TROJAN FOOTBALL: Cardinals fly past TrojansWORTHINGTON — Alex Weis, Skyler Wenninger and Wyatt Aubert each scored a pair of touchdowns Friday night, helping the Luverne Cardinals build a 20-6 halftime lead and claim a 46-6 victory over the Worthington Trojans in a key Southwest Conference high school football game at Trojan Field.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Alex Weis, Skyler Wenninger and Wyatt Aubert each scored a pair of touchdowns Friday night, helping the Luverne Cardinals build a 20-6 halftime lead and claim a 46-6 victory over the Worthington Trojans in a key Southwest Conference high school football game at Trojan Field.
Luverne, which improves to 6-0 overall and is now 5-0 atop the conference standings (a half-game ahead of Marshall, 4-0), racked up 410 yards of total offense — running the ball 41 times for 355 yards and completing 4-of-9 passes for 55 yards through the air.
Worthington (2-4, 1-3) gained just 185 total yards — 169 rushing, 16 passing — but the Trojans did compete favorably throughout most of the first half and put together an impressive scoring drive to tie the game at six points apiece late in the first quarter.
“We played solid in the first half, as we were able to move the ball well and didn’t have to punt,” Worthington head coach Brad Grimmius said after the game. “But Luverne is a very good team and they took control in the second half with a multi-faceted offensive attack and a pretty salty defensive performance. Hats off to the Cardinals, they outplayed us tonight.”
Wenninger led Luverne’s ground game with 12 carries for 142 yards, including touchdown runs of 24 and 58 yards. Weis ran the ball nine times for 65 yards and a 12-yard score to go along with a touchdown recovery in the end zone after he blocked a punt early in the second half.
Aubert added touchdown plunges of one and five yards, Manny Olson tacked on a late score, and Brett Heronimus helped engineer the Cardinals’ entire machine with 65 yards rushing on three carries and back-to-back completions to Joey Slieter.
“We were fortunate enough to score touchdowns on our first three possessions of the game because the first half really was a battle,” Luverne head coach Todd Oye said. “Give Worthington a lot of credit, as we struggled defensively to get their offense off the field in the first half. But we adjusted well to what the Trojans were doing and were able to stop them more effectively as the game went on.”
Marcus Potter (nine carries for 86 yards) and Troy Ektnitphong (eight carries for 45 yards) led Worthington’s ground game, while Blake Schroeder scored the Trojans’ lone touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak late in the first quarter.
Luverne strikes first, Worthington counters
The Cardinals, who are ranked sixth in the latest Class AA state polls, opened the game with the ball at their own 24-yard line and assembled a nine-play, 76-yard scoring drive to get on the board first. Wenninger connected with Weis for a 25-yard gain along the right sideline to get Luverne moving down the field.
Wenninger (13 yards on an option pitch) and Heronimus (14 yards on a keeper) both ripped off solid runs later on the drive, and then Wenninger found a seam on a dive play for a 24-yard touchdown burst. The PAT kick was no good, as the Cardinals led 6-0 with 7:39 to go in the first quarter.
Worthington, though, put together a nice countering drive of its own. Beginning at their own 35-yard line, the Trojans marched 65 yards on 10 plays to even the score.
Potter started the drive with a 19-yard scamper around the right edge, while Brandon Gray picked up 13 yards up the middle. Schroeder completed a 14-yard pass to Trevor Wietzema for the third first down of the series.
Ektnitphong later converted on a fourth-and-four play with an eight-yard run to give Worthington a first-and-goal from Luverne’s seven. Potter followed with a six-yard dash before Schroeder broke the plane of the goal line with a one-yard touchdown sneak.
The PAT kick was blocked, leaving the score at 6-6 with 2:08 on the first-quarter clock.
“We blocked well along the line of scrimmage with a lot of different combinations, which allowed us to run the ball effectively and also complete a nice pass,” Grimmius said. “Marcus ran the ball well, and Blake was in command of the offense. That was a big drive for us after Luverne went down and scored right away.”
However, the Cardinals answered with another touchdown drive (72 yards on 11 plays). Wenninger ran the ball on the first four plays, netting 12, nine, 11 and nine yards to trigger Luverne’s offense once again.
Weis carried the ball four times late in the possession, with his fourth attempt landing him in the end zone after a 12-yard touchdown dash. Heronimus found Slieter for the ensuing two-point conversion, lifting Luverne to a 14-6 lead with 9:01 remaining in the second quarter.
“Alex gives us a nice blend of size, speed, strength and power,” Oye said. “We like to move him all over the field, and he had a very good game tonight.”
Worthington again looked to respond on the follow-up drive, as a good kick return by Potter set the Trojans up at their own 41-yard line. Potter later had an eight-yard surge before Ektnitphong got loose for about a 25-yard run.
However, a fumble at the end of that long run was recovered by Luverne’s Cody Rofshus — giving the Cardinals the ball at their own 14-yard line.
A 12-play, 86-yard scoring drive came next, with Heronimus firing passes of 16 and 11 yards to Slieter on consecutive plays to get things going once again for the Cardinals. Positive runs by Weis (17 yards), Wenninger (eight yards) and Aubert (13 yards) helped sustain the march.
After a 10-yard rumble by Weis spotted the ball at Worthington’s two-yard line, Andrew Verhey and Aubert (touchdown plunge) each gained a yard to extend Luverne’s lead to 20-6 (PAT no good) with 1:32 left in the first half.
Cardinals score 26 second-half points
Worthington, which moved the ball to near midfield when time expired in the second quarter, started the third quarter on offense — but was forced to punt for the first time all night after going three-and-out.
Weis blocked the punt (from about the 20-yard line) and the ball rolled into the end zone, where he chased it down and recovered for a touchdown. Heronimus utilized a jump pass on the two-point attempt, finding Matt Overgaard to boost Luverne’s margin to 28-6 at the 9:26 mark.
“That was a big momentum swing for us,” Oye said. “Turnovers played a key factor in this game, as we got the fumble recovery and the blocked punt for a touchdown to turn things in our favor.”
Worthington didn’t get a first down the rest of the quarter, and Luverne widened the gap to 34-6 with 5:20 to play after a bruising five-yard touchdown run by Aubert (PAT no good). Heronimus snapped off a 50-yarder on an option keeper to highlight the Cardinals’ offensive prowess that time.
Wenninger (58-yard run with 11:37 left) and Olson (one-yard run with 3:38 remaining) scored Luverne’s fourth-quarter touchdowns. The PAT kicks were both no good, as the Cardinals completed the scoring with a 46-6 bulge.
Slieter intercepted a pass to set up Olson’s score, right after Potter had gained 23 yards on a nifty cutback run.
“We struggled on both sides of the ball in the second half,” Grimmius said. “We didn’t execute what we wanted to do and made a few too many mistakes, which Luverne capitalized on. That’s a great team we just played, but we need to play better than that.”
Worthington travels to take on Marshall next week, while Luverne plays at Lennox, S.D.
Luverne 6 14 14 12 — 46
Worthington 6 0 0 0 — 6