Brady Essig, QB – Triton (vs Caledonia)
Essig will oppose the best quarterback in the state – Caledonia’s Owen King – for the second time this season. In the first meeting, Essig outplayed his counterpart for over two quarters, before King led a thunderous, 27-point rally to stun Triton 34-27 in Week 2.
The 5-foot-9 senior finished with 225 passing yards and two total touchdowns (one rush, one pass) in one of the best games of his career. He’s thrown for almost 1,300 yards this season, leading the Cobras offense to an average of 42.5 points per game.
Unlike most weeks, there will be no intimidation or mental edge for Caledonia in the section final — Triton probably believes it should have won the first meeting. When you couple that with the fact Cobras coach Don Henderson is coaching his final season, all the emotional intangibles point to a Cobras victory. It will be up to Essig to give his team enough offense through the air to come through with the upset in Rochester.
James Kaczor, RB/WR/LB – St. Cloud Tech (vs Elk River)
What can’t the Tigers senior do on the gridiron? After carrying the ball 46 times during the first nine games this fall, Kaczor gained 164 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in St. Cloud Tech’s section semifinal rout of Rogers. He also threw a touchdown pass out of the Wildcat formation. If that wasn’t enough, Kaczor recorded eight tackles on defense.
He might be more important on that side of the ball this week against the Elks stellar ground game. Tech will have to sell out against the Elks inside running plays and force them to the edge, where Kaczor and Brevyn Spann-Ford can use their athleticism in run support.
You’d have to figure, though, that Gregg Martig will feature Kaczor in the ground game again, hoping to keep the Elk River offense on the sidelines.
Donnie Loegering, RB – Hawley (vs Barnesville)
To state Loegering enjoys running against Barnesville would be an understatement.
Hawley’s senior running back has gone over the century mark in the three career games he’s started against the Trojans, including his 178-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Nuggets 48-30 win in Week 7. That victory stopped a three-game losing streak to Barnesville, which included last year’s Section 8AA final.
Loegering’s senior season has been one of the best in Class AA with more than 1,100 yards, a 9.3 yards per carry average and 22 touchdowns. Will his legs be enough to carry undefeated Hawley to its first state tournament berth in three seasons on Friday at the FargoDome?
Riley Bosteter, QB – Winona (vs Kasson-Mantorville)
Bosteter might not have prototypical physical makeup for an elite high school quarterback, but there’s no disputing the Winhawks senior is a winner. The 5-foot-9, 160-pounder has gone 20-2 in his career at Winona, which includes a 5-1 mark in postseason play.
Last season’s Section 1AAAA final helped assert Bosteter as a legitimate passing threat. He burned the KoMets for 225 yards and three touchdowns in the Winhawks 44-13 blowout victory. This fall, he’s thrown for 166 yards per game and has a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his last five games.
Winona’s offensive balance is arguably the most important aspect to its success. Kasson-Mantorville will have to try and make John Cassellius’ group one-dimensional, and that will probably mean opportunities for Bosteter to make plays through the air.
Sam Visser, OL/DL – Ada-Borup/Norman County West (vs Ottertail Central)
Visser is a big reason why Ada-Borup/Norman County West is undefeated in its first year as a football co-op. He’s one of the leading tacklers on the best scoring defense (5.6 oppg) across all seven classes of Minnesota high school football, and also their best offensive lineman.
The Cougars matchup with Ottertail Central – a fellow unbeaten team – is easily their toughest contest of the season. Points should be at a premium, meaning even the smallest holes that Visser and the o-line can open for running back Zach Pelzman (835 yards, 20 TD) will be important against the Bulldogs.