In presidential debate terms, staff writers David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen each claimed victory last week. Both went 2-1, underscoring that agreement — both picked Eden Prairie to win — is the surest way to success. Jim (11-4) still holds a two-game lead over David (9-6) and admits to considering sacrificing integrity for assured victory by agreeing with everything David says for the rest of the season. This week’s picks, however, suggest otherwise.
TOTINO-GRACE (4-0) at BLAINE (3-1), 7 p.m.
Jim says: At some point, one would think Totino-Grace would appear mortal and get caught in a meat-grinder game. I thought it might be this one until Blaine gave up the lead four times in a loss to Champlin Park. The Bengals offense is pretty darn good, but it won’t matter if they can’t stop the No. 1-ranked Eagles.
Pick: Totino-Grace 35, Blaine 28
David says: We will disagree while we agree, Jim. When it comes to Blaine, the defense will correct breakdowns that led to last week’s loss. The onus really is on the Bengals offense to move the ball effectively. Regardless of how you view Blaine, the team with fewer questions is Totino-Grace.
Pick: Totino-Grace 24, Blaine 17
CRETIN-DERHAM HALL (4-0) at EAST RIDGE (3-1), 7 p.m.
Jim says: Not to inflate the pressure on Cretin-Derham Hall, but this is the defining game of the Raiders’ season so far. They’ve certainly learned how to play in the fourth quarter, having scored more than one-third of their total points in the final stanza. The Raiders pull this one out.
Pick: Cretin-Derham Hall 27, East Ridge 21
David says: Cretin-Derham Hall has not faced a running back the caliber of East Ridge senior Dominik London. Through four games, he is 82 yards and three touchdowns ahead of last season’s pace — albeit on 38 more carries. A solid running game leads the Raptors to victory.
Pick: East Ridge 21, Cretin-Derham Hall 14
FRIDLEY (4-0) at ST. CROIX LUTHERAN (4-0), 7 p.m.
Jim says: The QRF rating — an algorithm compiled by our friend Ryan Weinzierl at Minnesota-Scores.net that calculates a computer ranking for every team — puts Fridley No. 1 in Class 4A, St. Croix Lutheran No. 1 in Class 3A. Of course, computer rankings are notoriously impersonal. I put a lot of stock in big-game experience. Edge, St. Croix Lutheran.
Pick: St. Croix Lutheran 41, Fridley 28
David says: Strength of schedule counts for something as well. Fridley defeated three Class 5A teams so far this season. Of course, St. Croix Lutheran deserves credit for beating a trio of Class 4A schools. But the Tigers, yet to allow a point in the fourth quarter, are more seasoned and find a way to remain undefeated.
Pick: Fridley 35, St. Croix Lutheran 31