Thursday's prep football section finals
TWO HARBORS (7-2) VS. GREENWAY/NASHWAUK-KEEWATIN (8-1) What: Section 7AAA final When: 7 p.m. Where: Malosky Stadium Outlook: Among Northland football teams, it's hard to think of too many that have been as consistently successful over the years a...
TWO HARBORS (7-2) VS. GREENWAY/NASHWAUK-KEEWATIN (8-1)
What: Section 7AAA final
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Malosky Stadium
Outlook: Among Northland football teams, it's hard to think of too many that have been as consistently successful over the years as Two Harbors. And yet, the Agates have appeared in exactly one state tournament - in 1977. They are seeded first and have won four in a row, a streak that started with a 27-12 victory over Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin in Coleraine. That night doubled as junior Sam Johnson's coming-out party. His big rushing performance included touchdown runs of 67 and 4 yards. The second-half emergence of Johnson (60 carries, 354 yards, five TDs) bodes well for a backfield that already features seniors Joey Marker (156-886, nine) and Wyatt Haugan (83-391, two). Seniors Andrew Hulst (73 tackles) and Jayden Ruberg (four interceptions) highlight a defense that allows 9.6 points per game and has pitched three shutouts, including a 14-0 blanking of Esko in the semifinals. ... No. 2 GNK is coming off a physical 22-16 win over Proctor, where junior Eli Conaway had 25 carries for 140 yards and two TDs. The Titans' last visit to Malosky Stadium, where GNK coach Bob Schwartz played his college football, ended in celebration. They defeated Proctor 12-6 in the 2016 section final, which followed a heart-stopping 38-33 victory over Two Harbors in the semifinals. Tonight's winner meets the champ of Section 8AAA - either Perham or East Grand Forks - in a state quarterfinal Nov. 10 in Brainerd.
Radio: KTWH-FM 99.5
MOOSE LAKE-WILLOW RIVER (7-2) VS. ROYALTON (9-1)
What: Section 7AA final
When: 7:15 p.m.
Outlook: A year ago, Moose Lake-Willow River appeared headed for a second-straight season ending premature of the state tournament. For a program that had won 10 consecutive Section 7AA crowns through 2015, that was borderline inconceivable. But the Rebels regrouped and rallied from a 3-5 regular season, storming all the way to the state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. That trek included a 29-15 win over Royalton in the section title tilt. MLWR is the No. 1 seed. Senior Trent Juhl (154 carries, 1,101 yards, 12 TDs) is the headliner on offense, though sophomore QB Mason Olson (52-for-104 passing, 763 yards, nine TDs) adds an aerial element seldom seen with the Rebels. Olson tossed three TDs in Saturday's 39-8 semifinal win over Mesabi East. Seniors Aidan Szczyrbak (five sacks) and Adam Dragicevich (two) are disruptive on the defensive line. Rebels coach Dave Louzek is 183-46 in 20 seasons and 12-2 in section finals. ... The second-seeded Royals are led by senior QB Gavin Suska, who has connected on 65 of 134 pass attempts for 920 yards and 12 TDs. Royalton spreads the ball out in the backfield, with six players totaling at least 33 carries. Senior Zach Gottwalt has 33 receptions for 435 yards and nine scores. Sophomore Dylan Skwira has nabbed five interceptions on defense. The Royals won the section in 2016. Awaiting the winner of this game will be either Hawley or Barnesville out of Section 8AA in the state quarterfinals Nov. 9 in Brainerd.
Radio: WMOZ-FM 106.9
DEER RIVER (7-2) VS. BLACKDUCK (6-3)
What: Section 7A final
When: 4:45 p.m.
Outlook: No. 1 Deer River is after its first state bid since 1999. Sophomore Austin Rasley (134 carries, 710 yards, four TDs) is the leading rusher for a club that hasn't lost since a 44-14 setback against Mesabi East in Week 3. Rasley also has returned a pair of punts for scores. Junior Trevor Michienzi has added 115 rushes for 550 yards and five TDs. The Warriors downed Hinckley-Finlayson 27-6 in the semifinals. ... Third-seeded Blackduck upset No. 2 Braham 36-20 in Saturday's semis. The winner of today's game will face either Mahnomen-Waubun or Polk County West out of Section 8A on Nov. 10 in Brainerd.