Jim Paulsen, David La Vaque and six high school football teams played the season down to one more day, three last Prep Bowl games, three final champions. Staff writers Jim and David won't block or tackle anybody, but they are going for a championship of their own, after another season of competing to pick winners of football games. David was 45-17, Jim 41-21 heading into the seven Prep Bowl games.
Their picks and analysis for Saturday's games:
Nine-Man: Mountain Iron-Buhl Rangers (12-0) vs. Spring Grove Lions (13-0), 10 a.m.
David says: Sorry, Spring Grove. Hollywood called and the game has already been decided. Mountain Iron was a winner at the first state tournament in 1972, and 50 years later the program is back in the title game. This ending writes itself. Or does it? Spring Grove is pursuing its third state championship since 2017 and has trailed in games only three times this season. The Lions get a lead and find ways to keep it. The pick: Spring Grove 38, Mountain Iron-Buhl 28
Jim says: I agree. It seems like a Mountain Iron-Buhl victory 50 years after its first championship is a possibility too juicy to ignore. But Spring Grove comes out of Section 1 in SE Minnesota, where state champions are bred. There will be more than a few points scored in this one, but when the smoke clears Spring Grove will be sitting on top. The pick: Spring Grove 46, Mountain Iron-Buhl 42
Class 3A: Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Rebels (12-0) vs. New London-Spicer Wildcats (10-2), 1 p.m.
David says: Not to oversimplify, but the team getting the most out of its chief playmaker wins. For DGF, running back Jordan Summers is a workhorse capable of end zone sprints. He rolled up 168 yards on the ground in the semifinals. NLS counters with Brycen Christensen, who caught two touchdown passes last week and ran for another score. Summers should get more touches in the final. The pick: Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 33, New London-Spicer 24
Jim says: How do you gauge Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton? The Rebels have won their four postseason games by a grand total of 18 points. Are they a team that has figured out how to win or are they playing with fire? New London-Spicer has lost twice, both to opponents ranked above them at the time. The Wildcats are peaking, but will the stage be too big for a team with a sophomore quarterback, Blake Schultz, at the helm? It hasn't been so far. The pick: New London-Spicer 28, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 21
Class 5A: Elk River Elks (12-0) vs. Mankato West Scarlets (12-0), 4 p.m.
David says: The posse is gaining on defending champion Mankato West. The Scarlets won all but two games last season by 14 points or more. They won their past three games this fall by nine points combined. Elk River has the best chance to put the Scarlets down. Quarterback Cade Osterman excels as a running QB, a defensive back and returner. He gives the Elks the best athlete on the field. The pick: Elk River 35, Mankato West 28
Jim says: Mankato West has won 31 games in a row, which doesn't happen by accident. The Scarlets may not have the top-end talent of a year ago, but they make plays and don't beat themselves. This is the best Elk River team since it won the 2016 state championship. And Mankato West hasn't seen the Elks' relentless Power-T. That alone counts for plenty. The pick: Elk River 42, Mankato West 28