After outslugging Eden Prairie 28-20 in the Class 6A championship game, Totino-Grace linebacker Charlie Waters was a mixture of bravado and humility, pride tempered with the knowledge that his Eagles had finally reached the top of a mountain they had envisioned climbing for so long.
“We’ve been feeling this all season,” said the fearless Waters, a product of a family of tough football players. “To win and beat Eden Prairie, I’m mean, that’s Eden Prairie. That’s what you’re always shooting for.”
Totino-Grace didn’t do it with finesse or trickeration or fluky plays. The Catholic-school boys from the north metro lined up with the program synonymous with state titles and defeated it at its own game. Eden Prairie got physically whipped, one of the few times that can be said. In fact, it was the third consecutive time Totino-Grace had roughed up Eden Prairie.
For that, Waters had a theory.
“So many teams play Eden Prairie and look at their past, and their mind-set doesn’t allow them to win,” Waters said. “If you don’t come out with the mind-set that you’re going to hit them in the mouth right away, you’re not going to beat them.”
That philosophy held true on both sides of the ball. While Waters and company were holding Eden Prairie to 229 total yards — 70 of which came on a meaningless final drive — the Totino-Grace offense was landing haymakers of its own.
One of the chief punchers was senior running back Ivan Burlak, a throwback type who would just as soon run over a defender as around him. Burlak, with a name, style and the fierce features of a James Bond villain, rushed for a game-high 161 yards and a touchdown.
How tough is Burlak? He separated his left shoulder on a run on Totino-Grace’s go-ahead drive. One possession later, he was back on the field, adding an insurance touchdown.
“They just put it back in,” he said with a shrug. “I just took some Advil and I just started feeling good.”
Waters was asked if he thought the torch had been passed from Eden Prairie to Totino-Grace.
“Hopefully, eventually, people will say that,” Waters said. “But they’re Eden Prairie. They’re the ones who have won it all those times. But there’s a lot of pride in this program.”