Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque pick Friday’s state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Minnetonka (10-1) Vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (8-2), 7 p.m.
Jim says: The Minnetonka offense played like it was encased in ice for the first 42 minutes of their quarterfinal game against Prior Lake, then thawed out in time to put together a clutch 90-yard winning drive. The Skippers seem destined to reach the Prep Bowl.
Pick: Minnetonka 28, Cretin-Derham Hall 17
David says: The Cretin-Derham Hall defense deserves credit for bending but not breaking last week against Edina. But the Minnetonka offense, led by QB Aaron Syverson, brings more to the table and won’t be as easy to contain.
Pick: Minnetonka 24, Cretin-Derham Hall 21
Apple Valley (10-1) Vs. Elk River (10-1), 2 p.m.
Jim says: A tossup. Elk River is known for explosive plays offensively, but the Elks defense has allowed quite a few, too. The Apple Valley offense did just about anything it wanted in defeating Mankato West. With U.S. Bank Stadium’s comfy conditions, I see combined point totals approaching triple digits.
Pick: Elk River 48, Apple Valley 44
David says: Here’s to the big guys, Elk River’s Ronald Audette and Apple Valley’s Spencer Rolland. Both linemen are among the 11 Mr. Football finalists and both embody their teams’ strengths. Whichever team wins the trenches wins the day.
Pick: Apple Valley 38, Elk River 31
South St. Paul (9-2) Vs. Cloquet (11-0), 4:30 p.m.
Jim says: Who saw South St. Paul’s rout of previously undefeated Marshall coming? The Packers put a physical whooping on Marshall’s high-octane offense and hard-nosed football tends to win games at this time of year. The Packers control the clock and the game.
Pick: South St. Paul 24, Cloquet 14
David says: Cloquet’s Tim Pokornowski has the QB edge as a run-pass threat but, otherwise, these teams look a lot alike. South St. Paul dismantled a good Marshall team while the Lumberjacks overcame a size disadvantage to tip Becker.
Pick: South St. Paul 21, Cloquet 20
Pipestone (11-1) Vs. Moose Lake/Willow River (7-5), 11:30 a.m.
Jim says: After starting 2-5, Moose Lake/Willow River has won five in a row and is trending up. That momentum might be enough to balance these teams if the game were played in the rotten conditions of the last few weekends. Under a roof, Pipestone should be able to crank up it’s passing game.
Pick: Pipestone 30, Moose Lake/Willow River 19
David says: Pipestone QB Cody Thompson and receivers Tyl Woelber and Braeden Rieck have gotten the better of opposing defenses all season. If the passing game clicks, ML/WR running back Colton Little and company struggle to keep pace.
Pick: Pipestone 28, Moose Lake/Willow River 14
Nevis (10-1) Vs. Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (10-2), 9 a.m.
Jim says: After three consecutive section final losses, Nevis finally made the state tournament with a 20-18 squeaker over Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal. The pressure gone, the Tigers were loose in the quarterfinals, running over North Woods. A good sign.
Pick: Nevis 32, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 24
David says: A couple of dynamic run/pass QBs share the field in RTR’s Cooper Hansen and Jack DeWulf of Nevis. Russell-Tyler-Ruthton avenged a regular-season loss to Mountain Lake in the quarterfinals and doesn’t want to stop now.
Pick: Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 27, Nevis 21