Johnson, No. 5 Fairmont trample Albert Lea, 41-8

FINDING RUNNING ROOM — Fairmont running back Elijah Johnson (with football) uses blocks from Ivan Martin (55) on Albert Lea’s Andrew Westeng (33) and Oliver Tordsen’s block on the Tigers’ Sam McGill (47) to gain yards during prep action Friday night at Jim Gustafson Field in Albert Lea. Fairmont offensive lineman Reece Buntjer (far right) prepares to block Albert Lea’s Carter Conn (1) on the play. Johnson went on to establish a single-game school rushing record by gaining 289 yards in the Cardinals’ 41-8 win. (Photo by Greg Abel)

ALBERT LEA — Fairmont running back Elijah Johnson made Albert Lea’s defensive linemen miss. Johnson made the Tiger linebackers miss. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior made the home team’s defensive secondary miss.

“EJ was so elusive tonight, I’d better make sure the bus driver is aware he’s riding home with us,” Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney joked.

Johnson cut, juked, broke tackles and accelerated to a single-game school-record 289 rushing yards to complement a game-best four touchdowns to power the Class AAA No. 5-ranked Fairmont Cardinals’ 41-8 rout of the Albert Lea Tigers during Week 3 gridiron action at Jim Gustafson Field.

“We committed too many penalties tonight,” Mahoney said in reference to his Cardinals’ dozen infractions for a whopping 146 yards on the night. “EJ put our team on his back and brought a calming presence to offset the loss of field position throughout the game.”

Johnson carried 15 times to average a school-record 19.3-yard pace en route to producing points in each quarter. Johnson crossed the goal line on a 38-yard tackle-busting gallop in the opening frame, pounded out a 4-yarder in the second period, hammered out a 12-yard score in the third quarter and capped his historic performance with a 64-yard scoring sprint in the fourth frame.

“Give credit to my guys up front — Jake (Singleton), (Oliver) Tordsen, Ivan (Martin), (Tyler) Bicknase and (Reece) Buntjer. They opened up the holes and I just had to keep my balance and run through them. After that, I usually only had one guy to beat.”

Johnson was not alone in piling up the yards on the ground for the Cardinals as backup quarterback Joe Long and starting quarterback Blaze Geiger bolted for 95 and 94 yards, respectively. The majority of Long’s yards came as a result of an 86-yard breakaway TD sprint with 3:24 remaining in regulation.

Fairmont’s offense established the new benchmark for team rushing yards by piling up 478 on 47 carries for a staggering 10.2-yard clip to fuel 556 total yards for the outing.

While Albert Lea quarterback Teaghen Tolbers passed for 183 yards, Fairmont’s defense declawed the Tigers’ ground game by allowing only 22 yards on 33 totes.

Tyson Thate, Gage Borntrager and Parker Mathiason combined for four quarterback sacks for a minus 40 yards, while Borntrager tipped a punt to set up Johnson’s shortest TD of the game with 1:10 remaining before intermission.

Ty Tumbleson contributed an interception and a fumble recovery to Fairmont’s stifling effort during the final 12 minutes of regulation.

Tavian Harvey’s 8-yard catch to the Albert Lea 1-yard line and teammate Mathew Cone’s fumble recovery in the end zone produced the Cardinals’ second score of the game with 4:15 remaining in the second quarter.

Geiger completed 8 of 15 passes for 62 yards without a TD and threw his first two interceptions — to Cameron Mudra and Henry Buendorf — of the season for the Cardinals.

Tolbers hit Trenton Mikels for a 9-yard TD strike with 32 seconds remaining in the game to spoil Fairmont’s shutout bid.

Fairmont (3-0) travels to St. Peter next Friday night, while Albert Lea (0-3) plays host to No. 8-ranked Jordan at 2 p.m. for Homecoming on Saturday, Sept. 23, at Jim Gustafson Field.

FMT    6 13 7 15 — 41

AL        0  0 0  8 —   8

Scoring Plays

1st Quarter

FMT–Elijah Johnson 38 run (kick failed), 8:43.

2nd Quarter

FMT–Mathew Cone fumble recovery in end zone (Kellen Stenzel kick), 4:15.

FMT–Elijah Johnson 4 run (kick failed), 1:10.

3rd Quarter

FMT–Elijah Johnson 12 run (Kellen Stenzel kick), 1:58.

4th Quarter

FMT–Elijah Johnson 64 run (Jace Teveldal run), 11:48.

FMT–Joe Long 86 run (Kellen Stenzel kick), 3:24.

AL–Trenton Mikels 9 pass from Teaghen Tolbers (Brecken Wacholz run), 0:32.


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