After topping Eden Prairie, Champlin Park is up next in football playoffs
Between not playing at home for a month, communications failures, facing a team with the mystique of Eden Prairie and being one successful field goal from elimination, Rosemount would have had plenty of excuses for being done with football season.
But here the Irish are, one of the final eight teams in the Class 6A football playoffs. Their 18-17 overtime victory last Friday at Eden Prairie, clinched when Cadin Rudoll hauled in Trevor Amborst’s pass for the deciding two-point conversion, extended the season. Rosemount (7-3) plays in the state quarterfinals against Champlin Park at 7 p.m. Thursday at Park Center High School. The winner plays Lakeville North or Shakopee in the semifinals Nov. 14 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Champlin Park was the last team to beat Rosemount, 17-14 on Oct. 4. Since then the Irish have won four in a row.
That also was the last game Rosemount played at home. At that point, the grass field at Irish Stadium was torn up beyond repair. Two games the Irish were scheduled to play at home had to be moved to neutral sites.
Eden Prairie, as a higher seed, had the right to be at home for last Friday’s second-round playoff game. What it meant to Irish senior receiver Jonathan Mann was, “we get to wear the all-whites (road uniforms). It reminded us we’re the away team, we’re the underdogs and we’re the team that supposed to have a chip on our shoulder.”
The Irish blocked an Eden Prairie field goal attempt on the final play of the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime. Eden Prairie had possession first and scored to make it 17-10. Rosemount responded with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Armborst to Jake Ratzlaff. Rather than kick an extra point to force a second overtime, the Irish went for two points and the win. Armborst, under pressure, threw into the end zone where Rudoll caught it between three Eden Prairie defenders.
It’s the first time since 2004 Eden Prairie has failed to reach the state quarterfinals.
On Monday of last week, “the coaches pulled us in and said, ‘Hey, this is just another football team,’ ” Mann said. “They’re obviously very good, one of the better ones in the history of the state. But the coaches said don’t go into it thinking they’re unbeatable because they’re Eden Prairie.”
Rosemount had not played Eden Prairie since losing to the Eagles in the 2013 Prep Bowl. None of the current Irish players were involved in that game but many of the current Irish coaches were. Ratzlaff, who also plays safety, credited defensive coordinator Parc Williams for a game plan that allowed the Irish to contain the Eagles’ running game.
“It was a little bit different from what we’ve done,” Ratzlaff said. “It was tough at the beginning for us to get down because it was so difficult, but if we got it down we knew we were going to be successful.”
Eden Prairie had 144 yards rushing but did not have the clock-consuming drives for which the Eagles are known.
“A lot of their yards came on a couple of big pass plays,” head coach Jeff Erdmann said. “There was one trick play they got on us, and two long passes where we had the receiver covered but their quarterback put it right there. We were pleased with how we defended the run. We had lots of plays where they had 3 yards or less, or minus yardage.”
Nathan Whiting kicked a 42-yard field goal in the first quarter and Armborst scored on a 6-yard run in the second quarter. Neither team scored in the second half.
The evening started on an ominous note for Rosemount when the communication equipment the coaches use failed to work, forcing the Irish to improvise on the fly.
“We’ve had those headphones several years. They were a little glitchy the game before, and last week they didn’t work at all,” Erdmann said. “But we had some young people who knew how to do it on the phone so we could have multiple people on one line, and they had AirPods with a mic on it so we could hear each other talk. A lot of people stepped up and helped us – dads giving us their phones, students and players.”
The Irish planned to have the technology issues addressed before the Champlin Park game – “that’ll be fixed,” Erdmann said – so they can concentrate on football.
“The last time we played Champlin Park their quarterback (Jaice Miller) hurt us with his feet,” Erdmann said. “He’s a very nice athlete. We also turned the ball over twice on our side of the 50 and gave them short fields. Since then we’ve had pretty good ball security and if we don’t turn it over, generally good things happen.”
Mann said the Irish believe they are prepared.
“We need to be more physical on every single play,” he said. “The last time we played them they pushed us around a little bit at the beginning. We’ve got to come out there and hit them in the mouth, as they say.”