Staff writers David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen offer their insights and make their picks for three of Friday’s season-opening football games.
ST. THOMAS ACADEMY at MAHTOMEDI, 7 p.m.
David says: Both teams return strong players at various positions and should finish toward the top of the East Metro Red subdistrict standings. Only one can win the season opener, however, and I like the Cadets’ experience at the skill positions.
Pick: St. Thomas Academy 28, Mahtomedi 14
Jim says: Mahtomedi leaned on its defense last year while struggling to develop an offensive identity. Seven starters are back on offense, including much of the offensive line. With a hard-nosed defense, home-field advantage and St. Thomas needing to adjust to new coach Jason Sedlak, Mahtomedi squeaks this one out.
Pick: Mahtomedi 23, St. Thomas Academy 21
MINNEAPOLIS NORTH at MINNEAPOLIS WASHBURN, 7 p.m.
David says: Not too long ago, Washburn ruled football in the City of Lakes. No more. Watch as North, state runner-up a year ago, builds on its success this season. Yes, the Polars must replace quarterback Tyler Johnson. But I like where coach Charles Adams III has the program headed, and he’ll find a suitable replacement for Johnson.
Pick: North 35, Washburn 13
Jim says: Last season was one of the best in North history, but Adams doesn’t think his team is going to take a step back. In fact, he believes the athletic Polars will be more versatile than ever on offense. But it’s North’s defense, with big-time talent in lineman Phil Scott and linebacker Jamire Jackson, that will carry the team this year.
Pick: North 38, Washburn 14
ST. ANTHONY at MOUND WESTONKA, 7 p.m.
David says: One of the best success stories of 2015, Mound Westonka seeks to prove it’s more than a one-year wonder. The offense appears stacked with talent and experience. The defense will take shape over time. While it’s unlikely the White Hawks will shut out St. Anthony like last season, they should start with a victory.
Pick: Mound Westonka 28, St. Anthony 7
Jim says: Mound Westonka was a terrific story, winning as many games (eight) as it did in the previous 10 years combined. But that was last year. How will the White Hawks respond to expectations? Fine, I expect, but they won’t be overlooked anymore. They’re going to get everyone’s best shot, and that takes some adjusting.
Pick: Mound Westonka 30, St. Anthony 14