In the midst of a scoreless first half — something Eden Prairie's Class 6A, No. 1-ranked football team hadn't experienced this season — the Eagles fell back on a foundation built on two decades of state championship team experiences.
"Once you don't have the lead, you go into the grind-it mode," Grant said. "Just grind it and wear 'em and, you know, eventually …"
Grant didn't finish the sentence, but he didn't need to. No team is more synonymous with wearing down opponents than Eden Prairie, which did exactly that in a 28-7 victory over Maple Grove.
The Eden Prairie offense started sluggishly, with three-and-outs on its first two possessions, largely because of a fired-up Maple Grove defense. The Eagles' defense matched its hosts stop for stop, keeping the game scoreless until the offense found its road-grader groove midway through the second quarter. Eden Prairie went 75 yards in eight plays, capped by a 25-yard bootleg scoring run by quarterback Cole Kramer.
"Maple Grove came to play," said Antonio Montero, Eden Prairie's linebacker/running back/kicker/do-everything backbone. "They were playing aggressive, pounding us a little bit. Our offense, we just had to find our groove, wear them down."
Leading 7-0, Eden Prairie (5-0) got the ball to start the second half and did what it's done to opponents so often over the years. The Eagles went 73 yards in 18 plays, taking nearly seven minutes on the drive. They took a 14-0 lead on a pretty play-fake by Kramer, who found a wide-open Davis Jaeger on a 5-yard pass in the end zone.
Maple Grove coach Matt Lombardi knew that having a chance to beat Eden Prairie meant playing error-free football. The Crimson (3-2) played tough, but they weren't perfect. When they made mistakes, Eden Prairie made them pay.
Twice in the second half, Eden Prairie turned Maple Grove turnovers into quick touchdowns. Grant Harstad went 48 yards for a score one play after a Maple Grove fumble. And Solo Falaniko ran 70 yards to the Maple Grove 4-yard line moments after an Eden Prairie interception deep in its own territory. Montero scored two plays later.
"You can't play 93 percent of a football game and beat them," Lombardi said. "I felt the whole game like we had a chance to win it, but they capitalize on mistakes better than anyone. That's what they do."