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July 10, 2012Eden Prairie won an early battle of field position when they were able to hold Cretin-Derham Hall to a punt after one first down on the first drive of the game. The Eagles put pressure on Raider quarterback Mark Alt attacking with the blitz. The pressure caused one hurried incompletion and Alt was sacked once by Eagle senior linebacker Jesse Russell. In addition, Alt was off on a couple passes overthrowing Clay Horne and throwing behind Elliot Owusu.
After getting the stop Eden Prairie missed a couple early chances and oddly enough it was Mitch Hallstrom who was involved with both. Hallstrom has made a name for himself this year as a playmaker in the defensive backfield picking off a total of 12 passes. However, playing wideout it looked like Mitch had made a huge reception covering half the field but the pass was knocked out of his hands at the last moment by Raider junior corner Tyler Hamblin. Then on the ensuing punt CDH's Sean Barrett fumbled the catch and Hallstrom had a chance to recover it deep in Raider territory. However, Mitch couldn't hang on and the ball went out of bounds and back to CDH.
With new life the Raiders capitalized. On a third and six Alt avoided the pass rush rolling right showing his mobility. While on the run he hurled the ball forty yards down field into the hands of Brooks Hitchcock who leapt over the defensive back. After making the catch Hitchcock noticed the defender fell trying to break up the pass and there was nothing between him and the end zone. Brooks sprinted for the 75 yard score giving the Raiders the all-important 7-0 first quarter lead.
Now in the second quarter it was the third drive of the game for Eden Prairie. They faced a fourth and four at the Raider 40 and they had been forced to punt the previous two drives. Trying to get something going coach Mike Grant showed supreme confidence in his offense by going for it. The play went right with Gage Shaeffer who was stuffed behind the line by Raider sophomore star Jonathan Harden and junior Joey Schneider. The pair powered Gage to the ground for a momentous stop.
Throughout the first half the Raiders defended the Eagles with a five man front and the linebackers were just three or four yards off the line. In addition, the safety was ten yards off the nose of the ball. Using this alignment the Raiders did an outstanding job of stopping a ground attack that eclipsed over 3,000 rushing yards for the season in last week's semi-final contest.
With so many defenders inside the box coach Grant needed to open the field up with the passing game. Twice quarterback Brian Athey went to Hallstrom connecting for first downs through the air and EP also picked up a pair of first downs on reverse calls. Looking like they were about to drive in for their first score a holding penalty nullified the Eagles chances and the Eagles had to punt with less than a minute remaining. The punt essentially ended the first half of the play with CDH going into the locker room with the lead at 7-0.
On their first drive of the second half the Raiders faced a third and 11 on the right side of the field. The Eagles coverage looked solid but the Raider line led by Seantrel Henderson was just as strong. With all the time in the world Alt surveyed the Metrodome and found Hitchcock wide open on the opposite sideline. Alt showed his cannon with a bullet across the field and Hitchcock did the rest running for a gain of 16 and a huge first down. A few plays later either the Raider sidelines or Alt out-smarted Eden Prairie as they picked up a blitz calling a screen pass to counter. Sophomore Kendrick Brewster caught the screen and cruised 14 yards down to the EP 26 for another first down.
Next came one of two plays that will highlight this class AAAAA football season and Alt's high school football career. Rolling right Mark sidestepped the blitzing Thomas Fisher who slid by. Alt saw Horne towards the back of the end zone and unleashed another spiraling rocket. Just as the ball was released Alt was crushed by all-metro Eagle defensive lineman Tyler Kubler. Mark never saw Horne leap in the end zone to bring down a 29-yard touchdown giving the Raiders a two TD advantage at 13-0. What made the play even more important was that it came on a 4th and 13 taking away all momentum the EP defense had built the three previous play and made this a two score game.
Eden Prairie needed to respond with a score and they had moved the ball 40 yards and into Raider territory. The Eagles faced a third and long but could not find the same success that CDH had on their previous drive. Raider senior linebacker Riley Dombek cruised around Eagle lineman Mitch Purdy for a crucial sack that ended the Eagle threat.
The Eagles punted downing the football at the five-yard line giving the Raiders terrible field position. From there the Raiders moved the ball only a few yards and then lost those because of penalties. Instead of allowing Horne to punt on fourth down with his back to the end zone Raider coach Mike Scanlon instructed Clay to step out of bounds and give up two points in exchange for field position. The Eagles returned the free kick to the 49 still in a good spot on the field but not what they would have had had Horne punted.
