There’s a common theme among the eight remaining teams in the Class 6A football playoffs – they run hard and hit equally as hard.
“We always tell our kids that the run-first teams are the ones that will be there at the end of the year,” said Lakeville South coach Ben Burk, whose Cougars are one of the quarterfinalists. They’ll play Shakopee at 7 p.m. Friday at Stillwater High School.
It’s hard to find a team left in 6A that is likely to air it out. Shakopee adapted to an injury to its starting quarterback by installing a single-wing offense. Woodbury went to the Wildcat formation – involving a direct snap to a running back – to beat Rosemount in the round of 16. Eleven-time state champion Eden Prairie and 2019 champion Wayzata are known for their powerful rushing offenses. Farmington, which had a reputation for spreading the field, has found success in the playoffs by running the ball.
And then there’s Lakeville South, with its Power-T offense that has been on a rampage for about three years. The Cougars, who are the only undefeated team in Class 6A at 10-0, clobbered their first two postseason opponents by a combined 115-20. They expect a much tougher time from Shakopee (8-2), which lost to South 30-22 on Oct. 14. That’s the only game all season where South trailed at halftime.
“They used an offense we hadn’t seen up to that point,” Burk said. “Our kids were able to adjust and get a handle on it. But (Shakopee) coach (Ray) Betton is a smart coach and he’ll have his kids ready.”
Lakeville South hasn’t had a close game since playing Shakopee last month. When the outcome of games was no longer in doubt, the Cougars that were in the game concentrated on carrying out assignments correctly and playing with intensity, Burk said.
Anoka quarterback Jacob Deutchmann passed for almost 2,500 yards this season and had 312 against South, but the Cougars scored the game’s first four touchdowns and went on to win 67-14 on Nov. 5. South’s rushers rumbled for 484 yards. The Cougars’ highlight was a 52-yard kickoff return by linebacker – yes, linebacker – Owen McCloud, who grabbed an attempted onside kick to start the second half and scored untouched.
Carson Hansen rushed for 242 yards on just 12 carries and scored three times. Josh Jacobson had 108 yards and three scores.
If Lakeville South defeats Shakopee it will reach the Class 6A semifinals for the third consecutive year (excluding 2020, when there were no state playoffs). The other semifinalists likely will be usual suspects in a large-school playoff bracket that has mainly held to form. Only two lower-seeded teams won in the first two rounds, and neither of those were considered upsets. Seven of the eight surviving teams are from the stronger Gold Division; Woodbury is the only Maroon Division team to reach the quarterfinals.
“There’s been a lot of discussion in 6A about scheduling and (playoff) format,” Burk said, “but the teams that advanced deserve to be there. If there was a surprise, it might be the way Farmington handled Minnetonka,” referring to the Tigers’ 34-0 victory last week.
The Lakeville South-Shakopee winner plays Wayzata or St. Michael-Albertville in the state semifinals Nov. 19 at U.S. Bank Stadium.