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Class 6A football: Late drive sends Irish back to state tournament

The Rosemount football team put together the drive it needed when it needed it Friday night.

Trailing Centennial by three points with five minutes to go, the third-ranked Irish traveled 90 yards in five plays to set up quarterback Cody Hogan's one-yard dive across the goal line with 3:13 to go. The go-ahead score sealed an 18-13 victory at Irish Stadium and sent the Irish back to the state tournament for the seventh time in 11 years.

The Irish (9-1) will take on Champlin Park in the Class 6A quarterfinals Nov. 11 in Woodbury. Champlin Park (7-3) advanced by winning a 35-33 thriller over East Ridge Friday night.

The Irish had turned the ball over twice and punted twice on their four possessions of the second half before their game-winning drive, but head coach Jeff Erdmann said he was still confident they could move the ball.

“We felt good about our throwing game. We just didn't get the ball to our guys. We got a big catch by (Sam) Nelson and our offensive line just took over,” Erdmann said. “It was great to see because Centennial has a great defensive line.”

The big catch by Nelson was a 50-yard toss from Hogan that Nelson adjusted to in midair. He then cut past his defender down the right sideline to move the ball across midfield. Hogan followed with a pair of runs to move the ball inside the two-yard line, setting up his go-ahead score.

Hogan came through again on the ensuing extra point attempt. While serving as the holder, he scooped up a low snap, rolled all the way to the right sideline and found Dan Johnson with a desperation pass in the back corner of the end zone. The two-point conversion put the Irish up 18-13.

The momentum carried over into the next kickoff. Kenny Watkins booted a short squib kick and the ball bounced away from Centennial, allowing Rosemount to charge in for the recovery. The Irish offense was then able to run out the rest of the clock with four running plays and a pair of kneel-downs.

Rosemount scored the first touchdown of the game in the final minute of the first quarter. After a quick 62-yard strike to Connor Kleiber, Hogan took a low snap and sprinted nine yards into the end zone for the score.

Hogan led the Irish with 129 rushing yards on 18 carries. He also completed 5 of 10 passes for 148 yards.

"He's a competitor. He competes," Erdmann said.

Centennial (5-5) tied the game with a 54-yard touchdown drive late in the first half. Alex Facon leaped above two Rosemount defenders to haul in a 21-yard score.

The Irish took the lead back on a 31-yard field goal by Watkins with 38 seconds left before the half.

Centennial took the lead with a long drive to start the second half. The Cougars traveled 69 yards over the course of six minutes and eventually faced fourth and goal at the two-yard line. After initially lining up for the game-tying field goal, they changed their minds and instead elected to go for the go-ahead touchdown. The decision paid off as Keshaun Story's two-yard plunge made it 13-10.

Rosemount lost a fumbled exchange on its next drive, but quickly got the ball back thanks to an interception in the end zone by Eric Paget.

The Irish will return to the state tournament after a one-year hiatus. They qualified in 2006, 2008 and 2010 and then three years in a row from 2012 to 2014. They reached the semifinals in '06, '08 and '12 and were runners-up in 2010 and '13.