Eagles rally for two touchdowns in second half to beat Maple Grove
Eden Prairie was trailing by a touchdown at halftime and had been largely outplayed by a Maple Grove team bent on pulling off a victory heard 'round the state.
To nearly everyone watching Friday at Hopkins High School, an upset was percolating. To the Eagles, it was just another Friday night.
As has been its M.O., the slumbering giant asserted itself in the second half, scoring two touchdowns to defeat the Crimson 13-7 and give itself the opportunity to become the first program to win four consecutive large-school state championships in a Prep Bowl matchup next Friday against Totino-Grace.
"I wish I could say we made adjustments and there was more to it," Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant said. "But really, it's just the kids. They went out and did it. They weren't worried. They were laughing and joking in the locker room [at halftime]."
Eden Prairie (12-0) started the game with a typical Grant surprise, recovering an onside kick on the opening kickoff.
But Maple Grove wasn't buying into any cheap tricks. The Crimson forced the Eagles into a three-and-out, then did to Eden Prairie what the Eagles have done to so many teams in the past.
It went 80 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Kyle Anderson's 1-yard run capped a drive in which the Crimson converted three times on third down and once on fourth-and-10 before Anderson's touchdown.
Maple Grove had delivered the first big blow of the game, but it also turned out to be it.
"I thought we were hitting 'em," Maple Grove running back Clark Weineke said. "We just couldn't keep it going."
Eden Prairie got the ball first to start the second half. The Eagles went down the field and scored in six plays, with J.D. Spielman slithering 14 yards through traffic to tie the score 7-7.
The Eagles took the lead for good on one of those classic Eden Prairie drives to which fans have become accustomed. The Eagles started the fourth quarter at their own 4-yard-line and moved downfield like a lava flow: slowly, but with purpose, and not even Maple Grove's quick and aggressive defense could stop it.
Running back Will Rains carried the ball 10 times on the 16-play endeavor, never once for negative yardage.
"He started putting his shoulder down and bringing the thunder," Grant said.
Quarterback Grantham Gillard finished the 96-yard march with a 13-yard naked bootleg for a touchdown and the winning margin with 4:22 left in the game.