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Fairmont zips Luverne in sectional football semifinal, 32-0

GOING THE DISTANCE — Fairmont linebacker Cole Wiemers (with football) picks up a key block from teammate Ethan Geerdes (second from right) on Luverne offensive lineman Layne Sasker (63) during his 85-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Section 3AAA semifinal action Saturday at Thomas Mahoney Field in Fairmont. Fairmont’s Tyson Thate (52), Gage Borntrager (middle) and Hunter Johnson (third from left) created a protective wall for Wiemers, while Fairmont’s Mathew Martin (far left) and Luverne’s Ryker Johnson (56) trail the play. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney can add another plan of action to his football playbook labeled “Galatians 5:22.”

Mahoney and his Class AAA No. 8-ranked and No. 1-seeded Cardinals proved that patience is a virtue by biding their time during the No. 4-seeded Luverne Cardinals’ strategic and methodical time-consuming first half in Saturday’s Section 3 semifinal in Fairmont.

Quarterback Blaze Geiger rushed for a pair of touchdowns and passed for two more scores to Levi Pooley, while Cole Wiemers, Gage Borntrager and Fairmont’s stifling defense produced another shutout to power the home team’s 32-0 victory over Luverne at Thomas Mahoney Field.

Two-time defending champion Fairmont (9-1) earned a rematch against the No. 2-seeded Waseca Bluejays (8-2) for the Section 3AAA championship at 7 p.m. Friday night on the artificial turf in New Ulm. Waseca gained the next round by defeating No. 3-seeded Jordan (6-4) by a 21-7 decision on Saturday.

Luverne ended its season with a 6-4 record.

“Luverne head coach Todd Oye had a good game plan of utilizing all the time on the play clock to help keep our offense off of the field as much as it could,” said Mat Mahoney, whose program has defeated Luverne five consecutive times during the playoffs’ second round. “We had confidence that our defense would hold them in check and keep the game even.

“Once we finally scored with less than a minute and a half to go in the first half, we took a collective breath and told ourselves, ‘It’s going to be alright. Just continue to be patient.'”

With time winding down in the second quarter, Borntrager utilized his 6-foot-5 frame to apply pressure to Luverne quarterback Carter Sehr, forcing an early throw on a third-down-and-nine situation and an eventual punt.

Luverne’s ensuing punt traveled only 11 yards to put Fairmont’s offense in business at the 50 and Geiger went to work through the snow-filled airwaves.

Geiger, who finished 9 of 13 for 125 passing yards, zipped a 5-yarder to Jace Teveldal before threading a 20-yard seam pass to Nolan Schultze to reach Luverne’s 25. Geiger spotted Pooley in the flat for six more yards before Elijah Johnson rushed for five more yards to gain the 14.

Geiger hit Schultze for a 4-yarder before the senior quarterback fired a perfect 10-yard TD slant to a sliding Pooley. Kellen Stenzel kicked the PAT to stake Fairmont to a 7-0 lead with just 1:16 remaining before intermission.

Elijah Johnson then delivered 26 of his team-best 69 rushing yards during Fairmont’s initial drive of the third quarter before Geiger capped the eight-play, 73-yard drive with a 20-yard TD rumble up the middle. Stenzel’s kick doubled Fairmont’s lead to 14-0 at the 8:21 mark.

Schultze’s recovery and 16-yard return to Fairmont’s 46 on the heels of Luverne receiver Conner Connell’s 25-yard reception and fumble on second down quickly put the home team on the brink of a three-TD lead.

Geiger and Co. needed only five snaps to hit paydirt and open up a 20-0 lead. Geiger unloaded a 48-yard spiral to Pooley for six more points at the 5:08 juncture of the third, but Fairmont was not done scoring yet.

After linebacker Hunter Johnson & the Fairmont defense forced a three-and-out sequence, Geiger found favorite target Levi Pooley again — this time for a 33-yard gain to reach Luverne’s 7. Geiger pounded across the goal line from 2 yards out for a commanding 26-0 lead with 2:23 to go in the third.

A pass interference penalty against Fairmont, combined with Luverne running back Sam Rock’s 30-yard breakaway run, had the visiting Cardinals knocking at the door on the home team’s 10, but a fumbled handoff two plays later created a slippery chain of events.

Both Luverne and Fairmont had the snowy football slither away from their respective grasps only to have Wiemers scoop up the fumble at the 15. The Fairmont linebacker rumbled 85 yards, with a flock of hometown Cardinals escorting him to the end zone. Ethan Geerdes’ block cleared Luverne’s last chance to prevent the TD return with 10:11 remaining in regulation.

Geiger finished with 57 yards on seven totes, while Pooley hauled in four passes for 97 yards and two scores for Fairmont.

LUV 0 0 0 0 — 0

FMT 0 7 19 6 — 32

Scoring Plays

1st Quarter

No Scoring.

2nd Quarter

FMT–Levi Pooley 10 pass from Blaze Geiger (Kellen Stenzel kick), 1:16.

3rd Quarter

FMT–Blaze Geiger 20 run (Kellen Stenzel kick), 8:21.

FMT–Levi Pooley 48 pass from Blaze Geiger (kick failed), 5:08.

FMT–Blaze Geiger 2 run (conversion pass failed), 2:23.

4th Quarter

FMT–Cole Wiemers 85 fumble return (conversion pass failed), 10:11.

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs: Fairmont 9; Luverne 7. Rushing: Fairmont 31-157; Luverne 39-128. Passing: Fairmont 9-14-0-125; Luverne 3-7-0-35. Fumbles-lost: Fairmont 3-1; Luverne 5-2. Penalties: Fairmont 2-25; Luverne 2-15.

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Offense: Rushing: Elijah Johnson (FMT) 13-69, Blaze Geiger (FMT) 7-57; Sam Rock (LUV) 13-68, Elliot Domagala (LUV) 13-43. Passing: Blaze Geiger (FMT) 9-13-0-125, Joe Long (FMT) 0-1-0-0; Carter Sehr (LUV) 3-5-0-35, Josh Hansen (LUV) 0-2-0-0. Receiving: Levi Pooley (FMT) 4-97, Nolan Schultze (FMT) 3-18; Elliot Domagala (LUV) 2-10, Conner Connell (FMT) 1-25.

Defense: Fumble recoveries: Conner Connell (LUV), Nolan Schultze (FMT) and Cole Wiemers (FMT). Interceptions: None.

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