Three teams defending titles at state football tournament
The state high school football playoffs begin this week and in Class 4A Rogers and Rocori will open the action 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Cloud State.
Bemidji will start its run at a state championship 8 p.m. Friday at St. Cloud State against Spring Lake Park.
Friday's other matchups see Mankato West battling South St. Paul at Chanhassen High School and Faribault meeting Hill Murray at East Ridge High School.
Overall, three teams return to defend their 2010 football titles - Caledonia in Class AA, and both Totino-Grace of Fridley and Wayzata in Class AAAAA. Totino-Grace won in Class AAAA last year but opted up to Class AAAAA this year.
Sixteen teams that competed in the 2010 tournament have qualified again, while six teams are making their first appearances. Thirteen teams enter with unblemished records.
Three of last year's qualifying teams return: Bemidji, Mankato West, and Rogers. The defending champions from Totino-Grace of Fridley will be competing in the Class AAAAA tournament this year.
Two teams have unblemished records and Faribault is the only team making its first appearance.
The No. 6-ranked Spring Lake Park Panthers (9-1) are making their fourth appearance, but first since 1991.
The Bemidji Lumberjacks (10-0) are making their third consecutive and fifth overall appearance. They lost in the quarterfinals in 2010 and were ranked No. 3 in this year's final poll. Neither team faced any other qualifiers during the regular season and both are still in the hunt for their first title.
The top-ranked Scarlets of Mankato West (10-0) are making their fourth consecutive and seventh overall appearance. They lost in the quarterfinals last year, but won previous championships in 1999, 2002, and 2008. This year the Scarlets defeated Faribault 63-14 during regular-season play.
The Packers of South St. Paul (10-1) are making their third appearance but first since 2004. They were No. 9 in this year's final poll. During the regular season the Packers defeated Hill-Murray 16-7.
South St. Paul has never won a state title.
The Rogers Royals (9-1) return for their third consecutive and overall appearance. They were ranked No. 7 in the final AP poll and are looking for their first state title. They placed second in 2010.
The Rocori Spartans (9-1) return to make their fifth appearance, but first since 2005. They were No. 10 in the final poll and are also still looking for their first championship. Neither team faced any other qualifiers during the regular season.
The Faribault Falcons (7-3) are making their first appearance. During the regular season they lost to Mankato West 63-14.
The Pioneers of Hill-Murray (8-2) are making their third appearance but first since 1987. They lost to South St. Paul 16-7 during the regular season and have their sights set on their first state title. Neither team was ranked in this year's final AP poll.
Class 4-A Football
Game 1: Rogers (9-1) vs. Rocori (9-1), 7 p.m. at St. Cloud State
Game 2: Faribault (7-3) vs. Hill Murray (8-2), 7 p.m. at East Ridge High School
Game 3: Mankato West (10-0) vs. South St. Paul (10-1), 7 p.m. at Chanhassen High School
Game 4: Bemidji (10-0) vs. Spring Lake Park (9-1), 8 p.m. at St. Cloud State
Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 12:45 p.m.
Game 6: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 12:45 p.m.
Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 3 p.m.