The offense was lurching, turnovers were piling up. Even after a last-second victory over then-winless Eagan in Week 5, Rosemount still had more losses than wins. Irish coach Jeff Erdmann faced a difficult decision.
"We needed a change," Erdmann said. "We were making too many mistakes."
Senior Sean Kalinowski was moved from quarterback to wide receiver and replaced with sophomore Jackson Erdmann.
It was painful but, Kalinowski admitted, it made sense.
"I wasn't playing as well as I should have," he said. "The coaches felt that Jackson had the capability to run the offense better."
For Kalinowski, it would have been easy to check out right there. He couldn't do that. Football careers are brief; he wasn't going to throw his away. Rather than see it as a demotion, he embraced the move with gusto.
"I think there was the feeling that I would have a negative attitude," he remembered. "But I felt differently. I wanted to be more positive. I accepted it to do what I could to make the team better."
It worked. And Rosemount is certainly better.
The Irish have five victories in six games since the coach's son took over at quarterback. They stand one game away from their second Prep Bowl appearance in three years. They play Lakeville North on Thursday in the first Class 6A semifinal.
Kalinowski's maturity was not lost on the team.
"What Sean did was pretty important," defensive captain Andrew Dawson said. "Our coach talks about 2006, when the quarterback that year got moved to strong safety and they went to the [Metrodome]. It was a case very similar to Sean's. He's really helped the team out at wide receiver. It's made us a better team."
It would be too simplistic to say that one change, albeit a significant one, cured what was wrong. Coaches and everyone associated with the team had felt they were better than their record indicated.
"You could tell our execution was getting better and better," Jeff Erdmann said. "As the season has gone on, the guys have seen the results and kind of focused in on what we're asking them to do."
Public perception was far different. Doubters were plentiful, particularly after a 35-0 thumping to Lakeville North in the last regular-season game.
"We use that as motivation," Kalinowski said. "A lot of people have expected this senior class to be mediocre. We want nothing more than to prove them wrong."
Critics were muted when Rosemount slipped past Stillwater in the section finals. Then the Irish went toe-to-toe with No. 1 Edina in the state quarterfinals, pulling out a 14-10 victory that was no fluke.
The Irish played inspired defense, frustrating Edina's potent offense. Kalinowski also had a major role, catching a touchdown pass on a 28-yard gadget play.
"There's nothing better than beating the No. 1 seed," said Kalinowski. "Everyone wrote us off. But we showed them we can do it."
Erdmann knows that his team is a significant underdog against ultra-talented Lakeville North. But he feels this is a far different bunch than the team that lost to the Panthers on Oct. 17.
"We didn't play well in that game," Erdmann stressed. "I'm very excited about how we're playing lately. I expect a much better ballgame from us. We only have to be better than them one time."