The Eden Prairie coaching staff took up temporary residence in a large lobby on the north end of Wayzata High School’s massive campus on Friday night.
The Eagles football game with the host Trojans had been suspended for well over an hour after the skies had opened and ushered in severe weather at approximately 7:35 p.m. The storm arrived with thunder, lightning and heavy rain on the coattails of 60-mph winds, sending players, coaches, students and fans running for cover.
Athletic directors from both schools conferred with officials, as everyone studied radar on their mobile devices to track the storm. As the delay progressed, it was eventually decided play would resume at 10 p.m.
Eagles head coach Mike Grant, sitting on a bench in the Wayzata lobby, was asked what to do with an entire team in a holding pattern, waiting for more than 2 1/2 hours to finish a football game.
“Don’t let them go to sleep,” he quipped. “We’re getting snacks and stuff. Parents are running to get food. But I don’t know. Never had this long of a delay.”
The storm interrupted a strong Eagles performance with 8:04 remaining in the second quarter. The Eagles led 15-0 before the stadium was vacated.
Part 1: Friday night
During a scoreless first quarter, Wayzata went to the air on their second offensive series of the game. Eden Prairie junior defensive back Max Kukla picked off a tipped pass by Trojans quarterback Xavier Kaesviha. Kukla covered 42 yards on the return to the Wayzata 21-yard line.
The offense wasted no time to convert on the interception. Five plays later, senior fullback Dominic Heim bulldozed his way in from the Wayzata 10-yard line.
With senior Luca Ratkovich’s point-after, the Eagles took an early 7-0 lead.
“We started off pretty good,” senior running back Hawken Hedlund said. “The second drive, our offense picked it up and scored right away, which kind of gave us momentum.”
The Eagles forced Wayzata to punt on a 4th and 17 on the following series. After an errant snap, the Eagles forced a safety in the Trojans’ end zone for a 9-0 lead.
The Eagles defense was unyielding, holding Wayzata to just one net rushing yard in the game.
“We’re just able to shed their blocks. We’re reading them really well,” senior linebacker Will Diana said. “Everyone did their job, just played a perfect football game. So that’s all you can ask for.”
Following the safety on the Wayzata punt, senior Terae Dunn returned the kickoff 30 yards to the Eden Prairie 45-yard line. The Eagles took full advantage on the ensuing offensive series.
Hedlund capped off a 10-play, 55-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run and a 15-0 Eden Prairie lead with 8:32 remaining in the second quarter.
“It was a wing reverse. So our running back handed it off to me in the backfield,” Hedlund said. “And our quarterback David Ivey had a nice block, which kind of sealed the edge and there was one (Wayzata defender) who had to contain me inside. So when I cut it up, there was really nobody there to dive in.”
Wayzata ran one play on the next series before play was suspended.
Lighting strikes grew more frequent in the skies to the north of the stadium in the approaching storm. The entire area was cleared in a matter of minutes just ahead of the storm’s arrival as strong winds and a hard-driving rain swept through the campus.
Players, coaches and officials waited inside Wayzata High School, as did students and spectators. Many cars left the parking lot as the wait to resume play continued.
Officials and coaches determined play would resume at 10 p.m. But lighting persisted in the area around the campus, accompanied by continued rain. It was decided around 9:40 p.m. that the game would be postponed and resumed on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Part 2: Saturday morning
“It’s a weird situation,” Grant said on Saturday. “Obviously we came out well early yesterday. But then we also came out really well here today. So, we were very happy with our kids’ efforts both days.”
Sunny skies welcomed the players back on Saturday morning as play resumed where it had left off Friday, with 8:04 remaining in the second quarter and Wayzata with the ball on their 22-yard line.
Senior quarterback David Ivey recalled the Eagles’ game against Shakopee last season. The game wasn’t suspended due to weather, but because of safety concerns at Eden Prairie High School. It was moved to the following day.
“We did it last year with that game that got canceled,” he recalled. “And so we knew what to expect and we’ve got great leaders and a great coach who kept the energy up and got us ready to play the second half here.”
Ivey completed five of ten passes for 31 yards and rushed eight times for 49 yards.
Junior running back Jeremy Fredericks led the Eagles with 72 yards on 14 carries as well as a touchdown to resume the scoring in the second quarter on Saturday.
“I think we got out of the gate even better today,” Ivey said on Saturday. “Last year when we played on Saturday, we lost. We obviously didn’t want that to happen again. So we brought even more energy and worked out well.”
Senior running back Liam Berndt scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter, and Ratkovich booted a 25-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 32-0 lead.
Defensively, the Eagles held Wayzata to just 96 total yards in a dominating performance. Seniors Heim and Shaun Peterson, along with junior Vaugn Feely, led Eden Prairie with five tackles each.
Peterson came away with an interception just before halftime on Saturday, while Dunn finished off the Eden Prairie scoring with a 3-yard interception return for a pick-six in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense played well,” Grant said. “They were well-prepared to take the run away and that’s what our expectations are. We have really good players up there and we just expect them to play great.”
Eden Prairie led 39-0 before Wayzata scored a late touchdown.
The top-ranked Eagles improved to 5-0 with a 39-7 victory. They will travel to third-ranked Minnetonka on Thursday for a showdown between two unbeaten teams.
By finishing their game with Wayzata on Saturday and facing the Skippers on Thursday, the Eagles will have two fewer days of preparation than they’re accustomed to.
But that shouldn’t be a factor, according to the head coach.
“Doesn’t matter at all,” Grant said. “We’d be watching films this morning and wouldn’t even be practicing about Minnetonka, we’ll get it done in three.”
At the time of this publication, Thursday’s forecast calls for a high of 64 degrees under clear skies.
Editor’s note: EPLN photographer Rick Olson contributed to this story.
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