Staff writers Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque trade insights on day two of the football state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
eden prairie (10-1) vs. champlin park (8-3), 7 p.m.
Jim says: Champlin Park’s had a great run, but defeating Eden Prairie is a different challenge altogether. And the Rebels, due to injuries, are down to their third QB. The Rebels will have their moments, but the Eagles will have many more.
Pick: Eden Prairie 38, Champlin Park 14
David says: Eden Prairie is in dominating November form. The ground game is clicking and top athletes on defense are making key contributions on offense. Last week the Eagles used a trick play, answering a surprise Maple Grove onside kick with one of their own.
Pick: Eden Prairie 42, Champlin Park 7
winona (10-1) vs. rocori (9-3), 4:30 p.m.
Jim says: Size matters and Winona, despite being a state tournament newbie, is the bigger, stronger team. Rocori is making its third straight tourney appearance but stopping the Winhawks’ freight train when it gets rolling is a tall order.
Pick: Winona 24, Rocori 21
David says: Winona defeated South St. Paul in power football in the quarterfinals. The Winhawks, making their first state appearance since 1987, feature four running backs with more than 400 yards and each average at least 5 yards per carry.
Pick: Winona 28, Rocori 21
owatonna (8-2) vs. elk river (11-0), 2 p.m.
Jim says: Overlooked in Elk River’s dominance is its athletic offensive line. These guys, led by Ronnie Audette and Connor Bryan, get there quickly and deliver a blow. Makes things easier for backs Nick Rice, Sam Gibas and Sherrod Kpahn.
Pick: Elk River 44, Owatonna 22
David says: Elk River’s wing-T scheme can be confounding, sure. But it’s the Elks’ athletes who make the difference. Keep an eye on Gibas, an outstanding linebacker as well as running back who sparks his team on both sides of the ball.
Pick: Elk River 35, Owatonna 14
caledonia (12-0) vs. barnesville (11-0), 11:30 A.m.
Jim says: This would be a whale of a championship game. Caledonia’s Owen King is another top-flight QB who has chosen basketball over football for his collegiate future. Just a junior, his versatility will pay off in this one.
Pick: Caledonia 33, Barnesville 21
David says: Bummer this bracket isn’t seeded. Top-ranked Caledonia, boasting a 26-game winning streak, plays No. 2 Barnesville. A more diverse Caledonia offense wins out over run-heavy Barnesville.
Pick: Caledonia 28, Barnesville 20
grand meadow (12-0) vs. waubun (12-0), 9 a.m.
Jim says: At some point, Grand Meadow has to lose. Not this year, however. The Superlarks haven’t had a close game yet, including a three-game stretch in which they scored 219 combined points.
Pick: Grand Meadow 50, Waubun 28
David says: Two 1,000-yard rushers (Christophor Bain and Zach Myhre), a 48-game winning streak and the past three consecutive state titles make picking against the Superlarks super dumb.
Pick: Grand Meadow 42, Waubun 21