Rosemount served notice early this wasn’t going to be like last time the two South Suburban Conference rivals played.
The underdog Irish, who dropped a 35-0 decision to Lakeville North to end the regular season, stunned the favored Panthers with a 68-yard, 12-play scoring drive to open the game and to grab a 7-0 lead.
But after spotting that early touchdown, the Panthers dominated the contest defensively and rolled to a 28-7 triumph Thursday in the Class 6A state football semifinals in the Metrodome.
The win puts the Lakeville North Panthers (11-1) into the Class 6A finals against the winner of tonight’s Eden Prairie (9-2) vs. Wayzata (9-1) game. The state championship contest will be Nov. 23 in the Metrodome, starting at 7 p.m.
“I’ve been so proud of those guys all season long,” said Lakeville North head coach Brian Vossen. “I mean honestly it’s – we talk so much about the defense and being the head football coach that’s also the defensive coordinator that naturally they get a lot of attention from me. It’s the best defense I’ve ever coached.
“It’s 11 guys, really it’s about 15 guys that are committed to that defense that are in there all the time,” Vossen added. “They pursue like nobody else. They all pursue relentlessly. They go after the football. They do everything we coach them and they’re on total buy-in. They break down the film, they believe in what we’re doing. But anyone who’s ever played this game or coached or watched this game, it takes two sides of the ball.”
After giving up 68 yards on the opening drive, the Panthers allowed just 35 total yards the rest of the game. Lakeville North’s offense, meanwhile, also got better and better as the game wore on.
Lakeville North scored twice in the second quarter, the first on a 1-yard run by Jamiah Newell and the second time on an 8-yard fumble recovery by Micth Johnson.
Leading 14-7, the Panthers put the game away with two fourth-quarter scores.
Lakeville North outgained Rosemont 329 to 103 yards.
“I’ll tell you the defense is my best friend,” said Senior Panther quarterback Zach Creighton. “When they go out there its fun to watch as a football player. They really shut downs teams and take away things that most teams have worked, and its fun to watch the speed and just power and quickness of our defense. It’s awesome and I think it really feeds into our offense and gives us confidence as well.”
Rosemount’s Irish took the opening kickoff and marched 68 yards with senior running back Ali Al-Khatib scoring from the 1-yard line. After that, however, nothing the Irish tried on offense worked. Rosemount got the ball 11 more times, but was forced to punt on nine processions, lost a fumble and had one drive stopped on downs.
Lakeville North’s Schiefelbein rambled for a score after a fumble by Irish quarterback Jackson Erdman and returned it 12 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with just under three minutes left in the first half.
Both teams had some difficulty holding onto the football as there were six fumbles in the game, each team losing one.
But little by little the Lakeville North offense ground the Irish down. Lakeville North outgained Rosemount 181 yards to 20 on the ground and 148-83 in the air.
Lakeville North junior running back Newell led the Panther rushing attack, going 14 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Creighton was 13-for-19 passing for 148 yards and one touchdown, plus running 19 times for 68 yards.
Quarterback Jackson Erdman of Rosemount was harassed the entire game by the Lakeville North defense. He completed 14 of 22 passes for 83 yards, but was sacked five times.
Rosemount 7 0 0 0 -- 7
Lakeville North 0 14 0 14 -- 28
ROSEMOUNT -- Ali Al-Khatib 1 run (Sam Broback kick) 6:40
LAKEVILLE -- Jamiah Newell 1 run (Hunter Cobb kick) 7:16
LAKEVILLE -- Mitch Johnson 8 fumble recovery (Hunter Cobb kick) 2:59
LAKEVILLE -- Brandon Morgan 33 yd pass from Zach Creighton (Hunter Cobb kick) 10:10
LAKEVILLE -- Jamiah Newell 53 yd run (Hunter Cobb kick) 4:56.