By Adam Roberts – 11/11/2020
I’m switching things up a little bit this week. Since Minnesota traditionally plays its final week of the regular season out on Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll be splitting up the weekly preview into two parts. It’s primarily for my benefit so I’m not doing a ton of games on the same day and making the article a million lines long, but also to give more focus to our Minnesota teams that may not get the attention they deserve. Let’s dive into tonight’s action.
Prediction record last week: 8-2
WINONA @ KASSON-MANTORVILLE
Going over my preview from last week, I expressed confidence that Winona could find some kind of a run game against a Faribault team that had given up 385 yards on the ground in their two losses this season. But to the Falcons’ credit, they clamped down on the defensive line and held the Winhawks to just eight yards on 20 carries. On the other side, goal line defense was a challenge for Winona; Hunter Nelson had just 47 yards on the ground for Faribault, but scored three times. This week, the Winhawks visit the Komets, who boast a run-heavy offense highlighted by run-first quarterback Matt Donovan’s 119 yards on 18 carries and two scores last week against a previously unbeaten and eighth-ranked Byron. To illustrate their dominance, consider this: Donovan threw just four times with two completions for 17 yards, but the Komets still amassed 359 total yards of offense. Byron did have a big game from their own rusher Austin Freerksen (34-164-1), but Winona will likely have more difficulty finding a person to have a big game tonight.
Prediction: Kasson-Mantorville 31 Winona 7
WINONA COTTER @ BETHLEHEM ACADEMY
Neither of these two programs are strangers to sub-500 records lately. And neither team will finish above .500 this year, either. But at least for the Ramblers, they can hang their hat on a victory this year, ending a stretch of futility record-wise dating back to 2017. Coincidentally, that was the last season the Cardinals finished above .500 themselves. Offense has been hard to come by for either team this season, with the Cardinals scoring single digits or getting shut out three times and Cotter has been held to under 13 points all year. But what each team lacks in offensive firepower, they make up for in a hunger to play. You really learn a lot about a coach for how well they are able to keep a team together during difficult times, and both Seth Haun and Jim Beckman are no strangers to keeping players together through adversity. Tonight’s contest should be dictated by ground efficiency, and the Cardinals should have the slight advantage.
Prediction: Bethlehem Academy 24 Cotter 12
HOUSTON @ LANESBORO
I know very few people who would’ve given the Hurricanes much of a chance against #3 Grand Meadow on the road last week, and the Super Larks’ 403 yards of offense was proof enough of that. That’s not to say Houston was completely inept; Issac Heyer racked up 112 yards on seven carries with a score, certainly a statement against a usually airtight Grand Meadow front. This week, they face Lanesboro, who’s only loss this season was a close contest against a good LeRoy-Ostrander team to open the season. Last week in a 30-7 one-sided win over Southland, the offense once again was on a roll for the Burros, who this season have averaged just over 34 points per game. Conversely, the Hurricane defense has been gashed in multiple weeks, giving up a combined 118 points to the Cardinals and Super Larks.
Prediction: Lanesboro 31 Houston 14
MABEL-CANTON @ SPRING GROVE (THURSDAY)
CAT FIGHT! Both Mabel-Canton and Spring Grove feasted on the bottom two teams in the conference last week, with the Lions methodically keeping the offense productive against Lyle-Pacelli and the Cougars run-run-running against Kingsland and exploding for 24 points in the second quarter on their way to a 46-20 win. As is the case with many games listed above, this one comes down to production in the run game, and who executes run routes better. The Cougars surrendered 150 yards against the Knights, but were able to keep any one back from having a big day, while Spring grove spread their rushing out for 178 team yards on the ground, led by Hunter Holland with 78 yards. A key to this game will be which defense is more opportunistic; last week the Lions stole two fumbles away and picked off L-P three times.
Prediction: Spring Grove 27 Mabel-Canton 21
HAYFIELD @ RUSHFORD-PETERSON (THURSDAY)
The Trojan offense finally came full circle last week against Winona Cotter, and they could make it back-to-back big games this week against Hayfield. The Vikings are very much a pass-first team, and scored the Fillmore Central secondary last week with 263 yards through the air from quarterback Ethan Pack. But those yards didn’t yield a whole lot of points, and a grand total of 7 rush yards didn’t help much either in the 32-8 loss. As long as the Trojans can learn from watching film and referring back to their own game against the Falcons, they probably have just enough offense to keep up with another big Pack passing day.
Prediction: Rushford-Peterson 28 Hayfield 13
UPDATE: Per both schools’ Twitter pages, this game has been cancelled for COVID-19 reasons. Rushford-Peterson will await their sectional seeding later today while Hayfield will opt out of the postseason.