Wednesday night was the second time I have seen the Eden Prairie Eagles this season. The first time I watched them, they were beaten – in my opinion – soundly by Lakeville North. Now, Lakeville North has proven to be one of the best teams in the state, so in retrospect, it was not a bad loss. Because of the way they looked in that game and the fact that they were coming off a lackluster five-point win over what would end up being a .500 team in Eastview, I went away with a feeling that the Eagles were good, but maybe not as good as we are accustomed. They are not the typical Eagles team that dominates up front with a punishing ground game but based on their 21-0 victory over Edina – they are still one of the favorites to win another title.
The defense gave up yards to the Hornets, but they would bend, but would not break.
Felipe Izumi and Kyle Akins put early pressure on the quarterback and came up with a sack. Akins was one of the most impressive players on the Eden Prairie defense. At defensive tackle, Akins got into the backfield again and forced the runner off his route so that others could make the tackle. On a swing pass – this is a defensive tackle we are talking about here – he got outside and made a tackle for a short gain. The undersized but athletic Akins got to the outside again on a running play to for a short gain. Finally, somehow the senior read the play and made a tackle on a slant pattern for a short gain.
“That was my best game of the year, Akins said. “I got into the backfield a lot. I read the screens well and played pretty well.”
The only player who might have been more impressive than Akins was defensive back J.D. Cowan. Playing his first game at corner, he was often assigned to one of the best receivers in 6A and had a great game. He came up strong on a quarterback run to the outside to close and make a tackle. On a fourth down, he came up with an interception. Later Cowan would get his second interception of the game on an overthrown ball. Finally, Edina tried to throw a fade into the end zone, and in one on one coverage he timed his jump and knocked the ball away.
Ben Sather had a highlight reel play on a fourth down in the first half. The linebacker prevented a first down by dropping into a short zone, timing his break perfectly, and blowing up the receiver on a slant. He jarred the ball loose and forced an incompletion. In the second half, Sather – with help from Cowan got to the outside and stopped a sweep for just a short gain.
Quentin Matsui did a great job defending the edge of the Eagles’ defense all night. He came up with a nice tackle on the outside. Then again on the outside, he made an open field tackle the prevented what would have been a big gain. Then he got into the backfield for a tackle for loss. Yet again he held the edge and made a tackle for a short gain defending a sweep.
Interior lineman Cheo Trotter penetrated into the backfield and ran a running back down from behind. Later he benefited from great coverage from the secondary and sacked the quarterback.
Linebacker Collin Penn held the edge and made a tackle for a short gain. Then Penn wasn’t fooled by a reverse and made an open-field tackle.
Fellow linebacker Ryan Hanahoe made a tackle on a quick throw into the flat for a short loss. Earlier he combined with defensive back Caden Fey for a nice tackle for a short gain.
Safety Will Becker covered a lot of ground to break up a fade, while later Namdi Obiazor had tight coverage on the outside.
The offense was perfect in the first half. The offense only got the ball twice but turned those two drives into touchdowns.
Quarterback Cole Kramer was cool and efficient in the first half. He didn’t complete anything deep, but he moved the chains. He used a play-action pass to tight end Matt Sherman for a thirteen-yard touchdown. Kramer showed his mobility and accuracy with a rollout. In the second half, he squeezed the ball into a tight area to pick up a first down.
“The pass attempts I get I just have to make the most of it,” Kramer said. “I have to make them count.”
Running back Nick Krueger ran for big yards behind Logan Tyler and Bronson Warner. Later Krueger was stuffed up the middle but bounced it outside to pick up a first down.
Izumi was a physical fullback both blocking and running. His best run picked up a first down with a ten-yard run, and five yards were all leg drive as it took four guys to get him down. On a game-sealing drive in the fourth quarter he pounded the Hornets defense with another physical run behind Dylan Klenner and Michael Fabel.
The offensive line took over in the fourth quarter. Guard Fabel and center Klenner open another big hole in the middle of the offensive line. Lined up in an unbalanced line, Jacob Ambourn and Warner opened a big hole. Warner drove his man three yards off the line of scrimmage.
“We just smashed them in the mouth,” Warner said. “We had to come out hard. I thought I played well, and had a couple of good blocks. I play a little on both sides (of the offensive line) and can pull a little and can play guard and tackle.”
Later in the drive, Tyler’s trap block opened a big hole.
After the game, the Eagles 7-1 record secured a top seed and a first-round bye in the 6A playoffs.