Week 1: At Pillager, 7 p.m. Friday
Try betting against a team that has lost two games in the last three years and is coming off a 14-0 state championship season in Class 1A. Trevor Haugo has big shoes to fill at QB with Jacob Pavek graduating, but Bob Bjorge returns at running back after rushing for over 1,000 yards last year. Indians have never been about superstars on defense and they continually rebuild. They gave up 77 points in 14 games last season, 114 points in 14 games in 2011 and 112 in 13 games in 2010. That’s 7.4 points per game in three years.
2. Detroit Lakes
Week 1: At Fargo North (N.D.), 7 p.m. Friday
Only loss last season was in four overtimes in the Class 4A quarterfinals to Princeton. The Lakers missed a field goal in the closing minutes of regulation that would have won it and a field goal in overtime that would have won it. They also were a fourth-down stop on the 5-yard line in the third OT away from heading to the semifinals. Players don’t forget games like that and Detroit Lakes returns quarterback Michael Herzog and running back Jarrett Nosal, who are ready to get that loss out of their heads.
Week 1: Host Park Rapids Area, 7 p.m. Friday
Only loss last season came in the Class 2A quarterfinals to Moose Lake-Willow River. The scary thing about Hawley is they are led by juniors. QB Jordan Harms, RB/TE/LB/QB Ben Ellefson, TE/LB Aaron Regnier and C/DE Logan Alm are all juniors. Put that together with senior Chris Buttke running the ball and the Nuggets have a good chance to head back to state.
Week 1: Host Pelican Rapids, 7 p.m. Friday
First-team all-state quarterback Jordan Hein heads to the University of Northern Iowa, but the Yellowjackets return 17 seniors, including Payton Jordahl. Jordahl runs the ball and led the team in tackles last season, but apparently long snapping is what has him offers from North Dakota State and MSUM.
Week 1: At Ashby, 7 p.m. Friday
The Warriors lost 6-0 in overtime of the Class 9-man quarterfinals to eventual champions Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley. C-G-B was 13-0 and beat teams on average by 40.25 points per game outside of the 6-0 win over W-H-N. The Warriors return running back/linebacker Carter Thiel for his senior season after Thiel earned Minnesota High School Coaches Association’s 9-man all-state team.
Week 1: Host Climax-Fisher at Ada, 7 p.m. Thursday
The Cougars were three points away from heading to the Class 9-man quarterfinals. Their offense is back in running back Blake Fetting, wide receiver Lance Ruebke and quarterback J.D. Kappes. They are fast and senior-led.
Week 1: At Otter Tail Central (Henning), 8 p.m. Thursday
Lost an epic battle to Hawley in the section championship in which Hawley scored 32 second-half points for a 38-34 win. They lose Austin Martz and Isaac Goedtke, who were big parts of the offense, but bring back running back Michael Strand and quarterback Kyler Martz. Strand runs, passes, returns kicks and can score at any point during a game. Both Strand and Kyler Martz also are the last line of defense as safeties. It smells like a section championship rematch with Hawley.
Week 1: Host Ortonville, 7 p.m. Thursday
There were nine passes total in the Class 9-man, Section 4 championship game against Wheaton-Norman-Norcross last season and one of them was the difference as W-H-N won 8-0 on a 46-yard touchdown pass. Underwood loses 13 seniors from that team including four-year starter, all-conference and MVP lineman Steffan Stroh. They have eight of the nine starting spots to fill. Max Kollar returns to anchor the O-line at center and the defense as a linebacker, two positions he’s started at for the last two years.
Week 1: Host Alexandria, 7 p.m. Friday
Speaking of losing seniors, the Spuds lost 31 from last year’s team. Losing 30 touchdowns and over 1,800 yards at running back and a leader at linebacker with Chase Morlock graduating, along with quarterback Aaron Lien will be tough to replace. Brothers Brett (wide receiver) and Jade Lawrence (running back) will have to help the transition. Looks like the QB spot will be between senior Tyler Eidsness and sophomore Matt Bye.
Week 1: At East Grand Forks, 7 p.m. Friday
A bit of a sleeper pick, but the 2-7 Rebels team from last season lost just five starters and had all juniors and sophomores in the trenches at O-line and D-line who are now upperclassmen.
Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or email@example.com
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