It felt at times that the Eden Prairie-Farmington game Nov. 12 was a two-part story.
The first part featured a dominant Eagle offensive attack that punished the Tigers in a variety of ways. The latter part was about the EP defense attempting to hold an early lead against upstart Farmington.
When the story ended, it was all smiles for the Eagles. They held onto their early lead and did enough to avoid a season-ending loss to Farmington as EP won 17-7 at Chanhassen High School to advance to the Class 6A semifinals Friday, Nov. 19 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
After the Eagle defense forced the Tigers to punt on Farmington’s first offensive drive, EP’s offense went to work. The Eagles used a combination of running and passing plays to set up a Tyler Walden 2-yard touchdown run to get EP on the board and ahead 7-0.
The situation improved shortly after. Eagle defensive back Danny Frischmon grabbed an interception on Farmington’s second offensive drive. A few plays later, EP quarterback Nick Fazi connected with tight end Jermell Taylor on a 16-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0.
“It gave us so much momentum,” Fazi said. “That took us through the rest of the game.”
Though the Eagles looked dominant on those first two drives, that would be the last time EP would find the end zone in Friday’s game. From the Eagles’ second score on, it was time for the defense to step up.
For the most part, EP’s defense was up to the challenge. Farmington did move the ball with runs up the middle resulting in the Tigers’ lone touchdown, which came in the second half.
Though Farmington found success on other drives, the Eagles forced a pair of key turnovers to slow down Farmington. The first came late in the first half with the Tigers driving down the field.
Near the end of the third quarter, EP’s defense worked its magic again as the Eagles forced a turnover after Farmington had made it inside the Eagle 20-yard line.
When EP did mount successful second half drives, it mostly came through the arm of Fazi.
“We used our height to our advantage,” Fazi said of his team’s passing game. “We threw three touchdown passes against them last time, so we knew we could use our passing to exploit them.”
Those passing plays came through in the fourth quarter when the Eagles had their best drive that got them deep into Farmington territory. EP eventually faced a fourth down inside the Tiger 30-yard line.
After some deliberation, the Eagles sent out the field-goal unit as they tried to make it a two-possession game. Despite a wind that howled through the Chanhassen High School field, EP kicker Cole Nelson drilled a 42-yard kick through the uprights to make it 17-7 Eagles.
“I was a little skeptical about the decision,” Fazi said. “But he’s a great kicker and I have confidence in him.”
Trailing by two scores with about four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Farmington could not find their footing to get back in the game. That came thanks in part to the EP defense making life miserable for Farmington quarterback Connor Weed. He was sacked twice on the Tigers’ final drive.
“Our defense is the best in the state,” Fazi said. “They have our backs for every mistake we might make on offense.”
With the win, the Eagles face Maple Grove at U.S. Bank Stadium for the Class 6A semifinals. The two teams did not meet during the 2021 regular season and have not met since Sept. 28, 2018 when the Eagles won 38-14.
The Crimson, like EP, was one of the four No. 1 seeds in this year’s Class 6A state tournament. Maple Grove holds a 10-1 record with their only loss to Centennial 21-7 earlier this season. Both teams head to U.S. Bank Stadium after not even getting a shot at a 2020 state championship due to COVID-19.
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