Stillwater at Centennial, 7 p.m.
Stillwater’s 7-0 win over the Cougars in last year’s regular-season opener seemed to serve as a launching pad for the Ponies, who went on to an eight-win season.
The Ponies return quarterback Max Shikenjanski, among others, leaving expectations high for Stillwater in 2022. A road win over a high-quality Centennial team would only speed up the Ponies’ hype train early this fall. Our pick: Stillwater 20, Centennial 17
Eden Prairie at East Ridge, 7 p.m.
It was 46-0 Eagles in the 2021 season opener. East Ridge has designs on this affair being far more competitive. The Raptors have a number of key returners from last fall, all of whom helped East Ridge go 6-2 over its final eight games.
Can that momentum spill into 2022? Can East Ridge post points against an expectedly fearsome Eagles defense featuring the likes of defensive back Devin Jordan and defensive lineman Chiddi Obiazor? Our pick: Eden Prairie 24, East Ridge 14
South St. Paul at St. Thomas Academy, 7 p.m.
St. Thomas Academy is a monster in Class 5A, and South St. Paul won just two games last season. But if you assume that means Thursday’s opener is destined for a blowout, think again.
St. Thomas Academy’s only loss in 2021 came to eventual state champ Mankato West in the Class 5A quarterfinals. Yet the game between these two teams was decided by just 12 points — the second-tightest margin of victory for the Cadets all season. The rivalry matters. Our pick: St. Thomas Academy 24, South St. Paul 12
Como Park at Harding/Humboldt, 6 p.m., at Harding
Harding/Humboldt’s first season as a co-op in 2021 lead to a successful four-win performance and renewed optimism about the football future of the two schools. High turnout to open camp this fall suggests the success may be sustainable.
So, too, would a season-opening win over Como Park, which surely remembers its 25-14 loss to the co-op to open last season. Our pick: Como Park 21, Harding/Humboldt 19
Cretin-Derham Hall at Spring Lake Park, 7 p.m.
The Steve Walsh era officially gets underway Thursday in Spring Lake Park, and life won’t be made easy on the new Raiders coach. For the second straight season, Cretin-Derham Hall opens its season with three consecutive Class 5A juggernauts.
Spring Lake Park returns dual-threat quarterback Brayden Talso, who has standout offensive lineman Beau Johnson leading the way for him. Our pick: Spring Lake Park 30, Cretin-Derham Hall 17