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Rebels edge Cardinals in Class AAA state football semifinals, 16-7

FULL STEAM AHEAD — Fairmont receiver Levi Pooley carries the football into the end zone despite the efforts of Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton defenders Nicholas Waale (33), Caleb Johnson (18) and Jordan Summers (1) during Saturday’s Class AAA state semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium. (Photo by Greg Abel)

MINNEAPOLIS — Fairmont and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton battled to a first-half draw in Saturday’s state football semifinal before the Rebels thwarted the Cardinals’ cause by generating two turnovers and the only points of the fourth quarter.

Hayden Hauf kicked a tiebreaking 22-yard field goal, Nicholas Waale delivered the pivotal touchdown on the heels of Max Baumgartner’s fumble recovery and Owen Leach’s late interception clinched DGF’s 16-7 victory over Fairmont at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

DGF (12-0) advanced to face New London-Spicer (10-2) for the Class AAA state football championship at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, back at the home of the Minnesota Vikings. NLS outlasted Watertown-Mayer (11-2) in Saturday’s other semifinal, 33-28.

“This season was a bit unexpected to tell you the truth,” said Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney, whose team ended its season with a 10-3 record. “After losing a lot of seniors to graduation from last season’s state quarterfinal team, we (coaching staff) didn’t really know what kind of year we’d have.

“But these guys played their hearts out week after week and game after game, and proved their mettle to us. A coach can’t ask for anything more than that.”

After end Hank Artz, tackle Tyson Thate, cornerback David Maakestad and the Cardinals’ defense withstood the Rebels’ grinding ground game to open the state semifinal, linebacker Nicholas Waale and DGF’s defense countered in kind en route to a scoreless first quarter.

Running back Jordan Summers, who topped all rushers with 174 yards on 30 yeoman totes, utilized his leg-churning, lateral-twisting runs to chew up 40 of the Rebels’ ensuing 74-yard scoring drive to bridge the first intermission.

Facing first-and-10 on the first snap of the second frame, Summers sliced left, high-stepped right, juked left again and pushed his way across the goal line from 14 yards out. Hauf nailed the PAT for a 7-0 lead at the 11:22 juncture.

Fairmont quarterback Brendan Schmidtke then countered by going to the airwaves to match DGF’s point production. Schmidtke, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 162 yards, spotted favorite target Levi Pooley for a 14-yarder before hitting Nolan Schultze in the right seam for 19 more yards.

Schmidtke later converted a third-and-3 situation by zipping a 21-yard missile to Pooley near the Fairmont sideline before hitting Pooley with a 10-yard TD toss. Owen Burmeister kicked the PAT for a 7-all score with 8:16 left before halftime.

Landen Meyerdirk, Maakestad and the Cardinal defense held the Rebels scoreless during two more series in the first half before getting the football back with 32 seconds left before intermission.

Schmidtke fired a 20-yard crossing route to Maakestad to reach DGF’s 35 with time winding down, but Brody Friend held Fairmont at bay by intercepting a late Schmidtke toss at the 10 to keep the game tied at 7-all at halftime.

Schmidtke opened the third quarter by drilling an 8-yarder to Meyerdirk, a 7-yard slant to Pooley and a 25-yard tackle-breaking connection with Meyerdirk to gain DGF’s 31.

“DGF made an adjustment defensively by putting only five in the box and it caused a bit of a ripple effect,” said Mahoney. “That change really tightened up their pass coverage on us.”

Friend batted away a potential TD throw on fourth-and-10 after the sure-handed Pooley just couldn’t hang onto the same routed throw on third-and-10 from the 31.

Quarterback Owen Leach, who completed 6 of 7 passes, zipped a crossing spiral to Brody O’Keefe for 13 of his 50 passing yards on the game to trigger the Rebels’ ensuing drive.

Summers slashed, dashed and mashed his way for 30 of the Rebels’ 69-yard offensive march before displaying his pass-catching skills on a screen fade to convert a key fourth-and-7 situation from the Cardinals’ 27. Summers logged 19 yards on the reception before Leach hit O’Keefe to place the football on the 5.

Facing fourth-and-goal to go, DGF opted to open the fourth quarter with a 22-yard field goal by Hauf to grab a 10-7 advantage.

Meyerdirk’s ensuing 23-yard kickoff return put Fairmont back in business at the DGF 47 before Meyerdirk generated 15 more yards on an out pass from Schmidtke.

A pass interference penalty on the Rebels converted a fourth-and-7 for the Cardinals, but DGF defensive lineman Max Baumgartner recovered Fairmont’s ensuing fumble at the 17.

Summers sprinted around left end, broke two tackles and reeled off 22 yards to get the Rebels out of the shadow of their goal line on first down. Summers later exited the state semifinal for good after taking a hit to his knee, but Waale stepped up his rushing game to deliver the game-clinching TD.

After Leach pounded straight ahead for a 3-yard gain to convert a fourth-and-1, Waale took the toss and was grabbed by the facemask, but continued his progress up the field from the 25. Nearly every player on both teams stopped only to watch as Waale scored the game-clinching TD.

Leach, as he had achieved during every prior postseason game before, pocketed an interception at midfield with 3:20 remaining to ice the Rebels’ victory.

“DGF did a nice job of using as much of the play clock as possible to keep our offense off of the field,” said Mahoney.

The Rebels finished with a 29:01-15:28 advantage in time of possession on the state semifinal.

Pooley finished with a game-best six catches for 65 yards and one TD, while Meyerdirk grabbed four throws for 50 yards.

“We were underdogs from Day 1, and we went out and proved people wrong,” said Maakestad. “We played as a team and had one of Fairmont’s best football seasons ever, and that’s something to be proud of.”

FMT 0 7 0 0 — 7

DGF 0 7 0 9 — 16

Scoring Plays

1st Quarter

No scoring.

2nd Quarter

DGF–Jordan Summers 14 run (Hayden Hauf kick), 11:22.

FMT–Levi Pooley 10 pass from Brendan Schmidtke (Owen Burmeister kick), 8:16.

3rd Quarter

No scoring.

4th Quarter

DGF–Hayden Hauf 22 FG, 11:57.

DGF–Nicholas Waale 25 run (kick failed), 3:31.

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs: DGF 17; Fairmont 9. Rushing: DGF 50-238; Fairmont 10-20. Passing: Fairmont 15-22-2-162; DGF 6-7-0-50. Fumbles-lost: Fairmont 2-1; DGF 1-0. Penalties: Fairmont 6-40; DGF 3-25.

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Offense: Rushing: Jordan Summers (DGF) 30-174, Nicholas Waale (DGF) 6-34; Elijah Johnson (FMT) 6-18. Passing: Brendan Schmidtke (FMT) 15-22-2-162; Owen Leach (DGF) 6-7-0-50. Receiving: Levi Pooley (FMT) 6-65, Landen Meyerdirk (FMT) 4-50, David Maakestad (FMT) 2-15; Brody O’Keefe (DGF) 3-24, Jordan Summers (DGF) 2-25.

Defense: Interceptions: Brody Friend (DGF) and Owen Leach (DGF). Fumble recovery: Max Baumgartner (DGF).

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