CHISAGO LAKES (4-6) VS. HERMANTOWN (5-4)
What: Section 7AAAA final
When: 7 p.m.
Where: North Branch High School
Outlook: The fourth-seeded Wildcats shocked No. 1 seed Cloquet 14-0 in the semifinals in their best performance of the season. Chisago Lakes rushed for 209 yards, led by Nick Stone’s 49 yards. Junior fullback Sailor Olson (81 carries, 574 yards) and junior quarterback Austin Siefert (80-473) head up a running game in which no single player has more than three touchdowns. Siefert (29 completions, 62 attempts, 328 yards passing) has not played in two playoff games, during which the Wildcats have thrown a total of eight passes. Chisago Lakes’ lone state tournament appearance came in 2001. … The second-seeded Hawks edged North Branch 21-14 in a section semifinal Saturday. Senior QB Peter Soumis (66-for-132, 886 yards, 12 TDs) threw two TD passes, including the game-winner to Noah Torgerson with 1:36 left in the fourth quarter, and he ran for another score. His top target all season has been senior tight end Macade Cannon (22 receptions, 289 yards, 6 TDs), who doubles as the leading tackler with 99 stops. Soumis also leads the Hawks in rushing (60-496, 8 TDs), backed up by junior Luke Lind (84-364) and senior Jacob Backstrom (50-342). Hermantown is seeking to defend its section title and qualify an eighth time for the state tournament.
BRAHAM (9-1) VS. DEER RIVER (9-1)
What: Section 7A final
When: 7:15 p.m.
Where: Esko Athletic Complex
Outlook: The second-seeded Bombers reached the final with a 36-20 win over Hinckley-Finlayson. Braham scored 22 unanswered points in the first quarter and hung on despite allowing 247 yards passing. Senior RB Luke Bendickson (132-1,144, 22 TDs) leads the team in rushing despite just a 46-yard effort against the Jaguars. Junior Carson Shockman (72-463) has provided a boost with 138 yards rushing in the playoffs. Junior QB Hayden Lee (90-for-140, 1,016, 13 TDs) isn’t afraid to sling the ball around, usually with senior Reed Riesing (31-420, 7 TDs) on the receiving end. Braham is seeking an 11th overall state tournament berth and sixth in the last seven years, and suffered its lone loss, 20-12, to Deer River on Sept. 20. … The top-seeded Warriors blanked previously unbeaten Carlton-Wrenshall 22-0 in the semifinals for their third shutout of the season. They are allowing only 10.6 points per game and have given up a total of 14 points since the start of October. Deer River ended a 19-year state tournament drought last season with its 12th trip. Leading the team’s attempt at a repeat is the double-pronged rushing attack of senior Trevor Michienzi (133-905, 10 TDs) and junior Austin Rasley (119-819, 12 TDs). QB Blake Fox (55-for-101, 593 yards) has a 9-to-2 TD-to-interception ratio. Senior tight end Logan David (26-402, 7 TDs) is the primary receiver.
MCGREGOR (5-4) VS. SOUTH RIDGE (7-2)
What: Section 5 Nine-Man final
When: 4:45 p.m.
Where: Esko Athletic Complex
Outlook: The second-seeded Mercuries opened the playoffs with a 58-44 win over Isle, which was a slightly lower scoring game than their 58-50 loss to Isle during the regular season. As usual, junior RB Drew Dean (186-1,373, 19 TDs) was the star with 175 yards rushing, six touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions. He averages 153 yards per game. Sophomore Colton Anderson (68-567, 6 TDs) is the other main rushing option for a team that averages only eight passes per game. McGregor averages a section-best 35.6 points per game. The defense, which is led by Dean’s 97 tackles, has been a liability by allowing 38.8 points an outing. The Mercuries’ lone state appearance came in 2007. … The No. 1-seeded Panthers opened their playoff run with a 24-16 semifinal win over Hill City/Northland. South Ridge overcame a 16-8 deficit behind three TD runs from junior Connor Bushbaum (135-970, 14 TDs), who had 224 yards rushing on 37 attempts. Seniors Matt Clark (59-405) and Logan Young (67-367, 5 TDs) also run the ball well while senior end Nick Larson has eight overall TDs. Seven of senior QB Riley Kinsley’s 23 completions have gone for scores. Young and Clark have combined for 178 tackles on a defense that allows just 11.9 points per game, has pitched three shutouts and has given up just six second-half points all season. South Ridge’s lone state tournament since building a school in Culver came in 2012, though Saginaw-based AlBrook made seven prior appearances.
