All things considered, perhaps this was everything that could have been hoped for.
Sure, there were mistakes. Fumbles and interceptions and penalties, and one monumental game-turning gaffe on a kickoff. But it would have been unfair to expect more.
Rosemount outslugged Woodbury 9-7 in a rare Monday high school football game. Both teams had felt the constricting grip of COVID-19, forcing the non-traditional date. Rosemount had sat on the sidelines watching the first two weeks of the season pass by after a positive COVID test. Woodbury canceled its game against Cretin-Derham Hall last Friday while it sorted out implications of a positive test.
This game was arranged on the fly Saturday morning, with Rosemount's coach reaching out to Woodbury's.
Two days later, with nary a preparatory practice nor scouting session between them — Rosemount did have a pregame walkthrough in its practice bubble — two Metro Top 10 programs met to play arguably the coldest October prep game in state history.
"Is this a tough thing to come back after a Friday night and play on Monday against the No. 4 team in the metro? Yeah," said Rosemount coach Jeff Erdmann, whose team defeated Eagan on Friday. "But we don't care. We were very happy Woodbury took us up on this. We were just excited for the kids to get an opportunity to play."
For Jake Ratzlaff, Rosemount's superb strong safety, when and who didn't matter. The Irish were ready for some football.
"It feels so good. I am so happy," Ratzlaff said after another of his now-common hard-hitting efforts. "We're all just really happy to be back."
It was evident in the first half that a lack of preparation time and the game's unusual nature were playing a role. Each team battled itself as much as the other, making crucial mistakes. Neither team scored and only Woodbury had an opportunity to do so, only to see a potential field goal fail due to a poor snap.
At halftime, both made adjustments, whittling down their playbooks.
Rosemount took the opening possession of the second half and put together its most sustained drive, going 54 yards in nine plays. The Irish stalled at the Woodbury 5-yard line, but Leyton Simmerling broke the scoreless tie with a 22-yard field goal.
The game's most pivotal play happened next. The ensuing kickoff landed at the Woodbury 15 and instead of bouncing out of bounds, the ball died on the 11, untouched until Rosemount recovered it. Two plays later, running back Christian Graske twisted through the line for a 7-yard touchdown and a 9-0 lead.
"That play on the kickoff was huge, but we'll learn from it, get better," Woodbury coach Andy Hill said. "It cost us a little bit, but we've just got to flush it."
After averaging more than 40 points in their first two games, the Royals' response was much more like they had been accustomed to. Quarterback Donald West led them on a 17-play, 70-yard march in which they converted three fourth downs. The last one was a 17-yard scoring toss from West to Mac Lockner.
That made it 9-7. A late Royals drive got as far as the Rosemount 28, but the Irish defense, stout all night, stiffend and stopped Woodbury on fourth and 12.
"[Defensive coordinator Parc] Williams has really tried to simplify things so we can just let our guys go play and be aggressive," Erdmann said. "If you're thinking too much, it's hard to play defense."
Rosemount's victory puts it in position to win a third consecutive game within eight days when it plays at Champlin Park on Friday. Woodbury managed to move its scheduled game against rival East Ridge back one day to Saturday.
The Irish also got to finally christen its newly installed turf field.
"It was great to finally get out here and play on it," Graske said. "You can actually cut on this instead of just slipping around."