Tuesday's featured prep football playoff games: Andover at East and Hibbing at Denfeld
ANDOVER (3-5) AT DULUTH EAST (4-4) What: Section 7AAAAA first-round game When: 6 p.m. Outlook: For the second straight season, fourth-seeded East gets a home playoff game. Hard-charging junior running back Elijah Leonard (121 carries, 684 yards, ...
ANDOVER (3-5) AT DULUTH EAST (4-4)
What: Section 7AAAAA first-round game
When: 6 p.m.
Outlook: For the second straight season, fourth-seeded East gets a home playoff game. Hard-charging junior running back Elijah Leonard (121 carries, 684 yards, six TDs) gets things going, but East is effective at spreading out its offense. Junior QB Caden Edwards has connected on 66 of 131 pass attempts (50 percent) for 935 yards and 11 TDs. His favorite target is senior Anthony Provinzino (24 receptions, 343 yards, three TDs). E.J. Hietala (90 tackles, nine sacks), coach Joe Hietala's son, anchors the defense. The Greyhounds are facing their first Class AAAAA opponent of the fall. For years, before being placed in the Northland-centric Northeast District, they were stuck in the Mississippi 8 Conference alongside metro teams that play a different brand of football. While Andover wasn't in the Mississippi 8, it fits that description. The Huskies went 8-3 in 2017, reaching the state tournament, where they lost narrowly in a 66-60 shootout to eventual Class AAAAA runner-up Elk River. "The level of football they (metro teams) play is exceptional from top to bottom, so we're going to see some things that we're not accustomed to seeing during the regular season," Coach Hietala said. "But I wouldn't trade our regular-season schedule for anything. That's one of the things that's kind of revived us over the last couple of years - the opportunity to play local rivalries, and games have been well-attended and well-played." ... After a 2-0 start, No. 5 Andover has dropped five of six, including three in a row. The Huskies are similar to the Greyhounds in that they like to throw the football more than most high school teams. Senior Justice Williams has completed 73 of 136 passes for 855 yards and 10 TDs, while junior Ethan Kalmes has thrown for 738 yards and four scores on 54-of-98 passing. Three players have more than 400 receiving yards. These schools are no strangers to playoff meetings. On Wednesday, their volleyball teams will meet in a section play-in game, which comes two weeks after Andover defeated East in a girls soccer section semifinal. Last March, it was the Greyhounds edging the Huskies in overtime of a boys hockey section final at Amsoil Arena. No. 1 seed St. Francis awaits tonight's winner in Saturday's semifinals.
HIBBING (3-5) AT DULUTH DENFELD (5-3)
What: Section 7AAAA first-round game
When: 7 p.m.
Outlook: Tonight's playoff opener is a rematch of the teams' meeting less than two weeks ago at Public Schools Stadium, where Denfeld grabbed a comfortable 51-8 win. The fourth-seeded Hunters are enjoying their finest season since 2009, when they finished 7-4 and reached the section final. Senior running back Dominic Klaas (114 carries, 937 yards) has rushed for 414 yards and seven TDs the past two weeks. Athletic wide receiver Wryott Gerson, also a senior, can stretch opposing defenses with his breakaway speed. Senior 6-foot-6, 260-pound lineman Erik Nelson has verbally committed to Minnesota Duluth. Denfeld, which has won four of five, is allowing just 15.5 points per game, with Klaas and Dane Herold leading the defense. The Hunters' three losses came against the top three seeds in the section - No. 1 Cloquet, No. 2 Hermantown and North Branch. ... Hibbing comes in on a four-game losing streak, during which the Bluejackets are allowing an average of 46 points a night. Tonight's winner plays at Cloquet on Saturday afternoon.