(Cover Photo: Nick Gerhardt/SportsEngine)
Picking out important regular season games from the season schedule this early can be tricky. Heck, most of the teams don’t even have their schedules on their websites. Thus, I ended up sticking to bigger schools simply because schedule information is still a little hard to come by in early May, even for some of the bigger schools.
September 7: Maple Grove at Prior Lake
Two state tournament teams lock horns in what looked be another smash-mouth style football game similar to Maple Grove’s early season 9-6 victory in 2017. With the Lakers’ addition of Mark Esch – former Mankato West head coach – to lead the offense, will the Lakers new offense be ready to go against the usually stout Crimson defense? Will Maple Grove’s offense – led by running back Evan Hull – be able to crack the usually stout Lakers’ defense? A lot of early season questions to be answered for both programs early in the season.
September 14: Champlin Park at St Michael-Albertville
This game will be a chance to see one of the state’s best quarterbacks – Champlin Park’s Bennett Otto – playing against one of the better teams in the state – the Knights. Otto is expected to be fully healthy after missing his entire junior season with an injury. Will the Rebels and new head coach Nick Keenan be able to bounce back from last year’s .500 record? The talent – especially at quarterback is there but the Knights – still relatively new to AAAAAA – have already established themselves as a factor and likely will be a tough out again in 2018.
September 21: Winona at Mankato West
Again, Minnesota high school football fans will be treated to an early season game pitting two state tournament teams. It also features two of the state’s top seniors-to-be, West’s lineman Garrett Schumski, and Winona athlete Terrell Hall. September 21st will be the fourth time in a row the two Big Southeast District rivals have met in the regular season, with West winning two of three. The Winhawks will be looking to even that record with an early-season victory that could send the winner into the rest of the season with the confidence that might it have just won its toughest game until the playoffs.
October 12: Eden Prairie at Minnetonka
Eden Prairie has dominated this matchup in recent years with their winning streak over the Skippers into double digits. However, whenever a rematch of a state title game is on the schedule, it almost automatically has to be on this list. NFN’s top-ranked quarterback and fourth-ranked 2019 prospect – Cole Kramer – will again lead the Eagles offense. On the other side, NFN’s second-ranked signal caller and sixth-ranked prospect Aaron Syverson leads the Skippers after a breakout junior season. With both teams expected to be strong again in 2018, this will surely go a long way to determine both the overall favorite and potential top seed in the AAAAAA playoffs.
October 12: Northfield at Owatonna
When Owatonna traveled to Northfield last season, the two teams played one of the best games in the 2017 season. The 21-17 come-from-behind victory for the Raiders would end up being the only loss on the Huskies’ 2017 resume during their run to a state title. An early look at the Huskies’ regular-season schedule points to the Raiders being one of the few teams that will be able to compete with an inexperienced, but talented Huskies team in the regular season. NFN has also learned that Huskies senior and University of Minnesota commit Jason Williamson is pretty fun to watch too.