Rosemount has banked on its stout defense for much of the season.
Needing to come up big late in Friday’s Class 6A semifinal, the 11 Irish players on that side of the ball did so again at the most crucial of times.
Abid Alam forced a fumble that Justin Cave recovered at the Irish 14 with 3:40 left, and Rosemount held off a last-minute Eden Prairie threat to hang on for a 14-10 win in U.S. Bank Stadium.
Seeking the school’s first title since 1981, the 12-0 Irish will face Maple Grove in the state championship game at 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 back in downtown Minneapolis. The 12-0 Crimson beat Lakeville South 14-7 Thursday in a rematch of the 2021 title game won by the Cougars.
Rosemount finished second in 2010 and 2013.
“Whoever executes batter and makes the most unselfish plays is going to come out on top,” said Irish quarterback Landon Danner, who led Rosemount with 67 rushing yards.
All 240 of Rosemount’s yards came on the ground. It did not attempt a pass.
Danner and many of his teammates could probably use some extra time after the second physical, nail-biter affair with Eden Prairie (9-3).
“Overall, we wanted to be even more physical,” said Irish linebacker Kade Gilbertson, referencing Rosemount’s 14-7 win over Eden Prairie on Sept. 22. That, too, was a hard-hitting affair that was not decided until the final seconds when an Eagles pass to the end zone fell incomplete.
“I thought our kids fought back and played hard, but, hey, in the end, they beat us twice. They deserve to be going to the championship game,” Eagles coach Mike Grant said.
Eden Prairie got one last chance with the ball on its own 29 with 1:22 remaining and no time outs.
It got one first down to the 44, and then a pass was dropped inside the Rosemount red zone. Still, the Eagles got to the Irish 40 with another first down with 26 ticks left, but the Eagles got no closer.
Eden Prairie reached the Irish 20 late in the third quarter, but settled for a 39-yard field goal by Luka Ratkovich in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to get within 14-10.
“I don’t think we ever tipped,” Gilbertson said. “We had a couple injuries, couple guys came out, made some position switches pretty quickly and we hopped right back into it.”
Some early good fortune shone early on Rosemount. A little trickery helped too.
The opening kickoff went off an Eden Prairie player and was recovered by Jermaine Richardson at the Eagles 29. Four players later, Jackson Ganser scored from the 17, outmuscling three defenders for the final couple of yards.
“Being able to punch that ball in first is a good feeling, get the guys fired up,” Danner said. “Once we punched that in it was like, ‘Hey, we can actually play some football.’ ”
Richardson scored from the 3 just before halftime for a 14-7 lead.
Ganser took a handoff from Danner and started right where he handed off to Richardson coming left for an inside reverse. The senior cut up and went into the purple end zone.
“An exciting football game,” Rosemount coach Jeff Erdmann said. “You got two good teams that play down to the wire, and fortunately, we were able to make enough plays and our defense held strong in the second half.”