Some weeks, the high school football schedule drives us to Class 6A, the 32 biggest schools, heavy on Twin Cities programs.
Some weeks, the schedule insists otherwise. Week 5 of the 2023 season is one of those weeks.
When Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque sat down to choose games for their weekly assignment of picking winners, they found matchups too good to ignore in lower classes, including No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Class 5A and pairings of two other top-10 5A teams and two ranked Class 4A teams.
See you next week, Class 6A.
David holds the edge in the picks tally this season, having predicted 10 of 15 games correctly. Jim is close at 9-6 after a perfect Week 4. They differ on two of the games this week.
Mankato West (4-0) at Chanhassen (4-0), 7 p.m.
David says: Last week, standout Scarlets receiver Jalen Smith showcased the talents that earned him a scholarship offer from the University of Minnesota. He scored three touchdowns in a defeat of Chaska that ran Mankato West's regular-season winning streak to 26 games. Joining the 27 club won't be easy. But neither is stopping Smith. The pick: Mankato West 28, Chanhassen 21
Jim says: This marks the end of Mankato West's run of five games against metro teams (I'm including Northfield as metro). Chanhassen, talented and fast, is the toughest test of the bunch. Mankato West (No. 1, Class 5A) can counter with a wealth of talent, but home-field advantage will push Chanhassen (No. 2, 5A) over the top. The pick: Chanhassen 34, Mankato West 32
Orono (4-0) at Mound Westonka (4-0), 7 p.m.
David says: A rivalry known as the War on the Shore offers a great nickname — and even better football teams. Mound Westonka thunders into the game after a comeback victory last week in which junior running back Ray Beiningen rolled up season highs in rushing yards (247) and touchdowns (five). Two of Beiningen's scores came in the fourth quarter. The pick: Mound Westonka 31, Orono 28
Jim says: Mound Westonka has been one of the metro's winningest regular-season teams in recent years but could use a program-defining victory after a series of postseason disappointments. I don't see it happening here. Deep Orono (No. 2, Class 4A) has won 30 in a row over Mound Westonka (No. 5, 4A) and should make it 31. The pick: Orono 40, Mound Westonka 21
Armstrong (4-0) at St. Thomas Academy (3-1), 7 p.m.
David says: Armstrong has permitted a paltry seven points in the first half of games this season. Containing the St. Thomas Academy rushing attack keyed by senior Savion Hart (176.8 yards per game, 13 touchdowns) is vital to the Falcons' chances for success on the road. That and a big game from junior running back Kevon Johnson (177 yards per game, nine touchdowns). The pick: St. Thomas Academy 28, Armstrong 21
Jim says: How much motivational carry-over can a team expect from an early-season loss? Since losing to Andover in Week 1, St. Thomas Academy has played like the elite team it was expected to be, winning three straight routs. Armstrong presents a different set of problems. The Falcons have speed that burns. The pick: St. Thomas Academy 26, Armstrong 20