“We’ve played about like this all year, really,” said Eagles head coach Mike Grant, as his team improved to 13-0. “The kids just executed, that’s what we told them at halftime. They just played great football.”
Eden Prairie made an early statement, and they did it with some flair. A 28-yard punt return by Blake Sorensen had Eden Prairie at Tech’s 32, and then Grant came up with some razzle-dazzle. A reverse flea-flicker had Ryan Grant tossing a 32-yard touchdown to John Carruth, putting the Eagles up 7-0 just two minutes into the game.
Coach Grant decided on that play “about ten seconds” before they ran it. “You need to know where the ball is if you’re going to take a chance, so if you’re going to screw up and the head coach makes a terrible call, it’s not catastrophic,” Grant mused.
No more bag of tricks for Eden Prairie after that, just an incredible ground attack. Zack Armstrong caped off a 6-play 39-yard drive with a four yard touchdown run and it was 14-0 with 1:24 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles kept getting good field position, either through turnovers or punt returns. Sorensen ended Tech’s next possession by picking off Tye Dill at midfield and bringing it back to the Tigers’ 34-yard line. Five plays later, Armstrong had another four yard touchdown trot, and the route was on.
Even up 21-0, the Eagles were still flying around making plays on defense. Andrew Rotschafer came up with his second pick of the half with a diving grab at their own 45-yard line. Sorensen scored on a three yard run eight plays later and just like that it was 28-0.
Armstrong scored his third touchdown of the half with a 20-yard run with 1:26 left, and Eden Prairie went into the locker room up 35-0.
“You don’t even know how to coach when you’re up like that, because you want to respect the great season that Tech had, and what they do,” admitted Grant. “I thought our kids handled that well.”
The Eagles offense was crisp all game, but their defense was even better. St. Cloud did not cross midfield until there was five minutes left in the third quarter, and they eventually turned the ball over on downs.
St. Cloud did score late, on an eight yard touchdown pass from Connor Illies to Adam Johnson. The Tech fans responded with a huge roar, proud of their team for the season and the effort. It was a very emotional year for the Tigers. Their long time head coach Ron Kaczor lost his battle with cancer last spring, and the team dedicated the season to him.
So it will be a Lake Conference showdown for the 5A state title, as Eden Prairie will face either Lakeville South or Rosemount in the final. The Eagles defeated Rosemount during the season, and did not face South. This will be Eden Prairie’s 5th trip to the championship game, and they’ve won it all the previous four times.