As the regular season winds down, prep football games carry added weight. The margin for error gets thinner. Case in point: Preps reporter David La Vaque (15-9) clings to a one-game lead on Jim Paulsen (14-10). Two competitive Thursday games headline this week's collection of picks.
Lakeville South (6-0) at Shakopee (5-1), 7 pm.
Jim says: At one time, this looked like the game of the year. Even with the loss of QB Dominic Jackson, Shakopee acquitted itself well in losing to Eden Prairie last week. Lakeville South is an even bigger test. Shakopee needs to get through this brutal stretch healthy and finish strong. The pick: Lakeville South 35, Shakopee 7
David says: Prepare all you want to face Lakeville South's Power-T formation and junior running back Carson Hansen, the program's leader with 25 career touchdowns. Fact is, South also throws the ball well. Shakopee's defense will battle. Just not sure how the Sabers weakened offense keeps pace. The pick: Lakeville South 28, Shakopee 8
Rosemount (3-3) at Prior Lake (3-3), 7 p.m.
Jim says: Rosemount's offense has run into a dry patch recently, putting up just 20 total points in their current three-game skid. Prior Lake has had difficulty stopping the run, but the Lakers counter with the more explosive offense. I'm leaning toward the home team. The pick: Prior Lake 27, Rosemount 17
David says: Rosemount, led by QB Vincent Pyne, moves the ball well. Three of his receivers have at least 10 catches. Now the Irish must visit the end zone on a more frequent basis. They will have a chance against a Prior Lake defense allowing 26.8 points per game. The pick: Rosemount 24, Prior Lake 21
Centennial (4-2) at. Minnetonka (5-1), 7 p.m.
Jim says: Centennial coach Mike Diggins hasn't yet had to rely on sophomore QB Daylen Cummings' arm but isn't afraid to do so if needed. This might be the game. Minnetonka wields a stellar pair of receivers in Joey Gendreau and Cade Conzemius, who know where the end zone is with nine TD receptions combined. The pick: Minnetonka 23, Centennial 14.
David says: The tendency to doubt Centennial stops here. And it shouldn't have taken this long — not after the Cougars beat Maple Grove and Wayzata and allowed a combined seven points. Centennial runs for almost 200 yards per game and gives up less than 100 passing yards. The pick: Centennial 20, Minnetonka 10
Chaska (6-0) at Armstrong (5-1), 7 p.m.
Jim says: Chaska's defense looks nearly as stingy as it was in its state championship run in 2019. The Hawks have held four of six opponents to single digits. That defense will be stretched by Armstrong's wealth of offensive playmakers, led by QB Jamen Malone and a cadre of talented receivers. The pick: Chaska 24, Armstrong 18
David says: Love these juicy matchups later in the season. Two of Class 5A's better teams get together for a playoff tune-up. Armstrong, averaging 44.3 points per game the past three weeks, won't fly as high. And Chaska's players know the formula for grinding out tough road victories. The pick: Chaska 21, Armstrong 13
Chanhassen (4-2) at Holy Angels (5-1), 7 p.m.
Jim says: There's no secret to what Holy Angels does. The Stars get the ball into the hands of RB Emmett Johnson (242 yards, four TDs rushing per game) and let him work his magic. Chanhassen's robust run defense will have its hands full, but if the Storm can slow Johnson enough, they could outscore Holy Angels. The pick: Chanhassen 42, Holy Angels 33
David says: Chanhassen junior QB Grant Muffenbier has played well this year, throwing for 1,152 yards and nine touchdowns. Receivers Charlie Coenen and Josh Och have each posted more than 400 yards. Still, Johnson and the Holy Angels rushing offense should control the game's tempo. The pick: Holy Angels 28, Chanhassen 24