Posted By: Jason Iacovino

We're ready to start the second half of the regular season and words like "Homecoming" and "Playoffs" are starting to creep into the high school football conversation.

Owatonna has the very difficult task of getting up off the mat after Mankato West ended its 16-game winning streak with a huge thud.  Adversity can be as big of opponent as the other team in football, and the Huskies are facing it for the first time in quite a while.  Now the task is to roll off Hwy. 218 into Austin and take on an improved Packers team that the Huskies haven't lost to since 1998 (Owatonna would avenge the loss that season with a playoff win over the Packers and go on to the Prep Bowl).

Section 1AAAAA is suddenly wide open, if it wasn't already.  Faribault will have a chance to make its mark when they host Rochester Mayo on Friday.  Rochester Century is coming on.  Owatonna still has the target on it back, but these three games against the section in the next three weeks will be very telling.

More than that, though, the Huskies will have to dig deep and find the defense and running game that allowed them to jump out to a 3-0 start.  They are going to have to learn to play without key players.  Mankato West is a fabulous squad that has a great chance of winning it all--the Huskies will have the rest of the season to prove what happened last Friday does not represent Owatonna football.  It starts tomorrow in Austin.

New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva lost a tough battle, 13-0, against a very good Maple River team last week, dropping the Panthers to 1-3.  Now comes the game they've been waiting for--Homecoming against rival Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.  The Buccaneers will be without starting quarterback Ben Boran, who is close to returning from a broken arm and has yet to play for the Bucs this year.

The Panthers beat the Bucs, 21-12, last season, their first win over their rivals since 2007.  This year both teams have had tough losses early in the season, but WEM is riding a 2-game winning streak and the Panthers are playing better football.  The stands should be packed in New Richland on Friday and I'm really looking forward to calling this game with Brennen Toquam on Kat Kountry 105 (104.9 FM) and  Remember to download the free RadioPup app for your mobile device to hear all of our local games on the radio.

Medford has an excellent chance to pick up its first win of the year when they take on Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop on Friday night.  The Tigers have had a brutal schedule so far, so coach Johannes' squad will welcome the opportunity to play the Thunderbirds, considering things don't get much easier with games remaining against Faribault Bethlehem Academy, NRHEG, and Lester Prairie / Holy Trinity.

Triton finally got some love from the pollsters and QRF (Although not enough in my opinion) and they will travel to Zumbrota on Friday to unleash some more punishment on the Cougars of Zumbrota-Mazzeppa.  This has been a good rivalry in recent years, but don't expect a close one this time around.  The Cobras are destined to finish the regular season 7-1 and it will be interesting to see how high they will be seeded.

Finally, on Saturday we have a special presentation of high school football on Kat Kountry 105 when the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blosssoms (4-0) take on Bethlehem Academy (3-1) at Bruce Smith Field in Faribault at 6 p.m.  For those unaware, the Cardinals have ended BP's season each of the last two years in the Section 1A title game after having lost to the Blossoms in the regular season both years.

The last meeting was particularly painful for BP, who saw a second half lead evaporate as the Cardinals intercepted John Rumpza six times in the windy conditions at RCTC in Rochester.  The Cards went on to lose to Mahnomen in the State Semifinal at the Metrodome.

Quarterback Kollin Hanson will not play for B.A. (shoulder) but the Cards have been rolling, putting up 42 points against a good Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton squad last week.  The key for B.A. in this one is running back / linebacker Christian Von Ruden, who was huge for B.A. in that playoff game a year ago while being injured in the earlier meeting.

For the Awesome Blossoms, expect more fireworks from Rumpza and the crew on what should be a warm, beautiful evening at the Rice County Fairgrounds.  It's a great rivalry and should be lots of fun.

So that's a quick look at Week 5--several great rivalry games, a gut check opportunity for Owatonna and Medford, and hopefully awesome weather to enjoy it all.

Jason Iacovino can be heard Tuesdays and Fridays on KRFO-AM 1390 at 3:50 p.m. Leave a comment below and follow him on Twitter @JasonIacovino.