With the state tournament semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium, staff writers Jim Paulsen (41-11) and David La Vaque (29-23) expand their opinions beyond the metro and try to accurately handicap games in all seven classes. Will they prove capable or clueless?
NINE-MAN: MOUNTAIN IRON-BUHL (10-1) VS. HANCOCK (12-0), 11:30 a.m.
Jim says: Hancock lost in the 1990 quarterfinals in its only trip to state. MI-B is making its second consecutive appearance at U.S. Bank Stadium after losing seven seniors to graduation. The team less fazed by stage fright wins this one. Mountain Iron-Buhl 34, Hancock 26
David says: Senior running back Dillon Drake is a game-breaker for MI-B and Hancock senior running back Tyler Timmerman is his equal. As a point of reference, Hancock was ranked No. 4 in the final Associated Press poll while MI-B was not in the top-10. Hancock 42, Mountain Iron-Buhl 35
CLASS 2A: PAYNESVILLE (10-1) VS. MINNEAPOLIS NORTH (11-0), 2 p.m.
Jim says: Paynesville's run-pass balance will give North trouble, but the Polars have the athletes and speed to counter. In their 26-20 come-from-behind quarterfinal victory over Blue Earth, the Polars showed a level of grit they hadn't shown before. Minneapolis North 40, Paynesville 30
David says: Minneapolis North doesn't have its typical shutdown cornerback this year, which could be good news for Paynesville senior Levi Bast. The 6-2 receiver caught touchdowns covering 51 and 54 yards in the quarterfinals. Paynesville 21, Minneapolis North 14
CLASS 4A: HUTCHINSON (11-0) VS. SMB WOLFPACK (11-0), 4:30 p.m.
Jim says: SMB has answered every challenge this season, proving the Wolfpack is much more than just a team of elite athletes. But Hutchinson takes physicality to a level the Wolfpack has rarely experienced. The team that hits harder wins. Hutchinson 30, SMB 28
David says: There's a similarity in this situation to 2014, when a tough Hutch team fell in the state tournament semifinals to a DeLaSalle team adept at making big plays on both sides of the ball. SMB boasts that caliber of playmakers. SMB 29 Hutchinson 14
CLASS 6A: LAKEVILLE NORTH (10-1) VS. CHAMPLIN PARK (9-1), 7 p.m.
Jim says: After routing Rosemount in the quarterfinals, Champlin Park coach Nick Keenan said his team, which plays its home games on a grass field, is a "turf team." He's convinced the Rebels will surprise Lakeville North with their speed indoors at U.S. Bank Stadium. Champlin Park 26, Lakeville North 21
David says: Credit Shakopee's stout defense in part for making Lakeville North's offense a one-man show in the semifinals. Quarterback RaJa Nelson accounted for 65% of the Panthers' total yards. That number must drop. Meanwhile, the Panthers' defense is peaking. Lakeville North 21, Champlin Park 17