Fast start could help Irish get back to Metrodome

Football team has plenty of talented backs, receivers

Rosemount players do some contact work at practice Tuesday morning. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy
Rosemount players do some contact work at practice Tuesday morning. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

It took Rosemount until late in the 2012 football season to hit its stride and stop making critical mistakes. Once that happened, the Irish still had time to make a run to the state Class 6A semifinals.

The timetable is being accelerated this year, largely because of Rosemount’s schedule. In the first four weeks of the 2013 season, the Irish play three other teams (Wayzata, Eastview and Prior Lake) that reached the final eight in the Class 6A playoffs.

A slow start won’t cut it this time.

To that end, head coach Jeff Erdmann conducted a three-day, full-pads camp in late July for the first time since the Minnesota State High School League’s summer waiver rule went into effect. Erdmann said the Irish didn’t go crazy with the hitting, but the message was clear – they can’t treat the first few games like scrimmages.

“We wanted to be able to get everything installed,” Erdmann said, “and we wanted to create an atmosphere where we play with speed and intensity.”

Erdmann said the Irish accomplished what they were looking for in the July camp, and it carried over to when two-a-days started Aug. 12. “We’ve had a good summer,” the coach said.

Asked if Erdmann had expressed that sentiment to the players, senior linebacker Nate Sackett said, “well, he’s not really about that, until you prove it on the field. But he’s told us we have a chance to be pretty good.”

The players are anxious to prove it on the field, too. “We want to be the team that goes to the dome in back-to-back years,” Sackett said. “That hasn’t happened in Rosemount. They’ve gone to the dome in even-numbered years.”

Rosemount went to the Metrodome for the state semifinals in 2006 and 2008. In 2010, the Irish reached the state large-school championship game. Last year Rosemount played at the dome in the Class 6A quarterfinals and semifinals.

Expectations are high in part because the Irish have some talented returning players. Sackett (6-foot-2, 219 pounds) and Craig Syzmanski (6-2, 208) are two of the top linebackers in the South Suburban Conference. Syzmanski was an All-South Suburban player last season. Senior defensive back Carter Yepsen, senior linebacker Ryan Fox and junior defensive lineman Tre Peterson also are returning defensive players.

Erdmann said the Irish might not have as much overall speed on defense as they’ve had in previous years, but “we’re a little bigger in the D-line, and Syzmanski and Sackett are very good linebackers. We might be a little more physical.”

Rosemount’s offense has as many skilled backs and receivers as Erdmann has had in his 14 years coaching the Irish. Jackson Erdmann, a junior and the coach’s son, took over at quarterback midway through last season. Dimitri Williams was all-conference last season as a sophomore.

Williams is listed in the program as a running back and will get some carries, but the Irish also are likely to move him around the formation to take advantage of his receiving skills.

Seniors Trent Woodcock and Grant Jackson also return at running back. Senior Jordan Herbranson and junior Tyler Hartigan are wide receivers, and senior Gabe Ehlers is a returning tight end. Seniors Jake Conn (6-1, 290) and Jacob Koestler (5-10, 240) are the most experienced offensive linemen.

When Rosemount started slowly (1-3) last season, it was mostly because of self-inflicted damage, Jeff Erdmann said. Wayzata, the team the Irish face in their season opener at home Aug. 29, is known for feasting on opponents’ mistakes. Thus, the emphasis on reducing mistakes.

“When we’ve played Wayzata in the past, it seemed like every time we made a mistake, they turned it into a big play,” Erdmann said.

And the players know what’s coming if they don’t keep their minds on the task.

“Last year it got to the point where if you made a mental mistake in practice, you had to run,” Syzmanski said. “That seemed to fix the problem.”

Rosemount football
(All games 7 p.m. Friday unless noted)
Aug. 29 (Thursday): Wayzata
Sept. 6: at Eastview
Sept. 13: at Bloomington Kennedy
Sept. 20: at Prior Lake
Sept. 27: Eagan
Oct. 4: Lakeville South
Oct. 11: at Bloomington Jefferson
Oct. 16: Lakeville North