FAIRMONT — What’s at stake when Fairmont plays host to Luverne in tonight’s 7 pm battle of Section 3AAA football rivals at Mahoney Field in Fairmont?
At a minimum, the No. 2 seed and the potential to play host to both the sectional quarterfinals and semifinals are on the line.
“We’re in a dogfight for the No. 2 spot and the chance to hold home-field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs,” said Fairmont mentor Mat Mahoney, whose program enters Week 7 tied with Luverne head coach Todd Oye’s Cardinals with 4-2 overall records. “Every game we play now is significant in terms of the sectional picture.”
Indeed. Fairmont plays host to Class AA No. 10-ranked Blue Earth Area, who has compiled a 5-1 mark, during Wednesday’s regular-season finale and battle for the Little Brown Jug at Mahoney Field.
Meanwhile, Luverne plays host to Class AAA No. 6-ranked Waseca, who stands alone atop the Section 3 standings with a 5-1 overall record. The Bluejays hold the tiebreaker — a head-to-head game — over Fairmont via a 32-14 victory on Sept. 2. 3.
“We’re in control of our own destiny, and now we need to seize the opportunity,” said Mahoney.
Fairmont defensive backs Levi Pooley and David Maakestad did exactly that by capitalizing on a pair of chances in the form of interceptions and transformed both into pick-6s during last Friday’s 27-6 triumph over Worthington.
End Hank Artz spearheaded Fairmont’s smothering defensive effort in the box by recording two of his team’s five quarterback sacks for 22 of the 53 yards lost by the host Trojans.
Now, linebacker Aden Welcome, Artz, Maakestad, Pooley and the Fairmont defense will turn their collective attention to preventing Luverne split end Gannon Ahrendt from moving the sticks via receptions.
The 6-foot-4 Ahrendt made seven catches for a game-best 121 yards and three touchdowns to engineer Worthington’s second-half comeback and eventual 27-20 victory over Class AA No. 9-ranked Pipestone Area.
Trailing the Arrows 14-0 at halftime, Ahrendt caught a 40-yard scoring strike from sophomore quarterback Carter Sehr to get Luverne on the board. Later in the third quarter, Ahrendt produced a pick-6 from his cornerback position.
Ahrendt then completed Luverne’s comeback triumph by garnering a 6-yard TD pass from Sehr before grabbing the decisive 4-yard scoring spiral from quarterback Conner Connell in the fourth frame.
“We noticed Sehr threw a couple of TD passes to Ahrendt, but Luverne will probably open with the bigger and taller Connell at quarterback this week,” said Mahoney. “Ahrendt is one of the best receivers in our section and represents a home run threat, so we’ll have to try to limit that big-play option.”
Ironically, Sehr actually generated better numbers through the air against Pipestone Area, completing 11 of 19 passes for 141 yards and the two TDs. Connell connected on 6 of 12 throws for 72 yards and the one score.
Luverne, which rushed for only 56 yards last week, also uses Connell as a receiver. The 6-4, 225-pound Connell made four catches for 48 yards, while teammate Tyson Cowell pocketed five tosses for 38 more yards.
Fairmont produced offensive numbers similar to Luverne as quarterback Brendan Schmidtke connected on 10 of 18 passes for 147 yards and a TD to Pooley. Pooley finished with five receptions for 79 yards.
“We will have our hands full in stopping Luverne as Todd Oye does a good job of disguising his offensive formations,” said Mahoney. “I also know first-hand that whatever we take away from them, he will know how to counter, so we’ve got a challenge ahead.”
No. 8 Spot
Martin County West head coach Tom Elliott and his Maverick football team earned the No. 8 spot in this week’s Minnesota AP’s Class 1A state rankings.
Martin County West, which sports a perfect 6-0 record, travels to Springfield tonight for a 7 pm kickoff.
The Mavericks close the regular season by playing host to Tracy-Milroy-Balaton next Wednesday night at 7 pm in Sherburn.
The Fairmont junior varsity football team capped an unbeaten season by trampling Worthington, 56-0, Monday night.
Ty Tumbleson generated three rushing touchdowns to pace the Cardinals’ offense, while teammates Tristan Tungland and Nolan Hansen each ran for a score.
Brett Williams, Hadan Toomer and Jace Teveldal each garnered a receiving TD for Fairmont, with Blaze Geiger tossing two and Tyler Kurt delivering one.
Fairmont ended its season with a 6-0 record.