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Football: Irish upset Stillwater

The Rosemount football team is going back to the Metrodome.

The Irish, who sat at 1-3 after a homecoming loss to Prior Lake in late-September, continued their second-half surge with a 7-6 upset at third-ranked Stillwater in a section crossover game Friday night. The team will take a 6-4 record into this afternoon's inaugural Class 6A state tournament game against No. 1-ranked Edina (9-1) under the Teflon roof in Minneapolis.

"I think every team has the goal of making it and competing against the best teams in the state. For us, because we were so inexperienced, we were just looking at getting better every week. You just try to make a run and start playing your best football at the end of the year," said Rosemount coach Jeff Erdmann, who will guide his squad at the state tournament for the fourth time in seven years. "As the year went on we were able to find the best combination of who should be playing in what spots. That, coupled with our ability to run the ball better and not turn it over, and to stop the run, was significant to our improvement."

The Irish defense has keyed the second-half turnaround, holding four of its last five opponents to a touchdown or less. During a brutal early schedule, the Irish allowed 25, 34 and 17 points, respectively, in losses to state-qualifying teams Apple Valley, Eden Prairie and Prior Lake.

"I think a lot of it is we've been tackling well. Our guys had to learn the schemes that were a little different under our new defensive coordinator and they weren't getting into the proper spots where they could make plays," Erdmann said. "Early in the season we had some lapses and got out of position. We've cleaned that up as the season has gone on."

The Irish cleaned up in the red zone against Stillwater, holding the Ponies to two field goals in four trips inside the 15-yard line. That allowed the visitors to take the lead with the lone touchdown of the game in the second quarter, and set the stage for a memorable game-saving goal-line stand late in the third quarter.

Down a point, the Ponies were set up with first and goal from the two. After three straight stuffed runs set up fourth and goal from inside the one, Stillwater elected pass on a go-ahead field goal and instead ran a roll out to the right. Senior linebacker Andrew Dawson got pressure on the quarterback to force an incompletion, and the Ponies never returned to the red zone.

The Ponies got another chance to win it in the closing seconds, but a 51-yard field goal try fell short and wide of the uprights.

The Irish started their scoring drive at their own 35 midway through the second quarter. Trent Woodcock used five runs to chew up 60 yards on the sixth he fumbled into the end zone where Gabe Ehlers recovered it for the score. Sam Broback provided the go-ahead extra point.

Woodcock finished with 99 yards on 24 carries. Quarterback Jackson Erdmann added 36 yards on 13 carries and Ali Al-Khatib carried five times for 22 yards.

Erdmann also completed 4 of 8 passes, including two to Sean Kalinowski.

The Irish take on Edina today at 5 o'clock. The Hornets have reeled off seven straight wins, including ones over ranked teams Minnetonka, Hopkins, Wayzata and Eden Prairie.

"They're a good team. They're good on defense, they have a good quarterback that can run or pass and a highly-skilled wide receiver. Obviously, you get to this point with the top eight teams in the state and they're all solid ball clubs," Erdmann said. "It will be great for our seniors to get a chance to play in the Dome. Lots of groups come through here and they've all gotten the chance to go. It's good to see this group get this experience, as well."