The compact nature of the fall athletic season will become obvious this week. Section playoffs begin in girls’ tennis Monday, and football finishes its regular season Thursday and Friday. Next week, playoffs begin in football and boys’ and girls’ soccer.

The beauty of the way the MSHSL structures its playoff system is that each team qualifies for the postseason. They’re seeded, of course, with the worst forced to play the best in each section, but it gives hope to every team that struggled during the regular season.

Take the Prior Lake football team, for example. On paper, the Lakers look like a slightly above-average team. Their record is 4-3. The defense they’re known for has given up 97 points in the past two games. But look closer and you’ll notice that the losses have been to Eden Prairie, Maple Grove and Wayzata, three metro football juggernauts. The Lakers were within a touchdown or closer at halftime of each game. They will likely end up getting the No. 4 seed in Section 3, 6A (behind Lakeville North, Burnsville and Rosemount), but this is not a typical No. 4 seed, which could play in Prior Lake’s favor in the playoffs.

The Week Ahead

 

Football

Thursday

• St. Michael-Albertville at Monticello, 7 p.m. The biggest test of the season for undefeated Monticello.

Friday

• Lakeville North at Rosemount, 7 p.m.

• Woodbury at East Ridge, 7 p.m.

• Wayzata at Eden Prairie, 7 p.m.

 

VOLLEYBALL

Tuesday

• Champlin Park at Osseo, 7 p.m.

• Eden Prairie at Wayzata, 7 p.m.

• Jordan at Belle Plaine, 7 p.m.

 

CROSS-COUNTRY

Tuesday: Victoria Lions Invitational. Twenty-seven teams in the meet’s 27th year. A top-flight field led by the No. 1-ranked Class 2A teams: Edina’s girls and Hopkins’ boys. At Chaska Par-30 Golf Course, 4:15 p.m.