The football season has played down to the final eight teams in every class, and every game is for a spot at U.S. Bank Stadium, where semifinals and championship games are played.
David La Vaque and Jim Paulsen make an annual competition of predicting winners of games of interest and importance, and they found two more on Friday's schedule, a pair of Class 6A quarterfinals that will fill out the semifinal bracket. After each went 1-1 on Thursday games, Jim is 33-11 this season, David 31-13. Their picks and their analysis on two Friday games:
CLASS 6A QUARTERFINALSLakeville North Panthers (9-1) vs. Eden Prairie Eagles (10-0), at Spring Lake Park, 7 p.m.
Jim says: As good as Lakeville North has played this year — and the Panthers have been superb — it's difficult to pick against Eden Prairie in a state tournament situation. Yes, the Eagles haven't won a title since 2017, but Mike Grant is still the coach and he hasn't forgotten what it takes to win in the postseason. The Eagles just look to be set up for success at this time of year: a gargantuan offensive line, a rotating stable of quality backs and a physical defense. Lakeville North probably has the edge at the skill positions and has big boys up front, too. But Eden Prairie will come out on top. The pick: Eden Prairie 24, Lakeville North 21
David says: Great quarterbacks, or at least quarterbacks capable of playing great, have been able to crack Eden Prairie's code. North junior Riley Grossman is a QB capable of playing great. If he is able to make his reads and settle for what the defense gives him, the Panthers are potent. Trying to force the issue often leads to trouble against the Eagles. The Panthers' ability to stay physical and opportunistic — while staying within themselves — could be enough. The pick: Eden Prairie 21, Lakeville North 14
East Ridge Raptors (4-6) vs. Lakeville South Cougars (9-1), at St. Michael-Albertville, 7 p.m.
Jim says: On paper, this pick looks like a piece of cake. But East Ridge is playing its best football of the season, having won at Anoka and at Minnetonka, two tough places to play. Raptors quarterback Tanner Zolnosky has practically willed his team to win, even playing a stint at defensive back in a pinch last week. But Lakeville South is just too talented and well-coached to let East Ridge pull off another shocker. The Cougars may give up a point or 20, but they will counter with plenty of playmakers. The pick: Lakeville South 38, East Ridge 21
David says: This time of year, teams are either really talented or on a roll. East Ridge seems to embody the latter. Lakeville South can build a lead and keep a lead. And junior running back Connor Cade supplies the explosive element capable of sinking defenses. Funny, he also wears No. 28 — just like Carson Hansen, South's big-play guy the past few seasons. The pick: Lakeville South 31, East Ridge 17