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Fairmont, Luverne to clash in Section 3AAA football semifinal

Brock Lutterman

FAIRMONT — Fairmont mentor Mat Mahoney and Luverne head coach Todd Oye each know what the proverbial ‘white elephant in the room’ is in reference to their respective programs’ postseason football history.

Mahoney would like to continue the recent trend, while Oye obviously would like to reverse his lineup’s fortune when their respective Cardinal gridders collide at 2 p.m. today at Mahoney Field in Fairmont.

No. 2-seeded Fairmont kicks off the Section 3AAA semifinal sporting a 7-2 overall record, while No. 3-seeded Luverne looks to add another win to its 5-4 mark.

“I can’t remember the last time we won a playoff game in Fairmont,” Oye sarcastically joked prior to the sectional rivals’ postseason kickoff last year on Oct. 30 at Mahoney Field.

Unfortunately for Oye, Fairmont posted a 40-6 sectional semifinal win over Luverne in 2021 — only 16 days after Mahoney’s team netted a 28-18 regular-season win.

Fairmont also produced a 42-19 sectional semifinal triumph in 2017 and claimed a 20-6 sectional semifinal victory in 2016 — all at where else? Mahoney Field.

“It doesn’t matter what’s happened in the past — we’ve got a sectional semifinal game against them (today),” said Mahoney. “Playing a team in the playoffs after meeting during the regular season isn’t easy since you know quite a bit about one another.

“As I always say, Luverne is well-coached and Todd Oye really knows how to get his team prepared for the playoffs, so we can’t rest on our laurels.”

Fairmont converted Sawyer Tordsen’s football-jarring hit on Luverne quarterback Carter Sehr into linebacker Parker Mathiason’s 75-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 6-all tie with only 53 seconds remaining before halftime during this fall’s Oct. 13 regular-season clash. Owen Burmeister’s PAT kick staked Fairmont to a one-point lead by intermission.

David Maakestad then caught a 12-yard TD pass from quarterback Brendan Schmidtke before returning an interception 75 yards for another score as Fairmont went on to post a 28-6 victory.

“Don’t kid yourself — we were in a dogfight with Luverne at halftime only a couple of weeks ago,” said Mahoney. “Since then, Luverne has really picked up its intensity on the field and has gotten better overall.”

Conner Connell completed 10 of 15 passes for 122 yards and two TDs — both into the hands of 6-foot-4 split end Gannon Ahrendt — to help engineer Luverne’s 49-7 sectional quarterfinal rout over New Ulm on Tuesday night.

Connell also led a potent 1-2 ground game that amassed 402 yards on 50 carries to fuel a 514-93 edge in total yards of offense in the first-round playoff clash. Connell carried 14 times for 140 yards and a pair of TDs, while teammate Kaleb Hein delivered 121 yards and two scores on 11 totes.

Ahrendt finished with five receptions for 68 yards and the two scores, while teammate Tyson Cowell pocketed three catches for 25 more yards.

“Luverne will be ready for another hard-hitting battle, so we’ll have to counter with our own intensity and energy,” said Mahoney. “This is our seniors’ last game on Mahoney Field, so our entire team wants them to go out with a win.

“It’s the same basic formula — maximize our possessions on offense and hold them in check with our defense.”

The Fairmont-Luverne winner advances to the Section 3AAA championship against either No. 1-seeded Waseca (7-1) or No. 4-seeded Tri-City United (4-5) at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, at New Ulm High School.

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