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Will Rains, Eden Prairie High School (Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune)

Will Rains burst onto the scene two years ago as a punishing running back for Eastview. He caught the attention of recruiters by barreling over defenders for more than 1,500 yards while leading the Lightning to the Class 6A state tournament.

Then a nicked-up junior season, most notably an injured ankle, left the stocky ball carrier reeling. He still rushed for nearly 1,400 yards and had the Lightning back in the state tournament. But the previous season’s explosiveness was missing.

He is trying to rejuvenate a once-promising future with a change of scenery. Rains has left the Lightning program to be the featured back at perennial power Eden Prairie, just like he was at Eastview. The Eagles have won the past three big-school state championships. Under longtime successful coach Mike Grant, they have earned the distinction as the state’s highest-profile team on a national basis.

“It was a very hard decision,” said Rains, who scored more than 35 touchdowns during his career with the Lightning. “Eden Prairie has a very good program. They are very confident in what they do. It’s a new opportunity for me to get ready for college.”

The 5-foot-10, 207-pound Rains, primarily a north-south runner, has been working hard on his lateral quickness.

“I’m at my best running downhill,” Rains said. “I have good vision, and see the field very well.”

Rains’ role model is Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. But as Rains said, “I’m not like him at all.”

He would like nothing better than an opportunity to play in Division I, ideally in the Big Ten Conference. An outstanding senior season at his new school could significantly enhance his chances.

“I’ve always wanted to make it to the next level,” Rains said.

RON HAGGSTROM

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