Section semifinals from Class 5A to Nine-Man take place Saturday, offering a slate full of compelling matchups. Staff writers Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque ruminate on three of those games.
IRONDALE (7-2) at SPRING LAKE PARK (6-2), 2 P.M.
Jim says: A rematch of the season opener, won by Spring Lake Park 35-13. Irondale has enough offensive firepower to stay competitive, but the defense is vulnerable to a sound ground attack. Guess what Spring Lake Park does well? RB Derric Bergman is as slippery as they come. Spring Lake Park 30, Irondale 21
David says: Irondale running back Parker Freiberg is the program’s career rushing leader and provides an ideal playoff football cornerstone. But the Knights are a little beat up after their victory Tuesday, making physical Spring Lake Park a bad matchup. Spring Lake Park 28, Irondale 14
MANKATO WEST (8-1) AT CHANHASSEN (6-2), 3 P.M.
Jim says: Can Chanhassen finally defeat Mankato West? The Storm has lost all five previous meetings between the two teams. Each team’s heart and soul is at linebacker — Chanhassen’s Cade Plath and Mankato West’s Clay Herding — but the Scarlets counter with more offensive weapons. Mankato West 27, Chanhassen 20
David says: When it comes to Chanhassen, so much depends on QB Jacob Miller’s status. He missed the regular-season finale because of injury, and the offense struggled. If Miller can’t go, then the Storm must get more from backup Tyson Hansen and his playmakers. Chanhassen 24, Mankato West 21
ORONO (6-3) VS. SMB WOLFPACK (8-0), AT BLAKE, 7 p.m.
Jim says: SMB took a hit when top WR Terry Lockett left Minnehaha Academy for Spire Academy in suburban Cleveland. The Wolfpack still has QB Jalen Suggs, LB Kaden Johnson and DB/WR Craig McDonald. And payback motivation: Orono spanked the Wolfpack 36-7 in the 2017 playoffs. SMB 34, Orono 22
David says: Orono escaped on Tuesday despite five turnovers. The Wolfpack will feast on such sloppiness. When the Spartans are on, QB Nick Prentice runs and throws well. The defense, especially end Danny Striggow, can put heat on Suggs in the passing game. Orono 27, SMB 21