Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque, staff writers who compete annually to predict high school football game winners, have two days left — four Prep Bowl games on Friday, three Saturday, all at US Bank Stadium — to close the matter regulate. Those of us who advocate both do not consider the matter closed; we only acknowledge that David is way ahead.
It is important to note the high success rate of each. David is 45-17, Jim 41-21. Also important: Your picks for Friday’s games could swing this thing dramatically because they differ three times.
Their picks and analysis for Friday’s games:
Class 1A: Minneota Vikings (11-2) vs. Springfield Tigers (11-2), 10 p.m
David says: Watching the semifinals, it seems like a safe play to choose Springfield’s passing attack. Minneota held off Fillmore Central but gave up 325 yards. Springfield’s air show is even more impactful. The Tigers’ Jakob Nachreiner threw five touchdown passes and hit on 20 of 24 attempts for 339 yards. Springfield did not make the top 10 in the final Class 1A rankings. The Tigers will finish No. 1 instead. The selection: Springfield 28, Minneota 20
Jim says: As much as I’m tempted to choose Springfield — Nachreiner was born to throw, whether it’s footballs or baseballs — there’s no substitute for big-game experience. This will be Minneota’s seventh Prep Bowl appearance since 2009, four of which have ended in state titles. Known for their rock ’em, sock ’em style, the Vikings found a way to survive Fillmore Central. They will flex a little but stay tight enough to win. The selection: Minneota 30, Springfield 28
Class 2A: Chatfield Gophers (12-0) vs. Barnesville Trojans (12-0), 1 p.m
David says: Lest we forget, this clash features more than just the two hands-down best teams in Tier 2A. This game is a replay of last season’s semifinals. Chatfield won that game despite losing quarterback Sam Backer by sacking to two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Forget revenge. Or not. Either way, a full-strength Chatfield team remains the favorite to repeat as the Prep Bowl champion. The selection: Chatfield 31, Barnesville 21
Jim says: These teams are prime examples of how what worked in the past can still work today when done right and by superior athletes. Chatfield at No. 1 runs an old-school single wing with a direct snap to Backer. Barnesville is another Power-T student picking up yards in chunks. The Trojans have beaten every team they have played against by at least 15 points. The selection: Barnesville 34, Chatfield 26
Class 4A: Hutchinson Tigers (11-1) vs. Simley Spartans (11-1), 4 p.m
David says: Simley dominated every aspect of his semi-final win save for the points difference. Getting more drives into the end zone is the goal for the Spartans. There is reason for optimism in the form of running back Gavin Nelson, receiver La’tayvion McCoy-Nunn and a Hutchinson defense that leaked in the semifinals. The Tigers gave up 28 points to a Zimmerman team that wasn’t quite as dynamic as Simley. The selection: Simley 24, Hutchinson 21
Jim says: What makes Hutchinson so tough is his consistency. The tigers know what they’re good at – hitting the rock on the ground – and they quite dare their opponents to stop them. Few have. Quarterback Logan Butler adds a passing dimension, rolls out and hits running backs and receivers in space. Simley is no slouch, but beating six-time state champion Hutchinson in the Prep Bowl is nearly impossible. The selection: Hutchinson 32, Simley 16
Class 6A: Maple Grove Crimson (12-0) vs. Rosemount Irish (12-0), 7 p.m
David says: Rosemount defeated defending champion Lakeville South once that season and defeated Minnesota heavyweight Eden Prairie twice, including in the semifinals. So why am I hesitant to choose the Irish? Because they won those games by an average of 12.6 points to eight. The balancing act only works with an enormous safety net of defense – which Rosemount has. These quick and attacking defenders will keep an eye on Maple Grove QB Jacob Kilzer and allow one more shot on goal from the Irish offense to suffice. The selection: Rosemount 14, Maple Grove 7
Jim says: The tendency in game selection is always to assess offenses. Chalk one up to Maple Grove, which will have the best offensive player on the field in Kilzer. But you can’t lose by stopping opponents from scoring, and Rosemount will flex enough muscle behind defenders Kade Gilbertson and Hayden Bills to win its first state championship since 1981. Expect the kicking game to have a say in who wins. The selection: Rosemount 20, Maple Grove 17