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No. 5-seeded Fairmont hits road for 3AAA grid quarterfinal

BROTHERS IN ARMS — Fairmont linebacker Hudson Artz (24) and defensive end Hank Artz (15) converge on Jackson County Central running back Coltan Bents (26) during the two teams’ regular-season football finale Thursday night at Mahoney Field in Fairmont. No. 5-seeded Fairmont travels to Montgomery on Tuesday night to face No. 4-seeded Tri-City United in a Section 3AAA quarterfinal, while No. 3-seeded JCC plays host to No. 6-seeded Worthington in Jackson. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — For the first time since 2014, the Fairmont Cardinals football team will open next week’s Section 3AAA playoffs on the road.

Fairmont (1-3) received the No. 5 seed in the six-team sectional bracket, and travels to Montgomery on Tuesday night to battle the No. 4-seeded Tri-City United Titans (3-3) in a 7 p.m. quarterfinal.

“We’ve played TCU before,” Cardinals head coach Mat Mahoney said in reference to last year’s 41-0 victory over the Titans during Week 4 of the regular season, “but we haven’t watched any film on them yet this season. It’ll definitely be a quick turnaround, but our coaching staff is good at breaking down our opponents’ film in a short amount of time.”

“I know they have a new coach (Matt Collins) since we played them last fall, and I look forward to coaching against him.”

Mason O’Malley rushed for a pair of touchdowns to help pace an 18-8 regular-season finale victory over St. Peter on Wednesday night as TCU closed out the modified campaign with back-to-back wins.

Meanwhile, Fairmont closed out its abbreviated four-game schedule with back-to-back losses — a narrow 14-13 loss to St. Peter during Game 3 and a 22-7 defeat at the hands of Jackson County Central on Thursday night at Mahoney Field.

Quarterback-turned-wishbone running back Levi Lindley erupted for 150 of JCC’s 303 rushing yards, while Damian Meyer-Andre contributed an interception, a tip-turned-pick and a 66-yard TD catch to the regular-season finale win over Fairmont.

“It comes down to the little things throughout a game. I’m not making excuses, but we’ve only had 12 practices to this point,” said Mahoney. “We’ve had no time to coach up our players, plus we’re fairly young and have very little varsity experience.”

Fairmont junior quarterback Zach Jorgensen threw for his fourth consecutive 100-plus-yards game and junior receiver Eli Anderson garnered five more catches for 78 yards to complement his fifth interception on defense.

“We have numerous athletic players, so I wouldn’t want to play us in the sectional playoffs,” said Mahoney.

The winner between Fairmont and TCU advances to face No. 1-seeded Luverne (5-1) in a 2 p.m. sectional semifinal Saturday, Nov. 21, in Luverne.

Head coach Todd Oye’s Cardinals, who posted a 32-0 shutout of JCC and a 27-13 victory over Worthington during the 2020 campaign, received a first-round bye.

Luverne produced both the section’s top scoring average (26.7 ppg) and lowest points allowed clip (13.7) this fall/winter.

Bailey Cowell generated 133 yards on 6-for-8 passing, rushed for one TD and made an interception on defense, while teammate LaShad Smith piled up a game-best 213 rushing yards and three scores during the Cardinals’ 14-point regular-season finale win over the Trojans on Thursday night.

JCC (3-3), the 2019 sectional champion, netted the No. 3 seed and will play host to No. 6-seeded Worthington (1-5) in a 7 p.m. Tuesday night quarterfinal at Swearingen Field.

The winner between the Huskies and the Trojans advances to square off against the No. 2-seeded Sibley East Wolverines (5-1) at 2 p.m. next Saturday in Arlington.

Sibley East closed out the regular season with a 19-2 triumph over TCU en route to a 25.0-point scoring pace, while allowing only 15.5 points per outing in 2020.

“I’d say Luverne is probably the favorite to win the section due to having numerous experienced players returning on both sides of the ball,” said Mahoney. “Sibley East, however, put together a nice season at 5-1, and also will be in the hunt.

“Now we need to take everything we’ve learned in four games this season, make adjustments and become more consistent in all three phases of the game and stay focused.”

The Section 3AAA championship game is slated for Saturday, Nov. 28, at a time and a site to be determined.

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