A gap is forming between Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque. That doesn't mean their annual competition in predicting winners of high school football games is growing boring.
Everybody loves a comeback, right?
Paulsen and La Vaque are separated by two games after Week 3. Neither of them saw Eden Prairie's victory over Lakeville South coming, and only Paulsen expected Chanhassen to defeat Spring Lake Park. That makes Paulsen 10-2, La Vaque 8-4.
La Vaque won't make up any ground this week. The two agree on who will win each of the three games that have their attention.
Their predictions and analysis:
Burnsville Blaze (2-1) at Woodbury Royals (3-0), 7 p.m.
Jim says: In a season in which quarterbacks are taking center stage, Woodbury is blessed with one of the best. George Bjellos, a strong-armed 6-3 junior, has completed more than 70% of this throws for almost 500 yards and six TDs. With a physical defense that has forced eight turnovers, Bjellos hasn't had to carry the load yet. But he's certainly capable. The pick: Woodbury 28, Burnsville 10
David says: Let's not overlook Woodbury's solid front seven on defense. Newcomer Joey Lucius has bolstered a linebacking corps already featuring Kayode Amusan and Carter Klein. Up front, the Royals' Jordan Dunigan, Ugonna Okeke and Mathias Sengsouvanna make life tough on opposing offensive lines. Woodbury has permitted just two first-half touchdowns. The pick: Woodbury 35, Burnsville 7
Bloomington Kennedy Eagles (2-1) at Richfield Spartans (3-0), 7 p.m.
Jim says: It was only a couple of years ago that Richfield was in the midst of a 1-26 slog. Now the Spartans, with offensive balance and a slew of athletes, are unbeaten and ranked No. 10 in Class 4A. Kennedy will provide a decent test, but Richfield's forward momentum will rule the day. The pick: Richfield 38, Bloomington Kennedy 18
David says: Kennedy has played in three games decided by a touchdown or less. So the Eagles are accustomed to grinding. Running back Saide Alassani leads the team with 227 yards rushing and three touchdowns. But can the defense stop Richfield QB Dominic Miller (400 yards passing) and RB Eliajah Randle (243 yards rushing), players who have combined for 12 touchdowns? The pick: Richfield 21, Bloomington Kennedy 17
Becker Bulldogs (2-1) at Hutchinson Tigers (3-0), 7 p.m.
Jim says: This yearly donnybrook is always one of the most anticipated matchups of the season. Becker is one of few teams that doesn't fear the Tigers' machine. The Bulldogs were the only team to beat Hutch in 2021, and if not for an upset in the Class 4A semifinals, there would have been a Prep Bowl rematch. Becker is reloading this year while Hutchinson is fully stocked. The pick: Hutchinson 40, Becker 24
David says: Becker's rebuilding defense faces a tremendous challenge against Hutchinson's ground game. The defending state champion Tigers average 335 rushing yards per game and have accounted for 15 touchdowns. A defense led by Alex Elliott, a linebacker committed to the Gophers, has shut out two opponents and has not permitted a rushing touchdown. The pick: Hutchinson 32, Becker 14