Staff writer Jim Paulsen had it right when he wrote Class 5A could provide the most fun of the seven football state tournament classes. Six of the seven remaining undefeated teams earned a first-round bye and start the second phase of Mission: U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday. He and David La Vaque look at three of Saturday’s games:
Chaska (6-3) at Chanhassen (8-0), 3 p.m.
David says: Chanhassen ran for 340 yards in its 35-13 victory against Chaska on Oct. 7. That number fuels my notion that these teams are at different levels. Look for Tom Loeffler, Eddie Odanga and Alex Spillum to run over and around the Hawks all afternoon.
Pick: Chanhassen 31, Chaska 14
Jim says: Chaska is still smarting from the loss to its neighbor three weeks ago. If all things were equal, I’d look for the Hawks to give a spirited effort and put a scare into Chanhassen (forgive the bad Halloween puns). But Chanhassen is the most athletic team in Class 5A and athleticism rarely takes a night off.
Pick: Chanhassen 41, Chaska 24
Monticello (7-2) at Elk River (8-0), 2 p.m.
David says: Monticello ended years of misery with a quarterfinal victory Tuesday at Rogers, but Elk River is for real. Led by running back Ryder Beckman, the Magic might hold the edge in athletic ability. No matter. Elk River has the look of a late-November team.
Pick: Elk River 42, Monticello 28
Jim says: I love the program Jason Telecky has developed at Monticello (33-14 over the past five years), but I’ve invested too much in building up Elk River to predict a loss now. The Elks’ style of play is perfect for this time of year: a strong, deep running game and a defense that flies to the ball.
Pick: Elk River 40, Monticello 20
St. Thomas Academy (6-3) at park (6-2), 7 p.m.
David says: Park of Cottage Grove won 31-27 on Sept. 16, taking a 10-0 lead before the teams’ offenses traded blows until the end. Past grind-it-out Cadets teams might have convinced me to pick the upset. But this team gets into too many track meets, and that plays right into Park’s strengths.
Pick: Park 35, St. Thomas Academy 21
Jim says: St. Thomas’ losses have been Mahtomedi and South St. Paul, both undefeated, and Park. I’m interested to see how Park, which hasn’t won a playoff game since 2007, handles the pressure of being favored in an elimination game. I think the more talented Wolfpack squeaks by.
Pick: Park 36, St. Thomas Academy 30.