PREP FOOTBALL: Luverne takes down JCC 28-14LUVERNE — Once again featuring a diversified and well-balanced offensive attack to go along with a consistent defensive performance Friday night, the Luverne Cardinals claimed a key 28-14 victory over the Jackson County Central Huskies in a Southwest Conference high school football game at Cardinal Field.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Once again featuring a diversified and well-balanced offensive attack to go along with a consistent defensive performance Friday night, the Luverne Cardinals claimed a key 28-14 victory over the Jackson County Central Huskies in a Southwest Conference high school football game at Cardinal Field.
The early-season showdown between the traditional rivals was as good as advertised, with both Luverne (fifth) and JCC (tied for seventh) ranked in the most recent Class AA state polls coming into the clash of perennial conference and section tournament contenders.
“That was a slugfest between two very good high school football teams,” summed up Luverne head coach Todd Oye after the game. “JCC is such a tough team to play, as they have a lot of ability on both sides of the ball and on special teams. We knew that we were going to have to play very well in order to get a win, and I think that we did a great job of competing and doing things the right way.”
Luverne, which improves to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference, appeared to have an advantage in terms of total penalties and turnovers committed throughout the game. JCC (2-1, 1-1), which led 7-0 late in the first quarter, turned the ball over three times — compared to two turnovers for Luverne — and was flagged frequently at unfortunate moments.
“We simply did not play well enough to win this game,” JCC head coach Tom Schuller said. “You can’t make as many mistakes as we did tonight and expect to win at Luverne, which again has a tremendous team. We did move the ball well at times, but too many turnovers and penalties seemed to cost us.”
Luverne totaled 258 yards rushing and 109 yards through the air, outgaining JCC (199 rushing, 125 passing) by a final margin of 367-324.
Brett Heronimus, Skyler Wenninger, Jonny Solma and Andrew Verhey each scored a touchdown for the Cardinals, while Shadrack Wacker scored both of the touchdowns (one receiving, one rushing) for the Huskies.
JCC strikes first with TD on halfback pass
The intensity in the air was evident from the opening kickoff, as JCC started with the ball at its own 36-yard line and was forced to punt after Luverne’s defense got a quick three-and-out.
Aided by a pair of penalties on the Huskies, the Cardinals then picked up two first downs and drove from their own 13-yard line to JCC’s 41 on six plays. But the Huskies’ Tanner Menke intercepted a long pass to bring the series to a halt.
A 20-yard run by Darick Vancura (20 carries for 93 yards) and an 11-yard completion from Menke (10-for-34, 95 yards; seven carries for 44 yards) to Kyle Luhmann (three receptions for 33 yards) helped JCC move the chains three times on the ensuing series, but a sack by Luverne’s Josh Slieter on third-and-seven from the Cardinals’ 33 led to another punt — which was downed inside the 10-yard line.
With field position in their favor, the Huskies capitalized on a fumble recovery by Taylor Christopher with the game’s first points. Christopher’s loose-ball pickup led to a 30-yard touchdown on a halfback pass from Luhmann to Wacker.
Christopher kicked the extra point through the uprights, lifting the Huskies to a 7-0 lead with 2:03 remaining in the first quarter.
Luverne controls second quarter
The Cardinals answered with an impressive 63-yard scoring drive — covering 11 plays — and got on the board three minutes into the second quarter. A 12-yard scramble by Heronimus (12 carries for 99 yards; 4-for-6 passing, 42 yards) and a 26-yard dash by Verhey (13 carries for 63 yards) were among the key plays of the possession.
Later, on fourth-and-goal, Heronimus flipped a three-yard touchdown pass to Solma in the back of the end zone. The PAT kick was no good, as Luverne trailed 7-6 at the 9:11 mark.
JCC was on the verge of matching that touchdown with one of its own, as the hard running of Vancura — who had spurts of four, four, seven and three yards on the drive — and a 22-yard reception along the left sideline by Zach Copley had the Huskies knocking on the door at Luverne’s 15-yard line.
However, Solma came up with a huge fumble recovery to give the ball back to the Cardinals — who quickly struck with a four-play, 82-yard scoring assault to take the lead.
Heronimus got loose for a 33-yard gain on a quarterback keeper up the middle, Wenninger completed an 11-yard pass to Slieter, and Heronimus scampered for 13 more yards before Verhey ripped off a nifty 25-yard touchdown run.
Wenninger plowed into the end zone for the two-point conversion, giving Luverne a 14-7 lead with 4:55 to play in the first half.
Luverne got another defensive stop prior to halftime and maintained a seven-point cushion at intermission.
Cardinals stretch lead in second half
JCC started the second half with a promising drive, as Menke and Travis Beeck each had an eight-yard run to help move the Huskies to Luverne’s 38. But the Cardinals stopped the Huskies on a fourth-and-inches play and took over on downs.
A 16-yard surge by Heronimus and a good punt by Alex Weis then helped Luverne gain some field position, pushing the Huskies all the way back to their own 11-yard line. The Cardinals followed up with a three-and-out defensively to get the ball back at JCC’s 35.
Wenninger (15 carries for 86 yards; 3-for-3 passing, 67 yards) fired an eight-yard pass to Slieter and also gained 12 yards on an option pitch to the left to get the Cardinals moving toward the goal line. Wenninger later capped the short five-play series with a four-yard touchdown run on an option pitch to the right.
Menke blocked the PAT kick, leaving Luverne with a 20-7 lead with 4:16 left in the third quarter.
A 45-yard kick return by Keegan Moore had the Huskies again looking for a countering score, but JCC lost a fumble at Luverne’s 12-yard line.
The Huskies got a defensive stop and then received a 40-yard punt return by Darnell Taylor-Breck — which helped set up a blazing 46-yard touchdown scamper by Wacker down the left sideline. Christopher kicked the extra point to make it 20-14 with 10:50 to go in the fourth quarter.
Luverne, though, came right back with a six-play, 71-yard scoring series. The big play was a 47-yard aerial from Wenninger to Matt Arends over the middle, while Wenninger also rumbled for 22 yards on a keeper.
A one-yard touchdown run by Heronimus on a sneak up the middle, plus a two-point conversion by Wenninger, increased the Cardinals’ lead to 28-14 with 7:35 showing.
Luverne’s pass-coverage defense then made several plays to keep JCC from mounting a late comeback. Pass break-ups by Wenninger and Kendall Meyer, as well as an interception by Arends, helped the Cardinals seal the 14-point win.
Luverne plays at Pipestone Area next Friday, while JCC hosts Marshall.
JCC 7 0 0 7 — 14
Luverne 0 14 6 8 — 28