Our preseason best bets for each week of the 2015 regular season:
Maple Grove at Osseo, 2 p.m.
While the Eden Prairie/Totino-Grace tilt, a rematch of 2014’s dramatic Class 6A championship game, carries the highest profile, the intra-District 279 game between these two rivals looks like the juiciest. Both have talent and speed on offense and playmakers on defense. Keep a close eye on running backs Prince Kruah of Osseo and Isaac Collins of Maple Grove, two of the best in the metro.
Friday, Aug. 28
St. Croix Lutheran at Providence Academy, 7 p.m.
St. Croix Lutheran, located in West St. Paul, proved its place among small metro area private schools with Class 3A state titles in 2011 and 2013. Providence Academy, located in Plymouth, seeks such success. The Lions’ undefeated season ended one game short of state last fall.
Thursday, Sept. 3
Armstrong at Cooper, 7 p.m.
It seems incredible to say, but these two Robbinsdale School District rivals have played each other just once since 2004, a 19-13 victory by Cooper in the 2010 postseason. Both sides are looking forward to renewing this rivalry. “We get to play Cooper this year,” Armstrong linebacker Thomas Barber said. “We’re excited for that.”
Friday, Sept. 11
Maple Grove at Eden Prairie, 7 p.m.
On a night loaded with strong midseason games, the best one on paper features four-time defending state champion Eden Prairie playing host to a Maple Grove team eager to end the Eagles’ run. Since Class 6A began in 2012, no big-school football teams have won more games than Eden Prairie (36) and the Crimson (29).
Friday, Sept. 18
Minneapolis North at St. Paul Central, 7 p.m.
The Polars are still smarting from a loss to Dawson-Boyd in the 2014 Class 1A semifinals, a game in which they felt they didn’t play up to the standard they had set during the season. With a relatively weak subdistrict schedule, North’s toughest test of the season is Central. The Minutemen are the only opponent that can match North’s speed and athleticism.
Friday, Sept. 25 Stillwater at Mounds View, 7 p.m.
The Ponies and Mustangs claimed a share of the Suburban East Conference titles in 2010 and 2012 with Mounds View winning the crown outright last fall. Winning this game should put one in superior position for inaugural East Metro Blue subdistrict honors.
Friday, Oct. 2 Rosemount at Burnsville, 7 p.m.
By this time, we’ll know for certain if Burnsville is a team that has lived up to some lofty expectations. The Blaze have an offensive line that is as good as any in the metro and a tremendous athlete and leader in QB Kamal Martin, a future Gopher. Rosemount’s rep for excellence had become the measuring stick for teams in the former South Suburban Conference.
Thursday, Oct. 8 St, Michael-Albertville at Monticello, 7 p.m.
Monticello’s tremendous offensive line should provide an advantage as game nights get colder and the grind of a season gets tougher. Then again, the Knights’ talented but inexperienced players will be veterans by the regular-season finale. Both teams will receive a good postseason tune-up.
JIM PAULSEN and DAVID La VAQUE