Programs like Eden Prairie don’t lose a lot of games, and the Eagles certainly don’t lose many the way they did against Lakeville South a year ago.
But this is a new season, and senior defensive back Devin Jordan and his teammates entered play Friday night determined things would turn out differently this time around.
Jordan’s long interception return in the first quarter helped make that happen, setting the Eagles up for their first touchdown and a lead they would not relinquish en route to a 21-6 win over the Cougars at Eden Prairie High School.
“Last year, we got embarrassed,” said Jordan, whose team fell 42-7 at Lakeville South in 2021. “This year, we came out ready to go, and we played a great game.”
The loss snapped a 23-game winning streak for the defending Class 6A state champion Cougars (2-1), who entered play ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Class 6A state poll. The Eagles (3-0) entered play tied for No. 2.
“Lakeville South deserves everything they’ve gotten,” Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant said. “They’ve done a great job, and they’re a great team. We’re a championship program. They’re a championship program. And that’s what you saw tonight – two championship programs that played a tough, physical game.”
The Eagles’ defense certainly brought the physicality, holding a Cougars team that rushed for 343 yards in last week’s 34-0 win over Lakeville North to just 140 yards on the ground Friday.
Lakeville South finished with just 180 yards of total offense.
“Our defense tackled well and we had a great plan that our defensive coaches put in,” Grant said. “Our scout teams ran a lot of their offense against us this week, so we were ready for what they were going to run.”
And Jordan’s interception got things rolling.
It was part of a wild three-play sequence in which the Cougars recovered a fumbled snap and returned it to the Eden Prairie 26 before Jordan picked off the pass from senior quarterback Jacob Royse and returned the ball all the way back to the Lakeville South 4.
On the very next play, junior Dominic Heim scored on a 4-yard touchdown run, and the Eagles ran for the two-point conversion to jump on top 8-0.
“That was huge,” said Eden Prairie senior quarterback Nick Fazi, who finished 4 of 5 passing for 103 yards and a touchdown. “Our team always has each other’s backs. Our defense is incredible.
They came up with that play and put us back in the game.
“From there, we were clicking on all cylinders.”
The Eagles struck again early in the second quarter when Fazi connected with classmate Michael Gross on an 85-yard touchdown pass. This time, the two-point conversion failed, but the Eagles led 14-0 with 10:02 to play in the first half.
Lakeville South sprung back to life on its next possession, scoring on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Royse to junior Jay Winters on 4th-and-6. But the extra point was blocked, and the Eagles took a 14-6 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We just made too many mistakes,” Cougars coach Ben Burk said. “They’re a great team, and when you play a great team, you have to minimize your mistakes. We didn’t do that.”
Eden Prairie expanded its margin to 21-6 when senior Tyler Walden – who carried the ball 15 times for 68 yards – scored on a 1-yard run with 5:27 remaining in the third quarter. The Cougars threatened to score in the fourth, but a huge sack by the Eagles defense on 4th-and-long at the Eden Prairie 18 gave their team the ball back.
The Eagles then ran out the clock to seal the win.
Eden Prairie plays at Rosemount (3-0) next Thursday. Lakeville South returns to action next Friday at Farmington (1-2).
“A lot of people may have thought we weren’t going to win this game, but I think we all felt we could,” Jordan said. “We were ready for this one for sure.
“We all played our keys and I think everyone did a great job,” he continued. “Obviously, there were a few plays that snuck through, but overall we played great.”