PREP FOOTBALL: Cardinals defeat ArrowsLUVERNE — Utilizing a diversified offensive attack and an opportunistic defense, the top-seeded Luverne Cardinals scored seven touchdowns Saturday afternoon and convincingly defeated the rival Pipestone Area Arrows in the Section 3AA high school football semifinals at Cardinal Field by a final score of 48-21.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Utilizing a diversified offensive attack and an opportunistic defense, the top-seeded Luverne Cardinals scored seven touchdowns Saturday afternoon and convincingly defeated the rival Pipestone Area Arrows in the Section 3AA high school football semifinals at Cardinal Field by a final score of 48-21.
The Cardinals (9-1) scored three times in each of the first two quarters and opened up an impressive 41-13 halftime lead on the fourth-seeded Arrows, who had claimed a hard-fought, 37-22, victory over fifth-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton at Paulsen Field in Pipestone Oct. 23.
Saturday, the Arrows, who finish a fine season with a 5-5 record — five more wins than a season ago — put together a pair of first-half scoring drives of their own.
PA, however, was unable to put the brakes on Luverne’s potent offense, which racked up a total of 371 yards — 243 on 43 rushing attempts and 128 through the air on eight pass completions in just nine throws.
“Our strength is our offensive ability to do a lot of things and execute them well,” summed up LHS head coach Todd Oye, who is taking the Cardinals back to the section finals for a seventh consecutive time. “We try to make opponents have to defend the whole field, as we are able to run inside or outside and pass the ball pretty well, too.”
Saturday’s win sends LHS to another Section 3AA championship game as the Cardinals will tangle with familiar playoff foe Jackson County Central. The second-seeded Huskies advanced with a huge 49-15 victory over the third-seeded Maple River Eagles (7-3) at Swearingen Field in Jackson Saturday.
Luverne and JCC will meet Friday evening at Mattke Field on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Heronimus gains over 300 total yards, scores a trio of LHS TD’s
Luverne senior Brett Heronimus, a 6-1, 175-pound all-around athlete, came up with big plays — on both defense and offense — as he returned a fumble recovery 60 yards for a touchdown, capped a pair of Cardinal drives with short touchdown bursts, tossed a pair of touchdown passes and rambled 30 yards after intercepting a pass.
Heronimus also snapped off a 53-yard run — on the first play after his third-quarter interception — which set up Luverne’s final touchdown.
Heronimus finished with a game-high 141 yards rushing on just 12 carries, averaging nearly 12 yards per attempt on the day.
He also completed all five of his passes (for 83 yards), including a 36-yard touchdown strike to Josh Slieter and a 17-yard TD pass to Skyler Wenniger.
Heronimus was also on the receiving end of a pair of passes (from Wenninger) for 23 yards.
Adding up those totals gives the multi-talented player 257 offensive yards and 90 defensive yards for a total yardage output of 347.
“Brett certainly had a great all-around section semifinal football game,” praised Oye about the performance of Heronimus. “He has played well on the varsity since his sophomore season and that’s the kind of senior leadership we look for in our veteran players.”
It was Heronimus, in fact, that made the hit on PA quarterback Jacob Derby, which jarred the ball loose and set up the game’s first touchdown.
Arrows start with nice drive, but LHS scores first on defensive play
After a fine 21-yard opening kick return by PA senior running back Mark Ossefoort, the Arrows moved the ball 25 yards on six plays — from their own 34 to the Cardinal 41.
But, a sack by Heronimus forced a fumble, which was picked up by Luverne’s Ryan Gonzales who dropped the ball before Heronimus scooped it up and raced 60 yards to put the Cardinals on the board with just 51 seconds off the first-quarter clock.
Omar Martinez, who booted six-of-seven extra-point kicks, made the PAT and LHS was quickly on top, 7-0.
The Arrows were forced to punt on their second series and Luverne’s Jonathan Gacke reached a hand up and blocked the punt, which was recovered by PA’s Mitchell Ryan at the Cardinal 39-yard line.
On Luverne’s first offensive play, sophomore back Andrew Verhey powered for seven yards and a 10-yard pass play from Heronimus to Wenniger gave the Cardinals their first of 16 first downs in the game.
A couple more runs by Verhey (nine carries for 46 yards) were followed by a 33-yard burst by Heronimus on the option keeper, putting LHS on the Arrow’s two-yard line.
