As the temperatures cool, the fall high school sports season is slowly closing. But that doesn’t mean the EPHS portion of the fall season is done yet.
Eden Prairie is still part of many of the fall sports conversations. This week, two of the most prominent include volleyball and football. Both squads face significant challenges this week. It starts with volleyball on Thursday, Nov. 4, and football on Friday, Nov. 5.
The EP volleyball team hosts the Class 4A, Section 2 championship match at home on Thursday. A win would mark the Eagles’ first state tournament appearance since 2014.
A major block in the way of the achievement is the Chaska Hawks. The second-seeded Hawks and top-seeded Eagles will meet in the section final match on Thursday with a state tournament appearance on the line.
This marks the first time these two squads have met during the 2021 season. The last time they met was the 2019 Section 2AAA tournament when Chaska upset Eden Prairie in five sets at EPHS.
Though the two teams have not met yet in 2021, they have been evaluated quite closely. There’s the fact EP and Chaska were ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in the final Class 4A volleyball coaches’ poll of the season. They were also ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively in the section tournament.
That sets up a primetime matchup on Thursday. It will be held in the EPHS main gym starting at 7 p.m.
To the surprise of very few, the Eden Prairie football team found itself with a top seed in this year’s Class 6A state tournament.
The Eagles rightly deserved their status this season with characteristic wins against big-time opponents. But there was an uncharacteristic loss. Despite that, EP appears to be a heavy favorite to make it to the state semifinals, if not the 2021 Prep Bowl.
The game against Lakeville South had plenty of buildup. Both squads went undefeated in 2020 and were looked upon as some of Class 6A’s best teams. However, they never met and could not decide which was the best team in the state.
But on Sept. 17, each squad met up at Lakeville South with 2-0 records. EP had dominated East Ridge 46-0 in the season-opener before a close win on the road at Farmington on Sept. 10.
After EP fell behind 14-0 against the Cougars, the Eagles attempted a comeback with a kickoff return for a touchdown by Logan Gareis.
That turned out to be EP’s only score of the game. Lakeville South went on to score 28 unanswered points and rolled the Eagles, 42-7.
Since then, the Eagles have not let up. Playing against top teams, EP has only given up an average of 7.8 points per game since the loss. That includes shutouts against Shakopee and Edina.
After rattling off five consecutive wins, the Eagles earned a No. 1 seed heading into the Class 6A state tournament. Playing against Coon Rapids, EP took care of business with a 36-6 win at home.
The win advanced the Eagles to the Round of 16. They will face Lakeville North, a team that went on the road and defeated White Bear Lake 39-0 in the opening round. EP and Lakeville North are meeting in the postseason for the first time since the Class 6A Prep Bowl in 2018 where the Panthers won 35-28.
This time, however, the matchup will be on the Eagles’ home turf. The action starts at 7 p.m. Friday at Aerie Stadium.