Football: Irish have big shoes to fill
The combination of three talented running backs and one of the state's premier offensive lines was tough to handle for most of Rosemount's opponents in 2010.
The Irish started the season by rolling to an 8-0 record and their first South Suburban Conference championship, then won four straight playoff games before falling to Wayzata, 31-14, at the Metrodome in the program's first state title game appearance since 1981. Senior backs Kevin Larson, Andrew Hausmann and Nick Liska, who combined to run for nearly 3,000 yards, capped off their careers by raising the Class 5A State runner-up banner, as did all-state lineman Joe Bjorklund and nine other Irish players who earned all-conference honors a year ago.
"We graduated the best offensive line and defensive line I have been around in 20-plus years," Rosemount head coach Jeff Erdmann said. "Our success as a team will be greatly impacted by how effective we can be in these two locations."
Erdmann said it's too early to tell just who will fill in many of the roles left open by those senoirs, but he has three returning offensive players to build around. Running back Logan Lindberg made the most of his opportunities behind the Irish's big three backs last season, carrying the ball 36 times for 304 yards and catching a pair of passes for 37 yards. He and a host of other backs will run the Irish's option game behind returning offensive linemen Stefan Sauer and Brandon Forcier. Chase O'Brien, Taji Onesirosan and Nick DePuglio are also in the running on the offensive line.
Several athletes are taking snaps at quarterback, including senior Nate LeMoine and juniors Nate Sackett, Sam Broback and Connor Griffin. Whoever wins the starting job will work with a new core of receivers as the team's top four pass-catchers from a season ago all graduated. Possible receiving options include Bryan Herman and Mitchell Leko, among others.
Several running backs have been handling the ball at early-season practices, including Ali al-Khatib, Jake Beaver, Jordan Newhouse and Khalid al-Khabid.
The Irish return four starters to their 3-4 defense where they hope to duplicate last year's plus-22 turnover margin. Two-year starter Matt Larson is back after earning honorable mention all-conference honors, as are fellow linebackers Jordan Tumilson and Jake Mortenson. Bryce Wilberding, Tommy Stuckert and Mitch Anderson could also see time at linebacker.
Letter-winner Jake O'Malley is back for a defensive secondary that could also include Micah Marshall, Tegan Overbey, Grant VanOverbeke and Conner Willert, among others.
Sackett, Austin Leslie, Matthew Walls and Bo Silberg are among those working to earn spots on the defensive line.
The Irish will alternate home and road games throughout the eight-week regular season as they try to defend their conference championship. For the second straight year the season will get under way with a Thursday night game, Sept. 2, at Bloomington Kennedy.
The Irish host Burnsville, then travel to Prior Lake before playing the Lakeville schools back-to-back in Weeks 4 and 5. They return to Irish Stadium for the Homecoming game against Apple Valley Oct. 7, then travel to Eastview in Week 7 for a game against a Lightning team that gave them two of their closest contests last season. The regular season concludes with an Minnesota Educators Association Wednesday home game against Eagan on Oct. 19.
Erdmann will once again be assisted by defensive coordinator Drew Storley, offensive coordinator Chris Swansson, special teams coordinator Pete Roback, defensive backs coach Michael O'Malley, inside linebackers coach Parc Williams, wide receivers coach Steve Clausen, offensive line coach Jason Elias, defensive backs coach Ray Jalivay and tight ends coach Scott Peters. Bob McCarthy also returns as technology coordinator.
The sophomore team will be coached by Brett Larson, who will be assisted by Doug Anderson, Jay Hatleli, Grant Gilbertson, Brian Trussell, Steve Lufkin and Brian Adamek. Ninth-grade head coach Tim Conboy will be assisted by Wayne Krantz, Josh Schoaf, Ken Vanoverbeke, Dave Bierly, Tim Wahl and Tom Conboy.