Several teams dominated in section play, but now the margin for error shrinks considerably.

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune

The eight football teams that emerged victorious from last Friday’s Class 5A section championship games did so by an average of three touchdowns. Only two games were decided by fewer than 23 points.

“I was surprised by how handily all the teams won last week,” said Mounds View coach Jim Galvin, whose Mustangs rolled to a 32-6 victory against Stillwater. “But I don’t think we’ll see that again.”

In theory, a rash of lopsided section championship games should make the big-school state tournament quarterfinals on Thursday and Friday more competitive. The eight teams boast a combined record of 75-6. Four teams — Blaine, Brainerd, Rosemount and Wayzata — are undefeated.

The marquee game pits No. 2-ranked Blaine against No. 1 Wayzata at 7 p.m. on Friday at Osseo. But intrigue flows throughout the big-school bracket.

“The matchups are great,” Blaine coach Shannon Gerrety said. “Everybody’s got a shot, and that’s what so great about this field.”

Despite facing Wayzata in the first round while Mounds View and defending Class 5A state champion Cretin-Derham Hall linger on the same side of the bracket, Gerrety is opposed to seeding. He said a lack of common opponents makes it tough to properly judge the teams.

And his underdog Bengals fought through a tough bracket in 2008, beating Eden Prairie and Cretin-Derham Hall to reach the championship game against Wayzata. Though Blaine ultimately lost and the roster is largely turned over, Gerrety hopes to harness the same spirit.

“Like we told them two years ago, we said, ‘The coaches wouldn’t have watched film for 12 hours on Sunday or had you guys under the lights at Spring Lake Park [on Tuesday] if we didn’t expect to compete hard and win,'” Gerrety said.

Blaine’s Eric Kline is the state’s top dual-threat quarterback, piling up 3,002 yards of total offense and 34 touchdowns out of the Bengals’ spread offense. But he has not seen a fast and disciplined defense like that of Wayzata, led by safety David Boegel. Offensively, Wayzata gets big plays from running back Aaron Roth.

Six-time state champion Eden Prairie, meanwhile, faces Brainerd. The Eagles were No. 1 most of the year until falling to Wayzata by one point in overtime. The Rosemount vs. Lakeville South and Cretin-Derham Hall vs. Mounds View games are replays from the regular season. Rosemount won 35-3 on Oct. 1 and Cretin-Derham Hall won 17-7 on Oct. 15. Galvin said his seniors beat the Raiders as sophomores but have not solved them on the varsity stage.

“The key for us is — can we move the ball?” Galvin said. “They’ve bottled us up pretty well.”

The Raiders’ success against the Mustangs starts with 300-pound defensive tackle Jonathan Harden. His size and quickness are tough to neutralize inside. Speaking of inside, the Mustangs reached the semifinals last season for the first time and made their Metrodome debut. A group of 13 juniors logged significant playing time.

“Once you get to the next step, it’s easier to take that same step again,” Galvin said. “It happened once we made it to state for the first time. We hope that happens again.”


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