For many prep football fans (this one included), Friday is the best night of the season. The goal of every team, of course, is to win a state championship, but you can’t win without getting in the door. Which is why Friday night, when section champions are determined, is often the most thrilling night of the season. While the bracketing of all 32 teams in Class 6A has taken some of the shine off for teams in the state’s largest class, there are plenty of juicy matchups worth noting. Staff writer David La Vaque and I offer our picks as well. You’re welcome to argue with us on the Star Tribune Football Hub at mnfootballhub.com.

CLASS 6A

No. 1 Seeds

 

All four top seeds in Class 6A emerged unscathed from Week 1 and will be in action. Totino-Grace (9-0) had little trouble with undermanned Coon Rapids last week and will host Hopkins, which has enough firepower to warrant attention. But solving Totino-Grace’s rock-solid defense and punishing ground game is asking a lot.

 

Blaine (7-2) has starting QB K.J. Downey back from a shoulder injury, but he’ll likely split time with junior Connor Melton, whose arm (973 yards, 10 TDs passing) has given the Bengals a new dimension on offense. They host Prior Lake (5-4), which looked formidable in the first half and fragile in the second in defeating Woodbury.

 

Rosemount (8-1) hopes to solve its bewildering lapses, such as allowing winless White Bear Lake to hang around in the first round. The Irish play Centennial (5-4), a preseason dark horse with plenty of firepower.

 

Eden Prairie (8-1) is playing defense like it’s trying to give offense the season off. The Eagles have shut out their past five opponents. That’s a sobering thought for Cretin-Derham Hall (7-2), which has been inconsistent moving the ball.

 

Jim’s picks

 

Totino-Grace 34, Hopkins 21

 

Blaine 21, Prior Lake 14

 

Rosemount 23, Centennial 14

 

Eden Prairie 35, Cretin-Derham Hall 7

 

David’s picks

 

Totino-Grace 28, Hopkins 21

 

Prior Lake 24, Blaine 20

 

Centennial 28, Rosemount 21

 

Eden Prairie 42, Cretin-Derham Hall 14

The rest of 6A

Lakeville North (8-1), a No. 2 seed that could easily defeat a top seed, is playing angry after losing to rival Rosemount in the regular-season finale. Mounds View (7-2) is peaking and has won three in a row. But the Panthers just look like the better team on both sides of the ball.

 

While Jackson Martens, Steph Olson Jr. and Jake Shepley get noticed offensively, all three bolster the defense for Burnsville (7-2) that has been lights-out over the season’s second half. They’ll need to continue that to win at Minnetonka (7-2), which continues to silence doubters with victories.

 

The defense of East Ridge (7-2) is well-positioned to hold down the passing game of Champlin Park (6-3), allowing less than 100 yards through the air per game.

 

Edina (5-4) travels to Maple Grove (7-2) in a rematch of a 21-20 Hornets victory on Sept. 16. Both teams feature top-flight QBs in Brad Davison of Maple Grove and Brock Boltmann of Edina.

 

Jim’s Picks

 

Lakeville North 36, Mounds View 16

 

Minnetonka 19, Burnsville 13

 

East Ridge 42, Champlin Park 20

 

Maple Grove 28, Edina 21.

David’s Picks

 

Lakeville North 28, Mounds View 14

 

Minnetonka 21, Burnsville 14

 

East Ridge 14, Champlin Park 10

 

Maple Grove 21, Edina 17

CLASS 5A Four to watch

Section 6: No. 1-ranked Elk River (9-0) hasn’t had a close game all season, including a 43-6 rout of Friday’s opponent, St. Michael-Albertville (8-1), which could work against the Elks. Count on the defending state champion Knights to give a much better effort on the fast turf at neutral site Buffalo.

 

Section 2: Coach Mike Bailey said after Chanhassen (9-0) defeated Chaska on Saturday that he’s relieved his speed-oriented team gets to host Mankato West (9-0) in the Storm’s bid for its first state tournament berth. “The fast turf should benefit us,” he said.

 

Section 3: A matchup of two of the most prolific quarterbacks in the metro as Brandon Alt leads Park of Cottage Grove (7-2) into Apple Valley to face the Noah Sanders-led Eagles. Apple Valley (6-3) has played a largely Class 6A schedule, which should work in its favor.

 

Section 5: Spring Lake Park (9-0) outscored Cooper (8-1) 57-39 in the regular-season finale. The Hawks play on the road this time and will have the memory of getting gouged by the Panthers’ read-option veer offense fresh in their minds. Still, knowing how to stop Spring Lake Park and QB Zach Ojile — and doing it — are different things altogether.

Jim’s Picks

 

Elk River 33, St. Michael-Albertville 28

 

Mankato West 40, Chanhassen 32

 

Apple Valley 31, Park of Cottage Grove 28

 

Spring Lake Park 31, Cooper 24

David’s Picks

 

Elk River 28, St. Michael-Albertville 24

 

Chanhassen 31, Mankato West 28

 

Park of Cottage Grove 34, Apple Valley 27

 

Spring Lake Park 20, Cooper 14