Star Tribune prep sports reporters Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque can agree on this sentiment: It's good to have football back. And now they return to their respective corners, ready to match wits and pick a few Thursday winners.
LAKEVILLE NORTH AT WOODBURY, 7 P.M.
Jim says: There are high expectations for Woodbury this season. The Royals get to find out exactly where they stand right out of the gate by hosting the defending champions. Woodbury acquits itself well, but falls in a tight one. Lakeville North 21, Woodbury 14
David says: Graduation claimed much of Lakeville North's talented, and huge, players. But receiver/runner/cornerback RaJa Nelson and defensive lineman Landon Carter are special players leading the eager Panthers. Lakeville North 28, Woodbury 20
MAPLE GROVE AT ST. MICHAEL-ALBERTVILLE, 7 P.M.
Jim says: While St. Michael-Albertville's intense rivalry with neighbor Rogers ended in 2016, Maple Grove rallied to beat the Knights with three TDs in the final 59 seconds in the 2017 playoffs. Is another I-94 rivalry building? St. Michael-Albertville 30, Maple Grove 20
David says: Wouldn't it be great if Maple Grove started this game with an onside kick? Two such plays — one probably not legal — made the Crimson's rally possible. This time, Maple Grove's new offense struggles to find its footing. St. Michael-Albertville 21, Maple Grove 7
BLAINE AT WAYZATA, 7 P.M.
Jim says: For Lambert Brown, in his third season as Wayzata coach, this may be his most complete team, with a sound defense and two hard-running backs. Blaine lost a lot from 2018, including a head coach, and is still a work in progress. Wayzata 24, Blaine 14
David says: The Bengals believe in themselves even if you don't, Jim. Blaine features running back Will Frederickson and a strong defensive line. New coach Mike Law was the team's offensive coordinator last season and knows what to do. Blaine 28, Wayzata 13