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Fairmont, Waseca to play for Section 3AAA championship

LEVELING BLOCK ­— Fairmont fullback Hank Artz (middle) levels Luverne linebacker Elliot Domagala with a block to clear running room for Fairmont quarterback Blaze Geiger during the two teams’ Section 3AAA football semifinal on Saturday at Thomas Mahoney Field in Fairmont. Fairmont plays Waseca at 7 p.m. Friday night in New Ulm for the sectional championship. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — Sectional showdown 3.0.

The No. 1-seeded Fairmont Cardinals (9-1) take aim at a third consecutive Section 3AAA football crown at 7 p.m. Friday night on the artificial turf in New Ulm.

Meanwhile, the No. 2-seeded Waseca Bluejays (8-2) seek to avenge back-to-back losses to Fairmont in the sectional finals and capture their first state bid since 2019.

“This will be the 12th time we’ve played during the last 10 years, so our programs know each other inside and out,” said Mahoney, whose lineup holds a narrow 6-5 edge in head-to-head gridiron clashes during the past decade. “I don’t expect anything new, but anticipate a third outstanding sectional championship game in a row and nothing less.

“Monday, we watched film from the first time we played this year, and are focusing on cleaning up our mistakes.”

Safety Levi Pooley pocketed two interceptions to help Fairmont’s defense post one of its five shutouts of the fall — a 21-0 regular-season and near-perfect victory over Waseca on Oct. 18 at Thomas Mahoney Field in Fairmont.

Running back Elijah Johnson rushed for 146 yards and one touchdown on 25 totes, quarterback Blaze Geiger threw for 150 yards, including one TD to Pooley and another to Jace Teveldal, while end Gage Borntrager and the Cardinals’ defense limited the high-octane Bluejays to 54 yards on the ground and 72 more through the air.

“After looking at the film from a couple of weeks ago, we need to coach better and play better,” said Waseca head coach Brad Wendland. “We can’t commit four turnovers and be flagged for eight penalties if we want to compete — it’s that simple.”

The Bluejays utilized a strong passing performance from sophomore quarterback Jordan Johnston to roll to a 21-7 sectional semifinal win over No. 3-seeded Jordan on Saturday in Waseca.

Johnston fired a 28-yard scoring strike to receiver Carson Ohnstad and connected with receiver Deron Russell on a 36-yard TD spiral, while junior running back Micah Allen-Haas ran for a 3-yard score.

Zach Hulscher kicked all three PATs for the Bluejays in their sectional semifinal win over the Hubmen.

“Micah’s a big strong powerful kid who has a high ceiling offensively, but is still a bit inexperienced,” Wendland said in reference to the up-and-coming 5-foot-10, 190-pound junior. “He’s a player we (coaching staff) hope gets better every time we roll him out of the backfield.”

Ironically, Allen-Haas has been one of a number of teammates looking to fill part of the void created when sprinter extraordinaire Kaeden Johnson tore his ACL during Week 5’s clash with Jordan.

Waseca also has been without the gridiron skills of receiver/safety Damarius Russell, who has missed his team’s previous two sectional games due to an injury.

“He’s not 100 percent, but we will make a decision on him later in the week,” Wendland said in reference to Damarius Russell.

Fairmont edged Waseca by a 35-26 decision during the 2022 Section 3AAA finale after the Bluejays coasted to a 32-14 regular-season victory over the Cardinals during Week 4 last fall.

“I told our players and coaches to think back to last season, and to throw our regular-season win over Waseca this year out of the window,” said Mahoney. “Take nothing for granted. There are no guarantees.”

Fairmont downed Waseca for the 2021 sectional crown by a 27-6 margin after winning their Week 4 regular-season battle, 28-15.

After a pandemic 2020 season, the Cardinals edged the Bluejays during the regular season in 2019 and 2018, while Waseca rolled to five consecutive regular-season wins over Fairmont from 2013-17.

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