For the second year in a row, staff writers David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen will square off on three key games on each busy night of the fall football season. Here are three from the first night of action Thursday.
CHAMPLIN PARK AT EDEN PRAIRIE, 7 P.M.
David says: Anchored by 13 returning starters and soured by their first losing season since 2000, the Rebels send a message with a mighty upset out of the gate. A veteran offense line and a gutty performance by running back Michael Sales will be the difference.
• Champlin Park 21, Eden Prairie 16
Jim says: Champlin Park is no pushover, but face it: Eden Prairie is stacked. Running back Andrew Larson has two massive new road-graders up front in tackles Nick Davidson and Dan Urquhart. The defense, led by Tyson Reinke and Drake Michaelson, is relentless.
• Eden Prairie 34, Champlin Park 13.
WAYZATA AT PRIOR LAKE, 7 P.M.
David says: The smart money is on Wayzata's defense showing the loss of coordinator Matt Lombardi won't dull their edge. And look for a rebuilt offensive line to spring the running back tandem of veteran Mitch Underhill and transfer Antonio Ford to big gains.
• Wayzata 30, Prior Lake 7.
Jim says: This veteran bunch, led by lineman Karmichael Dunbar, has been looking towards this challenge since practice started. And what better way to surprise a team with some big holes to fill than at home, in the first game of the season?
• Prior Lake 27, Wayzata 23.
MINNETONKA AT TOTINO-GRACE, 7 P.M.
David says: Getting trounced 21-0 at home by Totino-Grace set the tone for a trying 2010 season. The Skippers will exact a little revenge by spoiling the Eagles' debut season in Class 5A. Minnetonka's skill players throughout the lineup will make the difference.
• Minnetonka 24, Totino-Grace 14
Jim says: I just don't see it happening. Totino-Grace has won 37 consecutive games at home and is rarely even challenged on home turf. Minnetonka is great test for Week 1, but the Skippers just don't have the physical presence to stay with the Eagles.
• Totino-Grace 20, Minnetonka 10.