With the playoffs beginning today, here’s a look at the football teams in the area with the best chance of winning a state title.
Until Mahnomen proves otherwise, Class 1A belongs to the Indians. They’ve won 36 straight games and two straight state titles. They’ve been ranked No. 1 in the AP polls every week except one.
The Indians have outscored teams 361-40 this season with the closest game being a 21-point win against Fosston in Week 3. Fosston is the No. 2 seed in Class 1A, Section 8, so the Indians’ fifth straight section title seems imminent.
The health of quarterback Tom Pavek is big for the Indians. They proved this season they can win without him, but they can roll teams with him.
This is what the Nuggets have been waiting for. Even last season when the Nuggets were good enough to make it to the Class 2A quarterfinals, they still had this season in the back of their heads with returning seniors all over the field.
Their offensive line is healthy with senior Logan Alm back. Senior Cody Cook has been a monster defensively with 42 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss on the season.
Quarterback Jordan Harms and tight end/North Dakota State commit Ben Ellefson are seniors. Running back Dillon Omberg is a senior.
Omberg’s health is the one question heading into the playoffs. He hurt his ankle in Week 7, didn’t play Week 8, but is practicing again this week. Coach Peder Naatz says he isn’t sure if or how much Omberg will play in the section semifinals.
If it ends up being Hawley-Frazee in the section title game, the Nuggets will need Omberg.
Teams simply can’t stop Waubun’s read-option offense with Jordan Spaeth at QB and Ryan Weber at running back.
When Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal somewhat stopped it, the Bombers proved they could adjust. That was the only game Waubun ever trailed in this season.
There’s a lot of talk about the read-option offense, but the defense, behind Weber and Dairus Woods-Steichen, has given up 47 points all season.
Bombers haven’t won a section title since 2007.
Getting to the section title game is what Moorhead coach Kevin Feeney does. He’s been at Moorhead for four years, been to four section title games and won two of them. He even did that last season when the Spuds had lost 31 seniors from the season before.
Last season’s team was young. This season’s Spuds are experienced. And the scary thing is, the Spuds have a lot of juniors.
There’s no looking toward next season for running back Jade Lawrence, wide receiver Cody Dorow. They are the playmakers for the Spuds and this is it for these two seniors, along with Ben Lien, Brandon Bundgaard, Ethan Marquart and Brady Emerson, all of which are big pieces to Moorhead.
Moorhead was cruising through the season until a 56-21 loss to Brainerd. Questions began and the Spuds answered them with a 52-25 win over Bemidji.
So Bemidji destroyed Brainerd 40-14, Brainerd destroyed Moorhead and Moorhead destroyed Bemidji. Lucky for Moorhead, the Spuds wouldn’t seen any Class 5A, Section 7 team until the state title game and the Spuds would gladly take that.
Spuds will most likely have to get by a Sartell team they haven’t faced this season. The Sabres, however, lost to Bemidji 31-0.
D-G-F does what’s big with the weather this time of year. The Rebels run the ball and play defense. The Rebels have given up eight points in their last three games, including a 13-0 shutout at Pequot Lakes, who the Rebels will most likely see in the section championship.
The Rebels have 1,842 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns on the ground between Brandon Wayne, Alex Matthews and Joe Flatt.
D-G-F hasn’t won back-to-back section titles since Dilworth did it in 1988 and 1989.
Ottertail Central (7-1)
The Bulldogs have won seven straight and given up 18 points in those seven games. OTC will probably have to get by Holdingford in the section title game.
The two haven’t faced this season, but OTC will be out for revenge after losing to Holdingford in last season’s section title game.
Pirates remember this feeling. They’ve waited to redeem last season’s 13-12 loss on the final play of regulation to Underwood in the section championship since it happened.
Behind quarter back Dillon Card and running back Colter Ehrmantraut the Pirates can do just that. They’ve already beaten Underwood this season 14-13 in overtime. It’s shaping up for a rematch.
The Rockets one loss is a 14-13 loss in overtime to Underwood. That was in Week 2. In Week 7, Underwood beat a Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley team 40-0 on the road a week after C-G-G beat Verndale 28-8.
The Rockets went to the state title game last season behind the running game of Noah Thompson. Now, the Rockets have Thompson and Dylan Kalenze with Justin Masloski. It’s a tough trio to stop.
Big problem for Underwood is they will have to go through Wheaton-Herman-Norcross to get to Verndale. Verndale and Underwood were separated by 0.2 in the QRF, but Verndale owned the tiebreaker thanks to the 14-13 overtime win.
One point separated Underwood from a No. 1 seed. Verndale doesn’t feel bad for the Rockets. One point separated the Pirates from state last year.
No team in Class 2A has been closer to knocking off top-ranked Hawley than the Hornets this season. It’s hard to beat a team twice.
With Hesston and Tanner Bachmann the Hornets can run with any team. If there’s a hiccup for Hawley on the road to state it would be Frazee in the section title game.
Frazee has wanted another chance at the Nuggets since their 25-12 loss to Hawley in which the Hornets had three drives inside the Nuggets 10-yard line go for zero points.
Frazee has not won a section title since 1990.