In a game that turned several times on the adventures of the two punters, Rosemount enjoyed one constant — the rugged running of Christian Graske — in scuttling White Bear Lake 35-21 on Friday evening in the playoff opener.
White Bear Lake got big production from their top rusher, too, Cam Zaleski, but saw its season end with a 3-6 record.
Rosemount (6-3) had Graske tote the ball 44 times, and the 5-10, 152-pound junior slashed for 252 yards and all five touchdowns, from six, 14, five, one, and one yards, in action at Burnsville High School. This was Graske’s coming-out party as he entered the game with 678 yards and eight touchdowns.
Zaleski broke his two longest runs of the season, 49 and 44 yards, scoring on the latter of those, and totaled 147 yards in 14 carries.
Each team has a punter with a powerful leg, and each was dealing with a fierce wind whipping the length of the field.
Jeff Odamtten’s first punt, from the Bears’ two, into the wind, went just 20 yards, which would have given Rosemount great field position, except that the ball glanced off the foot of one of the Irish players and the Bears recovered.
On Odamtten’s second attempt, from his own 10, wind at his back, with the Bears needing another 50-yard-plus effort (he’s made three of those), he fumbled the snap, and the Irish smothered him, leading to Graske’s second TD and a 13-7 lead.
Odamtten redeemed himself on his third effort, booming a 56-yarder with the wind that the Bears downed at the Irish three, while trailing 20-7 late in the half.
That was big. After the Bears stuffed two runs and Brice Peters broke up a down-field pass, Irish punter Nick Whiting had to launch one from the end zone into the wind. It landed at the 35 and took two big bounces backwards to the 22-yard line.
From there, Bears scored on the next play on a hook-and-ladder play with Branden Berwald throwing to Sammy Russ, who lateraled the ball to Peters, who raced the final 15 yards untouched, making it 20-14 at halftime.
Whiting had his big moment in the fourth quarter when, with his team clinging to a 28-21 lead, he crushed one 65 yards, with the wind of course, over the head of return man Peters and all the way to the Bears 14. And two plays later, the Irish shook loose a fumble from Peters at that spot, leading to Graske’s fifth TD and a 35-21 lead.
For the Bears, Berwald, limited mainly to short throws due to the wind and frequent pressure from Rosemount, hit 18 of 40 passes for 135 yards with one interception. Russ caught 10 passes for 59 yards. Peters caught five for 32 yards and rushed 10 times for 46 yards and two touchdowns, the other from two yards.
When not handing off to Graske, Rosemount quarterback Trevor Amborst completed eight of 17 passes for 69 yards. He hit Jonathan Mann for a two-point conversion to make up for an extra-point kick that was blocked by Bear lineman Mitchell Landsberger. Whiting made the other four conversions.
White Bear Lake …. 0 14 7. 0 — 21
Rosemount ……….. 6 14 8 7 — 35
Rose — Christian Graske 6 run (kick blocked)
WBL — Brice Peters 2 run (Jeff Odamtten kick)
Rose — Graske 14 run (Whiting kick)
Rose — Graske 5 run (Whiting kick)
WBL — Peters 15 run after Sammy Russ 7 pass from Branden Berwald (Whiting kick)
Rose — Graske 1 run (Jonathan Mann pass from Trevor Armborst)
WBL — Cam Zaleski 44 run (Odamtten kick)
Rose — Graske 1 run (Whiting kick)