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Star Tribune Prep Bowl picks

By David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune, 11/25/21, 6:15PM CST


After a season of picking winners, it's time to pick the champions.

After a slow start this season, staff writer Jim Paulsen came on strong against David La Vaque in their weekly Prep Picks feature. After picking 11 of 14 semifinal games correctly, Jim is 48-18. David, who was clearly attempting to create drama by often picking opposite of Jim despite his better judgment, is 38-28 with the seven Prep Bowl games to go.

In other words, Jim cannot be topped. In advance of the championship games, he’s the champion.


Fertile-Beltrami Falcons (13-0) vs. LeRoy-Ostrander Cardinals (11-2), 10 a.m. Saturday

Jim says: I learned last week the dangers of underestimating an undefeated team with a purpose. Fertile-Beltrami has been playing for the memory of fallen teammate Jude Olson, who died unexpectedly in the summer of 2020. The Falcons complete their mission. The pick: Fertile-Beltrami 38, LeRoy-Ostrander 32

David says: When LeRoy-Ostrander gets the quarterback/fullback duo of Chase Johnson and Tanner Olson in motion, they are enough of a force to overcome a team running on emotion. Johnson runs like a matador, Olson like a bull. The pick: LeRoy-Ostrander 28, Fertile-Beltrami 20

Class 1A

Mayer Lutheran Crusaders (12-1) vs. Minneota Vikings (13-0), 10 a.m. Friday

Jim says: Mayer Lutheran has slew of talented seniors and is playing with confidence. But Minneota is the type of team the Crusaders haven’t seen this year: Big and brawny, with championship-game experience. That pushes the Vikings over the top. The pick: Minneota 27, Mayer Lutheran 14

David says: Mayer Lutheran quarterback Ty Hoese threw for five touchdowns last week, but Minneota’s defense will squelch any such fireworks. The Vikings have posted nine shutouts this season, more zeros than the Delta Tau Chi pledge pool. The pick: Minneota 31, Mayer Lutheran 7

Class 2A

Chatfield Gophers (12-1) vs. West Central Area/Ashby Knights (11-1), 1 p.m. Friday

Jim says: Chatfield showed a remarkable fortitude in beating Barnesville after starting QB and leading rusher Sam Backer was disqualified from the game. But West Central has had a week to game-plan for Chatfield backup Parker Delaney. The Knights will be ready. The pick: West Central Area/Ashby 20, Chatfield 14

David says: West Central Area/Ashby’s defense was outstanding in the semifinals. The offense was less so. With that in mind, Chatfield’s retooled offense isn’t the unit with the most question marks. The Gophers persevere and capture the title. The pick: Chatfield 21, West Central Area/Ashby 13

Class 3A

Dassel-Cokato Chargers (13-0) vs. Plainview-Elgin-Millville Bulldogs (11-2), 1 p.m. Saturday

Jim says: Dassel-Cokato coach Ryan Weinandt showed patience and belief in his team when the Chargers struggled with Esko in the semifinals. His patience was rewarded when they rallied to win with two fourth-quarter TDs. It’s too far into the playoffs to change now. The pick: Dassel-Cokato 32, PEM 21

David says: Crazy speed and athleticism make PEM a matchup problem for teams throughout Class 3A. And a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the semifinals showed the Bulldogs are also a precision team. Too many weapons and ways to score give PEM the upset. The pick: PEM 24, Dassel-Cokato 21

Class 4A

Kasson-Mantorville KoMets (9-3) vs. Hutchinson Tigers (11-1), 4 p.m. Friday

Jim says: Kasson-Mantorville pulled off a big surprise by rallying past No. 1-ranked Becker 24-20. Hutchinson is a different animal altogether. The Tigers are a relentless force of nature, always moving forward, methodically overwhelming foes. Kasson-Mantorville will be the latest to succumb. The pick: Hutchinson 34, Kasson-Mantorville 14

David says: Kasson-Mantorville’s 21-point fourth quarter in the semifinals was inspiring. Hutchinson’s performance, meanwhile, was ruthlessly efficient. The Tigers rolled up 361 total yards, 333 of them on the ground, and scored a touchdown on five of their six drives. The pick: Hutchinson 35, Kasson-Mantorville 6

Class 5A

Mahtomedi Zephyrs (10-2) vs. Mankato West Scarlets (12-0), 4 p.m. Saturday

Jim says: Mahtomedi deserves credit for getting this far, but things have broken just right for the Zephyrs this postseason. Mankato West is a complete team that plays offense and defense equally well. The Scarlets’ destiny is a state title. The pick: Mankato West 40, Mahtomedi 13

David says: Longtime Mankato Free Press sports reporter Chad Courriercq considers this to be the best Scarlets team ever. That includes their four previous Prep Bowl championship teams. Balance is the key. They can run and throw on offense. And the defense really gets after opponents. The pick: Mankato West 31, Mahtomedi 10

Class 6A

Maple Grove Crimson (11-1) vs. Lakeville South Cougars (12-0), 7 p.m. Friday

Jim says: In hindsight, it seems obvious that Maple Grove was the second-best Class 6A team all along. The best has been Lakeville South, which has won 20 in a row. The Cougars are looking for their first state championship to complete an impressive wire-to-wire season of excellence. The pick: Lakeville South 35, Maple Grove 27

David says: Maple Grove’s defense didn’t fold early in the semifinals despite bad field position. Lakeville South, meanwhile, benefited from St. Michael-Albertville’s off-night for ball security. It will be fun to see these units clash. Play this game 10 times and each team wins five. The pick: Maple Grove 30, Lakeville South 28

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