Football: Striving for perfectionThe undefeated Irish will play for their first state title since 1981 Friday night against Wayzata
By: Brian Hall, Rosemount Town Pages
Three trips to the Metrodome in five years for the Class 5A state football tournament would have most of the state’s schools thrilled with just being a part of the spectacle.
Rosemount was pleased to make another return trip this season, but the Irish and coach Jeff Erdmann wanted to change the outcome. They were tired of one-and-dones in the semifinals.
The week of practice leading up to Friday’s 28-14 win over Brainerd was about ending the all-too-brief Metrodome appearances.
“We’ve been here two times. This is our third time in five years, and both other times we’ve come down and we’ve lost here,” Erdmann said. “One was a close game and one wasn’t. We wanted to come in here and win.”
With last week’s win against Brainerd, the Irish are making their appearance in this season’s state tournament last longer than they have in a long time. After losing in the semifinals — the first round played at the Metrodome each year — the past two trips, Rosemount will face Wayzata in the Class 5A championship game at 7 p.m. Friday. The Trojans beat Mounds View 21-16 to qualify for the title game.
The Irish will play in the championship game for the first time since the school beat Moorhead 40-14 in 1981 for the Class 2A title.
“It feels fantastic,” Erdmann said. “To have these guys work this hard and have it pay off when we get here, and we took care of business, played a nice ballgame and represented ourselves well. It’s just great.”
With Rosemount in the finals, it certainly won’t be easy in trying to win the school’s second state championship.
Wayzata was the top-ranked team in Class 5A in the final regular season poll and have done nothing to alter their reputation in the state tournament. The Trojans had three straight shutouts before Mounds View scored 16 points last week.
“Obviously getting to this point you’re going to be playing one of the best teams in the state,” Erdmann said. “We’re excited about the opportunity. They have one of the fastest defenses in the state. They can run the ball and they can throw the ball.”
Twice this season Wayzata has been a part of matchups between the top two ranked teams. In October, as the No. 2 team, the Trojans beat No. 1 Eden Prairie 28-27. In the first round of the state tournament, Wayzata handed then-No. 2 Blaine a 34-0 loss.
Erdmann and the Irish know the task at hand.
“They’re so athletic,” Erdmann said of Wayzata’s defense. “On both sides they present issues. They run a zone-blocking scheme. They have big, athletic linemen. Not a lot of teams run a zone-blocking scheme because they can’t count on big guys every year.”
Erdmann isn’t selling his team short, though, and last week’s victory against Brainerd likely only energized him.
“Our guys are playing with so much heart,” Erdmann said. “We put in so much effort before the season even started; it’s just great to see it pay off. We’re excited about the opportunity to play this Friday night.”
Senior running back Nicholas Liska scored three touchdowns and Rosemount used a big first half to beat Brainerd 28-14 in the semifinals. He carried the ball 24 times for 131 yards.
“He’s a hard runner,” Erdmann said. “He’s a strong kid and we were getting off the ball pretty well tonight.”
Liska’s third touchdown, a 1-yard plunge with 53 seconds left in the half, was set up by a 46-yard catch by Goaner Deng from Irish quarterback Kevin Larson. Larson ended with 68 yards rushing with one touchdown and 80 yards through the air on 4 of 9 passing. He threw one interception.
“You’ve got good conditions in here and we had the run game going pretty well,” Erdmann said. “When the run game is going pretty well it sets up the play-action and Larson threw the ball well.”
Deng caught two passes for 53 yards. David Morgan had two catches for 27 yards and intercepted a pass on defense.
“Our guys are just ecstatic right now,” Erdmann said. “We’re a relatively smaller school compared to some of the big dogs. For us to come in here and play well and represent ourselves well is great.”
Now the Irish get their chance against one of the biggest of the “big dogs.”