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Oh so close

FAIRMONT -- With a minute left in a tied game and facing a fourth and nine from Worthington's 23 yard line, Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney had a decision to make.

"I got to give a lot of credit to my coaching staff any my players," Mahoney said. "They were telling me to go for it, so we decided to go for it and we made a big play, and that was the outcome of the ballgame."

The Cardinals converted on the fourth down play and later scored en route to a 12-6 victory in the season opener for both teams.

"It's disappointing," Worthington head coach Dennis Hale said. "It was a hard-fought game. It would have been nice if we would have won 12-6, but both teams played hard. It was a hot night, and kids were cramping up, so credit both teams to sucking it up and playing hard."

On a warm summer night with many players suffering cramps, the game came down to the final minute.

With 1:02 and fourth down showing on the game clock, Fairmont's Justin Heinrich found Chris Janssen down the right sideline for a 23-yard gain -- putting Fairmont on Worthington's 1-yard line.

"It was a fourth down play, and they caught it and we didn't knock it down, and that's what happens in athletics," Hale said. "To their credit, they made the play, and hopefully next game we'll make the play."

After a false start penalty, Fairmont's Paul Mallory punched it in from six yards out to give Fairmont a 12-6 victory.

After Mallory managed just 34 yards on the ground in the first half, he totaled 90 yards in the second, including two touchdowns.

Overall, Hale was pleased with the defensive effort.

"(The defense) played pretty good," Hale said. "They shut them out for three quarters, and then at the end we let down a little bit, but they made a big play."

Offensively, the Trojans spent the entire night operating from a no-huddle, shotgun offense. Mike Vorwald led the attack in the air with 28 yards, but the Trojans threw three interceptions on the game.

"We struggled on offense a little bit," Vorwald said. "We just had too many turnovers throwing the ball, which shouldn't happen with this offense because that's what it's meant for. We just have to get better at that."

On the opposite side of the ball, Fairmont threw one interception and lost four fumbles.

"It was an ugly ball game," Mahoney said. "We went up and down and back and forth. We turned the ball over, they turned the ball over. It was just two teams that were young and inexperienced."

Following a turnover, Worthington got on the board first quarter. With the score knotted at zero, Worthington's Tom Mammen intercepted a Brett Hested pass on the Fairmont 22-yard line.

Facing a third down on the Fairmont 15, Adu Omot ran for eight of his 37 yards on the night to pick up a first down and keep the drive alive.

On the next play, Tim Roos found paydirt from seven yards out as Worthington took a 6-0 lead with 11:38 left in the first half.

Worthington had another opportunity to score before halftime. Facing a four down at the Fairmont 23, Vorwald threw a deep ball to Joe Ahrens that was intercepted by Fairmont's Martin Tow to end the drive.

Neither team could score again as the Trojans held a 6-0 lead at halftime.

"Both halves were defensive battles," Hale said. "It was a dog-fight the whole four quarters."

After the first four drives of the second half ended with punts, Fairmont blocked a Trojan punt attempt and recovered on Worthington's five yard line.

However, the Trojan defense was up to the test, stopping the Cardinals and forcing a field goal attempt. The kick was wide right as the Trojans held on to a 6-0 lead.

With 7:38 left in the game, Fairmont found the end zone for the first time all night. Mallory had all 53 yards on the Cardinal drive, including a 24-yard touchdown scamper to tie the game at 6-all. The Cardinal extra point attempt was no good, as the score stayed tied at six.

For the Cardinals, their inexperience hurt the team in the early going, but the team matured a lot during the game.

"You could tell right away that we were young," Mahoney said. "We started three sophomores on offense, and it showed right away that we were young. But we came back in the second half."

For the Trojans, a loss is not the way they wanted to start the year.

"It's pretty frustrating right now," Vorwald said. "We improved on our offense throughout the last couple of weeks and then we didn't play well tonight."

Worthington will be on the field again Friday at Pipestone.

"I've been doing it for 30-some years, so we'll rebound, I don't know how, but we'll do that," Hale said.

WHS 0 6 0 0 -- 6

Fairmont 0 0 0 12 -- 12