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Challenge accepted: Irish earn a trip to the Prep Bowl

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About three minutes into the first possession of last Thursday night’s Class 6A state semifinal football game at the Metrodome, Roseville did something Rosemount opponents haven’t done much lately.

They scored.

Then, after the Irish answered that early touchdown with a 25-yard scoring pass from Jackson Erdmann to Tyler Hartigan on their own first possession, the Raiders did something even more unusual. Following a punt on their second possession, the Raiders turned an interception into another touchdown.

Rosemount followed with a 37-yard touchdown run from Dimitri Williams, a 51-yard scoring run from Trent Woodcock and a 79-yard punt return touchdown from Williams, but even then the Raiders didn’t follow the recent script of Rosemount opponents fading as the first half wore on.

Roseville scored with 23 seconds left in the first half to make the score 27-21 thanks to a missed extra point following Rosemount’s second touchdown.

The Radiers’ 21 first-half points were as many as Rosemount had given up total in its four previous games. The Irish hadn’t allowed as many as 14 points in more than a month, a 60-14 win over Bloomington Jefferson on Oct. 11. Nobody had scored 21 on the Irish defense since Bloomington Kennedy did it in a 61-21 loss Sept. 13.

Wayzata scored 24 against the Irish in the first game of the season, a 24-21 double-overtime loss for the Irish. The Irish hadn’t lost since then, and aside from a 24-13 win over Prior Lake in week three they’d rarely been tested.

After weeks of warming up the reserves for the second half, Roseville’s unprecedented offensive output — quarterback Jacques Perra threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns in the game and ran for another 80 — made for an unusual atmosphere in the Irish locker room at halftime. Coach Jeff Erdmann said even up six points players were hanging their heads.

“We knew going in it was going to be a four-quarter game, but we haven’t been in that,” Erdmann said. “It was great to see our guys battle and come out and compete like crazy.”

Offense was harder to come by in the second half. Rosemount got a short touchdown run on their second possession of the half and Williams threw a two-point conversion pass to Jackson Erdmann to make the score 35-21. The Raiders scored a touchdown with 3:46 left in the third quarter for the half’s only other points.

There was no shortage of drama, though. Roseville had the ball with a chance to tie the game as time wound down. With two minutes left, the Irish defense made a stand on fourth and 4 at their own 19 to give the ball back to their offense. From there, it took one first down and a few kneel-downs to wrap up the team’s first trip to the state finals since 2010.

Jackson Erdmann said players were focused throughout the close game.

“We stayed confident. We weren’t getting down,” he said. “We were able to step it up big at the end.”

Jeff Erdmann said Roseville presented some challenges his team hasn’t had to face much lately. He said it was hard to know on film how fast Perra was, and the Raider defense stuck with the Irish better than other teams have been able to.

“They were able to stay with us downfield,” Erdmann said. “There haven’t been a lot of guys who have been able to do that.”

Williams, who had been one of the first players to sit down when recent games got out of hand, led the Irish rushing attack with 116 yards on 15 carries. Erdmann ran 11 times for 73 yards and was 5 of 11 passing for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Roseville had the ball for 28:03 to just 18:45 for Rosemount.

The Irish also hurt themselves with two first-half interceptions.

“We’ve got to clean that stuff up,” Erdmann said. “Whoever we play in the next game, we can’t do that.”

Rosemount will play top-ranked Eden Prairie at 7 p.m. in the Nov. 29 Prep Bowl championship. The two-time defending champion Eagles have won eight state titles, while the Irish claimed their lone championship in 1981.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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