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. We will start with the biggest schools and work our way down.
Week One: Champlin Park v. East Ridge
Champlin Park shocked many when they qualified for the Class 6A state tournament with a 35-33 victory over East Ridge in the second round of the 2016 playoffs. The Rebels led by 15 points with just over five minutes left in the game, but the Raptors came roaring back to make it a two-point game with a touchdown just before the end of the game. A two-point conversion pass attempt fell incomplete and the Rebels advanced to state. The Raptors return four offensive and six defensive starters, while the Rebels figure to be led by junior quarterback Bennett Otto, who was injured during last year’s matchup, and senior running back Ernest Worjloh.
Week Two: Lakeville North v. Eden Prairie
The second week of the prep football season will give fans a chance to see NFN’s first and second-ranked teams in Class 6A square off, as Lakeville North will travel to Aerie Stadium to take on the top-ranked Eden Prairie Eagles. The Eden Prairie offense led by quarterback Cole Kramer, who will be in the midst of his second full season as the starter, and Eden Prairie’s 2016 leading rusher Solo Falaniko will be tough for Lakeville North to stop, but the Panthers believe their defense led by returners Nathan Boe, Peter Bercich, Nick Spitt, Braden Walsh, Nick Gregg and Spencer Fossey are more than up to the task.
Week Three: Minnetonka v. Maple Grove
Despite Maple Grove getting the better of this matchup last season, the Crimson cruised to a 45-14 win, Minnetonka is confident it can turn the tables its way this time around. The Skippers return seven defensive starters, led by linebackers Ty Barron and James VanHorne and Minnetonka hopes its defense can throw off the Crimson offense. Maple Grove, on the other hand, returns five defensive starters, namely defensive team MVP Jake Hanson, from last season. With both teams lacking experience on offense, expect a strong defensive game.
Week Four: Lakeville South v. Lakeville North
The fourth week of the prep season gives fans the chance to see an inter-city bout between No. 2-ranked Lakeville North and its rival Lakeville South. While Lakeville North won the game handily last season, the Panthers won 35-0, the game gives the city a chance to come together for what is always an enjoyable matchup. Lakeville South will have many new faces this time around, but no newcomer is more important than Tyler Krebs, who came over from Burnsville to become Lakeville South's new head coach.
Week Five: Eden Prairie v. Maple Grove
Two of Northstar Football News’ top-five ranked teams in Class 6A will face off in what will also be a rematch of a state quarterfinal game from last season, as top-ranked Eden Prairie is set to take on fourth-ranked Maple Grove. Eden Prairie won the game handily last season by a score of 63-21. With both teams looking strong on paper heading into the prep season, this matchup could be one of the more fun bouts fans will see this season.
Week Six: Edina v. Minnetonka
Lake Conference rivals Edina and Minnetonka, both coming off strong seasons, will face off for the first time since the Skippers topped the Hornets 21-18 to close out the 2016 regular season. The Skippers led that game 21-10 before Edina came back with a touchdown and two-point conversion with just over eight minutes to play. The key matchup to watch will be Edina’s offensive line, with four returning starters including Quinn Carroll, and a Minnetonka defense that returns seven starters.
Week Seven: Totino-Grace v. Blaine
In one of the top matchups of the season, and another bout between two teams ranked in Northstar Football News’ top-five ranked teams in Class 6A, No. 5 Totino-Grace is set to take on No. 3 Blaine in a rematch of last season’s state semifinal game that saw the Eagles take a 21-20 victory en route to a Class 6A state championship win. Totino-Grace will be looking for new players to step up after graduating a strong group of seniors after last season, while Blaine returns key starters on offense from last season, including the quarterback/receiver tandem of seniors Connor Melton and Byron Bynum, Jr.
Week Eight: Blaine v. Anoka
In yet another rivalry game, Blaine is set to take on Anoka after the Bengals topped the Tornadoes 14-6. Blaine scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 14-0 halftime lead before the Tornadoes attempted to bring the game closer with a touchdown with 7:43 to play in the third quarter. The Anoka defense will have a tough time stopping the Bengals this year, as Melton, who earned the starting job halfway through the 2016 season, Bynum and offensive linemen Luke Schoonover and Prentiss Sayewah lead what should be a dangerous Blaine offense.