Owatonna in a Field of Diverse Teams in Class 5A State Football Tournament
The field of teams in the Class 5A state football tournament features four unbeaten squads, one with a losing record and two of the top running teams in the state.
Elk River (10-0) is the top-ranked 5A team in the state and has hardly had a close game. They beat St. Michael-Albertville 56-0 in the section finals. The Elks are averaging more than 450 yards per game rushing, according to statistics from the Minnesota State High School League. Two running backs have surpassed 1,000 yards. They are winning their games by an average of 46-10. Of the 25 passes they have attempted, three have been intercepted. Elk River is making their seventh state tournament appearance. They finished second in 1990, but have not won a state title. Alexandria (9-1) gets the first chance to slow down the Elks punishing ground game. The Cardinals are a balanced team on offense and have forced 30 turnovers this season. The teams play Saturday, November 12, at 8PM at St. Cloud State University.
Owatonna (8-2) and Apple Valley (7-3) play in a Saturday quarterfinal at 6PM at Lakeville North High School on Kat Kountry 105FM. The teams have fairly similar offensive numbers. The biggest difference might be that the Eagles played all their regular-season games against Class 6A teams, while the Huskies played a mix of 5A and 4A teams. Owatonna won a state title in 2013 and is making its sixth state tournament appearance. They finished as runner-up three times. Apple Valley won the title 1993 and have taken second place four times. OHS beat the Eagles in the 2013 quarterfinals.
One of Owatonna's losses came against Mankato West in the opening week of the season. The Scarlets are making their 11th state tournament appearance and have won four championships. They play Mahtomedi in a battle of 10-0 teams Saturday at 6PM at Farmington High School. No. 2-rated Mankato West has a multi-dimensional quarterback with Robert Meidl throwing for 790 yards and rushing for 640. Van Neils leads West with 1,347 yards and Charles Terry has 638. The Zephyrs run more than they throw. Jalen Frye has 1,557 yards on the ground. Mahtomedi has forced 28 turnovers.
The first 5A quarterfinal is Friday at Centennial High School where Andover (5-6) will face Spring Lake Park (10-0). The Huskies play all 6A schools during the regular season and entered the playoffs with a 2-6 record. Andover is the only team in the 5A tournament with more passing yards and rushing yards. It is likely they had to throw the ball in comeback efforts against the likes of Totino-Grace, Champlin Park and Blaine, who are still alive in the 6A state tournament. The third-ranked Panthers have an experienced quarterback, according to the high school league website, and had the second-highest rushing total in the state during the regular season and only threw the ball 28 times. They have not turned the ball over all season.
This week's winners advance to U.S. Bank Stadium for the semifinals on November 18-19.