As much as we love offense, raving about big rushing games or monstrous point totals or bombs-away passing attacks, it’s apparent that defense is just as big a story line in the 2018 season.

The No. 1 team in Class 6A, Lakeville North (6-0), has long hung its reputation on a defensive hook. The Panthers are just as good this year behind a dominant defensive line but are fifth in their class in points allowed.

Edina (5-1) is tops and showed its defensive mettle by shutting down a talented Minnetonka offense Friday, leading the large-school class in giving up 10.3 points per game. Prior Lake is right behind, having allowed only nine points in its past three games and a riding a two-game shutout streak.

St. Thomas Academy and Waconia are undefeated in Class 5A largely because of stout defenses. The 12 points scored by Hopkins on Friday was the first time all season the Cadets have allowed double figures. Waconia has been just as good, its starting defense having gone six consecutive games without allowing a touchdown. Hastings and Tartan have had resurgences this season largely because of stingy defenses.

And perhaps the most impressive has been Providence Academy, which has defended its goal line with a ferocity worthy of its nickname. The Lions’ 18-0 victory over St. Paul Johnson on Friday was its fourth consecutive shutout and fifth in six games. A second-quarter touchdown by Academy Force (a cooperative of six small east-metro schools) in the second game of the season is the only blemish on Providence’s otherwise perfect defensive record.


1. Lakeville North (6-0): The Panthers get a showcase platform this week, taking on Prior Lake at TCO Stadium at the Vikings’ new training facility.

2. Blaine (6-0): QB Jack Haring’s superb season has flown under the radar: 100-for-145 for 1,411 yards, 10 TDs and only one interception. And he’s rushed for six touchdowns.

3. Eden Prairie (5-1): The Eagles face a tough test this week when they travel to Minnetonka, where the Skippers will be ornery after a mistake-filled loss to Edina.

4. Edina (5-1): The addition of Gophers hockey recruit Jake Boltmann at receiver adds a much-needed dimension to the Hornets’ offense.

5. Prior Lake (4-2): Having already lost at Eden Prairie and Minnetonka, the Lakers gave up a home game to play No. 1 Lakeville North at TCO Stadium this week. They’ll be road-toughened come postseason.

6. St. Michael-Albertville (4-2): The Knights’ offense is rolling, racking up 85 points in its past two games.

7. St. Thomas Academy (5A, 6-0): The Cadets have outscored opponents 225-25, an average margin of victory of more than 33 points per game.

8. Woodbury (5-1): So much rests on the nature of starting QB Jake Wenzel’s injury as the Royals prepare to host Friday’s Battle of Woodbury against potent East Ridge.

9. Rosemount (4-2): Four consecutive victories for the Irish, who rolled up a 31-0 halftime lead in a 31-15 victory over Lakeville South.

10. Champlin Park (4-2): Of a remaining logjam of 4-2 teams in Class 6A, the Rebels look the most sound.

Others worth a mention: Mounds View (4-2), East Ridge (4-2), White Bear Lake (4-2), Minnetonka (4-2), Elk River (5A, 6-0), Cooper (5A, 6-0).

Jim Paulsen