No. 4-ranked Fairmont gridders to travel to St. Peter
FAIRMONT — St. Peter’s sure-handed 3-5 defense literally elevated its level of play to rally the Saints to a 14-10 comeback victory over the then-Class AAA No. 8-ranked Hubmen last Friday night in Jordan.
Now the Saints (2-1) will look to topple Class AAA No. 4-ranked Fairmont when they play host to the undefeated Cardinals (3-0) at fabled Floyd B. Johnson Field in St. Peter at 7 p.m. Friday night.
“Our defense has been the strength of our team this season and it really stepped up during the second half to pull off the win over Jordan last week,” said St. Peter head coach Brian Odland. “Sam’s fumble recovery for six (points) helped turn things around in a hurry before Nakiye’s late interception sealed the deal.”
Outside linebacker Sam Moelter scooped up Jordan’s fumble via a jarring hit by 6-foot, 200-pound junior defensive end Grant Janni during a quarterback sack and Moelter returned the turnover 39 yards for the Saints’ initial touchdown. Isaac Alger’s PAT kick inched St. Peter within 10-7.
“Janni was a linebacker, but we moved him to defensive end so that he could be more effective by coming off the edge,” said Odland.
After another defensive stand, slotback Nakiye Mercado grabbed a 12-yard scoring strike from quarterback Tate Olson to inch the Saints in front on the scoreboard at 13-10. Alger nailed another extra-point kick to widen the lead to four with 5:55 remaining in the game.
Cornerback Peyton Odland then tipped a Jordan pass that Mercado pocketed for the game-clinching interception during the waning moments last Friday night.
“We executed the tip drill that all teams practice and Nakiye grabbed the deflection to put it away,” Brian Odland said in reference to Mercado, who produced a pair of pick-6s during St. Peter’s season-opening 52-0 rout over Albert Lea. “We got the job done on defense, but we still have to figure out a way to sustain drives on offense.”
“St. Peter’s a good-looking ball club this season, and we’re not taking anything for granted,” said Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney, whose team has outscored its first three opponents via a 46.0-point to 7.3-point average per outing.
Junior running back Elijah Johnson amassed an incredible 289 yards and four touchdowns on only 15 carries to power Fairmont’s 41-8 thrashing of Albert Lea last Friday night.
In fact, Johnson eclipsed legendary Cardinal running back Mike Wubbena’s single-game school rushing record of 274 yards established against Redwood Valley during the 2005 campaign with his career-best rushing performance last week.
Johnson’s record-setting effort ignited a Fairmont ground game that piled up 478 yards on 48 totes to highlight 556 yards of total offense.
“Obviously, we have to figure out a way to stop him (Johnson),” said Brian Odland. “We’ll have to be gap sound because he can sneak through some small holes.
“We will also have to rally to the ball and gang tackle since he won’t go down easily against only one defender.”
“I thought St. Peter’s 3-5 did a good job in the red zone against Jordan, so we’ll have to break that down on film,” said Mahoney. “Defensively, we’ll face a double-wing option offense that likes to spread you out, but also likes to run out of that set.”
Mahoney will turn to end Parker Mathiason, nose guard Tyson Thate, linebackers Gage Borntrager and Caleb Chambers, along with cornerback Hadan Toomer out of the secondary, to put the clamps on the Saints’ skilled receiving foursome of Mercado, wingbacks Cole Filand and Josh Bosacker, and split end Kaeden Guida.
“We’re looking forward to facing the challenge of playing another ranked team this week,” said Brian Odland.
Running back Cole Brockmann produced two rushing touchdowns and returned an interception for a pick-6 to power Fairmont to a 32-8 victory over Albert Lea during junior varsity football action on Monday.
Quarterback Joe Long connected on TD passes to Brett Williams and Tavian Harvey for the Cardinals, while teammates Dakota Wiley and Joseph Hackett each contributed interceptions from a defensive perspective.
Fairmont (2-0) plays host to St. Peter on Monday, Sept. 25.