Who needs Eden Prairie?
Minnesota’s large-school football championship was decided on Friday night at TCF Bank Stadium, and Mike Grant’s Eagles were missing for the first time since 2010.
Eden Prairie had won four straight championships before being upset in the Class 6A quarterfinals by Totino-Grace. A week later, Totino-Grace had Osseo on the ropes, and then the Orioles rallied for two touchdowns and a two-point conversion for a 22-21 victory.
This put Osseo in the state championship game against East Ridge. Again, the Orioles seemed to be on the ropes, and again they escaped … this time with a 14-13 victory after Prince Kruah ran 4 yards for a touchdown with 24 seconds remaining.
Let me suggest this about Prince Kruah: He could be the most relentless running back you’ve seen in a high school football game in the state of Minnesota.
He is listed at 5-foot-7 and 178 pounds. You’re not supposed to be able to take the beating that East Ridge administered on Kruah at 5-foot-7 and 178 pounds. This workload was more for … I don’t know, a Mike Alstott type.
Kruah had 43 carries for 189 yards. Eight of those came on the winning 16-play, 71-yard drive that started with 3 minutes, 22 seconds remaining. It came after East Ridge’s Grant Ryerse missed a 29-yard field goal, which seemed about as likely as Cristiano Ronaldo missing a penalty kick.
Ryerse had made field goals from 36 and 41 yards, and those were the six points that had East Ridge in the lead. His miss on try No. 3 gave Osseo a chance, and that’s all the Orioles have required in this improbable run to a first-ever state championship.
“After that Totino-Grace game, we knew anything was possible,” said Damario Armstrong, Osseo’s tremendous safety and receiver. “We knew we could make some plays.”
Osseo relies so greatly on the run that it was taking on both the clock and East Ridge’s thumping defense. There were a couple of hits earlier in the fourth quarter on Kruah — one from Joshua Knazze, a serious hitter at linebacker, and another from Will Walker — that you were surprised to see the running back return to his feet.
“I’m used to getting hit like that,” Kruah said. “I get up and I’m ready for the ball again.”
Osseo’s winning drive was slow-moving. Finally, the timeouts were gone, and it was second-and-9 at the East Ridge 22, and the run-Prince-right option was gone for Orioles coach Derrin Lamker.
Osseo quarterback Malik Gaillard had to throw and Armstrong had to make a play. He did in tight coverage, a 14-yard gain to the 8. Gaillard spiked the ball and East Ridge called a timeout with 35 seconds left.
On second down, Gaillard rolled right and went out-of-bounds at the 4. Now there were 28 seconds. What now?
East Ridge decided to call a timeout to set its defense. This gave Lamker a chance to call two plays. “We were going to run Prince right,” Lamker said. “And if we didn’t score, we were going to line up and throw a fade to the corner of the end zone.”
Gaillard completed 11 passes, and 10 were to Armstrong. The Orioles never got to the fade-to-the-corner option.
Kruah went right — as he had on almost all of his carries — and made it to the corner of the end zone. Dean Lumb kicked his second extra point, and soon the Orioles were state champions.
Someone estimated that Osseo ran the same play on which Kruah scored a minimum of 35 times, and then asked Lamker what it is called?
Answer: 26 Power or Hercules 88. Now, there can be a third option: State Title Right.
The Orioles had a three-game losing streak in September against Totino-Grace, Champlin Park and Centennial. It’s not tough to explain how that happened: Kruah left with a sprained right ankle after one carry vs. Totino-Grace, missed the next game and left after five carries in the third.
“Prince wasn’t 100 percent when he came back, but he kept getting better,” Lamker said.
In five playoff games, he had 186 carries for 1,089 yards and 11 touchdowns … No. 11 being that 4-yard burst into a harsh East Ridge defense with the clock winding down.
“I wanted [the ball] so bad there,” Kruah said.
Obviously, not any more than his coaches, his teammates and the city of Osseo wanted to see him with it.