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Emulate, dominate, celebrate: Irish rout North 36-7 to win South Suburban title

Lakeville North dominated the line of scrimmage during two meetings with Rosemount last year, piling up a combined 474 rushing yards while holding the Irish to 83.

The first matchup resulted in a 35-0 shutout that capped off North's 7-1 season in the South Suburban Conference. A month later, the Panthers pulled away 28-7 in the Class 6A state semifinals at the Metrodome. Those two games gave Rosemount coach Jeff Erdmann and his team a good idea of what it was going to take to overtake their rivals to the west.

“We’ve talked all year about the team that plays the mentally and physically toughest is the team that’s going to win the conference,” Erdmann said. “Last year it was Lakeville North and that’s who we’ve tried to emulate.”

The fourth-ranked Irish proved to be plenty tough in Wednesday night’s long-awaited rematch at Irish Stadium. They jumped out to a 25-0 halftime lead on the fifth-ranked Panthers and went on to complete their second undefeated run through the conference in four years with a 36-7 victory.

North (6-2, 6-1) entered having allowed just 37 points in its previous seven games. The 29-point margin of defeat was the Panthers’ largest since Week 3 of the 2007 season.

“We wanted to come out and make a statement that we’re a great team and everybody should be looking out for us,” Rosemount quarterback Jackson Erdmann said. “We’ve talked about this being a special season and wanting to make it special.”

Erdmann did his part by throwing three long touchdown passes and orchestrating an Irish offense that ran up 391 total yards against the previously-stout North defense. Erdmann also forced several costly Panther mistakes, drawing a roughing the punter penalty on the opening drive of the game and inducing several offsides and encroachment penalties that resulted in first downs during two other touchdown drives.

The Irish were faced with 4th and eight in their own territory before North’s roughing penalty gave them the game’s first first down. Erdmann then connected with Grant Jackson to convert on a 3rd and 10 and found Dimitri Williams for a 14-yard pass on 4th and eight to set up Williams for a one-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.

Later in the half, four North penalties set up a short field and another Irish touchdown. The Panthers went 3 and out at their own 20, but committed a pair of illegal procedure penalties that forced them to punt from their own end zone. A short punt set the Irish up at the 38 and 10-yard catch by Gabe Ehlers and a pair of encroachment penalties quickly moved them to the 18. Erdmann then found Tray Ashby-Phan slanting across the left side for a 16-yard touchdown to make it 19-0 and incite “over-rated” chants from the RHS student section.

The Irish seized the momentum after that, and stayed aggressive despite starting with the ball at their own eight-yard line with two minutes left in the first half. After a pair of runs moved them to the 30 and another North penalty resulted in a first down, Erdmann went over the top and connected with Tyler Hartigan for a 65-yard touchdown to make it 25-0.

“Tyler ran a great route, and he’s got great hands. It was such a thrill,” Jackson Erdmann said. “We always want more. We wanted to run it up on them. They ran it up on us last year and we really don’t like them. We never want to stop pushing it.”

Rosemount’s other first-half touchdown came on cornerback Connor Yepsen’s third pick six in the last four weeks – all into the south end zone at Irish Stadium. Yepsen’s 43-yard return made it 13-0 two minutes into the second quarter.

“I’ve never had a year with three pick-sixes,” coach Erdmann said. “Both he and his brother (Carter) play man well.”

The interception and four punts were all North had to show for its five first-half possessions against the Irish defense. The Panthers turned the ball over on downs to open the second half before running back Jamiah Newell finally broke free up the middle for a 57-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter. Outside of that carry, the Irish limited Newell to 30 yards on 16 totes.

Sitting on a big lead, the Irish turned to their own running game in the second half. Trent Woodcock’s 56-yard run down the left sideline set up a 37-yard Brandon Ekeren field goal that skimmed over the cross bar and Williams (45 yards), Lowell Green (40 yards) and Tyrek Cross (16 yards) all received carries.

Erdmann provided the dagger with a 37-yard touchdown strike that Ashby-Phan hauled in between two defenders on the final play of the third quarter. Erdmann finished 13 of 23 for 220 yards.

“We’re always looking to run the ball, but when they played eight men in the box and made us throw, we stepped up and took advantage of that. Our offensive line did a phenomenal job blocking. I always say ‘just give me time’,” Jackson Erdmann said. “We take a few shots every game, and when we did we were connecting on them.”

The Irish defense held North to 197 total yards and finished the game by forcing a turnover on downs, a fumble, a safety and a punt in the second half.

The Irish (7-1) earned the No. 1 seed in the Section 3, Class 6A tournament and host Farmington (4-4) in the opening round next Friday night at Irish Stadium. The last time the teams met, Rosemount won 31-6 in the 2006 section finals in Farmington.