Game recap: Eden Prairie
Sometimes you wish there was a reset button in a football game…
The Eden Prairie Eagles scored two touchdowns in the first five minutes and the Prior Lake Lakers could not catch up as the second-ranked Eagles rumbled to a 35-7 win Nov. 6 at Dan Patch Stadium.
The Eagles (5-0 Overall, 5-0 Metro West) now sit atop the Metro West Sub-district along with fellow unbeaten STMA, while the Lakers (2-3 Overall, 2-2 Metro West) are now tied for third in the standings with Shakopee.
Eden Prairie received the opening kickoff and the Eagles wasted little time reminding everyone why they are a perennial power in the state. On the second play from scrimmage, running back/linebacker Leif Benson took an inside handoff from Quarterback David Warren-Mitchell on a counter run play and raced through the middle of the Laker defense for a 55 yard run into the Prior Lake red zone. EP scored on a 1-yard run by fullback Javon Palmer-Pruitt a few plays later to take a 7-0 lead.
Following the ensuing kickoff, a false-start penalty and a pair of run plays, Prior Lake faced a third-and-9 at their own 21-yard line. Laker quarterback Kyle Haas dropped back to pass and threw the ball to his left toward receiver/running back Joey Krouse on a corner route but Eden Prairie’s safety read the play perfectly and stepped in front of Krouse to intercept the ball and give the Eagles possession deep in Laker territory.
Eden Prairie scored two plays later on a 13-yard touchdown run by Warren-Mitchell, who ran a bootleg and scampered into the end zone to make the score 14-0 Eagles with 7:06 to go in the first quarter.
The teams traded punts on the next two possessions.
The Lakers caught a break on the second of those possessions when Warren-Mitchell caught his own batted pass on a third down and Prior Lake tackled him for a big loss, giving the Lakers good field position in Eagles territory after the ensuing punt.
A personal foul by the Eagles on a late hit out of bounds on running back Tyler Shaver on the first play of the drive advanced the ball just outside the red zone.
A 12-yard run by Krouse got the ball inside the 10 and then Shaver finished the drive with a 2-yard touchdown a few plays later to give the Lakers what turned out to be their only score of the game. Kicker Josh Keller’s extra point cut the Eden Prairie lead to 14-7 with 9:54 to go until halftime.
The teams again traded stops on the next two possessions.
On the first two plays of the next drive, running back Johnny Hartle broke off a 15-yard run on a toss play and then Benson rumbled for a 28-yard run deep into Laker territory on the same counter play as the opening drive. Palmer-Pruitt capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run a few plays later to extend the Eden Prairie lead to 21-7 with 1:46 to go until halftime.
The Lakers did their best to be aggressive before halftime, advancing the ball as far as the EP 27-yard line thanks to a key scramble by Haas and completions to Shaver and receiver Kyle McCullough but Haas’ pass to the end zone fell incomplete as the clock ran out in the first half.
Prior Lake went three-and-out to start the second half and a couple of sacks gave EP a short field, starting their first drive of the second half at the Prior Lake 39-yard line.
The Eagles then went to their ground game and methodically moved the ball down the field, capping the drive with a Warren-Mitchell rushing touchdown on another bootleg to make the score 28-7 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
The Lakers moved the ball into EP territory on the next drive but ultimately had to punt after Haas was sacked on a third-down near midfield.
Eden Prairie then put the game away on the next drive at the start of the fourth quarter. With the Eagles facing a third-and-14 at the 31-yard, it looked like the Lakers made a stop on an incomplete pass toward receiver Cade Kramer but the officials called a penalty for pass interference and a first down. Hartle scored on a 3-yard touchdown run later in the drive to effectively end the game and reach what would be the final score of 35-7.
Statistically, Haas completed 4 of 11 passes for 41 yards and an interception.
Shaver was the leading rusher with 13 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown. Krouse had seven carries for 35 yards and running back Cam Miller had 10 carries for 28 yards.
McCullough was the leading receiver with two catches for 23 yards.
Safety Caleb Rios led the Lakers in tackles with 11 while linebacker Tanner Newlin had seven.
Next up: Minnetonka
There will be a pair of familiar faces to Laker fans on the opposing sideline when Prior Lake travels to Minnetonka High School to take on the Skippers on Wednesday Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.
The Skippers (1-4 Overall, 0-4 Metro West) are in their first season under head coach Mark Esch, who served as Prior Lake’s offensive coordinator in 2018 before leaving to take an assistant coach position at Minnetonka in 2019 and was ultimately elevated to head coach this past offseason after longtime Skipper head coach Dave Nelson retired.
Prior to his time with the Lakers, Esch, who is known for coaching a spread-style offense, was the head coach at Mankato West from 2006 to 2016, where he took the Scarlets to nine state tournaments and won two state championships in 2008 and 2014.
Esch won’t be the only recognizable face on the Skipper sideline either. Tom Menke, a Prior Lake alum and longtime assistant on Prior Lake coach Matt Gegenheimer’s staff, now leads the Skipper defense as Minnetonka’s defensive coordinator. Menke was Prior Lake’s defensive coordinator as recently as 2018 before leaving PL to take an assistant coaching position at St. Olaf College in 2019. Menke then joined Esch’s staff at Minnetonka this past offseason.
Minnetonka has traditionally been a strong program in Class 6A but they have had their struggles so far this season. The Skippers lost their season opener to Eden Prairie 34-7 before rebounding with a 7-3 win over Mounds View in Week 2. Minnetonka has since lost their last three games: 13-7 to Shakopee, 19-3 to Wayzata and 14-13 last week to Edina, a game in which the Skippers led 13-0 with nine minutes left and gave up the game-winning touchdown in the final minute.
Quarterback Will Martin leads the Skipper passing attack, completing 58 of 114 passes so far this season for 634 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions.
Minnetonka has used a few different running backs this season. William Richman has 39 carries for 131 yards and Ben Tolkinen has 33 carries for 132 yards.
The Skippers have a pair of primary receivers: Jaxen Iverson and Tyler Lein. Iverson has 25 catches for 221 yards this season while Lein has 18 catches for 266 yards and a touchdown.
Playoff seeding will take place this Thursday Nov. 12 following the completion of the regular season. The teams will be seeded, traditionally by coaches vote, within each of the four 6A sections. The teams will then be placed into one of four random brackets as selected by the MSHSL based on how they were seeded in their respective sections. The MSHSL is likely to share the finalized bracket sometime on Thursday, traditionally late morning. Be sure to check social media for updates and information at that time. The first round will take place on Tuesday Nov. 17 at a time and location TBD.
Here is the link to playoff information currently listed on the MSHSL website: https://www.mshsl.org/sites/default/files/2020-10/football-section-guidance-and-information.pdf
Kickoff at Minnetonka on Wednesday is scheduled for 7pm.
Due to MDH, MDE and MSHSL restrictions, only 250 people will be allowed into the stadium.
Since it is an away game, Minnetonka will be providing the stream this week. Per @TonkaFB on Twitter, the stream will be live on YouTube this week at the following link: https://t.co/eZu5Xp8RsT?amp=1
Follow @plhsfootball, @pl4lstreaming and @pllakers on Twitter for updates and links to the streams throughout the season.
Be sure to check back next week for a recap of the Minnetonka game as well as a preview of the first-round playoff matchup.
Taylor Smith can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @taysmith2013.
Photo by Taylor Smith