Three days of state semifinal football are history and its set the stage for the state championship games, AKA the Prep Bowl, this coming Friday and Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Eden Prairie (10-1) vs. Lakeville North (12-0) - Friday, 7 p.m.
This was the matchup everyone anticipated as the two state powers won easily in the semifinals – Eden Prairie 34-14 over Blaine and Lakeville North 35-13 over Lakeville South – to reach the Nov. 23 championship game.
The rematch will come nearly three months after Lakeville North shutout Eden Prairie 14-0 on Sep. 7, and an opportunity for the Panthers to unseat the defending champion Eagles, who ended their season 35-0 in the state quarterfinals a year ago.
Owatonna (12-0) vs. St. Thomas Academy (12-0) - Saturday, 4 p.m.
The battle of undefeated powers is set after St. Thomas Academy ran through Bemidji 33-21 in Satuday's semifinal. Owatonna, the defending 5A state champ, was already into the Prep Bowl after dismantling Elk River 39-8 on Friday.
Both teams are known for running the ball as good as any team in the state. Owatonna features future Golden Gopher Jason Williamson and his eye-popping 2,827 yards and 44 touchdowns. The Cadets counter with Brendan McFadden, who rushed for 211 yards against Bemidji to increase his season total to 1,714 yards and 36 touchdowns.
SMB (12-0) vs. Willmar (11-1) – Friday, 4 p.m.
SMB is in the title game after squeaking out a pair of close victories over Delano and Waseca, while the Willmar Cardinals crushed Hermantown 44-0 and then obliterated St. Paul Johnson 62-20 to reach the big game.
While SMB is a relatively new consolidation of talent from St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy and Blake School, Willmar has been around forever and is hoping to capitalize on their first trip to the state title game since 1973. It's also the Cards' first time in the state tourney in 30 years (1988).
Both teams have talented quarterbacks, as Jalen Suggs, a highly touted football and basketball recruit, leads SMB against Willmar QB Drey Dirksen, who has thrown for 31 touchdowns and ran for 16 more this season.
Rochester Lourdes (13-0) vs. Fairmont (11-1) – Saturday, 1 p.m.
It's business as usual for Lourdes as they look for their fourth state title in the last decade, having been crowned champs in 2010, 2014 and most recently in 2016. This marks the second time in school history that Fairmont has made it to the Prep Bowl, having lost 34-32 to St. Croix Lutheran in 2011.
This game features two different styles of play as Lourdes likes to ground-and-pound whereas Fairmont takes a balanced offensive approach led by senior quarterback Garrett Myren's 24 touchdown passes and 13 rushing scores.
Caledonia (13-1) vs. Barnesville (11-2)
What more is there to say about Caledonia? The Warriors have won eight state titles since 2007, including the last three in 2A. This year is no different as they boast an explosive offense and stingy defense that's allowed double-digit points just once all season, and a grand total of 60 points all season.
Barnesville, meanwhile, ended Minneapolis North's perfect season with a 34-20 victory in Friday's semifinal game. They ran the ball 59 times and passed it zero in the game.
BOLD (13-0) vs. Mahnomen/Waubun (12-0) - Saturday, 10 a.m.
It's a rematch of the 1998 state final that Mahnomen won, and for BOLD it's a chance to taste a title after coming close in a 20-18 overtime loss to Holdingford in the 2014 Prep Bowl. Mahnomen has eight championships in school history, most recently in 2012 and 2013. They've reached the state tournament every year since 2010.
BOLD is led by Mr. Football finalist Luke Ryan, whose 14 interceptions are tied for the state record.
Getting here has been a breeze for both teams. Mahnomen/Waubun blanked Deer River and Springfield (two of their seven shutouts this season) while BOLD beat Ottertail Central and Blooming Prairie by a combined score of 87-13.
Spring Grove (13-0) vs. Mountain Lake Area (12-0) – Friday, 10 a.m.
Defending champ Spring Grove has rattled off 27 consecutive wins and another will give them back-to-back, perfect 14-0 seasons.
Mountain Lake Area has never a Prep Bowl, but if the common opponent factor is meaningful, which is rarely is, Mountain Lake Area might have the edge considering they toppled Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 29-6 during the regular season. Spring Grove beat RTR 27-26 in the state quarterfinals.