Staff writers Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque begin their sixth season of prep football picks still wondering why there was no cake and punch to celebrate their fifth anniversary. Youth shined last fall as David (40-27) edged Jim (39-28) by one game. You know Jim is coming back ornery. Good thing Saturday night’s alright for fighting.

Maple Grove at Osseo, 2 p.m.

David says: Since coming to Maple Grove in 2011, Crimson coach Matt Lombardi is 0-4 against Osseo on the field. Maple Grove’s retroactive forfeit victory in 2012 is a technicality. The Crimson get the real thing this time. Orioles coach Derrin Lamker lives in Maple Grove and this rivalry is unofficially known as “The Fire Pit War” among neighbors. This is why high school football rocks.

 

Pick: Maple Grove 21, Osseo 14

Jim says: This annual matchup has reached a new level of intensity in recent years. To Osseo’s Lamker, it’s the highlight of the regular season, so it’s a safe bet that the season opener has been a primary topic of conversation at Osseo all summer. Both teams have enviable talent and speed, but I’m leaning toward Osseo on its home field.

 

Pick: Osseo 23, Maple Grove 21

 

Hutchinson at Becker, 7 p.m.

David says: Each team’s defense must carry the load early until their retooled offenses find their form. Defending Class 4A state champion Becker offers a little more in that area with seven returning starters — all of them capable of playing in college according to Bulldogs coach Dwight Lundeen.

 

Pick: Becker 17, Hutchinson 13

Jim says: Whatever happened to the idea of easing into a season? Both teams have big holes to fill, but Becker is generally ahead of the curve offensively when a season begins thanks to its emphasis on summer 7-on-7 passing leagues. Few coaches can school a quarterback as well as Lundeen.

 

Pick: Becker 27, Hutchinson 7

Eden Prairie at Totino-Grace, 7 p.m.

David says: These teams played a Prep Bowl for the ages last year. Eden Prairie won 28-27, securing its fourth consecutive big-school state title as a late Totino-Grace two-point conversion pass fell incomplete. Totino-Grace returns 14 starters while the visiting Eagles boast top-end talent such as Carter Coughlin and JD Spielman. The champs have the edge.

 

Pick: Eden Prairie 21, Totino-Grace 17

Jim says: The red-and-black of Eden Prairie has proved to be Totino-Grace’s kryptonite as Eden Prairie has won four in a row in this series since 2011. Totino-Grace coach Jeff Ferguson is a master at developing teams over the course of a season. If this game were played in Week 8, I might feel differently. But in the season opener, I see another Eden Prairie victory.

 

Pick: Eden Prairie 34, Totino-Grace 14