After winning its third state title in six years, Wayzata deserves equal billing with Eden Prairie and Cretin.

By MICHAEL RAND, Star Tribune

Wayzata answered two questions emphatically in the Class 5A Prep Bowl. Were the Trojans the best team in the state in 2010? A 31-14 thrashing of previously undefeated Rosemount in Friday’s finale means yes is the only possible answer.

Have they cemented their place, big picture, in the state’s football hierarchy? Absolutely.

Eden Prairie and Cretin-Derham Hall might still be on the tips of tongues at the start of any debate over the state’s best-known and most successful big-school football programs. But it’s time to permanently put Wayzata into that mix — perhaps even at the top of the list. When it comes to Class 5A, there is a Big Three.

Three Wayzata state championships in six seasons provide the evidence. Without being cocky, the Trojans seem to know this one puts them in a different class.

“After this one people are going to look at us as one of the top two or the No. 1 program in the state of Minnesota,” senior quarterback Sasha Doran said. “They’ll know we’re a program that is always going to have a chance to win a championship.”

Of course, plenty of other Wayzata players were qualified to speak on that subject. Three different players are assigned jersey No. 1. Same goes with No. 2. The Trojans’ state tournament program requires squinting at all 122 players’ names.

This year’s Wayzata team possessed some intangible qualities that mark a program whose foundation is rock-solid. When I saw the Trojans for the first time this year, in the fifth game of the regular season, they eked out a 15-14 miracle victory in the final seconds over a good but not great Minnetonka squad. The Trojans team I saw Friday was completely different — still undersized, but a transformed juggernaut.

Special programs, too, have players who rise up when it matters most. Sophomore Mitchell Underhill, who had fewer than 800 yards rushing coming into Friday but galloped for 247 yards and four TDs on just 12 carries against the Irish, certainly is worthy of that distinction.

Overall, Wayzata’s style is sophisticated and relentless, but rarely flashy. They take their cue from head coach Brad Anderson — a low-key man off the field and a nice guy who finishes first. That’s a hard combination to pull off in a program where the stakes are so high, but Anderson never seems uncomfortable doing it — just as he never gets tired of winning.

Wayzata’s fans are also getting used to this. Many of them wore T-shirts with “Home away from home” written on them along with a picture of the Metrodome — a message that implies making it at least as far as the state semifinals and a trip inside the Teflon confines is now expected.

Lower down, the shirts say: “Champions wear gold.” That was the case in 2005, 2008 and Friday night. With the program Anderson has built, the next one could come at any time.

“When we won our first title, it let us join some rare company. Our second one proved it wasn’t a fluke,” Anderson said. “Now, having won our third, it means we belong with the better teams in the state.”


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