Tribune Staff Report
Early round section football playoff games are typically pretty easy to call. But like the NCAA men's basketball tournament, some of the games featuring middle-of-the-pack seeds can be intriguing.
Here are some of today's opening round games in which the higher seeds might be in for a bit of a fight:
Minneapolis North (2-6)
at KMS (3-5)
The Saints will entertain the Polars, who will need to travel more than 100 miles to take on their playoff opponent after playing all other road games within the Minneapolis city limits.
The Saints' biggest obstacle might be playing a team they know almost nothing about. The Polars are 2-6, their two wins came against Minneapolis City Conference teams that have a combined 1-13 record this year, and they have been outscored by an average of 20 points per game.
But the Saints have some issues, too. They've scored 21 points per game while giving up 28 per game. The good news for KMS is that leading rusher Jordan Rothers should be back after suffering a leg injury two weeks ago.
MACCRAY (2-6) at BBE (4-4)
Both teams and communities have had a difficult season, both on and off the field.
MACCRAY could be poised to make a little noise in the playoffs while the Jaguars will be looking to keep its promising second half to their season going.
The Wolverines play in, arguably, the best Class A conference in the state. Their six losses came against league teams that have a combined 32-16 record. MACCRAY can score some points -- averaging 25 per game this season -- but they would need to do better than allowing the 36 points per game they've given up so far.
BBE started out 0-3 but have won four of five since then. The Jaguars don't score a ton, averaging 18 points per game while giving up 23 per game. But during its five-game streak, the Jags have allowed more than 14 points just once.
Benson (3-5) at Lac qui Parle Valley (4-4)
Benson's Matt Ahrndt is one of the area's top offensive threats but the Braves have had difficulties unleashing him in some games or at finding an alternative that keeps opponents from ganging up on the senior quarterback. Benson has averaged almost 33 points per game in its victories but just 9 points per game in its losses.
But Benson's tightest game was a 21-20 loss to LQPV in the season-opener. The Eagles, too, have shown flashes of an offense capable of putting up big numbers. But, like the Braves, the Eagles have struggled against the West Central Conference's tougher defenses. They also may have to play without starting quarterback Dylan Erickson, who suffered a knee injury in a 27-6 win over Montevideo last Wednesday.
Eden Valley-Watkins (2-6) at Paynesville (4-4)
The Bulldogs are a team that seems to be just itching to bust out and make a run at another state tournament berth.
The Bulldogs' offense can score in spectacular fashion, averaging almost 47 points per game in their four victories this season. They also can play good teams tough. Paynesville lost by two to undefeated Morris/Chokio-Alberta earlier this season, and later lost by just four points on the road against 6-2 ACGC. Overall, Paynesville scores almost 30 points per game while giving up just 15 per game.
But the Bulldogs struggled offensively in a 14-6 loss to red-hot Minnewaska in last week's season finale. If the Bulldogs can get leading rushing Nathan Meyer started early and often tonight, Eden Valley-Watkins shouldn't pose much of a problem.