The "Final Four" of Section 2A football wil play Saturday night in Sleepy Eye and Springfield.
In Sleepy Eye, the Minnesota Valley Lutheran Chargers will meet unbeaten and top-seeded Sleepy Eye St.Mary's. Fourteen miles to the west of that contest, New Ulm Cathedral tangles with Springfield.
Both games have a 7 p.m kick-off.
MINNESOTA VALLEY LUTHERAN (4-5) AT SLEEPY EYE ST. MARY'S (8-0)
Sleepy Eye St. Mary's coach Brent Kucera knows that he will be facing a Charger team that is "disciplined and a team that does things smart."
MVL comes in with a sub-.500 season record at 4-5, but Kucera knows that that record can be deceiving.
"Last year in the playoffs, they came on strong at the end," he said. "They are a team that comes on strong at the end of the season so we are expecting a tough game.'
Three of the Chargers' losses this year have come to teams ranked in the top 10 in Blooming Prairie, Faribault BA and Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity.
This season, the Knights have not only won eight straight games, they have been dominating in those wins. They have out-scored opponents 336-108 in those wins.
Two of the leaders for the Knights are quarterback Jordan Anderson and wide receiver Sean Mathiowetz. The tandem has been a nightmare for opposing defenses each game.
"They help this team a lot," Kucera said. "Sean is always double covered so he is taking two players by himself. Everyone else has single coverage - Jordan can hit all of those players in stride."
Anderson is also a threat to keep the ball and run with it if the opportunity warrants. He has rushed for more than 800 yards this year.
How about the pressure of being unbeaten?
"I tell my kids that the last two years the team that went 8-0 and won the (Southern Minnesota) Conference did not advance to the state tournament," Kucera said. "Our record means nothing right now."
Chargers coach Jim Buboltz thinks that his team is playing "one of the best if not the best team in Class A. I have seen them play this year and they are a machine."
Buboltz thinks that his team has been "battled-tested in the Gopher Valley, especially the three-game stretch against three top-ranked teams. Our record is not a true test of what how good we really are. The records mean nothing now."
He said that stopping the Knights is probably impossible.
"Slowing them down and containing them is what you have to do," Buboltz said. "I think that starts more on our offensive side of the ball - maintain good drives and keep the clock moving."
This will be the first time that MVL has played St. Mary's in football more than 10 years.
NEW ULM CATHEDRAL (6-3) AT SPRINGFIELD (7-2) 7 P.M. RIVERSIDE PARK,. SPRINGFIELD
Nine games ago, these two teams met in New Ulm to start the season. Now they meet again with one team's season ending.
In the first game, Springfield came away with a 20-13 win in New Ulm.
"I like to think that both programs are pretty solid," Cathedral coach Denny Lux said. "Each team gets better as the season goes along. After that first game, (Springfield) coach Paul Dunn and I were talking and felt that there was a high possibility that we would meet again in the playoffs."
Lux thinks that the confidence in his players has grown.
"The first few games, our linemen would get out and pull but not quite sure who they were supposed to block," Lux said. "Once we got three games under our belt you could see they were more confident in the offense."
Lux thinks that both teams will try to establish the running game.
"But we know that Springfield is a good passing team," Lux said. "They use their veer offense to set up their short passing game."
Tigers coach Paul Dunn said that this game will be very competitive
"They are better (since the first game) and we are better," Dunn said. "Watching film we see that they have done some little nuance things that are different as we also have. Cathedral and Springfield in the playoffs - it's always physical, it's always a great football game."
Dunn said that his defensive consistency has been the biggest improvement over the season.
He said that the play of Menage at quarterback has been a big plus.
Dunn said that he has a running back by committee. Zach Wells leads all rushers with about 600 yards. Zach Mickelson has about 400 yards, Dylan Salonek has about 300 yards as has Justin Macht. The Tigers have about 1,300 yards rushing as a team.
Dunn said that playing at home is a big advantage.
"It is hard to play at Johnson Field and we would like to think that it is hard to play at Riverside Park," Dunn said. "The crowd will be big and loud. We are excited to have an opportunity to continue on in the tournament."