High School football: It's down to the final 48 in state playoffs
And then there were 48.
Those are the survivors of the nearly 400 football teams that set out after state titles at the sectional meets two weeks ago.
They will open play at the state level Thursday, Friday and Saturday with quarterfinal games in six classes.
The 24 survivors will head to the Metrodome Nov. 20 and 21 for the semifinals.
The 12 semifinal winners twill return to the Metrodome Nov. 27-28 for the 28th annual Prep Bowl to determine six state champs.
The state football playoffs, in their current format, were begun in 1972 with five classes and expanded to six in 1997, the top five playing 11- man ball and the sixth composed of nine-man teams.
Wayzata, Mankato West, Glencoe, Caledonia, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (KMS) and Houston are the defending champs. All but KMS and Houston are back again this year.
Bemidji makes its first appearance since 2000 when it fell to Wayzata and Marion Barber in the first round. Barber, who went on to star at Minnesota, is now the featured running back for the Dallas Cowboys.
The Lumberjacks will open Saturday night at 6 at St. Cloud State against Sartell, a team that dominated Bemidji 28-0 in the snow at Chet Anderson Stadium at midseason, holding the Jacks to 85 yards, including only 11 through the air. They bring a spotless 11-0 mark into play, pressed only in last weekend's Section 8-4A title game 20-18 by Alexandria.
Bemidji (6-5) breezed through Duluth to reach the state quarterfinals, beating East 20-0, Central 40-0 and Denfeld 40-14.
Other Class 4A openers send St. Thomas Academy against Mahtomedi, Northfield against Mankato West and Rogers against Totino Grace.
In Bemidji's former Section 8-5A, Brainerd took the title 33-20 over Buffalo, a team that sidelined the Warriors in overtime last year.
Brainerd opens with Centennial at St. Cloud State Friday night. Lakeville North faces Mounds View, Wayzata goes against Eden Prairie and Eastview takes on Cretin-Derham Hall.
Pequot Lakes will represent Section 8-3A and begin play at Duluth Saturday afternoon against Mora.
Other openers have Glencoe facing Minneapolis DeLaSalle, Kasson-Mantorville meeting Waseca and Minneapolis North taking on New London-Spicer.
The 2A openers find Section 8 champ Hawley going against Moose Lake at the Fargodome Thursday, Caledonia taking on Waterville and Eden Valley-Watkins meeting Pierz Friday while Luverne and Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop clash Saturday.
In Class A, Fosston carries the Section 8 banner to Duluth to meet East Central in an opening round game. Adrian faces St. Bernard's, Blooming Prairie goes against New Ulm Cathedral and Minneota meets Barnesville, all in Saturday games.
It's Stephen-Argyle back in the state after a brief one- year layoff last fall, beginning nine-man play against Orr Thursday at the Fargodome.
On Friday, Verndale faces Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, Cromwell meets Ada-Borup at Duluth while the Saturday game finds Grand Meadow going against Nicollet at Rochester.
Next weekend there will be one game in each division both Friday and Saturday opening at midmorning.
The Prep Bowl will have four games Friday and two on Saturday with the 5A final the Friday feature and the 4A championship the Saturday finale.