Eden Prairie used the field position to move into scoring position. A couple passes misfired in the end zone including another impressive defensive play from Hamblin who deflected a near touchdown pass out of the hands of Eagle tight end Brett Ervin. Facing a fourth down and needing any type of score Eden Prairie put up three points on a David Platner 25 yard field goal making the score 13-5.
With six and a half minutes the Raiders had the football looking to run out the clock. On first down they ran what looked to be a sweep but the Eagles ate it up pushing Brewster back for a loss of five. Knowing that they may not be able to put the game away on the ground the Raider coaches put the ball back in the hands of Alt. First Mark hit Horne over the middle for a gain of nine yards.
Then on third and six came the second play that will be seen on highlight films for years to come. Rolling out right once again, Alt had fullback Cameron Clarkson in front of him for what looked like a safe play and likely a first down. But Alt also saw Hitchcock getting behind his defender at midfield. Alt put air under the football lofting in perfectly into the hands of Hitchcock who made a clutch 43-yard reception falling back. This play seemed to take all the air of Eden Prairie and its fans as the Raiders had a new set of downs with just less than six minutes left to play.
From there Alt put the ball in the hands of Clarkson who hammered six times into the line pushing Cretin-Derham Hall to the 19-yard line. Eden Prairie would stand their ground forcing a field goal attempt from Alt. Mark kicked the football to the left side of the goalposts and while it was very close, the ball went through the posts high above and a few feet inside for the needed three points.
Down 16-5 Eden Prairie needed a pair of scores two and a half minutes remaining. They pushed to the Raider's two-yard line but that was all the farther things would go. When the clock hit 0:00 the Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders were state champions for the first time in ten years and for the second time in school history.
• Alt's incredible display of big time plays will go down as one of the most impressive performances in Prep Bowl history. Add in the story line that earlier in the season Mark was sidelined with a broken collarbone missing three games. He recuperated quicker than expected and was back on the field for the playoffs.
Tonight Alt completed ten of 19 passes for 216 yards. The numbers are solid but what they don't show was how clutch Mark's plays were avoiding the rush and perfectly placing long balls all over the field. Alt is one of the hottest recruiting names in the Midwest and tonight's performance may have earned him a lot more interest and maybe some more scholarship offers.
Simply put, Alt was fabulous tonight.
• The main target on Alt's passes was wideout Brooks Hitchcock. The 180-pound senior receiver came into the championship game with 18 receptions for 240 yards and four scores on the season. He then added five huge receptions for 152 yards and a score to the total this evening.
• Senior defensive back Matt Biagini and linebacker Kevin Hanson each had eight tackles for the Raiders that tied for the team high.
• Tyler Hamblin had an impressive game in coverage breakout up a long play early in the game (that would have came back anyway because of a penalty) and then perfectly covering a fade route to Ervin late in the game. The five-foot-9 junior corner also had five solo tackles.
• The nation's number one player Seantrel Henderson helped give Alt the time to throw for the 200 plus yards. Henderson also played some defense recording one tackle for loss. When he came in to play defensive tackle there was a minimum of two players blocking him at all times. He showed his great speed late in the game side stepping a low block attempt and then stepping at the Eden Prairie QB forcing the pass to go over his massive reach. After the game both photographers and media outlet members mobbed Seantrel. In addition to the Twin Cities coverage several people flew in nationally to see the nation's number one recruit play his final game.
• The Eagles ran 49 times for 196 yards for an average of 3.6 yards per carry. They had averaged 295 yards a contest coming into this game. Andrew Larson led with 61 yards on 15 carries.
• Taylor Grant caught four passes for 31 yards plus gave us his best Tim Tebow impression with a late game jump pass that fell incomplete.
• The Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders collected the school's second state football title. They had been 1-5 in Prep Bowls in years past but they improved that total with an impressive victory this evening. Their defense really stepped up holding the Eagles under four yards a rush and to 248 total yards for the game.
• Offensively the Raiders will return key contributors Kendrick Brewster (RB), Scott Schmidt (a 6-foot-4 230 pound offensive lineman), Teddy Kline (OL), and Taylor Montero next year. On the opposite side of the football the state champs have Joey Schneider (S), Tyler Hamblin (CB), Willie Roller (LB), and Jonathan Harden (DT) coming back next year with a ton of experience.