AITKIN (6-3) VS. ESKO (7-2)

What: Section 7AAA final

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Malosky Stadium

Outlook: The second-seeded Gobblers edged Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin 22-20 in the semifinals Saturday as Austin Price (142 attempts, 792 yards, 5 touchdowns) gained 175 yards on 24 carries. Owen Miller (50-533, 5 TDs) is the other main rushing threat. Quarterback Kyle Cluff (39 completions, 79 attempts, 418 yards) does not throw often. Aitkin, which allows just 14.1 points per game, is one win from earning its first state tournament berth since its lone appearance in 1982. … The top-seeded Eskomos, helped by Trevor Spindler’s interception return for a touchdown, rallied from 14 points behind to beat Proctor 28-21 in the semifinals and move within a victory of the school’s 12th state appearance (includes 1975 Class C title). Esko spreads the wealth, with junior running back Brock House (69-517), senior QB Dylan Vinje (90-471, 11 TDs), senior end Preston Lowe (42-421) and junior RB Cade Berger (78-354) all sharing carries for a team that outrushes the opposition 265-103 on average per game. Junior WR Eli Blue (20 receptions, 297 yards, 5 TDs) is the main target for Vinje (43-for-78, 721 yards, 10 TDs). Lowe’s eight interceptions paces an opportunistic defense. Esko won the regular-season meeting, 41-14 on Oct. 11, a night when 15-year-old backup QB Jackson Pfister collapsed on the field near the end of the game and died of a heart defect.

Radio: WKLK-AM 1230


What: Section 7AA final

When: 7:15 p.m.

Where: Esko Athletic Complex

Outlook: The sixth-seeded Giants have pulled off a pair of upsets, 26-20 at International Falls and 38-14 at Crosby-Ironton, to stand one victory away from the school’s first state tournament trip. Senior RB Cole Meyer, the team’s leading rusher with 693 yards during the regular season, ran for 123 yards on 25 carries and scored three TDs against Crosby-Ironton. Junior RB Gavin Skelton (99-436 in regular season) and senior Hunter Levander (64-356) are other options for a team that completed an average of three passes per game. Skelton (127 tackles, four sacks in regular season) is a tackling machine on defense, while junior Hunter Hannuksela made four interceptions. … While their opponent has no state playoff experience, the top-seeded Rebels have a seemingly yearly invitation to the final eight teams. MLWR has 13 appearances in coach Dave Louzek’s 21 seasons, including 10 in a row between 2006-15 and also the past two seasons. Junior QB Mason Olson (101-for-177, 1,262 yards, 17 TDs) has set a school record for passing yardage. He has three main receivers — junior Carter Johnson (16-325), junior Brady Watrin (28-316) and senior Eli Werner (22-305). Junior RB Blake Juhl (115-707, 10 TDs) leads the running attack and a stingy defense with 78 tackles. The Rebels allow only 12.8 points per game and have posted three shutouts.

Radio: WMOZ-FM 106.9


What: Section 7 Nine-Man final

When: 4:45 p.m.

Where: Esko Athletic Complex

Outlook: The second-seeded Mariners routed Cherry 47-20 in Saturday’s semifinals and are seeking a sixth trip to the state tournament (2015 being the most recent). Silver Bay has relied upon senior RB Mason Ollman (1,711 yards, 23 TDs), who rushed for 219 yards against Cherry and 195 vs. Northeast Range in the first round of the playoffs. Senior QB Riley Tiboni (547 yards rushing) has accounted for 14 TDs. Hunter Dow (100 total tackles) and Ollman (79) lead a defense allowing a section-low 14.5 points per game. Junior defensive end Ero Wallin (8.5 sacks), junior Derek Thompson (seven sacks) and junior Luc Stadler (five interceptions) also have excelled. … The Mariners’ defense will be tested by the top-seeded Rangers, who average 46.6 points a game and blasted Cook County 54-18 in their only playoff game. Freshman QB Asher Zubich (1,324 yards passing, 905 rushing) threw for 135 yards and rushed for 127 in the win. He has thrown 19 TD passes and added 16 more on the ground. Leading rusher Dillon Drake (14 TDs), a senior, ran for 279 yards against Cook County to leave him 38 shy of 1,000 for the season. Senior Aidan Bissonette (22-364) heads up the receiving crew. The defending section champs are seeking the school’s 10th state tournament berth, which includes winning the first Class B state title in 1972.