Eden Prairie emerges from its highly anticipated matchup with Cretin-Derham Hall as the state champion. The Eagles stumble out of the gate, but their offense proves unstoppable as they win back-to-back crowns.
Remember a certain key football statistic? It went something like this: "Eden Prairie has not given up a point in the first quarter all season."
Geniuses like me had been saying for a week that the key to defeating the Eagle Empire was scoring early ... at which 13 opponents had tried and failed. In fact, I made the following statement to a couple of people 10 minutes before kickoff of Friday night's Class 5A Prep Bowl game: "If Cretin-Derham Hall can score two touchdowns in the first quarter, I like their chances."
This is why I do not play high-stakes bingo or attend conventions in Las Vegas.
My prediction looked golden early, because Cretin-Derham Hall needed all of 12 seconds to score. Marcus Binns returned the opening kickoff 98 yards, the Raiders got another touchdown before 8 minutes had expired, and I began Googling off-shore betting parlors.
But Eden Prairie, after all, is Eden Prairie. And when you are Eden Prairie and you are playing football in the Metrodome on the day after Thanksgiving, you do not lose.
The top-ranked Eagles are now 6-for-6 in Prep Bowls, adding Friday's massively impressive 50-21 victory over No. 2 and previously unbeaten Cretin-Derham Hall to their ever-expanding list of memorable moments.
And the Eagles proved that not only can they win back-to-back titles, but they also can take a punch.
Binns' electrifying kick return had every jaw in the joint dropping. And when Raiders quarterback John Nance dashed 8 yards for a fourth-down touchdown with 4:24 left in the opening quarter, those jaws hit shoelaces. The Eagles' goose appeared to be cooked.
But the gears just continued turning. It was an amazing thing to watch, especially when Cretin-Derham Hall -- which has now won once in six Prep Bowls -- was playing arena football in the early going. Binns hits the gate and goes 98 ... Nance hits Michael Floyd for 47 ... Nance scrambles for 33.
But Eden Prairie kept its cool and countered every time. Running backs Scott Lindner and Matt Swanson broke free from ankle tackles. Quarterback/coach's kid Ryan Grant faked a pass right, then threw left for a nice gain. And third down was the big down for the Eagles.
They went 6-for-6 on third down in the first half, including two touchdown plays. They got two more third-down conversions on the opening drive of the second half, which ended with the big defensive lineman, Willie Mobley, rumbling 9 yards around left end for a touchdown and a 43-21 lead.
Handoff to Mobley? That's what you call rubbing it in.
I overheard this conversation at halftime:
"They [the Raiders] can't tackle."They can't tackle, but they have to put the ball in Floyd's hands."
Cretin-Derham Hall could not do that in the second half for several reasons. One was the clock-chomping Eden Prairie offense. The Eagles held the leather for more than 32 minutes, Cretin for less than 16. And Floyd cramped up after a deep incompletion, missing five plays on a drive that ended with the Eagles' Zac Kallas leaping in front of the Notre Dame-bound Floyd for an interception in the end zone.
A few minutes later, the Eagles set a Prep Bowl record with their 27th first down of the night (they finished with 30). Almost eight minutes remained to be played. And it was over.
Domination? You can't spell it without an E and a P.
John Millea firstname.lastname@example.org