Heronimus then capped the quick, six-play, 61-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run and the score was 13-0 with 5:27 to play in the first quarter.
The Cardinals’ defense again forced an Arrows’ punt and Matt Arends made a nice 19-yard punt return for Luverne, putting the
Heronimus quickly struck, finding tight end Josh Slieter with a 36-yard touchdown pass and the extra-point kick by Martinez increased Luverne’s lead to 20-0 with 4:09 left in the opening quarter.
Derby directs two PA scoring drives
Derby, who completed nine passes (26 throws) for 159 yards and also rushed 16 times for 59 yards, brought the Arrows back with a four-play, 65-yard TD drive, capping the quick march with a two-yard TD run on a QB keeper. He also kicked the point after, slicing Luverne’s lead to 20-7.
The big play of the drive was a 50-yard reception by Sawyer Pals on a post pattern over the middle.
“Derby’s as good of a quarterback as we face and we see some good ones in our league,” exclaimed Oye about the versatile Arrow’s signal caller. “His ability to scramble and break tackles is something — and he throws the ball well, too.”
Luverne, however, was driving again as the first quarter came to an end, and with 10:54 to play in the second quarter, stretched its advantage to 27-7 when Heronimus fired a 17-yard touchdown pass to Wenninger, which capped a 10-play, 79-yard march.
A 19-yard run by Wenninger (seven carries for 37 yards) was the drive’s biggest gain.
Operating with five receivers and a no-huddle offense, the Arrows answered with an eight-play, 73-yard touchdown drive as Derby completed a pair of passes, including a 34-yarder to Josh Mabon, who made a spectacular catch on a well-defended play.
Derby’s six-yard TD scamper made the score 27-13 with 8:26 left in first half.
A good kick return by Luverne’s Thomas Graff on PA’s ensuing onside kick attempt set up the Cardinals at the Arrows’ 48-yard line.
A hard run by Wyatt Aubert started the Cardinal drive and a big gain by Wenninger on the option pitch and a couple of runs by Heronimus moved the ball towards the Arrows’ goal line again.
After bobbling the snap, Heronimus scored his third TD on a one-yard sneak and Martinez’s fourth PAT kick of the half increased the LHS lead to 34-13 with 4:30 left.
A pass break up by Slieter and a couple of bat downs by Alex Weis (who broke up three Arrow pass attempts in the first half and later averaged 42 yards on a pair of fourth-quarter punts) helped the Cardinals get the ball back again before intermission.
Another fine punt return by Arends put LHS at its own 44.
With Wenninger (three-of-four, 45 yards, one TD) at quarterback, the Cardinals completed a five-play, 56-yard TD drive to take a 41-13 lead at the break.
A tackle-breaking run by Verhey and a 19-yard gain on a roll-out pass play from Wenninger to Heronimus moved the chains and Wenninger’s perfect throw to Arends resulted in a 22-yard touchdown for the Cardinals.
Each team scores once in second half
As they did in the first half, the Arrows (273 total yards of offense, 14 first downs) opened with a strong drive on their first offensive series of the third quarter.
But after PA earned several first downs, Heronimus stopped the Arrows’ with his pass interception inside the Luverne five-yard stripe. His 30-yard return and then his weaving 53-yard rush — on the next play — turned the second-half momentum back to the Cardinals.
Aubert finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge and the PAT by Martinez completed Luverne’s scoring with 7:35 to play in the third period.
The Arrows, who effectively worked the left side of their offense for positive yardage in the second half, scored their third touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Ossefoort (20 carries for 41 yards) and Derby took turns grinding out yards to the left, moving the chains for a trio of Arrow first downs.
Then, on a fourth and long, Derby pitched a beautiful 30-yard touchdown pass to the streaking Mabon down the left sideline with 11:20 to play in the game.
Eric Buffington followed Gunnar Manderscheid’s lead block into the end zone for a successful PA two-point conversion, completing the afternoon’s scoring.
Luverne’s Kendall Meyer recovered PA’s onside kick attempt and Luverne backs Graff, Gunnar Olson and Eli Dooyema picked up yardage for the Cardinals on the ground before Weis punted for the first time in the game with 5:10 left.
A key pass break up Jonny Solma and an interception by Wenninger ended PA’s last threat.
PA 7 6 0 8 — 21
Luverne 20 21 7 0 — 48