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Luverne pounds SWU 60-0

LUVERNE -- After an evenly-played first quarter Saturday afternoon, the No. 1-seeded Luverne Cardinals took control and dominated the second quarter, scoring 35 points on their way to a convincing 60-0 victory over fourth-seeded Southwestern United in the second round of the Section 3AA football playoffs.

"Our seniors really stepped it up today," Luverne head coach Todd Oye said following the game. "We were able to take control in that second quarter, as our defense made plays, and our offense converted and scored when we had chances."

Luverne (7-3) advances to the Section 3AA title game Friday night, when it hosts No. 2 Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop (8-2) at 7 p.m.

In earning the victory Saturday, the Cardinals gradually started to win the field-position battle towards the end of the first quarter before a well-placed punt from Andrew DeBoer pinned the Wildcats at their own two-yard line early in the second quarter.

Luverne's defense then forced the Wildcats to a three-and-out, and after a short punt from Trevor Leopold, the Cardinals took over at the SWU 23-yard line with 9:12 remaining before halftime.

After three rushes by Luverne made it fourth-and-one from the 14, Derek Elbers (15 carries for 56 yards) busted several tackles and gained 12 yards on a run up the middle.

With the ball at the two-yard line, Elbers dashed into the end zone on the next play. Chris Engesser converted the PAT kick, and Luverne led 7-0 with 7:49 showing on the clock.

Luverne's defense again stepped up and forced the Wildcats to punt after just three plays. Starting with the ball at their own 39-yard line, it took the Cardinals two plays to get on the scoreboard again.

Elbers rushed for six yards before quarterback Jeremy Hoff threaded a needle between two Wildcat defenders, finding Weston Sawtelle at SWU's 35-yard line.

Sawtelle made a great catch before he sprinted the rest of the way to complete a 55-yard scoring strike with 5:41 left in the first half. Engesser's kick was good, and Luverne led 14-0.

Luverne -- which outgained SWU 371-106 in total offensive yards (285-59 rushing) -- got the ball back on SWU's second play of the ensuing possession, as Jake Clark intercepted quarterback Lon Eichenberger's pass intended for Lloyd Kalfs. Clark initially returned the pick for a touchdown, but a penalty brought the play back.

Still, the turnover set the Cardinals up in great position to score at the Wildcat 22-yard line. Phillip Paquette (10 carries for 53 yards) gained seven yards on a run to the right before Clark made another big play.

Clark took the ball on an option reverse play and -- keyed by a big block from Derek Boeve on the outside -- galloped around the left side for a 15-yard touchdown with 4:09 showing on the clock. Engesser again made the kick, putting the Cardinals up 21-0.

After another stop by Luverne's defense and a good punt return by Sawtelle, the Cardinals put together an eight-play, 35-yard drive to go up 28-0 with 28 seconds left in the second quarter.

Keeping the ball on the ground and using all three of their timeouts, the Cardinals effectively punched in another score, as Tyler Reisch capped the march with a one-yard touchdown burst. Engesser's kick was again good.

Luverne struck again just 13 seconds later, as the Cardinals recovered Riley Van Westen's fumble at SWU's 30-yard line on the ensuing kick return.

On the first play of the possession, Hoff made a perfect pass and connected with Clark in the end zone with 15 seconds left. Engesser made the kick, and Luverne took a 35-0 bulge into halftime.

"We made some defensive adjustments that took away their running game a little bit," Oye said. "We were able to run the ball better in that second quarter, and Jeremy Hoff made some great passes to our receivers for touchdowns."

SWU (9-1) opened the second half with the ball, and after gaining a first down behind the running of Alex Leopold (29 carries for 99 yards), the Wildcats looked to keep moving downfield and attempt to chip away at Luverne's lead.

However, Brent Dinger sacked Eichenberger on third down and forced the Wildcats to punt once again.

Elbers capped a 31-yard drive with his second touchdown -- a two-yard plunge -- with 7:59 left in the third quarter. Engesser's kick was good, and Luverne led 42-0.

Elbers came up with an interception on the ensuing possession, returning the ball to SWU's 12-yard line.

After a one-yard loss, Hoff ran to the right side and bulled his way into the end zone with 6:13 left. The snap was high on the PAT attempt, leaving the score at 48-0.

SWU had a nice drive going on its next possession, gaining a pair of first downs after Alex Leopold ran for 12 yards, and Kalfs hauled in a five-yard reception. However, the drive eventually stalled, and Luverne scored on its ensuing drive.

Mitch Bauman capped Luverne's 73-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown burst with 6:20 left in the fourth quarter. Sawtelle's PAT kick was no good, and Luverne led 54-0.

SWU then had its best scoring chance, as a 42-yard halfback pass from Alex Leopold to Shaun Mathias got the Wildcats into the red zone. However, the Wildcats couldn't get past the 15-yard line, and Luverne took over.

Zach Olson (10 carries for 98 yards) scored the final points of the game with an impressive 85-yard touchdown jaunt with 2:20 left, as he busted several tackles on a quarterback keeper up the middle. Kyle Moerke's PAT kick was no good, making the final score 60-0.

Luverne's Erik Stegemann came up with an interception on the ensuing possession, and the Cardinals ran out the clock to end the game.

SWU 0 0 0 0 -- 0

Luverne 0 35 13 12 -- 60