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The competition is always tough this time of year, but it doesn’t get much tougher than the defending state champion.

That’s what the Hutchinson football team will face when it takes on the SMB Wolfpack in the Class 4A state semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Hutchinson, 11-0 and ranked No. 1, advanced to the semifinals with a dominating 52-14 win over Fridley.

SMB — a co-op between St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy and Blake — was ranked No. 2 in the final coaches poll and is led by dual-sport athlete Jalen Suggs. Suggs is one of the top basketball recruits in the country and also the No. 2 quarterback in the state, with a scholarship offer from Ohio State. There is no doubt that if the Tigers want to win, they will have to contain Suggs.

“He’s probably the most athletically gifted player that we’ve seen in a long time,” head coach Andy Rostberg said. “He’s fast, he’s got great agility, he makes you miss. His biggest plays are on scrambling plays whether he runs it or buys time and finds a receiver deep downfield. He’s extremely hard to handle and hard to keep him in check.”

At times this year, the Tigers have been susceptible to the pass. Opponents have been more successful going over the top of the defense than they have running through it. Terry Lockett is SMB’s top receiver, with just over 900 yards receiving on the year. He will be a key target for the Wolfpack’s offense.

Not only does Hutchinson have to worry about big-time players on SMB’s offense, its defense also boasts top college recruits. SMB is led by four-star recruit Kaden Johnson, an outside linebacker. He has offers from most Big Ten schools and an offer from the University of California.

“The defense is like their team as a whole,” Rostberg said. “They’re very athletic, they’re fast, they can fly around. If you watch them, that’s what stands out is they’re athleticism and agility.”

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