Football: Underhill undermines Irish defense in championshipThe Wayzata running back used four long touchdown runs to carry the undefeated Trojans to a 31-14 victory in the Class 5A championship game
By: Brian Hall, Rosemount Town Pages
When the Rosemount football team convened for its retreat this fall, Irish coaches broached a tough subject every team in the state faces.
Only one team gets to end its season the way it hopes.
“We wanted to be the one team that ended the season with a win,” Rosemount coach Jeff Erdmann said after the Irish lost 31-14 last week in the Class 5A state championship game. “We didn’t get it done tonight. They’re a good football team. When you play at this level, that’s just the deal. You’re going to be playing great teams.”
Erdmann knew how strong a team Rosemount was facing when it met up with the Trojans in the state title game last week at the Metrodome.
The coach spoke prior to the game about the speed of the Wayzata defense, saying it was the fastest his team has faced. Erdmann also was worried about the zone-blocking system employed by the Trojans.
Both aspects played a big part in the Irish’s loss to Wayzata.
Rosemount was held season lows with 189 total offensive yards and 129 yards rushing.
“We knew they were an athletic defense and they demonstrated that,” Erdmann said. “Nobody else has been able to slow our run game down like they did.”
As good as the running game was this season for the Irish, the team’s defense might have been its biggest strength. Entering the state tournament, Rosemount had only allowed 10.6 points per game and held teams to low yardage totals.
However, the Irish defense was at a disadvantage against Wayzata’s zone-blocking scheme.
“We don’t see many zone teams because nobody else has big, fast, athletic guys every year, so they can’t do that,” Erdmann said. “(The Trojans) can because of their situation. You’ve got to be so sound on gap responsibility. Any kind of crease and those guys find it and they can break some big ones.”
The big ones ended up deciding the state champion.
Wayzata scored on the second play of the game with a 45-yard run by Mitchell Underhill.
After the Irish countered with a touchdown by Kevin Larson, the game was decided in the third quarter.
Rosemount’s defense was holding against the Trojan’s offense. Wayzata, leading 10-7, faced a third down with less than a yard to go midway through the third.
But Underhill broke free for a 66-yard touchdown. On each of the Trojans next two possessions, Underhill had 58-yard touchdowns.
“They’ve got speed,” Erdmann said. “That’s why you have to be so disciplined. The big plays, that’s something you can’t allow if you’re going to try and compete with those guys and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”
Wayzata scored three times on four offensive plays, essentially finishing off the Irish.
“The third quarter was obviously the worst quarter we’ve had all year and that’s a tough one to overcome,” Erdmann said. “This is the second time we’ve been to the state title for our school and we’re thrilled with our guys’ effort throughout the season and all the preparations that went into being the type team that can compete at this level.”
Nicholas Liska led the Irish with 68 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Larson had 11 carries for 43 yards.
Colton Crow had a fumble recovery for Rosemount’s defense, while Jake O’Malley had an interception.
“It’s going to be hard watching the senior kids walk off the field because they are great kids,” Erdmann said.