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Section 3AAAAAA football: Irish pull away late, 20-7

The clock rarely stopped running during the first three quarters of Friday night's Section 3AAAAAA playoff opener between Lakeville South and Rosemount.

A scoreless first half that took just 42 minutes to complete was followed by a 20-minute third quarter as the two .500 South Suburban Conference teams kept the clock moving by combining for 11 punts and throwing just a handful of incompletions in the game's first 14 possessions.

But something clicked for Rosemount when the No. 4 lit up under the Qtr. sign on the Irish Stadium scoreboard. Sophomore Dimitri Williams broke free for a 23-yard touchdown run to break the scoreless tie with 11 minutes left and the fourth-seeded Irish went on to score three touchdowns in a span of seven plays as they advanced past the fifth-seeded Cougars, 20-7.

It was the second win over South in three weeks for the Irish, who earned the section home game by defeating the Cougars 12-0 on the road in Week 6. They now advance to face top-seeded Stillwater, ranked third in Class 6AAAAAA, in a section semifinal cross-over game Friday, Nov. 2 in Stillwater.

After William's go-ahead score, the Rosemount defense forced South into its third straight three-and-out to set the offense up with good field position at its own 43. Three runs moved the ball across midfield, and then on 3rd and 12 quarterback Jackson Erdmann provided the dagger, lofting a pass down the right sideline that hit wide receiver Sean Kalinowski in stride for a 42-yard touchdown.

South responded with a 13-play drive that crossed into the Rosemount red zone, but an interception by Jeremy Macchitelli stopped the scoring threat. Macchitelli returned the kick over 90 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown, but it was called back to the Rosemount 42 after a block in the back penalty.

That was followed by the strangest play of the game. With the crowd still reacting to the called-back return, Rosemount's offense returned to the field and started its drive with a run up the middle. The Irish ball-carrier fumbled and the ball popped in the air toward a South defender, but a deflection sent it right back into the arms of Ali Al-Khatib, who retraced Macchitelli's steps for a 57-yard touchdown. The extra point made it 20-0 Irish with 4:16 to go.

With the Rosemount defense in prevent mode, the Cougars drove 62 yards on 12 plays in the final three minutes to avoid the shutout. They produced seven first down on their final two drives after picking up just three on their first eight drives.

The Cougars owned the field position battle in the first half. Rosemount had just two first downs in five first-half possessions and started drives at its own five, seven and 11-yard lines.

The field position shifted after the break. Erdmann completed two first-down passes to Kalinowski on the opening possession to move the ball into South territory for the first time all game, and a punt to the 12 followed by a Cougar three-and-out in the closing seconds of the third allowed the Irish to begin their first scoring drive at the South 41.

Al-Khatib paced the Irish on the ground with 157 yards on 16 carries. Williams added 48 yards on six carries.

Erdmann completed 7 of 9 passes for 92 yards, four of which went to Kalinowski for 83 yards.

Gabe Ehlers punted five times with an average of 27.4 yards per punt.