Carter Otto of Elk River (Matt Blewett, Matte B Photography, email@example.com).
Five more games Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium, five to go on Saturday. Here’s how staff writers Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque see the first quintet.
NINE-MAN: MOUNTAIN LAKE (11-0) VS. MOUNTAIN IRON-BUHL (10-2), 9 a.m.
Jim says: Curious that neither school — one in southern Minnesota, one on the Iron Range — is anywhere near a mountain. That said, MIB has the bigger hill to climb. Mountain Lake 40, Mountain Iron-Buhl 16
David says: Mountain Lake, ranked No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll this season, is the favorite. MIB, in its first semifinal since 1972, will battle. Mountain Lake 31, Mountain Iron-Buhl 21
CLASS 2A: BARNESVILLE (10-2) VS. MINNEAPOLIS NORTH (11-0), 11:30 A.M.
Jim says: If Minneapolis North can win against a hard-nosed team like Redwood Valley in the snow and the cold, I can’t imagine them getting worse on the fast turf and climate-controlled conditions of U.S. Bank Stadium. Minneapolis North 32, Barnesville 16
David says: North coach Charles Adams III studied game footage on Barnesville’s power-T formation this week and believes his defense will counter with the right mix of discipline and determination. Minneapolis North 28, Barnesville 20
CLASS 5A: ELK RIVER (10-1) VS. OWATONNA (11-0), 2 P.m.
Jim says: A rematch of the 2017 Class 5A championship game, won in a rout by Owatonna. The Elks have played better defense this year, and Owatonna isn’t quite as deep. The Huskies still win, but it will be much closer. Owatonna 42, Elk River 36
David says: A year ago, Owatonna turned loose its passing game in a semifinal blowout of Brainerd. This time, expect another large helping of stud RB Jason Williamson. Patient yet explosive, Williamson must dominate to prevent an upset loss. Owatonna 28, Elk River 24
CLASS 4A: ST. PAUL JOHNSON (7-4) vs. WILLMAR (10-1), 4:30 P.m.
Jim says: St. Paul Johnson’s fantasy story comes to an end against a Willmar team that throws and runs equally well. Cardinals QB Drey Dirksen has passed for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,000. Willmar 35, St. Paul Johnson 7
David says: Willmar coach Jon Konold told Joe Brown of the West Central Tribune that while he admires the Governors’ resiliency, he gives his team an edge in depth. The Cardinals’ defensive focus will be dual-threat QB Joey Moberg. Willmar 24, St. Paul Johnson 14
CLASS 6A: LAKEVILLE SOUTH (6-5) vs. LAKEVILLE NORTH (11-0), 7 P.m.
Jim says: All of Lakeville will be paying attention to this one. Lakeville South’s strong postseason run bodes well for the future, but nothing is slowing down the Lakeville North train. It’s state championship or bust for the Panthers. Lakeville North 30, Lakeville South 14
David says: Lakeville South’s power-T scheme won’t overcome the teams’ athletic imbalance. North’s defensive line won’t budge and the Panthers linebackers and secondary will fill the right gaps and limit big plays. Lakeville North 24, Lakeville South 10