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Eden Prairie quarterback Grant Shaeffer believed in his team’s ability to win; he just figured it would take place in overtime.
Teammate Vadell Johnson decided otherwise. He got his hand on Minnetonka’s potential game-tying 38-yard field goal attempt as time expired, preserving the Eagles’ 21-18 victory in Friday’s Class 6A state tournament quarterfinals at the Metrodome.
“He made an unbelievable play,” Shaeffer said. “That was a play I’ll never forget.”
Members of both teams agreed Eden Prairie’s 42-7 victory earlier this season meant little to the rematch. The Lake Conference rivals battled to the end of regulation and were within a blocked kick of prolonging the fight.
Eden Prairie struck first, taking a 7-0 first-quarter lead. Schaeffer, facing third-and-2 from the Minnetonka 17, dropped back and threw a post route to tight end Zach Hovey, who stayed a step ahead of the late Skippers defender into the end zone.
The defense provided Minnetonka’s tying score in the second quarter. An Eden Prairie fumble rolled straight toward DeAndre Singleton, who scooped up the ball in stride and dashed 47 yards for a touchdown and 7-7 tie.
The stalemate was short-lived. Schaeffer threw his second touchdown pass, a 10-yard strike to Bjorn Halvorson, to cap Eden Prairie’s ensuing possession and restore a 14-7 lead.
A 20-yard field goal from the Skippers’ Perry Smith cut Minnetonka’s deficit to 14-10 with eight seconds remaining in the first half.
Leading 14-10 to start the second half, Eden Prairie launched the game’s defining drive. The Eagles’ 16-play, 71-yard drive — all runs — lasted 7 minutes and 16 seconds. A 3-yard Shaeffer touchdown burst to the right built a 21-10 lead.
“My job’s easy,” Shaeffer said. “I’ll make a play when he calls my name, but if not, I’m happy to hand it off.”
Said coach Mike Grant: “We knew that was going to be big because it meant they’d have to score twice to beat us.”
It also showed the Eagles’ ability to run the ball effectively despite the absence of injured 215-pound fullback Dan Fisher.
“It was a classic Eden Prairie drive,” Shaeffer said. “That’s tough to come back from for a defense.”
But the Skippers, who endured a season that saw them go from 3-5 to state tournament entrants, did come back.
KeAndre Singleton’s touchdown run and Nick Rooney’s two-point conversion pass to Joe Martinson cut Eden Prairie’s lead to 21-18 in the fourth quarter.
The defense turned Eden Prairie over on downs and set up one final drive.
“We came here to win,” Skippers coach Dave Nelson said. “We didn’t, but our effort was great.”