Cardinals tame Tigers in Section 3AAA quarterfinal, 49-7
FAIRMONT — Landen Meyerdirk entered the Fairmont defensive secondary’s battle for interception supremacy and pick-6dom on Tuesday night at Mahoney Field.
The sure-handed senior safety returned a first-quarter theft 60 yards to set up a touchdown before producing a 30-yard pick-6 during a 21-point second quarter to help power the No. 2-seeded Cardinals to a 49-6 Section 3AAA quarterfinal football rout over the No. 7-seeded Belle Plaine Tigers in Fairmont.
Fairmont (7-2) plays host to No. 3-seeded Luverne (5-4) in a 2 p.m. sectional semifinal Saturday back at Mahoney Field. Luverne gained the next round of the postseason by flattening No. 6-seeded New Ulm, 49-7.
The fleet-footed Meyerdirk’s two interceptions moved him into a tie with Levi Pooley for the Cardinals’ No. 1 statistical spot with four apiece. Meyerdirk’s pick-6 proved the fifth of Fairmont’s 13 total mid-air thefts in nine games.
“Is there a record for pick-6s in a single season?” inquired Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney. “Five in one year is definitely the record during my time as head coach here.”
Meyerdirk also triggered the Cardinals’ six-play, 55-yard initial scoring drive by fielding quarterback Brendan Schmidtke’s option pitch and sprinted 11 yards into Tiger territory.
Schmidtke, who completed 6 of 12 for 123 yards to eclipse the 1,000 benchmark for the season, fired a 9-yarder to Brock Lutterman before running back James Johnson burst loose for a 9-yard run. Schmidtke then lofted a 17-yard TD pass — the first of his three on the playoff game — to Pooley.
Owen Burmeister, who connected on all seven of his PAT kicks, booted the 1-pointer through the uprights for a 7-0 lead with 7:50 left in the opening quarter.
Meyerdirk then utilized his quick reflexes to pick-pocket a carom off a Belle Plaine receiver’s hands and sprinted down the sideline for a 60-yard return to reach the Tigers’ 10. Schmidtke later fired a 15-yard post pass to David Maakestad to help Fairmont doubled the lead to 14-0.
Belle Plaine then capitalized on a roughing-the-passer penalty and a pass interference infraction against Fairmont to move into Cardinal territory during the ensuing possession.
Quarterback Josh Sparby completed a 28-yard strike to Matt Olson before running back Tristan Holbrook bulldozed 8 yards to the 2. Parker Borresen slipstreamed through the left side for the TD to trim Belle Plaine’s deficit to 14-6 with 2:07 left in the first frame.
It was all Fairmont during the final three quarters. After defensive end Hank Artz and the Cardinals forced a Tiger punt, James Johnson capped a 70-yard drive with a 41-yard scoring sprint to rebuild a 15-point lead with 5:30 remaining in the second quarter.
Meyerdirk then extended the Cardinals’ margin to 28-6 only 12 seconds later by returning a Sparby toss 30 yards for a TD.
Fairmont’s defense stopped a Belle Plaine march downfield at its own 21 with time winding down before intermission.
Schmidtke needed a few seconds to zip a pass to Pooley along the left hashmark and Pooley outraced the Tigers’ defensive secondary 73 yards to paydirt. Burmeister’s kick made it 35-6 with just 30 seconds left before halftime.
James Johnson, who topped the Cardinals’ 201 rushing yards with 97 on the game, added an 8-yard TD tote in the third quarter before reserve quarterback Blaze Geiger completed a bad snap into a mind-numbing scoring pass.
Geiger corraled the high-bounding long snap in stride, rolled right, fired a high-arching throw that eluded two Tiger defenders and landed in Mathew Cone’s hands. Cone then raced 64 yards for a TD before Burmeister’s kick capped the point production with 1:34 left in the third.
Cooper Steuber produced a fumble recovery for Fairmont during a running-time fourth quarter.
Belle Plaine ended its season with a 2-7 record.
BP 6 0 0 0 — 6
FMT 14 21 14 0 — 49
FMT–Levi Pooley 17 pass from Brendan Schmidtke (Owen Burmeister kick), 7:50.
FMT–David Maakestad 15 pass from Brendan Schmidtke (Owen Burmeister kick), 4:38.
BP–Parker Borresen 2 run (kick failed), 2:07.
FMT–James Johnson 41 run (Owen Burmeister kick), 5:30.
FMT–Landen Meyerdirk 30 interception return (Owen Burmeister kick), 5:18.
FMT–Levi Pooley 73 pass from Brendan Schmidtke (Owen Burmeister kick), 0:30.
FMT–James Johnson 8 run (Owen Burmeister kick), 8:51.
FMT–Mathew Cone 64 pass from Blaze Geiger (Owen Burmeister kick), 1:34.
First downs: Belle Plaine 11; Fairmont 9. Rushing: Fairmont 24-201; Belle Plaine 27-104. Passing: Fairmont 7-14-0-187; Belle Plaine 13-32-2-93. Fumbles-lost: Belle Plaine 2-1; Fairmont 1-0. Penalties: Fairmont 7-60; Belle Plaine 2-20.
Offense: Rushing: James Johnson (FMT) 9-97, Elijah Johnson (FMT) 4-62; Tristan Holbrook (BP) 12-44. Passing: Brendan Schmidtke (FMT) 6-12-0-123, Blaze Geiger (FMT) 1-2-0-64; Josh Sparby (BP) 12-30-2-87. Receiving: Levi Pooley (FMT) 2-90, Brock Lutterman (FMT) 2-13, Mathew Cone (FMT) 1-64; Parker Borresen 4-12.
Defense: Interceptions: Landen Meyerdirk (FMT) 2. Fumble recovery: Cooper Steuber (FMT).