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Section 3-4 football: Irish heading back to state

Third-ranked Rosemount has been so-thoroughly dominating its opponents lately that when Mounds View began Friday night’s Section 3-4 crossover playoff game with a drive that covered over 50 yards and spanned over five minutes, a hint of worry came over the crowd at chilly Irish Stadium.

But an interception by Carter Yepsen abruptly put a stop to the Mustangs’ early threat, and the Irish wasted little time pouring it on and capturing their fourth section championship in seven years. The South Suburban Conference champions scored touchdowns on their first four drives and led 35-0 by halftime in a 42-7 victory.

The Irish (9-1) have outscored their opponents 173-0 in the first half in their last five games and 270-28 in 10 games this season.

“That’s just crazy. The guys are just confident and know what they’re doing,” Rosemount head coach Jeff Erdmann said. “It was good for us to come out and get that great stand and get the pick. From there our offense took over and they’ve been pretty good on opening drives.”

Rosemount’s opening drive spanned nine plays and concluded with Dimitri Williams’ two-yard touchdown run on a toss to the left. Quarterback Jackson Erdmann kept the drive alive by connecting with Gabe Ehlers for 19 yards on third down and scrambling 27 yards to move the ball inside the red zone.

Just over a minute later, the Irish were back in the end zone. After a quick three-and-out and a short punt, Erdmann went deep to Tray Ashby-Phan, who caught a long lob into the end zone for another score, this time from 30 yards out.

Moments later, a 14-yard sack by Craig Szymanski had the Mustangs once again punting from inside their own goal line. This time, the Irish needed four plays to set up Williams, who ran over a defender en route to another goal-line touchdown.

Then it was Ashby-Phan’s turn again. Following Mounds View’s third straight three-and-out and punt, Erdmann once again threw deep to the 5-foot-7 senior, who made a diving catch along the side of the end zone for another 30-yard score.

Not to be outdone, Williams scored his third touchdown of the game with 18 seconds to play in the first half. The speedy junior snagged a deep slant from Erdmann in traffic and broke a couple of tackles before breaking to the outside and sprinting 60 yards to complete his first-half hat trick. The Irish’s fifth touchdown in a span of 16 plays made it 35-0 at the break.

Erdmann finished the first half 10 of 11 passing for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns. Luke Dahl took over under center early in the third quarter.

“We’re really clicking offensively. We have lots of guys who can catch the ball and a quarterback that’s getting time to throw and is pretty accurate,” coach Erdmann said. “They’re just doing a lot of good things.”

Meanwhile, Mounds View continued to struggle against the Irish defense. The Mustangs failed to pick up a first down on seven straight drives before finally breaking an 11-yard run midway through the second half. Soon after, the Irish stuffed a 4th and 1 play up the middle to keep the lead at 35 points and put a running clock into effect to start the fourth quarter.

The Mustangs put the Irish’s shutout bid to an end on a tipped ball into the end zone with 6:05 remaining.

 “Mounds View has had four or five games where it scored 40 or more so we knew going in we had to step it up on them and make them throw the ball. They’re not really a throwing team,” Erdmann said.

Lowell Green capped off the Rosemount scoring with a five-yard touchdown run with 1:04 to go.

The Class 6A state tournament begins Thursday with a pair of quarterfinal games at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The other two quarterfinal games will be held Friday at the Metrodome. The Irish, state runners-up in 2010 and Prep Bowl semifinal entrants a season ago, are in good position to claim a No. 2 or No. 3 seed behind top-ranked Eden Prairie in the eight-team tournament, which would mean they would open play outdoors Thursday night at The Bank.

Erdmann expects his team to be ready to play regardless of who it faces.

“We play the games one week at a time. Week after week we just try to get better and better,” he said. “We have to keep doing that to be ready to play another good team.”