Wednesday marks the end of the regular season, with games moved up because of the Minnesota Educator Academy (MEA) conference later this week. And what a finish it will be, with several games deciding subdistrict titles and section playoff seeding. Staff writer Jim Paulsen got back in the win column last week, going 3-0 and drawing even with fellow sports reporter David La Vaque at 16-11 overall. Here are their takes on five key games:
Roseville (6-1) vs. Cretin-Derham Hall (5-2) at University of St. Thomas, 7:30 p.m.
At stake: Should Roseville win, it likely will get a No. 1 seed in the Class 6A state tournament. A Cretin-Derham Hall victory shakes up the top of Section 4, which also includes Totino-Grace.
Jim says: Half-full — Roseville is one penalty-negated two-point conversion away from being undefeated. Half-empty — the combined record of Roseville’s opponents is 13-36 and no team has a winning record. The Raiders boast the most balanced offense in the Metro East subdistrict. This is where they prove their record is no fluke.
Pick: Roseville 30, Cretin-Derham Hall 28
David says: Huge special teams and defensive plays sparked Cretin-Derham Hall’s three-game winning streak. A punt return, blocked kick, fumble and interception all ended up in the opposing end zone. Big-strike capability in all three phases of the game makes the difference.
Pick: Cretin-Derham Hall 31, Roseville 21
Eden Prairie (7-0) at Edina (6-1), 7 p.m.
At stake: An Eden Prairie victory assures a No. 1 seed in the Class 6A bracket, and coach Mike Grant really wants a chance at the first-round bye that one of four top-seeds will receive because the class has only 31 teams this season.
Jim says: Eden Prairie was at its sloppiest Friday in the first half against Minnetonka, yet still pulled away from a team some believe is the second best in the metro. That’s a claim Edina can make as well. Its only loss was by one point at Minnetonka. But Eden Prairie will clean things up and win a close one.
Pick: Eden Prairie 27, Edina 21
David says: Edina showed guts with its successful fourth-down plays two weeks ago at Minnetonka. The Hornets’ resiliency shined last week at Maple Grove as they erased a 10-point halftime deficit. Harnessing both attributes Wednesday ... still won’t be enough.
Pick: Eden Prairie 28, Edina 17
Champlin Park (3-4) at Totino-Grace (5-2), 7 p.m.
At stake: Totino-Grace is playing for a possible No. 1 seed in Section 4. Champlin Park is mired in the No. 5 spot in Section 5, which would mean a first-round road game in the postseason.
Jim says: It wasn’t that long ago that Champlin Park was considered a top Class 6A team. The Rebels are reeling now, having lost three consecutive games, and a trip to Totino-Grace is hardly a remedy. The Eagles have their own issues, but they always are well-prepared and rarely lose two in a row.
Pick: Totino-Grace 18, Champlin Park 12
David says: Totino-Grace ran the football well enough to win last week and Champlin Park is susceptible to giving up yards on the ground. The onus is on the Eagles’ defense to limit big plays in the Champlin Park passing game. Rebels QB Joey Faulds threw three touchdowns to Cal Hanson last week.
Pick: Totino-Grace 21, Champlin Park 20
Armstrong (5-2) at Chaska (7-0), 7 p.m.
At stake: Chaska has virtually locked up the No. 1 seed in Class 5A, Section 2. Even with a loss, a lot would have to happen for the Hawks to fall out of the top spot.
Jim says: No one outside of Chaska predicted the Hawks would be undefeated and atop the Class 5A rankings this late in the season. They’ve won with tough defense, won shootouts and won nail-biters. In other words, they’ve figured out how to win games.
Pick: Chaska 33, Armstrong 21
David says: Armstrong struggled in losses against top Class 5A teams Chanhassen and Cooper, permitting more than 230 yards rushing each time and getting outscored 43-0 in the second half. Chaska presents even a tougher test.
Pick: Chaska 42, Armstrong 14
St. Anthony (5-2) at Spectrum (7-0), 3 p.m.
At stake: St. Anthony is battling St. Paul Como Park for the No. 1 seed in Class 4A, Section 4.
Jim says: Spectrum’s single-wing offense, run by a group of experienced players, has averaged 443 rushing yards per game, with junior RB Fisher Marberg averaging 214 all by himself. They score more than 52 points per game. I’m not sure St. Anthony can slow them down, so the Huskies must score often.
Pick: Spectrum 46, St. Anthony 30
David says: Score often? St. Anthony QB Josiah Johnson is up for the challenge. He has thrown for 1,602 yards and 25 TDs. And no offense but Spectrum, located in Elk River, posted video game-type scores against struggling programs. That ends against the more seasoned Huskies.
Pick: St. Anthony 35, Spectrum 21