Prep Bowl primer: What to know about all 7 of next week's high school football state championship games
There won't be high school football this year to fill the post-Thanksgiving TV-watching hours, as the Prep Bowl was pushed back a week. The wait should be worth it, though, with seven excellent matchups on tap in Minnesota's title games.
The Prep Bowl — Minnesota’s two-day feast of high school football state championship games — has been moved this year from its traditional place on the calendar, the two days after Thanksgiving.
Teams in title games will get an extra week to prepare for their opponents this season, as the Prep Bowl will be played Friday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 3. The move was necessitated by the Vikings’ Thanksgiving night game against the New England Patriots. Television networks are unable to clear their equipment from U.S. Bank Stadium in time for the Minnesota State High School League to set up for the Prep Bowl, so the decision was made to hold it in December for perhaps the first time ever.
Here’s a quick glance at all seven Prep Bowl games on tap next week:
Who: Mountain Iron-Buhl (12-0) vs. Spring Grove (13-0)
When: 10 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 3
About Mountain Iron-Buhl: The Section 7 9-Man champion Rangers have steamrolled their way to the Prep Bowl. MI-B has outscored its opponents by an average of 54.8-11.8 this season, is ranked No. 1 in the state in the 9-Man QRF rankings and No. 4 in the state-wide media poll. … The Rangers have won all 12 of their games by double digits and have won all five of their postseason games by at least 21 points. … This is the seventh state tournament appearance for Mountain Iron-Buhl. Mountain Iron qualified on its own three times between 1972-82, winning the program’s lone state title in 1972.
About Spring Grove: The Lions are at state for the fifth time in program history and are in the Prep Bowl for the third time since 2017. … Spring Grove won its two previous Prep Bowl appearances, in 2017 and 2018. … The Lions’ defense has been outstanding over the past month-and-a-half. In their five playoff games, they have allowed just 10 points per game, including 22 total points in three Section 1 games.
Who: Springfield (11-2) vs. Minneota (11-2)
When: 10 a.m., Friday, Dec. 2
About Springfield: This is the seventh state tournament appearance for Springfield and its second Prep Bowl berth. … The Tigers won their only other championship game appearance, in 2005. … The Tigers lost two of their first four games, but have won nine consecutive games since a 34-6 loss at Tracy-Milroy-Balaton on Sept. 23. … Springfield avenged that loss to T-M-B in the Section 3A championship game, winning 40-28. … The Tigers were unranked and didn’t receive votes in the final state poll.
About Minneota: The Vikings were ranked No. 10 in the final state media poll of the season. They’re ranked No. 8 in the QRF Rankings entering the Prep Bowl. … This is the 15th state tournament berth for the Vikings and ninth Prep Bowl. … Minneota is 6-2 in previous state championship game appearances. … The Vikings edged Fillmore Central 28-27 in the state semifinals last week, just their second game this season decided by single digits.
Who: Barnesville (12-0) vs. Chatfield (12-0)
When: 1 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2
About Barnesville: This is a rematch of a 2021 Class AA state semifinal game, in which Barnesville fell to Chatfield 22-18. … The Trojans’ defense has been the best in the state this season in Class AA, allowing just 4.0 points per game and has recorded six shutouts. They haven’t allowed more than 13 points in a game this season and have allowed double digits in just two games, including a 41-12 win last week against Jackson Co. Central in a state semifinal. … Barnesville is ranked No. 6 in the Class AA QRF Rankings and No. 3 in the final state media poll.
About Chatfield: The defending state champion Gophers are at state for the 10th time. They previously won championships in 1994, 1995, 1996, 2013 and 2021. … The Gophers are 5-0 in state championship games. … They have been almost equally impressive as Barnesville defensively, allowing 9.3 points per game and holding opponents to single digits seven times in 12 games. … The Gophers were ranked No. 1 in the final media state poll and are No. 3 in the QRF Rankings.
