PHERSY: We're back, baby!!!!
It's been far too long since I've posted on this Faceoff blog thing. But now with the Ice Hawks coming up and Feldy and I both back on our regular beats (I'm picking up Gophers football, too...which should provide more content), the blog will be much more active over the coming months. So, stay tuned!
We kick things off with our usual high school football picks.
Last season, I trailed all season, then rallied to come back and make things even, only to fall short during the state semifinals and state finals. Feldy held a one-game lead into the finals, and he picked up another game in the last round, earning the two-game victory.
It's the first time he's won our picks in 48 years. So, congrats to Feldy. It won't happen again..
Feldy is busy this morning, so I'll be picking the games and making picks first (doesn't seem fair, does it?) ... next week, he'll pick the games and I'll again pick first, so we can get things back to normal.
BIG NINE CONFERENCE
Mayo at Owatonna
Austin at Faribault
Mankato East at Century
SFA BLUE DIVISION
Fillmore Central at Rushford-Peterson
Triton at La Crescent
Lanesboro at Houston
Glenville-Emmons at LeRoy-Ostrander
BIG NINE CONFERENCE
Mayo 31, Owatonna 26: Yep, upset baby! I love the Spartans this year, with a defense I think can be the best in the Big Nine, led by Tommy Fjelsted. They love what they've seen out of new QB Jay Alston, too. I worry about the running game, but the passing game will be just fine with Michael Michalak stepping up as the new No. 1 receiver. They have big lines, and I have no trouble calling the upset in Week 1.
Austin 37, Faribault 32: Yep, that's another upset. The Packers are much better this season, with almost all of their starters returning, including all the skill-position guys. Also, look for Zach Wessels to be one of the Big Nine's best receivers this season. If the defense steps up, this team can have a winning record this season. Meanwhile, Faribault lost Riley Jandro and pretty much everyone else. They return QB Danny Ehlers and a couple of big tight ends step in, but the Falcons are rebuilding. ... It's a big-time swing game for the Packers. It should tell us where their season is heading.
Century 16, Mankato East 12: Ugh, I'll take the Panthers at home, I guess. Alex Crawford is gone and the Panthers lost their starting QB this week. They have a solid line, though, and they can grind one out and extend East's 11-game losing streak.
SFA BLUE DIVISION
Rushford-Peterson 20, Fillmore Central 15: Fillmore will be much improved this season. Andy Love and Tom Henry lead the Falcons, and they're wrestlers...so that's a good start. But R-P was so close so often last season, and it returns plenty of skill, too. Cole Kingsley and Tom Vix are a great running combo, and RP has one of the better lines in the conference. The Trjoans win a slobber-knocker.
La Crescent 19, Triton 7: What, another upset? I guess I'm crazy this week. La Crescent will not win much (if at all) once division play starts in the Red (yeah, they're in there with Lourdes, PEM, Byron, Stewartville, Lake City, KM and Cannon Falls...good luck with that). It's probably their one chance to win a game, so the Lancers must make it work. Triton will go the other direction. It won't lose much (if at all) during the White Division schedule. It should be a good game either way.
Houston 41, Lanesboro 29: The Hurricanes have a massive senior class and they have Christian Sires. He'll be one of the best QBs in the SEC this season as the Hurricanes look to spread the offense out. Lanesboro is tough, though with a much different style. Niko Anderson could have a MONSTER year. Can Anderson grind out a win? Yeah, but I'll take Houston's spread this week.
LeRoy-Ostrander 35, Glenville-Emmons 21: Tough game to pick Feldy, because I think both teams will be much improved. Nate and Jace Bunne lead L-O, though ... and those two will be tough to beat. I think LO is a team to watch in the SEC. And that Bunne name will be in the paper a bunch this season.
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FELDY: fffffffffffffffttt ... fffffffffffffffffffttt ... just blowing the cobwebs off the Faceoff blog before I tell Phersy why he's wrong on a bunch of games and right on some others. Maybe that's just my arrogance after beating Phersy last year. Or maybe it's just me hoping I don't go 0-7 on a group of games that is difficult to pick. Either way, I'm just glad to have high school football back. Opening Friday is one of the best days of the year! Let's do this:
Mayo 38, Owatonna 35: Phersy sniped my "upset" pick here. I thought this might be the only time all regular season I would pick against Mayo, but I'm buying what the Spartans' locker room has sold me in preseason camp. Phersy nailed it: junior Jay Alston looks like another in a really impressive string of QBs, he has a nice group of receivers (and, yes, Michalak will be a strong target, but don't sleep on TE Matt Rogers, who looked like a beast down the stretch last year). Owatonna is replacing a lot of skill guys, too, but the Huskies will have the best line in the conference again.
Faribault 41, Austin 30: Yep, Phersy's Packers will be improved this season. Yep, Faribault will be down from where it was a year ago. But the Falcons have a solid QB, junior Danny Ehlers, back and he has two big targets that could give Austin fits -- tight ends Kallan Hart (6-foot-5) and Devin Jandro (6-6). Austin's O will be better than a year ago, but it's D gave up 40 or more points in its final five games last season. That's not something that gets completely turned around overnight.
Century 27, East 15: I agree with you again, Phersy, that Century's line will be the difference here. The Panthers are still feeling things out at the QB and RB spots, and it sounds like we could see multiple guys play at those positions tonight. I like the Panthers' line a lot, though. They have good size and some experience, which will be a key as the season goes on.
R-P 33, Fillmore Central 23: R-P is going in a good direction. It went 6-4 last season, lost to Class AA state champ Caledonia by one score and was a touchdown away from reaching the Section 1A final. The Trojans have a couple of talented skill guys back and a few brick wall-types up front to pave the way. Fillmore Central will be better than its 2-7 record of a year ago, but this is a tough task for the Falcons, to go on the road in the season opener and face a really good R-P team, an R-P team that is already 1-0 after a nice win at Southland last week.
Triton 28, La Crescent 21: La Crescent should be better this season than it was last year, and it should be competitive in the SFA Red, but Triton has 23 letterwinners back from a 7-3 team. And the Cobras have a coach, Don Henderson, who knows how to get the best out of his players.
Lanesboro 34, Houston 31: Like Phersy, I did my share of research on both of these teams and how improved they'll be. Then I realized the last time I picked a nine-man game correctly was, I think, prior to the Metrodome being built. So, I'll wing it and take the Burros and Niko Anderson to grind out a close one with a tough rushing attack.
LeRoy-Ostrander 33, Glenville-Emmons 16: In a season opener with two teams that could be closely matched, I'll take the team with the returning QB (Jace Bunne) and RBs (Nate Bunne, Travis Raddatz).