The road to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis is laid out for Minnesota's high school football teams, as Northland squads received their initial postseason assignments on Thursday.
Tops among Tuesday's first-round matchups may be an all-Iron Range tilt in Section 7AAA. No. 4 Rock Ridge (2-6) will host No. 5 Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin (2-6) in Eveleth with kickoff at 6 p.m. The winner will face Esko, the top seed and one of two Minnesota Northland teams to go unbeaten in the regular season.
On the other side of the 7AAA bracket, No. 3 Two Harbors will play No. 6 Hibbing in a game scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday in Proctor.
Other Tuesday games include No. 5 Duluth Denfeld at No. 4 Cloquet in 7AAAA; No. 5 Braham at No. 4 Chisholm and No. 6 Mille Lacs at No. 3 Barnum in 7A. In Nine-Man, it's No. 7 Silver Bay at No. 2 Hill City/Northland and No. 6 North Central at No. 3 Cherry.
In the 7AAAAA bracket, Duluth East is seeded third and faces an 1 p.m., Oct. 30 semifinal trip to Elk River, which has scored 40 points or more in all six of its wins.
The Denfeld-Cloquet winner will face North Branch, the top seed in 7AAAA, while Grand Rapids travels to Hermantown to determine the other section finalist. Hermantown won the first meeting 35-14 at Corey Veech Field at Centricity Stadium on Sept. 10.
In 7AA, top-seeded Moose Lake-Willow River awaits either Crosby-Ironton or International Falls in a section semifinal on Oct. 30, with Mesabi East traveling to Hinckley-Finlayson in a rematch of a game the Jaguars won 28-0 on Wednesday in Aurora.
Mountain Iron-Buhl is the top seed in Section 7-9-Man and will await Cook County or Bigfork in the semifinals Oct. 30. South Ridge and Cromwell-Wright will meet in Section 5 9-Man for a chance to face Ogilvie or McGregor in the final.
Superior 33, Eau Claire North 26
Superior built a 20-3 halftime lead and rode out a nervous finish to end its 2021 season with a victory on the field.
The Huskies forfeited the original matchup on Labor Day weekend due to a COVID-19 outbreak, but with both teams out of the Wisconsin playoff picture, they agreed to make the game up on the field Thursday at NBC Spartan Sports Complex.
After the break, both teams exchanged touchdowns twice. The Huskies recovered an onside kick and took the ball down the field to get within a score inside the last two minutes, but a second onside kick attempt was snagged by the Spartans' hands team and the hosts ran out the clock.
Both teams finish the season with 1-8 records.
Moose Lake-Willow River 40, Rush City 6
Jackson Thompson scored three touchdowns on the ground and added a fourth on defense as the Rebels completed an unbeaten season on Wednesday night in Rush City.
Thompson, a junior, scored on a 25-yard interception return to give the Rebels a 13-0 halftime lead, then added scores of 8, 48 and 20 yards on the ground.
Logan Orvedahl scored from 77 and 22 yards out, crossing the 1,000-rushing-yard threshold despite the Rebels being able to play only six regular-season games. He finished with 196 yards to Thompson's 152.
The Rebels will await Crosby-Ironton or International Falls in a Section 7AA semifinal on Oct. 30.
ML-WR 7 6 21 6 — 40
Rush City 0 0 0 6 — 6
MLWR — Logan Orvedahl 77 run (Sam Knezevich kick)
MLWR — Jackson Thompson 25 interception return (kick failed)
MLWR — Orvedahl 22 run (Orvedahl run)
MLWR — Thompson 8 run (Knezevich kick)
MLWR — Thompson 48 run (kick failed)
MLWR — Thompson 20 run (kick failed)
RC — 5 pass (conversion failed)
Grand Rapids 42, Duluth Denfeld 6
The Thunderhawks took care of business to ensure a second-place tie in the Northeast Red by dismissing Duluth Denfeld on Wednesday at Noble Hall Field.
Tanner Platt ran the opening kickoff back 65 yards for a score to give the Thunderhawks the earliest possible lead.
Owen Glenn (20 yards) and Ethan Florek (15) added first-half touchdown runs. The hosts pounded the ball through the second half, scoring all three of their touchdowns from 2 yards and in.
Liu Newland grabbed a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Wyatt Hinderman for Denfeld (0-8, 0-6 Northeast Red), which will play at Cloquet in a play-in game on Tuesday night.
Grand Rapids (6-2, 4-2 Northeast Red) travels to Hermantown for a 7AAAA semifinal on Oct. 30.
Duluth Denfeld 0-0-0-6--6
Grand Rapids 7-14-14-7--42
GR - Tanner Platt 65 kickoff return (xp kick good)
GR - Owen Glenn 20 run (kick good)
GR - Ethan Florek 15 run (kick good)
GR - Owen Glenn 1 run (kick good)
GR - Jack Cleveland 1 run (kick good)
DD - Liu Newland 22 pass from Wyatt Hindermann (conversion failed)
GR - Landon Grover 2 run (kick good)