ST. JAMES - Fairmont executed head coach Mat Mahoney's game plan perfectly at winless St. James' expense on Friday night on the Saints' gridiron.
Mahoney expressed pre-game concerns about re-establishing a ground game, holding the opposing offense in check and eliminating big plays on special teams.
Cardinal defensive coordinator Brad Johnson's 4-3 alignment limited the Saints to only 60 yards of total offense, Fairmont offensive coordinator Andy Traetow's unit generated 440 yards - including 271 on the ground, while Luke Becker returned three punts for 50 yards during South Central Conference football action.
BULLDOZING AHEAD — Fairmont halfback Brandon Martin (44) drags St. James linebacker Ryan Menssen as Saint defensive back Zack Gleiter (7) pursues during South Central Conference football action on Friday night in St. James. Photo by Leanna Becker
"We finally played a complete game overall tonight," Mahoney said in reference to his Cardinals' 52-0 shutout over the Saints.
After a pair of failed fourth-down opening series by both teams, senior halfback Brandon Martin proved he's fully recovered from a high ankle sprain earlier in the season. The 220-pound Martin steamrolled his way to 33 of Fairmont's 73 yards during a 14-play drive that he capped with a 2-yard touchdown plunge. Mark Fruechte kicked the PAT for a 7-0 edge with 5:28 left in the opening quarter.
After defensive tackle Bailey Koppen delivered a 4-yard loss on third down, St. James' errant long snap on a punt led to an 18-yard loss and Fairmont's possession at the Saints' 20.
It took quarterback Mitch Pfingsten, who hit Justin Barnes for a 21-yard strike and Bryce Holm on a 13-yard route during the initial scoring series, only one tote to cross the goal line from 5 yards out. Fruechte's PAT kick doubled the gap to 14-0 with 2:22 left in the first frame.
Defensive tackle Tadd Abel then produced the first of three Fairmont quarterback sacks - each for a minus-9 yards, to force a St. James punt two series later. The sure-handed Luke Becker sprinted and weaved 22 yards to reach the Saints' 44 before Pfingsten & Co. went to work.
Pfingsten, who completed 8 of 15 passes for 95 yards in the first half, zipped a 16-yard aerial to Barnes before Martin bulldozed to near the 10. Pfingsten bootlegged around left end and juked his way into the end zone from 11 yards to extend the Cardinals' gap to 20-0.
Fairmont linebacker Jacob Portz and Abel combined on a sack during the ensuing sequence before Portz chalked up a solo sack to create another St. James punting situation.
Becker made a sprinting catch among traffic and sped 25 yards on the punt return to put the Cardinals in business at the Saints' 14 following an extra 15 yards due to a facemask penalty.
Becker made an 11-yard reception before fullback Kyle Guetter pounded up the middle for a 3-yard TD for a 26-0 edge with 2:35 left in the first half.
Linebacker Joe Weber's stop for a loss on first down and two incompletions quickly forced St. James to punt again.
Guetter broke three tackles in reeling off a 32-yard bruising run to the 15 before Pfingsten lofted a scoring strike to Holm near the right pylon for a 32-0 lead by intermission.
Portz and the Cardinal defense held its ground on the Saints' fourth-down fake punt, giving the red-and-white offense possession at the home team's 34 to open the third quarter.
Halfback Josh Eversman exploded for two runs totaling 26 yards before quarterback Luke Hested fired an 8-yard TD strike to Barnes for a 38-0 edge.
Abel and Fairmont's defense held on a fourth-and-1 situation one series later before Hested engineered another time-consuming scoring drive. Hested motored his way for 19 of his 61 rushing yards to move the chains before hitting Holm on an 18-yard connection and Dan Sumey for a 39-yard completion to the Saints' 13. Derek Edman accelerated through the right side on a 5-yard TD run to widen the lead to 44-0 with 11:39 left in regulation.
Hested, who completed 5 of 6 passes for 74 yards, closed out the scoring by rumbling to paydirt from 10 yards out for a 50-0 lead. Edman delivered the 2-point conversion run to close out the point production.
Spencer Chirpich pocketed an interception to cap Fairmont's smothering defensive performance.
Fairmont (3-3, 2-1 SCC) plays host to Class 3A, No. 3-ranked Blue Earth Area (6-0, 3-0) in the Little Brown Jug game at 7 p.m. next Friday night at Mahoney Field in Fairmont. St. James (0-6, 0-3) plays host to Waseca next Friday night.
FHS 14 18 6 14 - 52
STJ 0 0 0 0 - 0
F - Brandon Martin 2 run (Mark Fruechte kick), 5:28.
F - Mitch Pfingsten 5 run (Fruechte kick), 2:22.
F - Pfingsten 11 run (kick failed), 7:18.
F - Kyle Guetter 3 run (kick failed), 2:35.
F - Bryce Holm 15 pass from Pfingsten (run failed), 1:01.
F - Justin Barnes 8 pass from Luke Hested (kick blocked), 10:28.
F - Derek Edman 5 run (kick blocked), 11:39.
F - Hested 10 run (Edman run), 3:25.
First downs: FHS 21; St. James 5. Rushing: FHS 44-271; St. James 31-41. Passing: FHS 13-21-0-169; St. James 3-15-1-19. Fumbles-lost: FHS 2-1; St. James 2-0. Penalties: FHS 3-25; St. James 2-16.
Offense: Rushing: Fairmont: Martin 15-81, Hested 7-61, Guetter 5-51. St. James: Ryan Menssen 15-56. Passing: Pfingsten (F) 8-15-0-95, Hested (F) 5-6-0-74; Sam Carlson 3-10-0-19, Walker Froehling (SJ) 0-3-1-0. Receiving: Fairmont: Holm 4-52, Barnes 3-45, Luke Becker 3-24. St. James: Menssen 1-10, Zack Gleiter 1-8.
Defense: Interception: Spencer Chirpich (F). Fumble recovery: St. James.