Radio: WKLK-FM 96.5
SUPERIOR (8-2) AT PULASKI (9-1)
What: Wisconsin Division 2 sectional semifinal
When: 6 p.m.
Outlook: The fourth-seeded Spartans defeated Marshfield 44-37 in the first round of the playoffs, winning a game that featured six lead changes and 850 total yards. That marked the Big Rivers Conference team’s first playoff win since 2014. Senior QB Jarrett Gronski (766 yards rushing, 12 TDs) accounted for 299 of the Spartans’ 529 yards with 178 yards rushing and 121 more on 6-of-11 passing. Gronski had TD runs of 60 and 25 yards, threw a 52-yard TD pass to Carter Fonger and scored one two-point conversion. RB Caden Stone (660 yards rushing, 10 TDs) added 151 yards rushing, including a 79-yard TD run. Brady Herbst (16-338, 5 TDs) is the team’s top receiver while Fonger has added 10 catches for 255 yards and four scores. … Superior would have hosted had eighth-seeded Chippewa Falls converted a two-point play at the end of a 35-34 first-round loss to the top-seeded Red Raiders. Pulaski, about 18 miles northwest of Green Bay, finished second in the Fox River Classic conference. Its lone loss came to Bay Port (10-0). Pulaski is a run-first team with 2,575 yards rushing compared to 427 passing. The offense is run by QB Nash Lemerond (38-for-76, 362 yards), but Ben Redlin (1,061 yards, 13 TDs) is the Red Raiders’ main threat on the ground. Jo Jo O'Leary (540, 9 TDs), Lemerond (379) and Aaron Maroszek (360 yards) add to the running game for Pulaski, which has posted five shutouts. The school is 19-15 in 15 playoff appearances, with its furthest trip in the playoffs coming in 1997 when it lost to Menomonie (20-6) in the state semifinals. The winner of this game plays either Kaukauna or Hortonville.
SAINT CROIX FALLS (6-4) AT NORTHWESTERN (10-0)
What: Wisconsin Division 5 sectional semifinal
When: 7 p.m.
Outlook: The underdog Saints opened the playoffs with a 35-21 win at Elk Mound, scoring 22 straight points to take command. Saint Croix Falls didn’t complete a pass in four attempts but rushed for 373 yards. Derek Fisk (103-695, 9 TDs) led with 114 yards and Calan Leahy added 88 yards and three TDs. McKinley Erickson (137-799, 9 TDs) is the team’s leading rusher, while QB Zack Clark (42-for-93, 530 yards) has tossed more interceptions than TDs this season. Saint Croix Falls lost 33-21 to Northwestern on Sept. 27 in the teams’ first meeting as Heart O’North Conference foes. … The top-seeded Tigers rolled to a 41-0 win over Nekoosa in last weekend’s first round. They outgained the Papermakers 412-169, helped by 169 yards rushing from Colin Trautt (92-672, 10 TDs). Backfield depth is key for the Tigers as Brennan Werner (75-514, 10 TDs), Bryson Mazur (55-502) and QB Jake Brill (46-442) all can tote the ball. Brill (39-for-70, 842 yards, 14 TDs) averages more than 21 yards per completion and averages a TD throw every five attempts. Offensive lineman Ben Benes, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound sophomore, has returned to the lineup following an early season wrist injury. The winner faces either No. 2 seed Stratford or Spencer/Columbus Catholic.
Radio: WNXR-FM 107.3