With the start of the 2017 prep football season just around the corner, Northstar Football News is breaking down the biggest games in each class each week.
This is the Class AAA outlook, our seventh and final.
Week One: Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton v. Barnesville
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton lost just one game prior to the state tournament last season, and that loss came at the hands of Barnesville in week five. With Barnesville set to be short-handed due to the loss of running back Brady Tweeton, expect the Rebels to take advantage of their five returning offensive linemen and utilize their strong running game that is set to be led by Daniel Bell, Trevor Dufault and Steven Taves.
Week Two: St. Croix Lutheran v. SMB
St. Croix Lutheran gets an early test in week two, as the Crusaders have the tough task of facing SMB, Northstar Football News’ third-ranked team in Class 4A. With sophomore quarterback Jalen Suggs leading the Wolfpack offense, the Crusaders will need strong performances from star wide receiver/defensive back Garett Maag and tight end/defensive lineman Stephen Kletscher in order to pick up a win in this one.
Week Three: Grand Rapids v. Proctor
Proctor lost just two games last season, and its first came against Grand Rapids in week three of the 2016 season. Grand Rapids rushed for 243 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s matchup, and expect the Proctor defense to not allow that to happen again. Defensive lineman Kaleb Stevens is one of the players that will be keying in on stopping the Grand Rapids running game.
Week Four: Pequot Lakes v. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton advanced to the state tournament last season with a 31-20 win over Pequot Lakes in the Section 8AAA title bout. The Rebels threw for 212 yards in the last contest, so expect the Rebels to try the same approach with incoming senior quarterback Austin Bitker. With a strong core of returning defensive starters, including linemen Andy Oberg and Hunter Macziewski, the Rebels have the talent to be able to pick up a win in this battle between section rivals.
Week Five: Proctor v. Duluth Denfield
In week five of the 2016 season, Proctor picked up a big 30-12 victory over Duluth Denfield. While the situations are different for both teams, expect Proctor to lean on its running game, led by Jerrid Parrott and Cody Hampton, to earn another win in this matchup.
Week Six: Pierz v. Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted
Pierz lost just one game during the 2016 regular season, but, in one of its more competitive games of the regular season, the Pioneers bested Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted 39-28 in week five of the 2016 season. Pierz’s All-District quarterback Preston Rocheleau will look for another big game in this matchup after throwing for three touchdowns the last time these two teams faced off.
Week Seven: St. Croix Lutheran v. Mound Westonka
Mound Westonka has had back-to-back strong seasons, and, while the White Hawks have graduated numerous strong players in recent seasons, Mound Westonka should be a formidable foe for St. Croix Lutheran nonetheless. The White Hawks have put together a strong defense over the last two seasons, but expect St. Croix Lutheran quarterback Jon Liesener and running back Mike Stern to find a way to exploit the unit.
Week Eight: Pierz v. Rockford
The last time these teams met in week seven of the 2016 season, Rockford gave Pierz its smallest margin of victory it had during the 2016 regular season. Pierz rode its running game to a 30-21 victory, as it rushed for 219 yards and four touchdowns. While Pierz does not return its leading rushers from last season, expect junior Carson Huls and senior Alex Funk to carry the Pioneers’ running game in this bout.