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Cardinals tame Tigers in Section 3AAA quarterfinal, 49-7

STIFF-ARMING — Fairmont running back James Johnson (with football) uses a stiff-arm technique to fend off Belle Plaine safety Wyatt Borresen (20) as Fairmont offensive guard David Barrientos (56) creates running room with a block on Belle Plaine linebacker Seth Rucks (middle) during Section 3AAA quarterfinal playoff action Tuesday night at Mahoney Field in Fairmont. Cardinals’ offensive tackle Sawyer Tordsen (69) trails the play. (Photo by Greg Abel)

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

Scoring Plays

1st Quarter

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.

2nd Quarter

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.

3rd Quarter

FMT–James Johnson 8 run (Owen Burmeister kick), 8:51.

FMT–Mathew Cone 64 pass from Blaze Geiger (Owen Burmeister kick), 1:34.

4th Quarter

No scoring.

TEAM STATISTICS

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.

INDIVIDUAL STATS

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).

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