Football: Explosive offense set for takeoff
Then Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens coined the term “Get your popcorn ready” before a big game in 2007, inferring to a group of reporters that he was about to turn in a memorable performance.
It could just as well be the slogan for the Rosemount football team’s offense this season. The Irish return their all-conference quarterback and running back, as well as a talented group of receivers from last year’s squad that racked up nearly 4,500 yards of offense and scored over 36 points per game while going undefeated in the South Suburban Conference and reaching the Prep Bowl championship game.
The offense didn’t slow down during this summer’s 7-on-7 league. The Irish went undefeated in their four-team league on Wednesday nights and averaged 40 points per game while winning the University of Minnesota 7-on-7 tournament.
Senior quarterback Jackson Erdmann is back under center after throwing for 1,788 yards and 24 touchdowns last fall. His top target a season ago was running back Dimitri Williams, who returns after catching 28 passes for 552 yards and nine touchdowns. The conference leader in all-purpose yards, Williams also rushed for 737 yards and 13 touchdowns and returned two punts for scores.
Rounding out a deep group of pass-catchers are receivers Tyler Hartigan (18 receptions, 380 yards, 6 TD), Gavin Rudoll, Eli Roble, and Simon Hatlen. Jack Kessler is among those competing for time at the tight end position.
“We have a pretty good feel for things in the passing game. We think this could be our most skilled group of receivers in my 15 years of being here,” Rosemount coach Jeff Erdmann said. “We’re kind of seeing how the running game will come together. There’s always a growing period at the beginning of the season where you’re seeing where guys fit.”
Sharing carries with Williams will be Lowell Green (472 yards, 7 TD), Spencer Nicolay, Mike Knoll and Noah Link. There’s also plenty of competition on the offensive line where honorable mention all-league pick Zach Thissen and Joe Splettstoeser are the lone holdovers.
“There are probably nine or 10 names there,” Erdmann said. “There is a lot of competition for spots. That’s great because the guys have to come to work to earn their time. The guys push themselves and benefit from that.”
There are plenty of spots up for grabs on the defensive side of the ball, as well. The Irish lost some of their biggest contributors to graduation (including five all-SSC selections: Corners Carter Yepsen and Conner Yepsen, and linebackers Nate Sackett, Ryan Fox and Craig Szymanski) from a unit that allowed 13.1 points per game and forced 20 turnovers last season.
Back are all-conference honorable mention safety Matt Danielson, safety John Birkholz, all-conference lineman Tre Peterson and linebackers Dan Monson and Luke Dahl. Other players competing for varsity time include corners Sam Sandoz and Spike Burkard, linebackers Zach Simons and Gabe Ames and linemen Kyle Johnson and Joe Wheeler.
Williams is also among those who could be penciled in at one of the cornerback spots.
“Dimitri is going to play some corner. He’s pretty athletic. We think in a few weeks we’ll be able to find the guys that can step in and take care of that,” Erdmann said. “The amount of man-to-man we play might be down a little, depending on how our corners develop. The two Yepsens were very fast guys that could lock down their guys.… We’re still going to emphasize stopping the run and putting heat on the quarterback.”
If offense and defense aren’t keeping Williams busy enough, he’ll also be a key contributor on special teams as he’s expected to once again handle kickoff and punt returns. The Irish also have experience at kicker, with Brandon Ekeren back to once again take on kickoff duties and Alex Trana returning to boot extra points (22 for 23) and field goals (1 for 1).
Erdmann is in the mix to once again serve as punter after averaging 34 yards a punt last season.
The Irish, 11-2 last fall, will open the regular season at home next Thursday night against Eastview at Irish Stadium. They won last year’s league opener over the Lightning 24-0.