Eden Prairie running back Andrew Larson is pursued by a host of Wayzata tacklers. Photo by Marlin Levison, Star Tribune
Eden Prairie running back Andrew Larson scored the lone touchdown in Friday's state Class 5A championship game with 2:45 remaining. Photo by Marlin Levison, Star Tribune
From a regular-season zero to postseason heroes.
Eden Prairie's offense completed its journey on Friday against No. 1 Wayzata in the Class 5A state tournament championship game at the Metrodome. Shut out in the regular-season finale by Wayzata, Eden Prairie scored the only touchdown in a 13-3 victory against the defending champion Trojans.
With the victory, No. 4 Eden Prairie (12-1) won its seventh big-school state title since 1996. Wayzata (12-1) was aiming for its fourth title. Friday marked the eighth consecutive season at least one of these two teams played in the title game.
Leading 6-3 in the fourth quarter, the Eagles executed a reverse flea-flicker on fourth-and-14. Jake Woodring hauled in a Grant Schaeffer pass and reached the Wayzata 5-yard line. A few plays later, Andrew Larson darted in from 10 yards out, giving Eden Prairie a 10-point lead with 2:45 to play.
"Coach [Mike] Grant -- he's not too much of a risk-taker," Larson said. "But when we need to, he'll take a risk."
Said Grant: "I kept saying to our coaches, 'You've got to play to win; you can't just be conservative.' "
Held to 109 total yards in its 9-0 regular-season loss, Eden Prairie doubled its production Friday with 240 yards. Larson ran 33 times for 124 yards and the game's only touchdown, and Schaeffer completed seven of 10 passes for 62 yards.
The better performance, Larson said, was something the offense owed the team.
"Our defense is so phenomenal," Larson said. "They shut down every team so it's kind of pressure on the offense to match the defense. It was kind of like the section final against Minnetonka; we waited for the offense to click and that's what made the game."
Larson scored a fourth-quarter touchdown that beat the Skippers 6-3 earlier this month. Friday's rematch with Wayzata was also dominated by defense. Halfway through the fourth quarter, the score was Eden Prairie kicker Jake Ibach 6, Wayzata kicker Tyler Scott 3.
All told this season, the teams mustered one combined touchdown in eight quarters .
Eden Prairie intercepted Wayzata quarterback Nick Martin three times, one resulting in the game's most disputed play. Eden Prairie's Matt Knoff and Wayzata's Jeff Borchardt went up and battled for the ball as they landed at the Eagles 2. The referees awarded Knoff the interception.
Wayzata's best drive ended with Scott's fourth-quarter field goal, but the game would quickly turn.
Though the ensuing drive ended with a punt, the Eagles defense made a huge play. Defensive end Melvin De-Souza tracked down speedy Wayzata running back Erik Roti in the flat on a swing pass, stripped the ball and recovered at the Trojans 26.
"Our defense got us here, and we knew they'd keep us in the game," Schaeffer said. "We had to get that last drive to win, and we had confidence we could do it."
-- David La Vaque, Star Tribune staff writer
In a small way, Eden Prairie has Chuck Norris to thank for its Class 5A state championship game victory Friday.
Well, his name at least.
With less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles were clinging to a 6-3
lead and facing fourth-and-14 at the Wayzata 30-yard line. Too far to attempt a field goal. Too close for a punt.
So the Eagles pulled out a play they had put in just this week but has been in the playbook since 1996.
The Blue Chuck Norris.
The play was a reverse flea-flicker in which running back Andrew Larson handed the ball to receiver RaShawn Fountain, who pitched the ball back to quarterback Grant Schaeffer.
Schaeffer, under duress from the Wayzata defense, lobbed the ball to running back Jake Woodring, who caught it at the Wayzata 15 and was hauled down at the 5-yard line.
First down, Eden Prairie.
“That ball seemed like it was up there for hours,” Woodring said. “It would have been nice to try to score on that, but I was just focusing on catching it.”
Officially, it’s called the Slot Right 99 Reverse Blue Chuck Norris, but for Eden Prairie, call it a resounding success and a play that will live in Eagles’ lore for a good long time.
“We show our players all of the great plays that we’ve had in the years we’ve won [the championship],” said Eagles coach Mike Grant. “We’ll show that play for as long as I’m coach here.”
So significant was the play that the ripple effect two plays later turned out to be just as important.
After a 5-yard false-start penalty, the Eagles ran right, with Larson taking another pitch and heading straight at Fountain, who had doubled back again.
The instinctive Wayzata defense bit as two players keyed on Fountain. But this time Larson held on to the ball, made one cut and sprinted into the end zone for the game’s only touchdown.
“We totally thought that might happen,” Larson said. “We anticipated they would go for RaShawn and I saw the cutback and went for it.
''That has to be my favorite play in my years here. To score the game-winning touchdown in the Prep Bowl? How does it get any better than that?”
-- Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune staff writer
Wayzata running back Antonio Ford (25) makes a move on the Eden Prairie defense. Photo by Marlin Levison, Star Tribune
Andrew Larson scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining to help propel Eden Prairie past Wayzata 13-3 on Friday, Nov. 25, in the state Class 5A championship at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
A trick play on fourth-and-14 helped set up Larson’s run and allow the Eagles (12-1) to knock off the defending champion and previously unbeaten Trojans (12-1).
Eden Prairie's deception started with quarterback Grant Schaeffer pitching to running back Andrew Larson, who shoveled the ball to wide receiver RaShawn Fountain, who pitched the ball back to Schaeffer.
The left-handed Shaeffer quickly unloaded a pass to running back Jake Woodring, who was open near the end zone and reached the 5-yard line before being tackled. After a false start penalty on Eden Prairie, Larson, a senior who rushed for 124 yards on 33 carries, scored on the next play from scrimmage.
Jake Ibach, who kicked a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 35-yarder in the third, and Eden Prairie’s defense, led by senior Melvin De-Souza, assumed center stage until the wild and whacky finish.
De-Souza had team-high eight tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles. His fumble recovery in the backfield late in the fourth quarter set up the Eagles’ lone touchdown.
Antonio Ford had 14 carries for 78 yards to lead Wayzata, which beat Eden Prairie 9-0 during the regular season.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Football Hub staff
1. Melvin De-Souza, Eden Prairie
A 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior defensive end, De-Souza set up the game’s lone touchdown late in the fourth quarter when he made a tackle in the Wayzata backfield that forced a fumble. He completed the play by pouncing on the ball. De-Souza finished with a team-high eight tackles, including a sack, and forced two fumbles.
2. Andrew Larson, Eden Prairie
Larson, a 5-10, 195-pound senior running back, parlayed his power, elusiveness and stamina into a 33-carry, 129-yard performance that included the game’s lone touchdown.
3. Jake Ibach, Eden Prairie
The senior booted two field goals, and neither of them were gimmies (especially for high schoolers playing in a state championship game), as they spanned 36 and 35 yards.
-- Loren Nelson, MN Football Hub staff