Mike Grant swears his team doesn't prepare any differently for one opponent over another. Oh, Eden Prairie scouts its upcoming opponents. But knowing that Champlin Park, the Eagles' latest victim in a 23-0 rout in the Class 6A semifinals, was shorthanded at quarterback didn't matter.
"I didn't know No. 3 [Chad Costello] wasn't going to play until Thursday," Grant said. "We still prepare for what they do, no matter who the quarterback is."
The victory was vintage Eden Prairie. The Eagles leaned on their defense, which pitched its seventh shutout of the season and gave up just 80 total yards to Champlin Park.
The offense was no surprise, either. It rolled up 407 yards on the ground, led by junior running back Solo Falaniko, who rushed 26 times for 200 yards. Falaniko, a junior with more unique cuts than a paper snowflake, has rushed for 447 yards in his past two playoff games.
"If you've watched Eden Prairie football over the years, you know that's what we do," Grant said. "We run the ball."
Eden Prairie scored on a 99-yard drive the first time it had the ball and never let Champlin Park sniff the goal line thereafter.
Champlin Park, a No. 3 seed in the 6A tournament, was coming off minor upset victories over East Ridge and Rosemount in back-to-back nail-biters. The Rebels (8-5) hoped to build on that momentum, but defeating Eden Prairie (11-1) is a tall task even when healthy. It's gargantuan with a new quarterback in junior Joey Faulds, who had never taken a varsity snap before Friday's game. Faulds was filling in for senior Chad Costello, who found out Tuesday he had a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot, suffered in the victory over Rosemount.
Faulds started and acquitted himself well on the opening drive, going 3-for-5 for 16 yards. But Costello, assured he wouldn't injure his foot further, put the pain aside and went into the game on the next drive. One quarter later, Costello was back on the bench, the result of a big hit. He returned late in the game, long after the outcome had been decided, but to little effect.
"I knew I could play," Costello said. "I had to try."
Eden Prairie's victory sets up a rematch with Totino-Grace in the Prep Bowl on Friday. Totino-Grace has defeated Eden Prairie the past two times the teams have played, including a 17-14 victory in the season opener.