Running and defense. It’s a formula that’s worked for Eden Prairie during their extended run of success, and it was on display once again in the Class 6A state football championship game Friday night at the Metrodome. Just like they did in dispatching Lakeville North in last year’s title game and against Wayzata in 2011, the physical Eagles came up with big stops on defense and punishing runs on offense to defeat Rosemount 28-7 and win their third straight state championship.
While the running game ground out the victory for Eden Prairie, it was the passing game that got things going for the Eagles. On their first possession of the game, quarterback Ryan Connelly found Charlie Venable on a short pass that turned into a touchdown when Venable picked up a block and motored down the sideline for a 54-yard score. Connelly then picked up his second long touchdown pass later that quarter, a perfectly-thrown long ball into the waiting arms of Anthony Anderson for a 51-yard score that gave Eden Prairie a 14-0 lead.
Rosemount answered back on their next drive. Tyrek Cross capped off a 14 play, 77 yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to bring the Irish within seven and to send their large contingent of fans into a frenzy. That frenzy was short-lived, however, as Eden Prairie's Anthony Anderson finished off a 65-yard drive with a powerful 15-yard touchdown run to make the score 21-7.
While the offense provided the fireworks in the first half, the Eagles defense preserved the victory in the second. Rosemount took the second-half kickoff and drove the ball down inside the Eden Prairie 5, only to have the Eagles defense stop them for no gain on third down at the 3. Facing fourth-and-2 from the 3, Rosemount elected to go for the touchdown but was stuffed at the 4 when Matt Carson wrapped up Cross for a one-yard loss.
Eden Prairie’s defense would be tested again in a matter of moments as their offense was forced to punt after failing to pick up a first down. Rosemount took possession on the Eden Prairie 33 and drove down to the 13, but for the second time the Eagles defense stopped the Irish on fourth down to force the turnover.
After that second fourth-down stop, the Eagles offense put together a long drive of their own. Behind the running of Anthony Anderson and quarterback Ryan Connelly, the Eagles drove all the way down inside the Irish 5 before being stopped on a fourth-down conversion attempt of their own. Despite not scoring on the drive, the Eagles bled 7:35 off the clock; they also forced Rosemount to start their subsequent possession on their own 4 with just 5:30 remaining.
The poor field position did the Irish in, as quarterback Jackson Erdmann had a pass deflected at the line and right into the arms of Eden Prairie’s Matt Cheesman for the interception. The return was taken down to the 5, and two plays later Dan Fisher was in the end zone with a 1-yard touchdown run that wrapped up the scoring.
Anthony Anderson led the Eagles rushing attack with 165 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown; he also had a 51-yard touchdown reception to bring his rushing and receiving total to 216 yards for the game. Dan Fisher had 64 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown, helping contribute to Eden Prairie’s 285 yards of rushing offense. Ryan Connelly was 3-for-7 passing for 118 yards and two touchdowns. For the game, Eden Prairie racked up 403 yards of total offense against allowing just 157 yards to the Irish.
For Rosemount, quarterback Jackson Erdmann led the team in rushing with 63 yards on nine attempts. Erdmann also completed seven of 17 passes for 41 yards.
The championship is Eden Prairie’s ninth in school history, the most football championships of any school in the state. All of their titles have come since 1996 and they’re 9-1 in title games. For Rosemount, their runner-up finish was their second runner-up finish in the last four years, and their record in championship games is now 1-2.