Friday’s Class 6A football final, scheduled for prime time in the Minnesota’s newest jewel of an arena, U.S. Bank Stadium, could be the most well-attended championship game in Prep Bowl history. It matches Totino-Grace (12-0), the private school from the north metro that plays two classes above its size, against Eden Prairie (11-1), the most successful high school football program in state history (10 championships). Totino-Grace won at Eden Prairie 17-14 in the season opener for both teams. Here’s a breakdown of the dueling Eagles:
With three senior running backs, led by Ivan Burlak, and senior quarterback Kyle Halverson, Totino-Grace boasts a backfield with great depth and experience. Burlak is a pass-catching threat while Halverson can hurt defenses with his legs. Eden Prairie is led by precocious sophomore quarterback Cole Kramer — who didn’t start the first time these teams met this season — and junior running back Solo Falaniko, a transfer from Alaska this fall who is fast and strong but measures 5-6, 175 pounds. Edge: Totino-Grace.
Just one number matters for Eden Prairie: zero. As in points allowed. The Eagles have shut out seven opponents this season, including Champlin Park in the Class 6A semifinals. The Eagles defense is fast, particularly off the edges, closes well and tackles even better. It has held eight opponents to fewer than 200 yards of total offense and under six points per game. Totino-Grace had moderate success moving the ball in the season opener and has a formidable defense of its own. But Eden Prairie defends every inch of the field. Edge: Eden Prairie.
No coach is more observant and a better judge of talent than Eden Prairie’s Mike Grant. Totino-Grace’s Jeff Ferguson is a defensive genius who can sniff out an opponent’s game plan before it’s implemented. Each has invaluable longtime assistants — including Dick Gaughran, Steve O’Toole and Mark Ritter of Eden Prairie and Bernie Litecky, Jeff Moritko and Jay Anderson of Totino-Grace — who provide stability, consistency and acumen. Edge: Toss-up.
Grant is a 10-time Prep Bowl champion. Ferguson has won seven titles, albeit in the second-largest class, with Totino-Grace. Since 2013, Eden Prairie is 4-2 against Totino-Grace and 42-0 against everyone else. Totino-Grace went 39-4 against the field and has won the past two games in the budding rivalry. Edge: Toss-up.
David says: Totino-Grace simply has more to prove. The Eagles have never won a state title in the largest class. And last time out, they fell 28-27 to Eden Prairie in an incredible Prep Bowl game. This time, Totino-Grace finishes the job. Totino-Grace 28, Eden Prairie 21.
Jim says: Totino-Grace has more to prove? Not sure Eden Prairie would agree. The players have had a sour taste in their mouths about Totino-Grace for more than a year. “We were rooting for them [in the semifinals],” said senior Kyle Connelly. Eden Prairie 24, Totino-Grace 17.