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Thursday's prep football playoff games

ESKO (8-1) VS. PROCTOR (7-2)

What: Section 7AAA final

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Malosky Stadium

Outlook: Until Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin interfered last fall, Esko and Proctor had taken turns representing this section at the state tournament. The Eskomos advanced in 2012 and '14, and the Rails did the same in 2013 and '15. They met in the championship game three of those years. Top-seeded Esko, ranked fifth in the state, has won eight in a row, including a 48-28 waxing of GNK in the semifinals Saturday. Quarterback Brendan Durand threw four touchdown passes that day to give him 14 on the season, to go with 1,044 yards. Two of them went to 6-foot-3 receiver Branden Matteen, a tough cover for any defender given his height, leaping ability and elusiveness. Matteen has 27 receptions for 482 yards and six TDs. Tyler Peterson keys the ground game, with 544 yards. Ryan Nelson has seven interceptions on defense. After putting up 34 points combined in their first three games, the Eskomos have surpassed 40 in three of their past four. ... Facing a Class AAA opponent for the first time since defeating International Falls in Week 1, second-seeded Proctor doubled up Two Harbors 20-10 in the semifinals. QB John Pioro ran for 157 yards and both Rails TDs against the Agates. He's up to 602 yards for the fall, with another 614 through the air. Jerid Parrott has rushed for 623 yards. Proctor's stingy defense, which owns three shutouts, is allowing just 10.3 points per game, fourth-best in Class AAA. Just a sophomore, Ben Harnell booted a pair of field goals vs. Two Harbors. Derek Parendo is 66-36 in 10 seasons as Rails coach. Tonight's winner will meet the Section 6AAA champ — Pierz or New London-Spicer — in the state quarterfinals Nov. 11 at Brainerd High School.

Radio: WKLK-FM 96.5

Twitter: @TacoJon1

ROYALTON (8-1) VS. MLWR (5-5)

What: Section 7AA final

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Esko

Outlook: Moose Lake-Willow River bullied this section for a decade before its reign ended in 2016 — in the quarterfinals, no less. The third-seeded Rebels are back in familiar territory thanks to playoff wins over Crosby-Ironton and Little Brown Jug rival Barnum. That would have seemed like a pipe dream when MLWR was sitting at 2-5 following a four-game losing streak — something that also happened a year ago, for the first time since 1993 — in which the offense produced 30 total points. But the Rebels got back on track just in time. They are led offensively by running backs Colton Little (102 carries, 737 yards, eight TDs) and Trent Juhl (106-692, five), while QB Ian Coil has completed 50 of 127 passes for 529 yards and four TDs. Juhl tallied 185 of MLWR's 450 rushing yards in the 48-6 win over the Bombers on Saturday, and Anakin Oswald ran for three TDs. Rebels coach Dave Louzek has a record of 174-43 in 19 seasons. ... Top-seeded Royalton, ranked ninth in Class AA, is seeking its second section title in as many years. The Royals defeated Rush City — Louzek's alma mater — in last year's final. Their winning streak reached six games in Saturday's semifinals, 24-6 over Aitkin. The Royalton defense allows 12.1 points per game, sixth-best in AA. On offense, Riley Smieja has racked up 1,163 rushing yards and nine TDs on 185 attempts. Cole Wentland is averaging 9.1 yards per carry (76-693) and boasts 14 TDs on the ground. QB Gavin Suska has totaled 766 yards and nine TDs on 37-for-78 passing. The winner of tonight's game will take on either Pillager or West Central Area out of Section 6AA in a state quarterfinal Nov. 10 in Brainerd.

Radio: WMOZ-FM 106.9

Twitter: @Louiesg3

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