Game of the Week: High School football playoffsFor three area football teams, the 2012 season has had its ups and downs. However, the second season begins this weekend.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Who: East Ridge, Park and Woodbury
What: High School football playoffs
Where: Various locations
When: Friday, Oct. 26, and Saturday, Oct. 27
For three area football teams, the 2012 season has had its ups and downs. However, the second season begins this weekend.
Most will tell you that their favorite team is 0-0 at this point and that in the playoffs, anything can happen. The Park, East Ridge and Woodbury football teams each hope to make things swing their way in the postseason – which starts tonight.
FRIDAY, OCT 26
No. 8 Park (1-7) at No. 1 Prior Lake (7-1)
Since starting the year with an eye-opening 47-12 win over Forest Lake, the Park football team’s season hit the skids.
To start the season, behind 222 yards rushing and three touchdowns by senior running back Dylan Smallidge, the Wolfpack stopped a 21-game losing streak with its win over Forest Lake back on Thursday, Aug. 30.
However, since then, Park has been outscored 298-86 in its past seven games, compiling a 1-7 record in the Suburban East Conference.
Park – the smallest school in the new Class 6A – will hope to right the ship tonight. But, it won’t be easy.
The Wolfpack drew the lowest seed in Section 3AAAAAA and will face top-seeded Prior Lake on Friday night in Prior Lake. The Lakers, ranked sixth in the state, are 7-1 on the year out of the South Suburban Conference.
Prior Lake has a pulverizing rushing attack, led by 6-1, 208-pound senior Jack Johnson, who has 802 yards and 12 touchdowns on the year. In addition, 6-1, 205-pound junior Blake Weber has 629 yards and seven touchdowns. 6-4 junior quarterback Nick Vanek is under center for the Lakers. Vanek has 579 passing yards and five touchdowns on the season.
Park played the last four games without Smallidge, who injured his knee in a week four matchup against White Bear Lake. Smallidge led the conference in rushing at the time with 628 yards on 89 attempts – a 7.1 per carry average – to go along with seven touchdowns. Park junior quarterback Sam Domeier, senior running back Sam Oredola and junior running back David Giadyu have shouldered the majority of the load since, along with senior receivers Mitch Zurn and Erik Black and sophomore Brandyn Tulloch. Domeier finished the year with 571 passing yards, two touchdowns and nine interceptions to go along with 271 yards rushing and five rushing scores. Black led the Wolfpack with 215 yards receiving.
– Patrick Johnson
No. 6 Woodbury (3-5) at No. 2 Cretin-Derham Hall (6-2)
The Royals will have their hands full this week during Section 4AAAAAA quarterfinal play.
Woodbury, the sixth seed in the newly formed conference, drew No. 3-seeded Cretin-Derham Hall, a team that was ranked ninth in the state at the end of the regular season.
The Royals (3-5 overall, 3-5 Suburban East Conference) enter the game with a bit of momentum on their side following a 54-7 thumping of Forest Lake to end the regular season. The win halted a four-game losing streak that began Sept. 21 with a road loss to cross-town rival East Ridge.
The Raiders enter the game riding a four-game winning streak, during which it has outscored opponents 194-48. Those wins include a 48-20 win Oct. 12 over Woodbury. During the current four-game winning streak, Cretin has scored no fewer than 48 points in each game.
Though the task may appear daunting for Woodbury head coach Andy Hill and his staff, he expressed confidence earlier in the week that his Royals can come away with a win.
Woodbury should be fielding a stronger team than the one that faced the Raiders two weeks ago. Standout running back Quran Al-Hameed is back from a leg injury and two-way senior lineman Kyle Schmidt – who is being courted by Division I colleges – is also back after being cleared from a head injury sustained in a motor vehicle crash.
The Royals will, however, be without receiver Elijah Jeffries, who suffered a season-ending foot injury.
Cretin-Derham Hall had the No. 1 offense in the SEC in 2012, averaging 399.9 yards per game, and the No. 2 defense, giving up 257.5 yards per game. Senior do-it-all player James Onwualu leads the way for the Raiders. The Notre Dame recruit scored a conference-best 19 touchdowns this season.
One hindrance both teams will be facing is the weather. Friday’s forecast calls for a nighttime low of 26 degrees.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Friday at the University of St. Thomas.
– Mike Longaecker
SATURDAY, OCT. 27
No. 2 East Ridge (4-4) vs. Tartan (3-6)
The upstart East Ridge football team is likely salivating about getting a shot at upsetting St. Thomas Academy in the Section 5AAAAA championship game. However, the Raptors have to get past a tricky Tartan team first.
In the newly paired down Class AAAAA, just one win buys the Raptors a date with the Cadets – or fourth-seeded Simley – in what would be its first-ever section championship game, on Friday, Nov. 2.
Tartan, the sixth seed in the six-team Section 5AAAAA, stands in the way. The Titans are coming off a 22-6 upset of third-seeded Hastings in the opening round of the playoffs on Tuesday.
Tartan finished the year 3-5 in the Classic Suburban Conference. The Titans are led by junior quarterback Tim McCarthy and junior running back Keenan Bellaphant.
East Ridge finished the year 4-4 in the Suburban East Conference and earned the No. 2 seed – and a first-round bye – in Section 5AAAAA. The Raptors also beat Hastings this year – in a close 34-31 contest in Hastings back on Sept. 28.
The Raptors are buoyed by a punishing rushing game and a big-play passing attack. Nick Leach leads the way on the ground. The 6-0, 190-pound junior tailback led the SEC in rushing this year with 1,056 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012. Freshman quarterback Seth Green heads the passing attack for the Raptors. The 6-1, 175-pounder had 1,105 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. His main target has been junior receiver Xavier Cole, who averages 24.8 yards per catch and totaled 422 yards and six touchdowns on the year.
East Ridge also had one of the top defenses in the SEC in 2012. The Raptors allowed 284.3 yards per game, which was third in the conference. However, East Ridge was gouged for 353 yards on the ground and six rushing touchdowns in a 42-7 loss to White Bear Lake in the regular-season finale. East Ridge entered the game allowing a conference-low 104 yards rushing per game.
Kickoff is at 3 p.m. on Saturday at East Ridge High School.
– Patrick Johnson