Posted On: 11/21/18 11:16 PM

(Cover Photo: Nick Gerhardt/Northstar Football News)

 Eden PrairieLakeville North
Head CoachMike GrantBrian Vossen
Final Rankings (NFN, AP, QRF) 3, 3, 21, 1, 1
State Championship Apparances131
State Titles11 ('96, '97, '00, '02, '06, '07, '11-'14, '17)0
Points Per Game24.936.5
Opponents Points Per Game14.29.9
Opponents Win Pct70-51 (.576)55-66 (.455)

The year was 2012.

Eden Prairie, a defending champion that was more methodical than mauling on its way to the Prep Bowl, against Lakeville North, the big-school favorites with a menacing defense and opportunistic offense.

The year is 2018.

Eden Prairie, a defending champion that’s been methodical but underwhelming on its way to the Prep Bowl, against Lakeville North, the big-school favorites that have blown the doors off seemingly every challenger, winning their games by an average of over 26 points per game.

The Eagles defeated the Panthers in 2012, executing that methodical philosophy to near perfection in a 28-7 win to capture the state title. They’ll be larger underdogs on Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium than they were in the Metrodome, but the pressure is squarely on Brian Vossen’s crew to win their first title since Lakeville High School was split into North and South.

The Panthers defeated Eden Prairie 14-0 in Week 2 of the regular season. Senior Brian Curtis Jr. rushed for 103 yards and a pair of third-quarter touchdowns to help North pull away for the victory.

Key Matchup
Lakeville North OL vs Eden Prairie DL

The Panthers starting offensive linemen all weigh at least 240 pounds, averaging of 273 across the front. University of Nebraska commit Bryce Benhart, NFN’s No. 2 prospect in 2019, is the big name of the group, but four of the five players are multiple-year starters. Seniors Jack Hansen and Joe Jaeger have solidified the interior, while Mason Malecha has played well returning from a knee injury. Their performance has helped North rush for more than 300 yards per game this fall, led by Curtis’ 2,227 and 19 touchdowns.

Eden Prairie’s undersized defensive line wins with speed, and they’ll have to do it again on Friday. Only defensive tackle Trey Berry (280 lbs.) has the size to match North, but Justice Sullivan and Kyle Akins are both hybrid linebacker-defensive end type plays who could cause fits up front. Don’t be surprised if senior fullback Felipe Izumi is asked to play a large role on the defensive line too, for a unit that’s allowing just 3.1 yards per carry on the season.

Panthers coach Brian Vossen, right, has North in its second Prep Bowl in program history.

Key Player
Cole Kramer, QB – Eden Prairie
2018 Stats: 1,552 yards, 13 TD, 3 INT, 65.3 completion pct.

Kramer is extremely accurate and doesn’t make mistakes, but he also hasn’t had to win a game with his arm. He’s has averaged just over 10 pass attempts per game during his three-year varsity career, one of the only knocks on the Eagles senior.

He’s simply not asked to do much in Mike Grant’s offense, because of the Eagles’ commitment to the run. This might be the stage, however, that showcases why he’s committed to the University of Minnesota as a quarterback.

Lakeville North’s defense will have the physical advantage over the Eden Prairie offense, making Kramer’s ability to make plays integral to the Eagles success. The best scenario for Eden Prairie would be early success in the passing game to get a lead, making the Panthers play from behind, something they’ve yet to do much of during their unbeaten campaign.