Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque, staff writers who compete annually at predicting winners of high school football games, have two more days — four Prep Bowl games Friday, three Saturday, all at U.S. Bank Stadium — to settle matters. Those of us who root for both of them do not consider matters settled; we only acknowledge David's well ahead.
It is important to point out the high success rate of each. David is 45-17, Jim 41-21. Also important: Their picks for Friday's games could swing this thing dramatically because they differ three times.
Their picks and analysis for Friday's games:
Class 1A: Minneota Vikings (11-2) vs. Springfield Tigers (11-2), 10 a.m.
David says: Using the semifinals as a guide, picking Springfield's passing attack seems to be a safe play. Minneota held off Fillmore Central but gave up 325 passing yards. Springfield's air show is even more potent. The Tigers' Jakob Nachreiner threw five touchdown passes and connected on 20 of 24 attempts for 339 yards. Springfield didn't make the top 10 in the final Class 1A rankings. The Tigers will finish No. 1 instead. The pick: Springfield 28, Minneota 20
Jim says: As tempted as I am to pick Springfield — Nachreiner was born to throw, whether it be footballs or baseballs — there is no substitute for big-game experience. This will be Minneota's seventh Prep Bowl appearance since 2009, four of them ending in state titles. The Vikings are known for their rock-'em, sock-'em style and found a way to survive Fillmore Central. They will bend a bit but will hold firm enough to win. The pick: Minneota 30, Springfield 28
Class 2A: Chatfield Gophers (12-0) vs. Barnesville Trojans (12-0), 1 p.m.
David says: Lest we forget, this matchup features more than just the two no-doubt best teams in Class 2A. This game is a rematch of last season's semifinals. Chatfield won that game despite losing quarterback Sam Backer to ejection for two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties. Forget revenge. Or don't. Either way, a Chatfield team at full strength remains the favorite to repeat as Prep Bowl champion. The pick: Chatfield 31, Barnesville 21
Jim says: These teams are prime examples that what has worked in the past can still be successful today, if done properly and by superior athletes. No. 1-ranked Chatfield runs an old-school single wing, with a direct snap to Backer. Barnesville is another disciple of the Power-T, picking up yards in chunks. The Trojans have beaten every team they've played by at least 15 points. The pick: Barnesville 34, Chatfield 26
Class 4A: Hutchinson Tigers (11-1) vs. Simley Spartans (11-1), 4 p.m.
David says: Simley dominated every aspect of its semifinal victory except for scoring differential. Getting more drives into the end zone is the Spartans' goal. Reason for optimism comes in the form of running back Gavin Nelson, receiver La'tayvion McCoy-Nunn and a Hutchinson defense that sprang leaks in the semifinals. The Tigers gave up 28 points to a Zimmerman team not quite as dynamic as Simley. The pick: Simley 24, Hutchinson 21
Jim says: The thing that makes Hutchinson so tough is its consistency. The Tigers know what they do well — pound the rock on the ground — and they pretty much dare opponents to stop them. Few have. Quarterback Logan Butler adds a passing dimension, rolling out and hitting running backs and receivers in space. Simley is no slouch, but it's next to impossible to beat six-time state champ Hutchinson in the Prep Bowl. The pick: Hutchinson 32, Simley 16
Class 6A: Maple Grove Crimson (12-0) vs. Rosemount Irish (12-0), 7 p.m.
David says: Rosemount bested defending champion Lakeville South once this season and beat Minnesota heavyweight Eden Prairie twice, including in the semifinals. So why do I hesitate in picking the Irish? Because they won those games by an average of 12.6 points to eight. The tightrope act only works with a tremendous safety net of a defense — which Rosemount has. Those fast and sure-tackling defenders will keep a lid on Maple Grove QB Jacob Kilzer and allow another waste-not, want-not scoring output by the Irish offense to be enough. The pick: Rosemount 14, Maple Grove 7
Jim says: The tendency when picking games is always about assessing offenses. Chalk one up to Maple Grove, which will have the best offensive player on the field in Kilzer. But you can't lose if you keep opponents from scoring, and Rosemount, behind defensive stalwarts Kade Gilbertson and Hayden Bills, will flex enough muscle to win its first state championship since 1981. Expect the kicking game to have a say in who wins. The pick: Rosemount 20, Maple Grove 17