FAIRMONT — Fairmont head coach Matt Mahoney can add another action plan to his football tag book “Galatians 5:22.”
Mahoney and his Class AAA No. 8 seed and No. 1 seed Cardinals proved patience is a virtue by biding their time during a strategic and methodical time-consuming first half of the No. 4 seed Luverne Cardinals in Saturday’s Section 3 semifinal at Fairmont.
Quarterback Blaze Geiger rushed for a pair of touchdowns and passed for two more to Levi Pooley, while Cole Wimmers, Gage Borntrager and Fairmont’s suffocating defense delivered another shutout to help the hosts beat Luverne 32-0 at Thomas Mahoney Field .
Two-time defending champion Fairmont (9-1) earned a rematch against the No. 2 seed Waseca Bluejays (8-2) for the Section 3AAA championship at 7:00 pm Friday night on the artificial turf in New Ulm. Waseca won the next round by defeating No. 3 seed Jordan (6-4) by decision 21-7 on Saturday.
Luverne finished its season with a 6-4 record.
“Luvern head coach Todd Oye had a good game plan to use all the time on the play clock to help us keep our offense off the field as much as possible.” said Matt Mahoney, whose program has beaten Luverne five straight times during the second round of the playoffs. “We had confidence that our defense would hold them and keep the game tied.
“After we finally scored with less than a minute and a half left in the first half, we took a collective breath and said, ‘It’s going to be okay.’ Just keep being patient.”
With time winding down in the second quarter, Borntrager used his 6-foot-5 frame to pressure Luverne quarterback Carter Sehr, forcing an early throw on a third-down situation and nine and a possible punt.
Luverne’s ensuing drive went just 11 yards to put the Fairmont offense at the 50, and Geiger set to work through the snow-filled air.
Geiger, who finished 9 of 13 for 125 passing yards, threw a 5-yarder to Jace Teveldahl before throwing a 20-yard pass to Nolan Schulze to get to Luverne’s 25. Geiger spotted Pooley downfield for another six yards before Elijah Johnson rushed for five more yards to make it 14.
Geiger hit Schulze for a 4-yard touchdown before the senior quarterback fired a perfect 10-yard TD to a sliding Pooley. Kellen Stenzel kicked the PAT to give Fairmont a 7-0 lead with just 1:16 left before the break.
Elijah Johnson then completed 26 of his team-best 69 rushing yards on Fairmont’s opening drive of the third quarter before Geiger capped the eight-play, 73-yard drive with a 20-yard TD strike up the middle. Stenzel’s shot doubled Fairmont’s lead to 14-0 at the 8:21 mark.
Schulze’s fumble recovery and 16-yard return to the Fairmont 46 after Luverne’s Connor Connell’s 25-yard reception and second-down fumble quickly put the home team on the brink of a three-TD lead.
Geiger and Co. needed just five snaps to put the game away and open up a 20-0 lead. Geiger unloaded a 48-yard spiral to Pooley for six more points at 5:08 of the third, but Fairmont wasn’t done scoring yet.
After linebacker Hunter Johnson and the Fairmont defense forced a three-and-out sequence, Geiger again found favorite target Levi Pooley — this time for a 33-yard gain to get to Luverne’s 7. Geiger punched through the 2-yard line for a commanding 26-0 lead with 2:23 to go in the third.
A pass interference penalty against Fairmont combined with Luverne’s Sam Rock 30-yard run had the visiting Cardinals punting at the home team’s 10, but a failed handoff two plays later set up a slippery chain of events.
Both Luverne and Fairmont had the football slip out of their respective grasps only to have Wimmers take the snap at the 15. The Fairmont linebacker rumbled 85 yards, with a flock of hometown Cardinals escorting him to the end zone. Ethan Geerdes’ block snuffed out Luverne’s last chance to prevent a TD comeback with 10:11 left in regulation.
Geiger finished with 57 yards on seven carries, 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
A scoring game
FMT–Levi Pooley 10 pass from Blaze Geiger (Kellen Stenzel kick), 1:16.
FMT–Blaise 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 failed), 2:23.
FMT–Cole Wiemers 85 fumble return (conversion failed), 10:11.
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-loss: Fairmont 3-1; Luverne 5-2. Penalties: Fairmont 2-25; Luverne 2-15.
Offense: Rushing: Elijah Johnson (FMT) 13-69, Blaise Geiger (FMT) 7-57; Sam Rock (LUV) 13-68, Elliot Domagala (LUV) 13-43. Pitching: Blaise Geiger (FMT) 9-13-0-125, Joe Long (FMT) 0-1-0-0; Carter Serre (LUV) 3-5-0-35, Josh Hansen (LUV) 0-2-0-0. Receiving: Levi Pulley (FMT) 4-97, Nolan Schulze (FMT) 3-18; Elliott Domagala (LUV) 2-10, Conor Connell (FMT) 1-25.
Defense: Fumble recovery: Connor Connell (LUV), Nolan Schulze (FMT) and Cole Wimmers (FMT). Interceptions: None.