Rosemount head coach Jeff Erdmann scouted the Class 6A state tournament quarterfinal matchup with fellow run-heavy Centennial and predicted a short game.
The Irish defense and special teams contributed to the Cougars' long night.
Rosemount posted a 27-0 victory Thursday at Stillwater High School. The second-ranked Irish (11-0) earned a trip to the semifinals on Friday of next week at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"We're going to win it," senior defensive lineman Hayden Bills said. "That's the plan."
Everything went according to plan against No. 5 Centennial (8-3), starting with a big special teams play. Just 93 seconds into the game, a bad snap and catch by Centennial gave oncoming rushers enough time to block the punt attempt. Lucas Klinkner scooped up the bouncing ball and ran 21 yards for a score.
Even successful punts led to problems. In the second quarter, Chance Swansson returned a Centennial punt to the Cougars 48-yard line. The solid field position didn't go to waste. Rosemount's Jake Schimmel finished the drive with a short touchdown run and the Irish led 14-0.
"In cold games like this, field position is everything," Bills said. "Our special teams were going to be a huge part of our success."
Bills was a huge part of a near flawless defensive performance. Shutting out Centennial marked the ninth time this season when the Irish defense permitted 10 or fewer points in a game.
A player Erdmann lauded as "a phenomenal athlete," Bills also made a difference offensively. Facing fourth-and-3 with about five minutes to play in the third quarter, Rosemount coaches called timeout to draw up the team's first passing play of the game.
It worked. Bills got loose for a 25-yard touchdown.
"Their guys were coming up in run support, so we said, 'Let's take a shot now,' " Erdmann said. "It was nice to be able to hit that."
Asked to choose between scoring a touchdown and being part of a shutout, Bills stayed true to his roots.
"The shutout," Bills said. "We take a lot of pride in that."
His team trailing 20-0, Cougars coach Mike Diggins knew catching Rosemount was near impossible.
"They have a darn good defense," Diggins said. "Nobody has really scored on them this year."