If you believe in omens – and maybe the overconfidence of talented and hardworking cheerleaders – the tipping point in Wayzata’s 9-0 football victory over Eden Prairie on Wednesday night might have come a few minutes before kickoff between the top-ranked teams in Class 5A.
The Eden Prairie cheer squad had made a wonderfully creative giant paper banner for the Eagles to bust through as they took the field. It had the words “Edina” and “Hopkins” and “Tonka” with X’s through them, signifying the Lake Conference teams that Eden Prairie had already defeated. “Wayzata – You’re Next” was written underneath the words “Lake Conference Champs?”
Major kudos to the cheerleaders – who are almost always among the brightest students -- for the proper use of “you’re” … how often do we see “your” and “you’re” used incorrectly? But not by these super-smart, grammar-skilled teens. A key component of that sign, as things turned out on the field, was the question mark. And the cheerleaders had minor issues on two fronts: proper placement of their wonderful sign and judging the strength of the wind.
Two poles were taped to the edges of the sign, requiring cheerleaders to stand on their colleagues’ shoulders to hold the big thing up. But when the sign was lifted off the ground – right in front of the Wayzata student section – the words faced the Wayzata side of the field instead of the Eden Prairie side. Boos? Yes, a few. The cheerleaders turned it around and were waiting for their boys to come charging through it when a wind gust came charging through it. Riiiiiiip. Right down the middle..
The game itself? Great, great football … if you believe in the greatness of defense and punters having to ice their legs afterward. Wayzata played a whale of a defensive game; Eden Prairie missed a 52-yard field goal on the opening drive, ended its final possession with a failed fourth-down play, and in between were eight Eagle punts.
Wayzata’s points came on three short field goals by Tyler Scott. The score was 6-0 at halftime and Wayzata coach Brad Anderson didn’t expect the shutout to continue.
“You’re not going to shut them out,” Anderson said, “so I was thinking if you can hold them to 14, can we get three scores? I thought we played a picture-perfect first half and we’re up 6-zip and you’re going, ‘Gosh, one play and we’re down.’ I felt good about how we were playing but I also realized we left some points off the board and I never thought we’d shut them out. I told our coaches on the sidelines, ‘I think we’re going to have to get two scores in the second half because I think they’ll get a couple.’”
Wrong, coach. The big donut on the scoreboard stayed there. The pressing postgame question, then, was this: When was the last time Eden Prairie was held scoreless? I still don’t have an answer, so if anyone knows, uh, let me know, will ya?
Wayzata was simply too fast on its feet for the Eagles, on both sides of the ball. Eden Prairie has mastodons in the line, but Wayzata’s quick-steppers went around them. Eagles running back Andrew Larson never broke a lengthy run, as has been customary this autumn. Larson has a knee issue but before the game coach Mike Grant (right) said his running back was at 90 percent health.
There may have been questions about Wayzata’s defense in the wake of former defensive coordinator Matt Lombardi leaving to become head coach at Maple Grove this year. He was one of the highest-profile assistants around, based on the defense Wayzata has played in recent years. But team is always bigger than any person, whether it be player or coach, and the Trojans defense I saw last night was the best I have seen in many years of watching Wayzata football.
To me, the key plays in the game came on successive drives in the third quarter. Trailing 6-0, Eden Prairie connected on a 37-yard pass that was wiped out by a penalty. The Eagles punted and the defense was hoping to come away with good field position for the offense. Wayzata lined up for a fourth-and-one play at its own 43 … and the Eagles were offsides. The Trojans punted a few plays later, but the ball was downed at the 10 and EP was in another in a long series of holes.
Wayzata won the Lake Conference title, both teams are seeded No. 1 in their respective 5A sections and they could meet once more in the Prep Bowl. But … let’s look ahead a little further than the last weekend in November.
A year from now Class 6A – the so-called Super Class – will debut. Thirty-two teams split into four sections, with Wayzata and Eden Prairie in the same section. When I asked Anderson about that, he said, “The wisdom that be did that. I have no comment on that because I don’t want to get into trouble.”
He was referring to the added class in the sense that that he would rather see a more direct approach to solving scheduling problems. But the 6A playoffs will add one new twist: After first-round section games, the four winning teams from each section will be matched with a different section for crossover games, with the highest seed from one section playing the lowest seed from the other section.
What does this mean? For one, it means that four teams from the same section could reach the state quarterfinals. It also means that Wayzata and Eden Prairie could see each other in the 2012 Prep Bowl.
Which gives the cheerleaders plenty of time to prepare. And as always, they’ll do a great job.
--To see a photo gallery and video from the Wayzata-Eden Prairie game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 53
*Miles John has driven: 4,044
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn