Conference titles are on the line and big games abound Wednesday on the last night of regular-season high school football in Minnesota before section playoffs begin next week. Here is a look at four key matchups that the Star Tribune will be covering:
Lakeville North (6-1) at Rosemount (6-1), 7 p.m.
Lakeville North’s two-year run of strong football, culminating in a Class 6A Prep Bowl runner-up finish last fall, was supposedly in danger after graduation losses. But the Panthers clearly believed otherwise.
An outstanding defense has led the charge. Which is more impressive – Lakeville North’s four shutouts or its four touchdowns permitted in seven games? It all adds up to a measly 5.2 points per game allowed.
Jesse Cardenas leads the team with 59 tackles and defensive ends Greg Menard and Tristyn Hanson contributed four sacks apiece.
On offense, running back Jamiah Newell has rushed for 1,015 yards at a 7 yards per carry clip.
The Panthers ended Rosemount’s season in the semifinals of the Class 6A state tournament last year.
A two-overtime loss to Wayzata in Week 1 is all that separates Rosemount from being undefeated. Quarterback Jackson Erdmann has thrown for 939 yards and 13 touchdowns, bringing desired balance to the typically ground-and-pound Irish.
Dimitri Williams embodies Rosemount’s dual-threat capabilities, leading the team in rushing (471 yards), receiving (335) and scoring (14 TDs).
While not as stingy as its Lakeville North counterpart, Rosemount’s defense only permits two touchdowns per game, plenty of cushion for a potent offense. And the defense has scored touchdowns in three consecutive weeks, two on Conner Yepsen interceptions.
David says: A balanced Rosemount offense scores just enough at home to win. Rosemount 17, Lakeville North 10.
Jim says: Defense wins big games and no defense in the metro is better than Lakeville North’s. Lakeville North 24, Rosemount 14.
Osseo (6-1) at Totino-Grace (6-1), 7 p.m.
It’s fair to say that few outside of Osseo thought the Orioles, who lost 2012 Metro Player of the Year Bridge Tusler to graduation, would be better this year, but that is certainly the case. Coach Derrin Lamker’s squad is more balanced this year, thanks to the arm of senior quarterback Matt Miedtke, who has thrown for 1,652 yards — more than double the passing yards the Orioles generated in 2012 — and 20 touchdowns, and bookend receivers Connor Kittleson and Josh Goldschmidt, both of whom stand 6-3 and have a combined 65 catches. That dimension has opened up possibilities for running backs Jaimen Hampton and Prince Krauh.
Totino-Grace began the season shorthanded due to injuries and other team factors, but the Eagles are close to full strength now and look fully like a team prepared to make another strong postseason run. Quarterback Seth Sullwold has gained confidence as the season has progressed, largely due to the presence of a trio of stellar running backs in Lance Benick, Kez Flomo and Kai Barber. The defense, coach Jeff Ferguson’s baby, has rounded into shape and is the key to everything the Eagles do. They’re athletic, smart and physical and rarely give up big plays.
David says: Osseo serves notice of its strong Class 6A playoff chances. Osseo 24, Totino-Grace 17.
Jim says: Totino-Grace has lost just two games in the past three years, both to Eden Prairie. Totino-Grace 21, Osseo 13.