Blink and you might miss it.
Time flies when you’re winning football games. And Eden Prairie head coach Mike Grant knows all too well how quickly the season can pass by.
“We’re only a couple games away from being halfway through the season, and it goes so fast,” he said after his Eagles team took down Edina Friday night at Aerie Stadium in Eden Prairie.
“So we’ve got to enjoy this and start getting ready tomorrow for Prior Lake,” he said, already thinking about the Eagles’ next game.
The season has been fast and furious.
Eden Prairie, ranked No. 1 in the Star Tribune’s Metro Top 10 football rankings, followed their resounding 48-7 trouncing of Buffalo in the season opener with a hard-fought 36-14 victory over a stubborn Hornets squad.
“We knew Edina is a good team,” Grant said. “They’ve got really good skilled players. So we had to play well defensively.”
Edina was coming off a 34-7 over Eagan last week and brought a high-powered passing game to Eden Prairie with their slinging sophomore quarterback Mason West.
While the Hornets had a hot hand in the passing game, this contest was settled on the ground. The Eagles finished with 318 yards rushing on 31 carries for an average of 5.7 yards-per-carry.
Near the end of a scoreless first quarter, Eagles senior quarterback David Ivey gave the offense a spark, finding senior wide receiver Joshua Kelly for 32 yards and a first down on the Edina 12-yard-line.
“We noticed the safety was really coming down hard,” Kelly said. “So we threw in a little trick, a little read-option.”
As the second quarter began, the Eagles capped off their 10-play, 60-yard drive with senior Dominic Heim’s 2-yard plunge for a touchdown.
Edina jumped offsides during Luca Ratkovich’s extra point attempt, so the Eagles went for two with better field position. Heim carried it across again and Eden Prairie took an 8-0 lead.
“I just go out there on Eagle unit and follow my guard,” Heim said. “The O-line blocks great for me, so that’s all I can ask for. I just follow my guard and run as hard as I can.”
Heim is the heart of the Eagles linebacking corps, but also doubles as a running back in short-yardage situations. He finished the night with seven carries for 21 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought our backs ran hard again,” Grant said of the Eagles running game. “I thought we played well offensively. We really moved the ball against them.”
Eden Prairie churned out yardage behind their skilled and experienced offensive line.
Junior running back Jeremy Frederic led all rushers with 96 yards on 16 carries. Senior running back Liam Berndt had eight carries for 78 yards and senior Hawken Hedlund picked up 53 yards on his eight carries.
“We came into this game knowing it would be a tough fight,” Berndt said. “And we all knew we had to run hard, or it wouldn’t go well for us.”
Berndt’s 8-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds left in the first half put the finishing touches on a marathon 15-play drive that covered 73 yards.
The Eagles headed into intermission with a 15-0 lead.
“Everyone works together, it wasn’t just me,” Berndt said. “The O-line worked their butts off this week. And I mean, it wasn’t me, it was the whole O-line.”
Edina found the scoreboard to start the third quarter. West connected with senior wide receiver Sonny Villegas for a 9-yard scoring strike to give the Hornets new life.
Eagles quarterback David Ivey countered on the next series with a 6-yard run to cap off an 8-play, 72 yard drive, shifting momentum back to Eden Prairie and taking a 22-7 lead with 2:57 remaining in the third quarter.
West would finish 9-30 passing for 180 yards and two touchdowns. But a stubborn Eagles defense – playing for the second straight week without standout defensive tackle, senior Mo Saine – maintained a “bend but don’t break” mentality throughout the second half.
Hedlund, playing both ways for the Eagles, led with eight tackles, four of them solo, as well as two third-down stops in the game.
Backing up Hedlund was senior Terae Dunn, junior Manuel Hurtado and senior captain Shaun Peterson, each with four tackles.
“It’s just a lot of fun when all the boys come together and just fly after the ball,” Peterson said. “And then, of course, being positive and turnovers is always huge for us and eliminating the big plays. It’s always fun to celebrate after we make those big interceptions in the second half.”
“Big” was an understatement when it pertained to turnovers.
Eden Prairie ended Edina’s final three drives of the game with three interceptions.
The first came from junior defensive back Max Kukla on the Hornets’ first series of the fourth quarter.
Kukla’s pick helped set up Heim’s second touchdown of the night, a 1-yard plunge which, along with Ratkovich’s kick, gave Eden Prairie a 29-14 lead with 6:01 remaining in the game.
Edina got the ball back with 4:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. After an incomplete pass on first down, West was intercepted again — this time by Eagles junior defensive back Vaughn Feely at midfield.
Feely raced 48 yards for the pick six. Senior Morgan Koch’s PAT was good, giving the Eagles a commanding 36-14 lead, all but turning out the lights on Week 2.
On their next offensive series, Edina reached the Eden Prairie 28-yard-line before junior linebacker James Anderson picked off West to complete the trifecta of interceptions for the Eagles.
“We work against the wide receivers every day, just running 7-on-7, and that really helps us prepare,” Peterson said. “We have a scout team that runs pretty much Edina’s exact tendencies and plays and that helps us to go out there and perform and do what we can.”
With 2:27 remaining, there was nothing left to do but run out the clock for the 36-14 win and look ahead to next week’s matchup at Prior Lake.
“We’re excited to be 2-0,” Grant said before being asked about the Eagles’ next opponent.
“I’ve just seen a little bit (of Prior Lake),” he said. “I know they’ve got a couple of D1 guys on the line. They can run about 25 different formations. So they’re gonna be good.”
Prior Lake is coming off a stinging loss to rival Shakopee, whom the Eagles will face in two weeks.
So as the season races on, the competition only heats up.
“We don’t play a bad team now,” Grant said. “Every team is a Top-10 team. So they’ll be right there.”
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