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No. 5-ranked Fairmont gains 3AAA football finals

SURE HANDS — Fairmont linebacker Hudson Artz (24) intercepts a pass before Sibley East running back Lincoln Carpenter makes a touchdown-saving tackle during Artz’s return in Section 3AAA semifinal football action Saturday at Mahoney Field in Fairmont. Artz went on to record a pick-6 and a fumble recovery to help pace the Cardinals’ 40-21 playoff win over the Wolverines. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

FAIRMONT — Hudson Artz made an instant impact during the Section 3 football semifinal’s opening kickoff and kept the pivotal plays coming for three quarters on Saturday.

The Fairmont sophomore outside linebacker recovered one of Sibley East’s three fumbles, pocketed two of the Cardinals’ three interceptions — including one for a pick-6 — and added a 3-yard TD run for good measure to help pace the Class AAA, No. 5-ranked and section’s No. 1 seed to a 40-21 victory over the No. 5-seeded Wolverines at Mahoney Field.

Fairmont (8-1) earned its fifth consecutive appearance in the Section 3AAA championship against the No. 2-ranked and No. 2-seeded Jackson County Central Huskies (9-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, in Janesville. Jackson County Central posted a 35-0 semifinal triumph over No. 3-seeded Luverne.

“Hudson Artz came to play football today,” Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney said in reference to his 6-foot-1, 160-pound jack-of-all-trades. “His first interception of the game set up our first touchdown, and then his pick-6 accounted for our only points of the second half.”

After the Cardinals’ opening possession fizzled at the Wolverines’ 17-yard line on downs, Artz read Sibley East running back Lincoln Carpenter’s option screen pass, stepped in front of the intended receiver and picked it off at the 19.

Sophomore running back Gavin Rodning pounded out 13 yards on two carries to reach the 6, and sophomore quarterback Zach Jorgensen sprinted over the left side for six points. Jack Hested’s PAT kick made it 7-0 with 7:35 left in the opening quarter.

Linemen Carson Toomer and Jacob Rahn later helped the Cardinals’ defense stymie the Wolverines’ drive at the visitors’ 27 to force a punt.

Fairmont senior running back Caden Baarts, who erupted for a season-best 122 yards on 10 totes, bulled his way up the middle for 18 yards to reach midfield. Jorgensen then flipped a 10-yard pass to Wyatt Frank and a 7-yarder to Cale Steuber to reach the Wolverines’ 38. Baarts utilized his state-qualifying track speed to accelerate around the right end and sped by the Sibley East secondary for a TD en route to a 14-0 lead with 1:48 remaining in the first frame.

Zach Soelter, however, recovered the ensuing fumbled kickoff return at the Wolverines’ 23 to quickly put the Cardinals’ offense back in business. After a 1-yard loss, Jorgensen weaved and high-stepped his way to a 24-yard score before Hested nailed his third PAT kick for a 21-point opening-quarter lead.

“Turnovers proved a big part of our success during the first half as all of them created a short field to work with,” said Mahoney.

Ironically, Artz’s following fumble recovery on Sibley East’s first-down run at the Wolverines’ 20 did not produce points, but Fairmont’s defense would force another punt five downs later.

Baarts’ 17-yard blast around right end on a toss and Jorgensen’s 30-yard completion to Steuber set up Rodning’s 15-yard bulldozing run to the pylon to extend the Cardinals’ margin to 27-0 with 6:57 to go in the first half.

Frank’s fumble recovery on another Sibley East first-down run led to Artz’s 3-yard end-around sweep for six more points and a 33-0 lead with 6:43 remaining before intermission.

Rodning produced yet another Cardinal interception before halftime, but Fairmont could not convert the opportunity into any end-zone results.

Artz then intercepted Wolverine junior quarterback Caleb Dose’s pass at the 35 and returned it to the house for a pick-6 on the third snap of the third quarter. Hested’s PAT kick widened Fairmont’s lead to 40-0.

Carpenter, who piled up a game-best 126 yards on 26 carries, then marched the Sibley East starters to three scoring drives against the Cardinals’ reserves during the final 13 minutes to whittle the final deficit to 19 points.

Carpenter reached the end zone on runs of 3 and 9 yards, respectively, before Caleb Dose zipped a 16-yard TD pass to Tucker Hendrycks with 2:25 remaining in regulation. Zach Pazdernik kicked all three PATs for the Wolverines.

Jorgensen finished with 79 yards and two TDs on nine carries for the Cardinals, while completing only 6 of 18 passes for 60 yards.

“Any time you exit a playoff game with a win, it’s a good day,” said Mahoney. “Now we get to play Jackson (County Central) for a fifth consecutive season for the section championship and a state quarterfinal bid.”

SE 0 0 7 14 — 21

FA 21 12 7 0 — 40

Scoring Plays

1st Quarter

FA–Zach Jorgensen 6 run (Jack Hested kick), 7:35.

FA–Caden Baarts 38 run (Hested kick), 1:48.

FA–Jorgensen 24 run (Hested kick), 0:15.

2nd Quarter

FA–Gavin Rodning 15 run (kick failed), 6:57.

FA–Hudson Artz 3 run (pass failed), 6:43.

3rd Quarter

FA–Artz 35 interception return (Hested kick), 10:27.

SE–Lincoln Carpenter 3 run (Zach Pazdernik kick), 1:00.

4th Quarter

SE–Carpenter 9 run (Pazdernik kick), 5:14.

SE–Tucker Hendrycks 16 pass from Caleb Dose (Pazdernik kick), 2:25.

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs: Sibley East 12; Fairmont 11. Rushing: Fairmont 38-204; Sibley East 32-186. Passing: Fairmont 6-22-0-60; Sibley East 6-21-3-51. Fumbles-lost: Fairmont 2-0; Sibley East 4-3. Penalties: Fairmont 10-95; Sibley East 2-15.

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Offense: Rushing: Baarts (FA) 10-122, Jorgensen (FA) 9-79; Carpenter (SE) 22-126, Caleb Dose (SE) 1-44. Passing: Jorgensen (FA) 6-18-0-60, Hested (FA) 0-3-0-0, Cale Steuber (FA) 0-1-0-0; C. Dose (SE) 6-19-2-51, JaBez Bates (SE) 0-1-0-0, Carpenter (SE) 0-1-1-0. Receiving: Steuber (FA) 4-40, Wyatt Frank (FA) 2-20; Carpenter (SE) 2-22, Hendrycks (SE) 1-16.

Defense: Interceptions: Artz (FA) 2 and Rodning (FA). Fumble recoveries: Zach Soelter (FA), Artz (FA) and Frank (FA).

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