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Football: Turnover trouble

Four turnovers kept seventh-ranked Rosemount from putting its best foot forward in Friday's showdown with eighth-ranked Lakeville North.

The Irish lost four fumbles, three of which came on plays where the ball-carrier wasn't hit, as their 20-game home winning streak and 12-game conference winning streak came to an end with a 28-7 loss in front of a big crowd at Irish Stadium. The Panthers improved to 4-0 and stayed tied with Lakeville South atop the South Suburban Conference standings.

"It was one of those games where you walk away feeling like you were the better team. When you beat yourselves, that's frustrating," Rosemount head coach Jeff Erdmann said. "When the other team is just better, you can live with that. Playing a team like that, you have to execute or you make it really hard for yourself to be successful."

The Irish started the game with a defensive stop, then fumbled the ball away on their first offensive snap. Four plays later, the Panthers ran the ball in from four yards out to go up, 7-0.

On the ensuing drive, a series of strong runs by tailback Andy Gustafson moved the Irish to the Lakeville North 15-yard line before another lost fumble stalled the drive. The Irish's next three possessions resulted in a punt and two failed fourth-down tries, setting up a 20-yard touchdown toss that put the Panthers up 14-0 with 2:44 left in the first half.

The Irish moved the ball into Lakeville North territory with just over a minute remaining, but the team's third fumble of the half ensured a scoreless first half. A missed tackle in the open field and a personal foul penalty put the Panthers in position to tack on another score before the break, but Kwame Owusu picked off a pass in the end zone in the closing seconds. Ben Sandoz also intercepted a pass in the first half.

The Irish mounted one last threat with an eight-minute drive to start the second half, but the offense stalled inside the red zone and turned the ball over on downs for the third time. Soon after, North quarterback Trey Heid broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0.

"Along with the fumbles there were a few situations where one thing went wrong and it had a significant impact," Erdmann said.

When the Irish made those mistakes, Heid capitalized. Operating out of a shotgun offense, Heid found success rolling toward the sideline and either running or finding open receivers throughout the game. He completed 15 of 27 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns to go along with his long scoring run.

"It created all kinds of problems," Erdmann said of the Panther offense. "It put us in situations where guys didn't know whether to come up or stay in coverage. He got all kinds of time to throw back there when we didn't maintain the edge."

Rosemount (3-1) got on the scoreboard when quarterback Nate LeMoine found Sean Kalinowski for an 18-yard strike with 6:07 remaining. The score was set up by a 61-yard pass to Charlie Broback.

LeMoine finished 8 of 18 passing for 136 yards and rushed the ball 13 times for 40 yards. Kalinowski caught four passes for 35 yards and Logan Lindberg hauled in three for 40 yards.

Gustafson ran the ball 21 times for 124 yards.

The Irish will try to get back on track tomorrow night when they travel to fourth-ranked Lakeville South. The Cougars (4-0), led by Gopher recruit Mitchell Leidner at quarterback, are averaging 37.5 points per game. Erdmann said there will be added focus on fundamentals in practice this week after the four-turnover performance against North.

"The guys know the significance of this game. The guys are working hard and doing the best they can," Erdmann said. "We just have to get better in our execution and get our reps in in practice. You have to get where it's absolutely something we can do in our sleep."