia Academy
• Minneapolis North vs. St. Agnes at St. Thomas Academy, 3 pm
Section 5 • Championship
• Paynesville Area at Morris Area /Chokio-Alberta, 5 pm
Section 6 • Semifinals
• Pillager vs. Osakis at Alexandria, 3 pm
• Staples-Motley at West Central Area/Ashby, 6 pm
Section 7 • Championship
• Crosby-Ironton vs. Mesabi East at Proctor, 3 pm
Section 8 • Semifinals
• Warroad at Barnesville, 5 pm
• Hawley at Pelican Rapids, 6 pm

Section 1 • Championship
• Randolph at Blooming Prairie
Section 2 • Third place
• New Ulm Cathedral at Bethlehem Academy, 6 pm
• Minnesota Valley Lutheran at Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop, 6 pm
Section 3 • Third place
• Russell-Tyler-Ruthton at Springfield, 6 pm
• Wabasso at Murray County Central, 6 pm
Section 4 • Semifinals
• Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at Browerville/Eagle Valley, 3 pm
• Upsala/Swanville at Mayer Lutheran, 6 pm
Section 5 • Third place
• Canby at Lac qui Parle Valley, 6 pm
• BOLD at Minneota, 6 pm
Section 6 • Championship
• Ottertail Central at Breckenridge, 5 pm
Section 7 • Semifinals
• Hinckley-Finlayson at North Woods
• Braham at Deer River, 7:45 pm
Section 8 • Championship
• Polk County West at Mahnomen/Waubun, 2 pm

Section 1 • Third place
• Spring Grove at LeRoy-Ostrander
• Lanesboro at Grand Meadow
Section 2 • Third place
• Nicollet at Cedar Mountain-Comfrey
• Red Rock Central at Renville County West
Section 3 • Third place
• Edgerton at Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda, 6 pm
• Mountain Lake Area at Hills-Beaver Creek, 6 pm
Section 4 • Semifinals
• Wheaton-Herman-Norcross at Verndale, 3 pm
• Ortonville at Hancock
Section 5 • Semifinal
• Cromwell-Wright at Hill City/Northland, 5 pm
Section 6 • Semifinals
• Park Christian at Blackduck, 5 pm
• South Ridge at Win-E-Mac, 6 pm
Section 7 • Semifinals
• Bigfork at Mountain Iron-Buhl, 3:30 pm
• Silver Bay at Cherry
Section 8 • Semifinals
• Badger-Greenbush-Middle River at Goodridge-Grygla-Gatzke, 5 pm
• Warren-Alvarado-Oslo at Stephen-Argyle, 5 pm

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