Linemen will show the way for Irish

Standouts need to make two-way impact

Note: seventh in a series of previews of high school football teams in the Sun Thisweek and Dakota County Tribune coverage area.

Class 6A schools need to adjust to changing demographics in high school football, and Rosemount is no different.

Rosemount worked out at the Irish Sports Dome last week in preparation for Thursday’s season opener at Wayzata. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Even the largest schools are dealing with smaller rosters, and that will affect how they practice and play.

“A lot of programs are going to experience the same things, concerns with depth,” Rosemount coach Jeff Erdmann said following an Irish practice last Friday. “We’re at 61 guys. That will be tricky for us as far as how we balance guys and use guys. We feel pretty confident we’ll be OK up front, but we have to control reps for guys as we go through.

“The last nine or 10 years, we’ve taught mostly one side of the ball. Now we’re teaching 85 percent of our team two sides, offense and defense. People have started doing that the last couple of years. Sometimes we have to go with fewer schemes because we’re worried about the ability to remember all of it and execute. But that’s the nature of the beast, and we’ll do the best we can with who we have.”

That might not be the only change the football program has to confront in the coming months. This is Erdmann’s 19th year as Rosemount head coach. Whether or not it’s his last depends on how anxious 2nd Congressional District voters are to send him to Washington, D.C. Erdmann, who teaches American government at Rosemount High School, is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat held by first-term Republican Jason Lewis. Also seeking the Democratic nomination is Angie Craig, who ran against Lewis in 2016 and lost by less than 2 percent.

If Erdmann wins the nomination at the Minnesota DFL convention in June 2018, he would take a leave of absence from his teaching and coaching jobs to campaign, and if he wins the election “I’ll be done” as football coach, he said.

If this is his last Rosemount team, it might be one capable to making a run in the Class 6A playoffs. The Irish open their season Thursday at Wayzata.

“Everyone can feel that we’re going to do something really good this season, so we’ve been bringing it the last couple of weeks” in practice, senior lineman Sam Willmott said.

Willmott (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) is part of an experienced trio of senior linemen. Jacob Smith (6-6, 319), is a third-year starter and future Division I college player, having verbally committed to Brigham Young. Ian Bass (6-4, 275) also is a returning starter. All are likely to get snaps on offense and defense and will be key to what both those units are able to accomplish, as many of the Irish’s backs and receivers come into the season with limited varsity experience.

The charge for the linemen is simple: “Be physical, set the tone right away on both sides of the ball,” Smith said. “Because we have experience, our execution on the O-line especially will be good.”

Bass said the linemen can help put a big group of juniors in a position to succeed quickly. “We have big guys and some good skill guys,” Bass said. “We haven’t always been that top group, but we’ve worked hard to get where we are.”

The Irish were 9-2 last season, reaching the Class 6A quarterfinal round before losing to Champlin Park 34-28 in overtime.

“We have a little more speed than our previous year and more running back/D-back type guys,” Erdmann said. “We have more speed at the wide receiver spots than last year. More guys that can go deep. That’s kind of exciting.

“We’re always going to be a run-oriented offense. From there, we make modifications based on the skill sets at the (quarterback) spot and receivers. We think we’re going to have pretty good balance.”

Max Carter, a junior, looks to be the favorite to take over at quarterback. “I think he’s really going to be able to step up and lead this team,” Willmott said.

Jonathan Mann, who suited up for the varsity as a ninth-grader last season, is one of the candidates to carry the ball, as are junior Nick Magnuson and senior Colin Pomeroy. Ultimately, the backs and receivers who can avoid fumbling the ball are going to play.

“Any time you have a lot of juniors coming in, one of my concerns is ball security in varsity situations,” Erdmann said. “We’re looking at who’s going to hang on to the ball, who’s going to be dependable so we can keep our offense on the field.”

Michael Judd returns on defense as an outside linebacker. Erdmann said the Irish also should be strong in the defensive backfield with returnees Cole Kraemer and Keenan Wenzel at safety. Sullivan Lanoue saw a lot of playing time last season as a backup cornerback.

Smith said Ezeyah Orpoeza, a junior, is ready to contribute at tackle on either side of the line, or both.

“The offensive and defensive line, I think that’s what people will notice,” Willmott said. “A lot of us will play both ways, so we have to be working, like, 10 times harder. We’ve been here in the summer three times a week, doing our lifts, doing our sprinting. We’re all very committed to this.”

Rosemount football
(Games at 7 p.m. Friday unless noted)
Aug. 31 (Thur.): at Wayzata
Sept. 8: Edina
Sept. 15: at Eagan
Sept. 23 (Sat.): Farmington (5 p.m.)
Sept. 29: Eastview
Oct. 6: at Lakeville South
Oct. 13: at Burnsville
Oct. 18 (Wed.): Shakopee