The eastern part of North Dakota will look a lot like central Minnesota on Friday.
The flat and dreary late fall landscape of Fargo and Grand Forks will be peppered with green, black, red, blue and maroon as four lakes area prep football teams and their school-color-clad fans will caravan three or four hours west for three section final football games.
The first game on the docket will be the No. 1-seeded Verndale Pirates and the No. 2 Bertha-Hewitt Bears at 12:30 p.m. at the Fargodome.
This is a rematch of a Sept. 25 Pheasant Conference matchup at Bertha. Verndale won the rivalry game 32-8, but the score at halftime was 8-8.
The third-ranked Pirates (10-0) have won two straight section finals and have been to six finals in the last seven years. Unranked B-H (9-1) returns after a four-year absence. The Bears won the section in 2004 and 2005.
The 2004 win came against Verndale.
Since 2002 a Verndale or Bertha-Hewitt team has played in the section final.
After a late lunch, or early dinner, across the road at Buffalo Wild Wings, or at one of the numerous fast food establishments around the Fargodome, head back for Game 2.
The top-seeded Crosby-Ironton Rangers will battle the second-seeded Pierz Pioneers for the Section 6-2A championship.
The upstart Rangers are 10-0 and will play in their first section final since 1994. On the other hand Pierz will play in its seventh straight section final. Counting last year's loss to Breckenridge, Pierz is 3-1 at the Fargodome and 4-2 in its last six section finals.
The Pioneers and Rangers tied for seventh in the final Associated Press Class 2A rankings.
The one similar opponent both teams played was Holdingford. Pierz knocked off its Central Minnesota Conference rival 20-6 Oct. 14. C-I eliminated the Huskers 35-28 Saturday in the section semifinal.
If power running against a balanced offensive attack doesn't peak your interest, then football fans can travel an hour north to Grand Forks to watch a battle of speed running vs. all-out passing.
That's what will likely happen when the top-seeded Pequot Lakes Patriots (9-1) and No. 2 Perham Yellowjackets square off again.
The last time these teams met they accounted for 67 points. Pequot won the Heart O'Lakes Conference game 35-32 and went on to win the conference title.
Matt Michaelson, who is fine and will play Friday despite leaving Saturday's 22-3 victory over Thief River Falls early, rushed for 256 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown.
Perham's Ben Bucholtz torched the Pequot secondary for five touchdown passes, three of which went for 25 or more yards.
This is the first section final for Pequot since 2001 when it fell to the Roseau Rams. Perham defeated Thief River Falls 30-20 in last year's section final before bowing out against Holy Family Catholic in the state quarterfinals.
This is the fifth section final for the Yellowjackets. They are 2-2 in the previous four.
Pequot has won nine straight after falling to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the season opener. The Patriots were ranked eighth in the final coaches poll. Perham was ranked ninth.
Look for preview stories on all three games later this week.
If that's not enough football, the Brainerd Warriors will battle the Buffalo Bison at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John's University in Collegeville for the Section 8-5A championship.
Then, on Sunday, the Central Lakes College Raiders will meet the Rochester Yellowjackets for the MCAC state championship at 1 p.m. Sunday at St. Cloud State University.
It might be a good week for the Vikings to have a bye.
jeremy millsop, sports writer, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.
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