Fairmont rallies to state quarterfinal win over Cannon Falls

FORCING A FUMBLE — Fairmont linebacker Jordan Wolter (lower right) and cornerback Daniel Reiter (25) force Cannon Falls fullback Trenton Matthies (46) to fumble the football during Saturday’s Class AAA state quarterfinal football game in Hopkins. Cannon Falls tight end Graham Pearson (48) watches the play. (Photo courtesy of Randy Chirpich)

HOPKINS — Fairmont senior quarterback Garrett Myren should consider a career as a magician after Saturday’s performance in the Class AAA state quarterfinal football game.

Myren completed 9 of 18 passes for a career-best 250 yards, including a pair of long-distance scoring strikes to split end Dustin Schultz, and rushed for two more TDs to help the No. 5-ranked Cardinals make the Cannon Falls Bombers disappear from the playoffs, 27-21, in Hopkins.

Fairmont (10-1) advances to face Perham (9-2) in a 4:30 p.m. state semifinal on Saturday, Nov. 17, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The unranked Yellowjackets coasted to a 48-17 state quarterfinal triumph over Two Harbors.

Unranked Cannon Falls ended its program’s second-ever trip to state with a 5-7 record.

“After committing three turnovers by halftime and being down by only one point, I thought we were in good shape,” said Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney, whose lineup finished the state clash on the rare short end of a 6-to-3 turnover ratio. “We (coaching staff) told our players at halftime that we have to live by our credo ‘Fight On’ and make the correct adjustments to limit our own mistakes in the second half.”

Trailing late in the third quarter, defensive end Nick Thate then delivered a momentum-shifting play by falling on a Cannon Falls’ fumble at Fairmont’s 21 to put Myren & Co. back in business.

Myren made the Cardinals’ eight-point deficit disappear by rifling a 53-yard spiral to the fleet-footed and sure-handed Schultz along the right sideline. Myren then rolled out and lofted a game-tying 2-point conversion pass to Hayden Berhow for a tie at 14-all with 1:35 remaining in the third.

“I thought we did a good job of withstanding their (the Bombers’ proverbial) punches and finally took control near the end of the third quarter,” said Mahoney.

Despite one of Cannon Falls safety Graham Pearson’s three defensive gems — a blocked punt into Fairmont territory, Cardinals defensive linemen Jacob Rahn, Thate and Dominick Ortiz combined with linebacker Zac Ringnell to keep the Bombers off of the scoreboard. Ringnell’s fourth-down stop at the Fairmont 40 regained possession for Myren’s magical touch.

Facing a fourth-and-10 situation on the heels of Cannon Falls linebacker Brodie Hansen’s tackle for a loss of 8 yards, Myren utilized slight-of-hand trickery to make Fairmont’s punting situation disappear. Myren took the direct long snap, avoided a sack and muscled a 16-yard pass to Thomas Johnson for a pivotal first down at the Bombers’ 44-yard line.

Myren took the ensuing handoff, scampered around left end and transformed the remaining real estate into six points on the scoreboard. Jack Hested’s PAT kick staked the Cardinals to a 21-14 lead with 6:16 left in regulation.

“That fake punt really sparked us down the stretch,” said Mahoney. “(Cannon Falls) was coming hard at us all game long.

“You have to give Garrett credit for allowing the play to develop and then having the strength to avoid the tackle and get the ball to Thomas, who made a clutch catch.”

Wyatt Frank’s ensuing spiraling kickoff eluded the cold and numb hands of a pair of Cannon Falls returners before Fairmont safety Caden Baarts scooped up the fumble at the Bombers’ 29.

Running back Jordan Wolter pounded out 19 of his 69 rushing yards on three carries to reach the 10 before Myren skated across the snow-covered turf for his second TD on the ground to put the Cardinals ahead 27-14 with 4:35 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Ironically, quarterback Jack Dommeyer, who had completed just 2 of 5 passes during the prior 43-plus minutes, connected on three consecutive throws to Adam Johnson, Logan Hofstedt and Brodie Hansen, respectively, for a combined 46 yards to reach the Fairmont 7-yard line.

Hansen, who topped all rushers with 123 yards on 25 totes, weaved his way through traffic on the next carry for his second TD of the state quarterfinal. Ben Villarreal’s third PAT kick whittled Cannon Falls’ deficit to 27-21 with 2:19 remaining.

Pearson then made a head-long diving recovery of the ensuing onside kick to give the Bombers one last upset opportunity at the Cardinals’ 42. Ringnell, Wolter and the Fairmont defense then denied Cannon Falls a first down by mere inches on a fourth-and-2 situation at the 32 with 1:14 showing on the scoreboard.

Myren aired out an 86-yard scoring strike to Schultz during Fairmont’s initial offensive series of the state quarterfinal before Cannon Falls answered with Hansen’s 12-yard TD run on the heels of the first of Bomber safety Nick Bultena’s two interceptions on the game. Villarreal’s kick gave Cannon Falls a 7-6 halftime lead.

Pearson’s fumble recovery at his own 17 with 13 seconds left before intermission kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard.

Bultena’s second pick to open the third quarter then set up Hofstedt’s 5-yard scoring run and Villarreal’s PAT kick for a 14-6 lead at the 7:42 juncture.

Schultze finished with a career-best 184 yards and two TDs on only three catches for Fairmont.

“Our players are making me look like a good football coach,” said a grinning Mahoney, who improved his 12-year head coaching record to 86-40 overall.

Cannon Falls 0 7 7 7 — 21

Fairmont 6 0 8 13 — 27

Scoring Plays

1st Quarter

FMT–Dustin Schultz 86 pass from Garrett Myren (kick failed), 7:15.

2nd Quarter

CF–Brodie Hansen 12 run (Ben Villarreal kick), 6:38.

3rd Quarter

CF–Logan Hofstedt 5 run (Villarreal kick), 7:42.

FMT–Schultz 53 pass from Myren (Hayden Berhow pass from Myren), 1:35.

4th Quarter

FMT–Myren 44 run (Jack Hested kick), 6:16.

FMT–Myren 10 run (kick failed), 4:35.

CF–Hansen 7 run (Villarreal kick), 2:19.

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs: Cannon Falls 15; Fairmont 11. Rushing: Cannon Falls 59-242; Fairmont 33-144. Passing: Fairmont 9-18-2-250; Cannon Falls 5-8-0-81. Fumbles-lost: Fairmont 4-3; Cannon Falls 5-3. Penalties: Fairmont 3-25; Cannon Falls 2-12.

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Offense: Rushing: Cannon Falls: Hansen 25-123, Hofstedt 21-58, Trenton Matthies 8-49. Fairmont: Myren 16-75, Jordan Wolter 16-69. Passing: Myren (F) 9-18-2-250; Jack Dommeyer (CF) 5-8-0-81. Receiving: Fairmont: Schultz 3-184, Wolter 3-26, Thomas Johnson 2-30, Berhow 1-10. Cannon Falls: Graham Pearson 2-35, Adam Johnson 1-23, Hofstedt 1-17, Hansen 1-6.

Defense: Interceptions: Nick Bultena (CF) 2. Fumble recoveries: Pearson (CF) 2, John Delk (CF); Schultz (F), Nick Thate (F), Caden Baarts (F). Blocked punt: Pearson (CF).

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