Who: Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (12-0) vs. New London-Spicer (10-2)
When: 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3
About D-G-F: The Section 8AAA champion Rebels have made their way through the postseason in nail-biting fashion. Three of their four postseason games have been decided by four or fewer points: a 14-10 win against Thief River Falls in the section semifinals, a 7-6 win against East Grand Forks in the section championship, and a 21-17 win against Esko in the state quarterfinals. The other game: A narrow 16-7 win against Fairmont in last week’s state semifinals. … D-G-F was ranked No. 2 in the final media state poll, and is No. 1 in the Class AAA QRF Rankings.
About NL-S: New London-Spicer is 10-2, with its two losses coming by a combined six points. … NL-S is a state for a sixth time in program history, all coming since 2008. … It won the state title in 2009 and finished as runner-up in 2013 and 2014. … Like D-G-F, New London-Spicer has been great in one-score games. Three of its four postseason wins — and five of its past six games overall — have been decided by six points or fewer.
Who: Simley (11-1) vs. Hutchinson (11-1)
When: 4 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2
About Simley: The Spartans are in the state tournament for a third time in four years. They’re making their second Prep Bowl appearance, having finished as the state runner-up in 2014. … Simley was No. 7 in the final state media poll and is No. 8 in the Class AAAA QRF Rankings. … Its only loss this season came against Class AAAAA opponent Mahtomedi. … The Spartans edged Rocori 17-16 in the state semifinals last week.
About Hutchinson: A fixture in the state tournament, Hutchinson is the defending state champion, having defeated Kasson-Mantorville in last season’s Prep Bowl. … Hutch is at state for a 25th time in program history and in the Prep Bowl for the eighth time. … The Tigers are 5-2 in state championship games. … Hutch is ranked No. 2 in the QRF Rankings and was ranked No. 2 in the final media state poll. … The Tigers’ lone loss this season came against Becker, 24-22, on Sept. 23.
Who: Elk River (12-0) vs. Mankato West (12-0)
When: 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3
About Elk River: The Elks were ranked No. 3 in the final state media poll of the season and are No. 1 in the Class AAAAA QRF Rankings. … Elk River made it to the state semifinals last season, where they lost to Andover. … This is the Elks’ 12th state tournament appearance and fourth Prep Bowl trip. … They won their lone state title in 2016. … The Section 7AAAAA champions average 40.3 points per game and 16.0 points per game allowed.
About Mankato West: The Scarlets are in the state tournament for the 14th time in program history. They are seeking their sixth state championship, having won titles in 1999, 2002, 2008, 2014 and 2021. … West beat Mahtomedi 24-10 in last year’s Prep Bowl. … The Scarlets have won four games by less than a touchdown this season. Two of those came against Rochester Mayo — 28-24 at Mayo in the regular season and 20-17 in a state quarterfinal game at Prior Lake on Nov. 12. … West edged Rogers 14-10 in last week’s state semifinals. … The Scarlets were ranked No. 1 in the final media state poll of the season and are No. 2 in the Class AAAAA QRF Rankings.
Who: Maple Grove vs. Rosemount
When: 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2
About Maple Grove: The Crimson knocked off defending state champion Lakeville South in last week’s state semifinals, winning 14-7 in a rematch of last year’s Prep Bowl. … Maple Grove is in the state tournament for the 12th time in program history and in the Prep Bowl for just the second time. … The Crimson did not face Rosemount during the regular season. … Maple Grove is No. 4 in the Class AAAAAA QRF Rankings.
About Rosemount: The Irish allow just 6.9 points per game, by far the best mark in Class AAAAAA. They are the only defense to allow single digits points per game; the second-best scoring defense in the class is Lakeville South (10.6). … This is the 14th state tournament appearance for Rosemount and its fourth trip to the Prep Bowl. … The Irish’s last state title came back in 1981; they lost title games in 2010 and 2013.