When you spend over five hours on the sideline and in the locker room with a football team, you pick up on a few things. This is especially true when your primary job for the day is looking for exactly that.
Some of what I observed today before, during and after Eden Prairie’s 49-0 and 33-0 whitewashings of Vincent Massey and Oak Park made it into Saturday’s story. Most of it – for one reason or another – did not. Here’s a sampling:
You know all that wind that swept across the Twin Cities on Friday (or so I’m told)? I would bet a good sum of money it came from up here. She was HOWLING last night (“a coaches wind,” Bud Grant said) and a lot of it stuck around today. “Feels like a college football Saturday, doesn’t it?” Mike Grant asked me. Sure does, coach. Add the big stage of Canad Inns Stadium, the replays on the video board and the game ref having a wireless microphone and I agree even more.
I never set foot into the pressbox this weekend (sorry, Mr. Rand, but all the action was on the sidelines and my hotel has wifi. I was working. Honest!) but all of Eden Prairie’s video crew did. There is not an elevator, which for veteran volunteer assistant Gene Wise was disheartening. “I heard some guy say halfway up, he sits and rests,” Wise said. “So, I’ll just do that.” Grant had another suggestion. “I hear they got a rope,” he said.
Nominee for line of the day, No. 1: Defensive back Alex Rutledge, after running onto the field for early practice: “And in front of a crowd of 37 people, Eden Prairie football. Yeahhhhhh!”
Nominee for line of the day, No. 2: Vincent Massey head coach Kelsey McKay after his team arrived late. “We used a new bus company and I guess they thought the local team wanted a scenic route.”
Nominee for line of the day, No. 3: Mike Grant, after meeting with officials and told a ball can be quick-kicked out of the end zone legally in Canadian rules football: “Huh. Dad forgot to cover that one.”
One of Eden Prairie’s biggest players was in attendance, even though he never left the United States. Senior Brady Vandenberghe was diagnosed with leukemia in July and is currently undergoing treatment at Children’s Hospital. Wanting to do something for him on the trip, Eden Prairie’s cheer team dressed a human cardboard cutout in Vandenberghe’s No. 99 jersey, used a photo of him for the head and brought the likeness everywhere the team went. “We decided he should be in Canada,” senior cheerleader Katie Moriarty said.
Cool rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada by a local barbershop quartet this afternoon. Very well done.
It was fun to watch the Eden Prairie players tabbed for Game 2 watch Game 1 in street clothes, cheering on their teammates. At one point, they played the role of coach when they reminded on-field players that there is a 5-yard halo rule for punt receptions. Sure enough, when they went to the locker room in the fourth quarter to change for their game, the Game 1 side was whistled for breaking the halo rule.
Minnesota Nice: Grant opted to take a knee on three straight plays, sacrificing possession, to end the first game rather than run up the score any further on Vincent Massey.
Manitoba Not Nice: An Oak Park assistant coach repeatedly used foul language directed at the officials when a call did not go his team’s way. And I mean foul. Hey, I’ve been known to use a cuss or two, but this was bad.
Manitoba Not Nice II: Oak Park fans allegedly poured hot chocolate on Eden Prairie’s cheer team flags that spell E-P-H-S.
Lasting memory: The Grant family posed for a series of photos on the field after the game.
New trend: A vuvuzela was spotted – and heard – in the stands.
The last word: Injured running back Stephen Hari: “Man. I would really like to play.”
And that about wraps 'er up from Canada. Long drive tomorrow, you betcha. Suddenly my Friday night football project for the fall seems a whole lot less daunting. More on that soon ... until then, au revoir!