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Staff writer Jim Paulsen, a quarter-century into covering high school football, presents the 2022 season's first Metro Top 10 — his picks for the top 10 teams in the Twin Cities metro area. The Metro Top 10 will be updated weekly.


1. Lakeville South: The defending Class 6A champion Cougars lost some standouts to graduation, but they return the state's best running back in Carson Hansen and have won 21 straight dating to November 2019. They've earned it.

2. Eden Prairie: Even though the Eagles haven't played in a state championship game since 2018 or won one since 2017, they've never really left. This year, with loads of veterans back on both sides of the ball, even coach Mike Grant believes this team has state championship potential.

3. Prior Lake: The Lakers have been the quintessential hard-luck kids in recent years, waylaid by brutal schedules and misfortune. Things are looking up. Possessing perhaps the strongest offensive line in Class 6A and some electric skill players, Prior Lake is primed for payback.

Quarterback Jacob Kilzer is among the reasons Maple Grove is ranked fourth in the Metro Top 10.
Quarterback Jacob Kilzer is among the reasons Maple Grove is ranked fourth in the Metro Top 10.

Alex Kormann, Star Tribune

4. Maple Grove: Coach Matt Lombardi took a wait-and-see approach last year, and it paid off with a trip to the Prep Bowl. With most of the players from 2021 back, the Crimson will be a menace to foes all season. Jacob Kilzer is likely the state's top senior quarterback.

5. Minnetonka: A strong, talented, athletic offensive line is set to be the foundation for Skippers success. Don't overlook 6-4 junior quarterback Milos Spasojevic, who could be a breakout star this season.

6. Shakopee: The Sabers looked primed for a deep state tournament run last season before losing QB Dominic Jackson to a knee injury in Week 4. They still made it to the 6A quarterfinals with converted RB Jadon Hellerud filling in wonderfully. Jackson is back, as are Hellerud and many others. Hopes are high once again.

7. St. Michael-Albertville: With terrific facilities, enviable numbers and unmatched community support, all orchestrated by one of the state's best coaches in Jared Essler, the Knights have reached the category of perennial powerhouse. They're a little green, but expect them to hit their stride as the season progresses.

8. Stillwater: Behind senior QB Max Shikenjanski, the Ponies were an offensive force in 2021, averaging more than 32 points per game. Shikenjanski is back and should be a year better. Question: How to replace the 995 yards rushing and 17 TDs lost when Edward O'Keefe graduated?

9. Woodbury: Coach Andy Hill has built a program that develops talent and knows how to win football games. With some early-season development yet to do, Hill would prefer to fly under the radar, but with a QB as talented as junior George Bjellos, that's simply not possible.

10. Elk River (Class 5A): No team executes its offense as well as the Elks do, which is paramount to their success. Combine it with a wheelbarrow's worth of talent on both sides of the ball — 14 positions have starters back — and coach Steve Hamilton has reason to be giddy about his group.