FAIRMONT - Speed, not time, was of the essence during Friday night's bus-delayed nonconference football clash at Mahoney Field in Fairmont.
St. Paul Central displayed no signs of bus lag as Minutemen flanker Elijah Campbell rushed for a game-best 200 yards and two touchdowns to complement a 90-yard kickoff return for six more points to pace a 49-19 rout over the Class 3A, No. 9-ranked Fairmont Cardinals.
"Their speed and ability to make the big play hurt us tonight," said Fairmont mentor Mat Mahoney, whose lineup actually outgenerated St. Paul Central in total yards of offense by a 434-356 margin.
LONG RETURN — St. Paul Central’s Gabe Walker (bottom) brings down Fairmont punt returner Luke Becker after a long gain during prep football action Friday night at Mahoney Field in Fairmont. St. Paul Central’s Antonio Carmichael (35) and Fairmont’s Dan Sumey (back) look on. Photo by Leanna Becker
Arriving two hours after the original kickoff time of 5:30 p.m. due to a transportation issue, Campbell and the Minutemen struck from long distance during the third series of the game.
The Mercurial Campbell took a sweep toss around right end, juked and sidestepped would-be tacklers, squared his shoulders and sprinted 90 yards down the Central sideline to paydirt. Kahdeem Turner kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 3:55 left in the opening quarter.
Unfortunately for Fairmont, it continued to be plagued by the injury bug as all-South Central Conference running back Brandon Martin exited the game during the first quarter. The Cardinals already were missing two-way starter Jay Ruen and center Zach Brown due to injuries.
Despite Martin's absence, Fairmont's defense created the first of its three fumble recoveries as end Justin Barnes scooped up a high Minutemen snap at the Central 41.
Unfortunately for the home team, the drive stalled and Central defensive end Calvin Carlson blocked Barnes' ensuing punt, scooped it up and sprinted 50 yards for a TD to extend the gap to 13-0 with 12 seconds left in the first.
Senior quarterback Luke Hested, who completed 9 of 16 passes for 106 yards, engineered Fairmont's answering march downfield.
Hested zipped short strikes to Barnes and leading receiver Bryce Holm before firing a timing route to Mark Fruechte for a 35-yard gain to the Minutemen's 17.
Hested capped the scoring drive by hitting Barnes on a 5-yard post route to reduce the Cardinals' deficit to 13-6 with 10:22 left in the second quarter.
Despite fumble recoveries by Central lineman Chika Aghenu and Fairmont lineman Colton Hines, neither offense reached the end zone before intermission.
Theo Haslow, however, picked off a Hested delivery to open the third quarter and returned the interception to the Cardinals' 34.
The Minutemen utilized its potent ground game to cover the remaining distance, with running back-turned-quarterback Gabe Walker bulldozing in from 3 yards out for a 19-6 edge at the 8:35 juncture. Walker replaced Felix Taylor Jr., who was injured near the end of the first half and did not return under center.
Walker then displayed his defensive prowess by intercepting a Mitch Pfingsten pass only to witness Fairmont defensive back Dan Sumey countering by recovering a Central fumble at the home team's 25.
Pfingsten, who connected on 9 of 22 passes for 109 yards, spearheaded the Cardinals' ensuing scoring drive by utilizing his legs and later, his arm.
Pfingsten rolled around end for a 26-yard keeper before firing a 16-yard bullet to Holm. Pfingsten later rolled left and lofted a 19-yard TD to a leaping Barnes to inch Fairmont within 19-12 with 41 seconds left in the third quarter.
Campbell, however, regained the momentum for the Minutemen by returning the kickoff 90 yards before Walker ran for the 2-point conversion to re-establish a 27-12 lead only 14 seconds later.
A high long snap and errant Fairmont punt set up Central at the Cardinals' 3 and Walker rumbled over the left side to extend the visitors' lead to 33-12.
Garrett Gardner then intercepted a Hested pass and sprinted 65 yards along the Minutemen's sideline for a touchdown before Jakobi Jackson ran for 2 more points.
Jacob Portz displayed his mettle for Fairmont by breaking tackle after tackle to score on a 67-yard bruising run only to witness Campbell's countering 51-yard TD sprint around right end.
Holm caught a game-best eight passes for 95 yards, Barnes garnered six receptions for 58 yards and two TDs, while Portz reeled off a team-best 93 yards and one score on six totes.
Fairmont (1-2) kicks off conference action next Friday night by traveling to Waseca for a 7 p.m. game.
SPC 13 0 14 22 - 49
FHS 0 6 6 7 - 19
SPC - Elijah Campbell 90 run (Kahdeem Turner kick), 3:55.
SPC - Calvin Carlson 50 blocked punt return (kick failed), 0:12.
F - Justin Barnes 5 pass from Luke Hested (kick failed), 10:22.
SPC - Gabe Walker 3 run (pass failed), 8:35.
F - Justin Barnes 19 pass from Mitch Pfingsten (pass failed), 0:41.
SPC - Elijah Campbell 90 kickoff return (Gabe Walker run), 0:27.
SPC - Gabe Walker 4 run (run failed), 10:19.
SPC - Garrett Gardner 65 interception return (Jakobi Jackson run), 6:59.
F - Jacob Portz 67 run (Mark Fruechte kick), 6:37.
SPC - Elijah Campbell 51 run (Elijah Campbell run), 6:25.
First downs: Fairmont 19; St. Paul Central 11. Rushing: Fairmont 32-219; St. Paul Central 40-295. Passing: Fairmont 18-39-3-215; St. Paul Central 3-8-0-61. Fumbles-lost: Fairmont 5-1; St. Paul Central 5-3. Penalties: Fairmont 4-42; St. Paul Central 8-63.
Offense: Rushing: Elijah Campbell (SPC) 12-200; Jacob Portz (F) 6-93. Passing: Luke Hested (F) 9-16-2-106; Mitch Pfingsten (F) 9-22-1-109; Felix Taylor Jr. (SPC) 3-5-0-61. Receiving: Bryce Holm (F) 8-95; Justin Barnes (F) 6-58; Mark Fruechte (F) 2-57; Theo Haslow (SPC) 2-53.
Defense: Interceptions: Theo Haslow (SPC), Gabe Walker (SPC), Garrett Gardner (SPC). Recoveries: Justin Barnes (F), Chika Aghenu (SPC), Colton Hines (F), Dan Sumey (F).