Dassel-Cokato, Gillman run by Fairmont in state quarterfinals
PRIOR LAKE — Fairmont’s defense forced three first-half fumbles, including Dustin Olson’s return for a touchdown via Hank Artz’s quarterback sack, to enter halftime tied with Dassel-Cokato at 13-all Saturday.
The second half of the Class AAA state football quarterfinal, however, belonged entirely to the unbeaten Chargers and Division I recruit Eli Gillman.
Eli Gillman amassed a game-best 229 yards and four TDs on 26 carries and returned an interception 50 yards for good measure to power Dassel-Cokato’s 41-13 triumph over Fairmont at Dan Patch Stadium in Prior Lake.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Gillman, who’s headed to the University of Montana next fall, and the Chargers (12-0) are headed to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. state semifinal clash with Esko (11-0). Esko edged New London-Spicer, 28-21, in another Class AAA state quarterfinal to advance.
“Our hats are off to Dassel-Cokato for the way they ran the football against us and controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides,” said Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney, whose team ended its season with a 9-2 overall record. “We knew they would run the football right at us, and I thought we did a good job of slowing them down and of course, turning them over three times in the first half.
“They made some adjustments at halftime, and did a nice job of mixing up their defensive coverages in the second half to limit our passing game.”
Kyan Lynk triggered the Chargers’ landslide of third-quarter points by returning the kickoff 51 yards to the Cardinals’ 25. Eli Gillman spun his way to a 7-yard gain before fullback Keyton Johnson bulldozed his way into the end zone from 18 yards out on second down. Tobias Colline nailed the PAT kick for a 20-13 lead only 46 seconds into the second half.
End Jaxon Gustafson and the Chargers’ defense forced a three-and-out Fairmont series before the Dassel-Cokato offense assembled a nine-play, 52-yard scoring drive. Eli Gillman delivered 42 yards during the sequence, capped by a 2-yard TD plunge. Colline’s kick made it 27-13 with 6:57 left in the third.
Eli Gillman then intercepted Fairmont quarterback Zach Jorgensen and returned the pick 50 yards to the Cardinals’ 12 with 5:55 left in the third. This series, Keyton Johnson pounded his way across the goal line from 3 yards out en route to a 34-13 lead at the 4:33 juncture.
Fairmont then was flagged for half of its four personal fouls on the game to thwart its next possession from producing points.
Eli Gillman burst up the middle on the first play of the fourth quarter, broke a tackle, cut left and sprinted 53 yards to paydirt to put the game out of reach at 41-13.
“Anytime you’re playing in a state-level game, you know it’s going to be a battle since they’re only eight teams in each class left playing,” said Mahoney.
Fairmont utilized its trademark passing attack to reach the scoreboard first on Saturday. Jorgensen, who finished the state quarterfinal with a game-best 196 yards, hit Gavin Rodning with an 11-yard screen before launching a perfectly-placed 70-yarder to Eli Anderson down the sideline.
Rodning covered the remaining 5 yards on a power run up the middle before Owen Burmeister kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 9:27 left in opening quarter.
Dassel-Cokato answered with a time-consuming, 14-play scoring drive that covered 66 yards. Quarterback Greg Clark converted a pivotal third-and-11 situation with a 12-yarder to tight end Mason Ailie before Eli Gillman capped the march with a 3-yard TD run. Colline kicked the PAT for a 7-all tie at the 3:30 mark.
Defensive lineman Hayden Hoernermann’s tackle for a 1-yard loss on the Cardinals’ ensuing third-and-2 situation forced a punt and the Chargers needed only three snaps to garner the lead. Eli Gillman ran left, made a tackler miss, slashed right and accelerated at an angle away from the Fairmont secondary for a 57-yard score with 8 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Grant Haataja’s interception later slammed the brakes on Fairmont’s ensuing drive to the Dassel-Cokato 1, but Hank Artz and Dustin Olson countered. Artz’s football-jarring sack of Clark created a fumble that spun backward and Olson scooped it up and scored a TD to knot the game at 13-all with 5:49 remaining before halftime.
Eli Anderson and David Maakestad each pocketed three receptions for Fairmont, with Anderson netting 89 yards and Maakestad 33.
Hank Artz delivered two quarterback sacks, while Sawyer Tordsen and Jorgensen contributed one fumble recovery apiece to Olson’s point-producing scoop-and-return for the Cardinals.
FHS 7 6 0 0 — 13
D-C 13 0 21 7 — 41
FHS–Gavin Rodning 5 run (Owen Burmeister kick), 9:27.
DC–Eli Gillman 3 run (Tobias Colline kick), 3:30.
DC–Eli Gillman 57 run (kick blocked), 0:08.
FHS–Dustin Olson 5 fumble recovery (kick failed), 5:49.
DC–Keyton Johnson 18 run (Tobias Colline kick), 11:14.
DC–Eli Gillman 2 run (Tobias Colline kick), 6:57.
DC–Keyton Johnson 3 run (Tobias Colline kick), 4:33.
DC–Eli Gillman 53 run (Tobias Colline kick), 11:50.
First downs: Dassel-Cokato 19; Fairmont 14. Rushing: DC 61-355; FHS 25-96. Passing: FHS 10-27-2-196; DC 2-2-0-22. Fumbles-lost: FHS 3-0; DC 4-3. Penalties: FHS 11-126; DC 6-66.
Offense: Rushing: DC: Eli Gillman 26-229, Monte Gillman 13-58, Keyton Johnson 10-58. Fairmont: Zach Jorgensen 14-53, Gavin Rodning 8-36. Passing: Zach Jorgensen (FHS) 10-27-2-196; Greg Clark (DC) 2-2-0-22. Receiving: Eli Anderson (FHS) 3-89, David Maakestad (FHS) 3-33, Gavin Rodning (FHS) 2-27; Mason Ailie (DC) 2-22.
Defense: Interceptions: Grant Haataja (DC), Eli Gillman (DC). Fumble recoveries: Dustin Olson (FHS), Sawyer Tordsen (FHS), Zach Jorgensen (FHS). QB sacks: Hank Artz (FHS) 2; Jaxon Gustafson (DC), Hayden Hoernermann (DC).