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Baarts crowns No. 9 Fairmont’s Homecoming victory

SUDDEN IMPACT — Fairmont’s Caden Baarts (13) delivers a high-impact hit on Belle Plaine kick returner Nehemiah Juaire (7) during South Central Silver District football action Friday night at Mahoney Field in Fairmont. The Cardinals’ Michael Johnson (53) watches the play. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — Fairmont senior cornerback/flanker Caden Baarts reigned like a king during his last Homecoming football game at Mahoney Field on Friday night.

Baarts generated a game-best 104 yards and three touchdowns on six carries, amassed a game-high 104 yards and two more scores on five catches, and added a 2-point conversion reception for good measure to pace the Class 3A, No. 9-ranked Cardinals’ 41-22 victory over the Belle Plaine Tigers.

“What a weapon,” Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney said in reference to his 6-foot-3, 175-pound jack-of-all-trades. “He earned a spot on last season’s team based on his defensive contributions, but we’ve found some ways to utilize his speed offensively this season.

“It seems like every time he touches the ball, he makes a big play for us.”

Ironically, Baarts did not get a chance to make an impact offensively until the final snap of the opening quarter.

“Belle Plaine just came out and smacked us in the mouth,” said Mahoney. “We were prepared to stop their trap, but we needed a little time to adjust to them running off-tackle.”

The visiting Tigers took the South Central Silver District game’s opening kickoff and assembled a methodical 18-play, 68-yard scoring drive that chewed up just 3 seconds shy of 11 minutes.

Fullback Cole Brown and running back Luke Luskey ignited Belle Plaine’s chugging 11-man scrum that featured quarterback Jackson Kruger converting a pair of fourth-and-inches situations near midfield during the initial sequence.

Luskey, who topped the Tigers’ 284-yard ground-and-pound attack with a game-best 147 yards on 21 totes, powered over the left side for a 2-yard TD — the first of his three scores on the night — for a 6-0 lead with 1:03 left in the first frame.

Baarts then joined forces with quarterback Zach Jorgensen and receiver Cale Steuber to need only four plays to cover 60 yards in a lightning-quick 1 minute and 34 seconds.

Jorgensen, who completed 11 of 13 passes for a game-best 166 yards, converted a third-and-4 situation by zipping a 22-yard spiral to Steuber to reach Belle Plaine’s 32. Baarts then sprinted down the left hash mark, found a seam in the Tigers’ secondary and hauled in Jorgensen’s first of two TD passes. Jack Hested’s PAT kick gave Fairmont a 7-6 lead at the 11:29 mark of the second quarter.

After lineman Jacob Roberts and the Cardinals’ defense held on a fourth-and-3 at the Tigers’ 46, Jorgensen needed only three snaps to march Fairmont to paydirt again.

Jorgensen accelerated for 23 of his 85 rushing yards on the game to reach the 18 before Hudson Artz took a pitch sweep to the house for six points. Hested’s PAT kick made it 14-6 with 8:01 left in the second quarter.

Luskey then displayed his breakaway speed during Belle Plaine’s ensuing possession, sprinting around left end for a 53-yard TD. Luskey then knotted the game at 14-all by powering over the left end for the 2-point conversion at the 4:44 juncture.

Oddly enough, both the Cardinals and Tigers would score again before intermission. Baarts shifted into high gear for a 44-yard TD sprint on a toss play before Luskey countered with a 3-yard rumble over left end with 10 seconds left before halftime. Kruger’s only completed pass of the game — a 30-yard post completion to Dylan Kahle — converted the Tigers’ third-and-inches play from the Cardinals’ 33 with time winding down. Luskey scooped up Belle Plaine’s fumble on the point-after snap and dove into the end zone for a 22-21 halftime lead.

Tackles Josh Heinze and Jacob Rahn, linebacker Gavin Rodning, safety Cale Steuber and the Fairmont defense then pitched a second-half shutout to allow Baarts and the Cardinal offense to pull away via 20 fourth-quarter points.

Baarts hauled in a 16-yard left-sideline pass from Jorgensen at the 10:36 juncture, rumbled over would-be tacklers on a 15-yard bulldozing run with 3:06 remaining and demonstrated his state championship track speed on a 19-yard sprint around left end at the 2:05 mark. Baarts then corraled a 2-point conversion pass from holder Cale Steuber on a broken play.

Brown pounded out 132 yards on 24 totes for Belle Plaine, while Colton Kerko intercepted a second-quarter pass and Luskey scooped up a Fairmont fumble in the end zone during the third quarter.

Fairmont (5-1, 3-0 district) plays host to Norwood Young America at 7 p.m. next Friday night at Mahoney Field, while Belle Plaine (2-4, 2-1) travels to Montgomery to face Tri-City United.

Belle Plaine 6 16 0 0 — 22

Fairmont 0 21 0 20 — 41

Scoring Plays

1st Quarter

BP–Luke Luskey 2 run (run failed), 1:03.

2nd Quarter

FA–Caden Baarts 32 pass from Zach Jorgensen (Jack Hested kick), 11:29.

FA–Hudson Artz 18 run (Hested kick), 8:01.

BP–Luskey 53 run (Luskey run), 4:44.

FA–Baarts 44 run (Hested kick), 3:06.

BP–Luskey 3 run (Luskey fumble recovery), 0:10.

3rd Quarter

No scoring.

4th Quarter

FA–Baarts 10 pass from Jorgensen (kick failed), 10:36.

FA–Baarts 15 run (pass failed), 3:06.

FA–Baarts 19 run (Baarts pass from Cale Steuber), 2:05.

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs: Belle Plaine 14, Fairmont 11. Rushing: Belle Plaine 59-284; Fairmont 23-240. Passing: Fairmont 11-13-1-166; Belle Plaine 1-5-0-30. Fumbles-lost: Fairmont 2-1; Belle Plaine 3-0. Penalties: Fairmont 2-10; Belle Plaine 2-14.

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Offense: Rushing: Luskey (BP) 21-147, Cole Brown (BP) 24-132; Baarts (FA) 6-104, Jorgensen (F) 9-85. Passing: Jorgensen (F) 11-13-1-166; Jackson Kruger (BP) 1-5-0-30. Receiving: Baarts (F) 5-104, Cale Steuber (F) 4-48; Dylan Kahle (BP) 1-30.

Defense: Interception: Colton Kerko (BP). Fumble recovery: Luskey (BP).

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