Cretin-Derham Hall and Eden Prairie are missing, but there is still a strong field as the top-rated Trojans go after a third title.

By DAVID La VAQUE, Star Tribune

While there is nothing new under the sun, a fresh and unusual high school football atmosphere can be found this weekend under the Metrodome roof.

The final four teams in the Class 5A state tournament were all ranked in the final regular-season AP poll: No. 7 Brainerd, No. 6 Mounds View, No. 4 Rosemount and No. 1 Wayzata. Of almost equal note are the two football powers not in the house: defending state champion Cretin-Derham Hall and six-time state champ Eden Prairie. Both were knocked out last week, the first time both have missed the semifinals since 2004.

“It almost falls in the category of being unique that those two aren’t in the final four,” said longtime Brainerd coach Ron Stolski, whose Warriors stunned Eden Prairie in the quarterfinals. “But there’s a lot of good football in Minnesota, and things do happen.”

Indeed. Just look at the Raider-less, Eagle-less yet impressive pairings. Brainerd (11-0) plays Rosemount (11-0) at 8:15 p.m. Friday in a battle of unbeatens. Mounds View (11-1) and Wayzata (9-0) kick off at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday.

The field is not entirely new. Both Brainerd and Mounds View reached the semifinals last season and were defeated by Cretin-Derham Hall and Eden Prairie, respectively. But reaching the Dome with those football giants in the rear-view mirror rather than the headlights is an inspiring sight.

“Who would have guessed?” said Mounds View coach Jim Galvin, whose Mustangs beat Cretin-Derham Hall last week for the first time since 1974. “If you played those games on paper, they would have gone a different way.”

Of course, one giant remains. Wayzata — which features the state’s largest enrollment (3,091) and two recent state football titles (2005 and 2008) — looms over the field with a large, mobile offensive line, capable skill players and a wrecking ball of a defense. The Trojans’ relentless style held Blaine quarterback and Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year Eric Kline to just 86 yards of total offense in the section title game, forcing two interceptions and allowing no TDs.

“They are fast and ornery, and they bring bad intentions with them to the ball,” Galvin said.

A similar defensive effort will be important to Mounds View’s success, and Galvin likes his chances.

“We played teams like Stillwater and Cretin that are very similar to Wayzata in terms of offense,” Galvin said. “We will be able to use a lot of our same schemes.”

Stolski and Rosemount coach Jeff Erdmann said their teams share offensive similarities. Rosemount runs the option while the Warriors line up in the spread formation, but both teams are predicated on the run. Each offense piled up more than 3,900 total yards — at least 3,000 of which came on the ground.

“We’re not all that flashy,” Erdmann said. “We don’t wear wristbands. We run the ball and try to do things right.”

Rosemount is led by quarterback Kevin Larson and running back Andrew Hausmann, who together accounted for 1,953 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns, many behind offensive lineman and Mr. Football finalist Joe Bjorklund.

Their offensive counterpart is Brainerd running back Jordan Hayes. The Mr. Football finalist ran for 1,370 yards and 15 touchdowns and is a “scintillating” player according to Stolski — a former English teacher.

Much of the remaining field ignored recent history to advance. When it comes to predicting a state champion, Erdmann said “every year people pencil in two or three teams. But that’s not always fair.”


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