There’s been no hangover when one might have been expected. No self-pity, no what-might-have-beens, even though it would certainly have been understandable.
In its place are victories, five of them without a loss, achieved in what has become a signature style: Run often, throw when necessary and lean on a defense that considers yardage-allowed as a personal insult.
For Rosemount, putting 2014 in the past is largely the result of facing 2015 head on.
The way last season ended was more than the typical end-of-the-year disappointment. With a senior-dominated roster and a top-flight passer in quarterback Jackson Erdmann, the Irish were the most dominant team in Class 6A. They won their first 10 games, with just one decided by fewer than 21 points. A Prep Bowl appearance seemed like a sure thing.
But in the state tournament quarterfinals, Erdmann suffered a broken leg early in the game. Lakeville North rallied in the fourth quarter to pull out a 14-13 victory.
“The whole team was crushed,” senior linebacker Dan Monson said. “We didn’t see that coming. It was devastating.”
But that’s history now. Dwelling on the past serves no purpose.
“I think it’s been easy for [the players] to put it behind them,” coach Jeff Erdmann said. “We only have two returning starters. For them, they’re looking at this season saying ‘This is our time.’ ”
With an untested team, tweaks were made. The spread offense was replaced with an old standby — the option. Back to the ground-and-pound roots that had served the Irish well for most of Erdmann’s 17-year tenure before his son’s ascension to quarterback.
“If we had 4.5 [40-yard-dash] kids on the outside and a 4.6 kid in the slot, we’d be doing a lot of the same stuff as last year,” Erdmann said. “We don’t have that. We look different.”
The product may not be as dynamic, but the result has been just as successful. Heading into the final three games of the regular season, Rosemount is 5-0, ranked No. 4 in Class 6A and once again among the metro area’s elite.
“We’re not a dominant team, but our guys have been very diligent in knowing what they’re supposed to do,” Erdmann said. “This is one of our better years for execution, as far as guys being where they’re supposed to be.”
Senior Jared Hanson has taken over at quarterback and is running the read-option offense with precision.
“I’m not as great a thrower as Jackson was, but maybe I’m a little more agile,” Hanson said.
It took all of one half of play for this Rosemount team to take ownership of the season. The Irish trailed White Bear Lake 13-7 at halftime of the season opener. The coaching staff took the opportunity to let players know that the 2014 team was not coming to their rescue.
“We hadn’t been losing at halftime of a game in over a year,” Monson said. “Our coaches had to remind us that we could lose that game. That got us started.”
The response was swift. They took the lead early in third quarter and the result, a 16-13 victory, has carried over. They haven’t trailed in a game since. The defense has allowed just two touchdowns over the past four games.
“How we responded in the second half of that game was a turning point for us,” senior running back Kelly Muir said. “We’re done talking about last year. A lot of us have a chip on our shoulder, because we feel like we’ve been overlooked a little bit.”
Understandable, because the current group of seniors has been successful at every level, winning South Suburban Conference championships as ninth-graders, 10th-graders and JV players. Now it’s their turn to represent Rosemount, and they’re doing it just as well as their predecessors. In some regards, perhaps even better.
“We’ve really come together as team,” Monson said. “We don’t have the stars we used to have. Everybody has to contribute. At the start of the year, people barely mentioned us. We’ve got something to prove.”