It would have been hard for the Eden Prairie Eagles to play a better first half. In possibly the quickest first half in the 2018 season, the Eagles had two possessions and scored two touchdowns. The defense gave up some yards, but in three possessions they were three for three on fourth down conversions. It all added up to a 21-0 shutout over the Edina Hornets.
The Hornets took the opening kickoff and moved deep into Eagles’ territory. They faced with a fourth and six from the 28. Edina ran a sprint out with the quarterback, but Eden Prairie defensive end Felipe Izumi and defensive tackle Kyle Akins were not fooled. The duo dropped the quarterback for a five-yard loss and gave the ball to their offense.
The Eagles’ first drive of the game used a combination of quarterback Cole Kramer‘s precision underneath passing and effective running between the tackles. In the red zone, Kramer used the play action pass to get the Eagles on the board. After the fake, he rolled to his left and hit tight end Matt Sherman on an out route for the touchdown.
“Our line was getting a great push, and the running backs were running hard,” Kramer said. “That set us up for the pass, and we were going.”
“We just smashed them in the mouth,” offensive lineman Bronson Warner said. “We had to come out hard in the beginning, and that is what we did.”
On Edina’s second possession, the Hornets were driving again but again faced a fourth down from the 28-yard line. Edina looked like they were going to pick up the first down on a slant, but just as the ball got to the receiver, defensive back Ben Sather laid a huge hit on the receiver causing the incompletion.
“We are not big,” Akins said, “but we do a lot of stunts, and we try to use our speed.”
The Eagles used a familiar formula on their second drive of the game – short, accurate throws by Kramer and power running between the tackles. On a third and six, running back Nick Krueger tried to go up the middle, was stuffed, but was able to bounce to the outside to pick up the first down and keep the drive alive. Later in the drive, running back Colin Penn took a pitch, broke a tackle in the backfield and scored on a five-yard touchdown run.
“I made the cornerback miss,” Penn said, “and the free safety came over, so I just dove over the goal line and got the touchdown.”
Edina threatened again late in the first half but was facing fourth and long again. The quarterback overthrew his receiver, and cornerback J.D. Cowan intercepted the pass.
Trailing 14-0, the Hornets dominated the third quarter but didn’t score any points. After forcing Eden Prairie into their first punt of the game, the Hornets’ offense was in the red zone. The Eagles’ defense did what it did all night – it bent but didn’t break. The Hornets missed on a pass to the outside and Cowan – who was making his first start at corner and until this week was a second-team receiver – collected his second interception.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Hornets were on the move again. They were in a familiar place – deep in Eagles’ territory, but facing another fourth down. They tried to throw a fade into the end zone, and Cowan was right there again. He didn’t come up with his third interception, but knocked away the pass to give the ball to the offense.
“The defense played really good today,” Akins said. “In a lot of our other games, we made big mistakes and gave up some big plays. Today we didn’t give up many big plays.”
The Eagles offense had not done anything since the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, they got things going again. They converted a fourth and one during a vintage EP clock killing, game-clinching drive. Izumi would cap off the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run with under two minutes to play.
The 21-0 victory sent the Eagles into the playoffs with a 7-1 record. The Hornets ended the regular season with a record of 6-2.