If you think calling the defensive line the strength of your team is like naming beige as a favorite color, that’s on you.
Football is won in the trenches and this year’s Eden Prairie High School football team is expected to have some strong line play, on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve got depth on our D-line,” said Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant. “Ethan (Bley), Jaden (Swigart-Darey), Trey (Barry), Cheo (Trotter), Trent (Jones) and Justice (Sullivan) have played a lot of football. A couple might be more physical than the others, and some are better at getting after the quarterback, but that’s what you want. Depth keeps you fresh and let’s you play situations.”
Eden Prairie’s secondary features three seniors (Namdi Obiazor, Ben Sather and Israel Mondragon) and a junior (Ty Leske).
Juniors Andrew Steinman, Dan Knudsen and Tyler George will share linebacking duties.
“We can’t give up the big play,” said Grant. “Last year, that’s how we got beat. If we can make the other team line up and run another play, we’ll be OK.”
Grant then says he expects his Eagles to be difficult to run against.
“I hope teams throw at us,” he said. “If they do, it means we’re ahead.”
Like its defensive line, Eden Prairie’s offensive line is a strength.
“They’re not real deep,” said Grant, “but I think they can be pretty good.”
They can certainly be pretty big.
At its two tackles, Eden Prairie starts Sam Henry (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) and Forrest Scheels (6-7, 280).
“As juniors, there will be times they miss,” said Grant, “and that happened Saturday. There will also be times when they’re pancaking people. We haven’t had that since Robert Olson.”
At Saturday’s scrimmage against Eagan, Eden Prairie sputtered through its first three plays.
“On four of the next five,” said Grant, “we scored on long runs.”
Credit Eden Prairie’s tackles.
Logan Tyler (6-2, 320) and Anton Lang (5-11, 220) will line up at guard. Matthew Roberts, (5-11, 230) will play the middle (center).
Jack Hedlund and David Warren-Mitchell will both take snaps at quarterback.
“They both can play,” said Grant. “David is faster than Cole (Cole Kramer). When he’s in, it’s like having another running back.”
Hedlund made some nice throws during Saturday’s scrimmage, Warren-Mitchell did too.
Cade Kramer has the potential to be one of Eden Prairie’s best receivers. Mark Masters can catch the ball as well.
Tight end Will McGinley (6-5, 205) is both a big target and good blocker.
Johnny Hartle and Sam Thomas will share most of the carries.
“Hartle has a chance to be a special back,” added Grant.
Lastly, Eden Prairie has a special special teams player in Connor Reynolds.
“He’s the best punter we’ve had in 15 years,” said Grant. “He kicks at a college level. The other day, he had a punt that looked like a pro kick.”
Reynolds will kickoff as well.
Like always, Eden Prairie plays one of the most difficult schedules in the state.
“With Woodbury, Minnetonka, Wayzata and Prior Lake, we have four great Friday home games,” said Grant. “All four of those teams could be in the top-10.”
Eden Prairie will also play Shakopee at the TCO Performance Center Stadium (Minnesota Vikings practice facility in Eagan).
“Shakopee gave up a home game to play us there,” said Grant.
Eden Prairie vs. Shakopee is scheduled for Sept. 21.
While Eden Prairie is looking forward to playing at the Viking’s practice field, its sights are set at returning to U.S. Bank Stadium.
Can this Eden Prairie team get there?
“We’ll have to stay healthy,” said Grant, “but we look good on paper.”