The Minnewaska football team will get its chance to take back the Section 5AA crown from Paynesville Area on Friday night.
The 8-2 Lakers are matching up with the 7-2 and defending section champion Bulldogs in the section title game, where Minnewaska will get a crack at its first state berth since 2015. And the team they beat in that section championship? None other than Paynesville.
This year’s Bulldog squad boasts the top seed in the tournament field, which they used for a first-round bye and then a 46-0 rout over fifth-seeded Eden Valley-Watkins in last week’s semifinals.
Second-seeded Minnewaska had to go through both Benson and Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, beating the seventh-seeded Braves 33-13 before a 21-7 victory over the third-seeded Falcons in the semis.
Paynesville sits seventh in the QRF rankings, while Minnewaska is 16th. The teams have two shared opponents on the year in Maple Lake and BOLD. Minnewaska lost 27-0 to the Irish and Paynesville beat them 72-16 in the regular-season finale. Both Minnewaska and Paynesille lost their matchups with the 10-0 Warriors (54-8 for Minnewaska and 30-20 for Paynesville).
The teams haven’t met on the same gridiron since 2016, when the Bulldogs ended the Lakers’ season in a 42-14 first-round playoff game. Minnewaska holds a 6-3 head-to-head edge over the last decade, but Paynesville has taken three of the last four.
On Friday night, though, the history won’t matter. The Lakers will aim for a new chapter of history, starting with the opening kickoff at 8 p.m. at St. John’s University in Collegeville.