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Class 6A state football: Irish sprint to semifinals

Rosemount got to showcase its team speed on field turf for the first time this season in Thursday night’s Class 6A state quarterfinals at TCF Bank Stadium.

The result was the same as it had been on grass the previous nine weeks - lots of big plays and another resounding victory, this time a 38-7 drubbing of rival Eastview. The third-ranked Irish advance to the state semifinals for the fourth time in eight years next Thursday at the Metrodome where they will square off against 10th-ranked Roseville, which upset previously-unbeaten Maple Grove 24-21 on a field goal in the closing seconds in Thursday’s other quarterfinal.

The Irish entered Thursday night having outscored their previous five opponents a combined 173-0 in the first half. The team got out to what by its standards was a slow start with a three-and-out and a turnover on downs on its first two possessions, but the explosive offense didn’t stay quiet for long and quickly produced three big plays that resulted in 17 points.

Tyrek Cross started the scoring with a 40-yard run where he broke a pair of tackles and raced down the left sideline for a touchdown. After a nine-yard Eastview Punt, Rosemount quarterback Jackson Erdmann found Tray Ashby-Phan for a 40-yard completion that set up a 25-yard field goal by Alex Trana. The Lightning then punted for the fourth straight time to start the game, and on the next play from scrimmage Dimitri Williams rolled right on a halfback pass and threw a 35-yard bomb to a wide open Tyler Hartigan for a touchdown.

Cross added a second touchdown from 12 yards out early in the fourth quarter and finished with 112 of the team’s 206 rushing yards.

“This is the most team speed I’ve had in my 15 years. It was fun to get them on the turf here,” coach Jeff Erdmann said. “We have lots of guys who can run it for us. We got some good blocking and the guys ran hard.”

The Irish got the ball back in the closing minutes of the first half and reached midfield before losing a fumble. Six plays later, Eastview scored its only points of the game on a 31-yard rumble by Will Rains. Rains left with an injury late in the first half, but still finished with 97 of the team’s 164 rushing yards.

“We didn’t play very well (in the first half). We put the ball on the ground twice, a bad pitch killed a drive and we gave them the ball on a fumble and they went and scored, so we should have played better,” Erdmann said. “But we came out and took it to them in the second half.”

On the Irish’s first possession after the break, Cross broke free for a 37-yard run that set up Lowell Green’s 15-yard score. The next possession required just one play before Erdmann threw deep to Williams, who sidestepped a pair of defenders before racing up the sideline and into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown that made it 31-7.

Eastview couldn’t sustain a drive the rest of the way and finished with its second lowest point total of the season behind its 24-0 loss to the Irish in Week 2. The Lightning finished with seven punts and four turnovers on downs, and went just 3 for 17 on third downs.

The Irish, meanwhile, won their 10th straight contest and won by at least 28 points for the seventh straight time.

Erdmann finished 12 of 18 through the air for 176 yards. Hartigan caught four balls for 72 yards and Williams, Ashby-Phan, Gabe Ehlers and Trent Woodcock each had two receptions.

Thursday’s quarterfinals were the first MSHSL playoff games ever played at TCF Bank Stadium. The state tournament, which has been held at the Metrodome since it opened in 1982, will move to TCF Bank Stadium the next two years during construction of the new Vikings stadium.

“Playing here was awesome. It was great for our team to play here and play our arch rival and beat them,” Erdmann said. “It was a fantastic night for Rosemount.”