Maple Grove earns the No. 1 seed in Class 6A, Section 5 football when the eight respective coaches gathered early Oct. 18 to seed the postseason tournament.
Osseo ended up with the second seed, followed in order by Champlin Park, Brainerd, Blaine, Centennial, Anoka and Coon Rapids. “We absolutely got jobbed, and you can put that in the paper,” said a disappointed Osseo coach Derrin Lamker. “Maple Grove had no business being the top seed, but they got it. People just could not look past the forfeits, and that is fine. We are moving forward.”
Attempting to stake a case for the No. 1 seed, Maple Grove coach Matt Lombardi noted his team’s five-game winning streak, and subsequent Northwest Suburban Conference championship. He also mentioned before that his team lost a close game to Osseo without injured senior receiver Jake Wieneke, who has emerged as the most dominant offensive player in the conference.
Maple Grove wrapped up the NWSC’s North Division title Oct. 17, winning 17-12 at Champlin Park 17-12 to finish 8-0 in the conference standings, and 7-1 to just about everybody else.
Osseo was responsible for that lone dent, but it was erased after news broke of the Orioles dressing an ineligible player in each of their first two games this fall. That meant instead of two victories, the Orioles were forced to forfeit each of those first two games, including their 26-20 Week 2 victory at Maple Grove. The Orioles lost their first game on the field 14-7 to the top team in Class 5A Totino-Grace Oct. 17, leaving them with a 7-1 on the field record and a 5-3 mark with the forfeits.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that seeding meeting.
“It was interesting,” said Champlin Park head coach Mike Korton, a former football standout at Osseo. “Really, it could have gone either way. They both had an argument for the No. 1 seed, and I completely understood both. But I don’t know if it matters. You have to beat everybody anyways.”
In the case of these eight teams, everybody includes the five Lake Conference powers, four of which could cross over from Section 6 to play the four remaining Section 5 teams in the Nov. 2 semifinals.
That is just one of a handful of changes the coaches are experiencing in preparing for the new, seven-class playoff format.
The most intriguing transition is how the teams deal with moving from the usual Tuesday start of the postseason to Friday.
The other major difference this year is a lack of a section championship setting. Only 32 teams are competing in Class 6A, meaning after the first week, the 16 remaining clubs will play in a semifinal round that will set up the eight-team state tournament. How that state tournament is shaped will also undergo a huge change this year. Teams will compete in their respective section for the quarterfinals, but the semifinals cross over into another section.
For the teams in Section 5, that comes with a serious challenge. Edina, Wayzata, Eden Prairie, Hopkins and Minnetonka are the top-five seeds in Section 6.
Four are expected to advance, which will set up a semifinal round Nov. 2 that — if the higher seeded teams win out — would include Eden Prairie playing at Osseo, Champlin Park going to Wayzata, Brainerd visiting Edina, and Hopkins heading to Maple Grove.
“None of us will be looking that far ahead, I know that much for sure,” Lamker said. “All we can worry about is who we play next. We could care less about anything else.”
Anoka (3-5) will play at Osseo (5-3) at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26. The other three Section 5 quarterfinals that night have Centennial (3-5) visiting Champlin Park (5-3), Blaine (5-3) heading to Brainerd (6-2), and Coon Rapids (0-8) playing at Maple Grove (8-0).
In Section 6, Edina (7-1) will host Armstrong (1-7). Wayzata (6-1) plays Minneapolis South (4-4), Eden Prairie (6-2) gets Shakopee (4-4) and Hopkins (5-3) hosts Minnetonka (3-5).
“This is when it gets fun,” said Lombardi. “This is what you work all year for, so why not go out and try to play a little longer. Like everybody else, that is what we will worry about. We’d like to keep practicing for a few more weeks.”