Fifty-six high school football teams will suit up in the next three days for a shot at playing in U.S. Bank Stadium next week in the state tournament semifinals. Staff prognosticators Jim Paulsen (25-16) and David La Vaque (23-18) size up three Thursday night games.
MINNETONKA (6-4) vs. eden prairie (8-1), 7 P.M. at chanhassen high school
David says: No. 2 Eden Prairie edged Minnetonka 23-16 in Week 7. A closer outcome this time depends on the Skippers playing with better discipline and their defense preventing the Eagles' signature, grinding drives. But gains in those areas might not be enough.
Eden Prairie 21, Minnetonka 20
Jim says: With all due respect to Minnetonka and coach Dave Nelson — one of the really good guys in the sport — the Skippers just don't have the full head of steam they had last year. This is Eden Prairie's time of year. The Eagles know what it takes to win. Eden Prairie 24, Minntonka 7
eastview (6-4) vs. BLAINE (10-0), 7 P.M. at white bear lake high school
David says: A little more offensive production and Eastview would be nearer to Blaine's victory total. But it's hard to pick against the explosive Bengals, who will deliver despite the cold and a solid Lightning defense. Blaine 28, Eastview 21
Jim says: After picking against Blaine more than once this season, and hearing about it, I've learned my lesson. Eastview has been a nice surprise. But Blaine is more complete and can win with offense or defense. Blaine 21, Eastview 10
st. paul johnson (6-4) vs. st. anthony (8-2), 7 P.M. at park center high school
David says: Kudos to Johnson, my alma mater, for returning to the state tournament for the first time since 1981. The Governors' defense has been stout all season but can the offense make enough plays? St. Anthony shut down a potent Fridley team last week. St. Anthony 20, Johnson 14
Jim says: Johnson's return is a nice story, but it's not much different for St. Anthony, with just one previous tournament appearance in 1999. The Huskies have flown under the radar all season. They're well-balanced with offensive stars in QB James Wald and WR Troy Ellison and a stingy defense. St. Anthony 33, Johnson 14
Jim Paulsen and David LaVaque