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Cardinals cage Huskies, 39-13

JACKSON -- In a span of 29 seconds -- within two minutes of a crowd-electrifying touchdown dash by Jackson County Central's Torey Stewart -- Luverne's Zach Olson scored a pair of touchdowns, turning a 13-7 Cardinal lead into a 25-7 advantage.

Those two runs by Olson, along with a pair of long pass plays from Jeremy Hoff to Weston Sawtelle, sparked Luverne to a 39-13 Southwest Conference football victory over JCC Friday night.

The Cardinals, coming off an impressive 34-0 season-opening victory over Martin County West, had trouble rushing the ball against JCC's defense in the first half, netting just 12 yards on 13 carries.

"We had problems with JCC's defensive tackles," Luverne head coach Todd Oye said. "In the second half, we adjusted with quicker options and had several big gains that gave us confidence and helped us get control."

One of those big plays came midway in the third quarter. Facing a third down and five from the LHS 24-yard line, 175-pound junior back Phil Paquette ripped off a 22-yard gain, giving the Cardinals a first down on the 46.

On the next play, Olson -- a 200-pound junior -- exploded through a hole on the right-side of the Luverne line and dashed 54 yards for a touchdown with 5:53 remaining in the third period, putting the Cardinals up, 19-7.

Twenty-nine seconds later, Olson scooped up a JCC fumble and scooted 31 yards for Luverne's third TD of the quarter and with 5:24 showing on the clock (third quarter), the Cardinals owned a 25-7 lead.

"We were competitive the whole first half and for the first few minutes of the third quarter," JCC head coach Tom Schuller said. "But once we got tired and Luverne got rolling, we had trouble stopping them."

For most of the first half, the Huskies did stop the highly-regarded visitors, forcing the Cardinals to punt on nearly every possession.

Luverne, in fact, had only two first downs in the game's first 24 minutes, but two big plays -- one by the Cardinal defense and another by the passing combination of Hoff and Sawtelle -- turned the tide midway through the second quarter.

JCC had opened the game with a nice drive, which ended at the Cardinal 42-yard line when Luverne's Brent Dinger recovered a fumble.

The Huskies had stopped Luverne several times and were driving again when a deflected pass was intercepted by Cardinal defensive back Mitch Bauman, who dazzled the red-clad crowd with a 27-yard return.

That return, however, was nullified by a holding penalty.

But after a 12-yard pass completion from Hoff to Dinger, Hoff found a wide-open Sawtelle along the right side-line for a 63-yard touchdown strike with seven minutes to play in the first half.

Sebastian Soares Sousa was perfect on the point-after kick and the Cardinals carried their 7-0 lead in halftime.

On its first drive of the second half, the Cardinals quickly doubled their first down total, as Hoff connected with Sawtelle for a 48-yard gain and then rushed 11 yards himself, giving Luverne back-to-back first downs and the ball at the JCC 19-yard line.

After a 13-yard gain by Paquette on a sweep to the left, Bauman carried in from the one-yard line, capping an eight-play, 78-yard drive.

Leading 13-0, the Cardinals appeared to be in command.

Enter the "swinging gate" formation and a spectacular run by Stewart, who finished with 95 yards on 13 carries.

The Huskies came out with five linemen and Stewart on the right-side of the field -- right in front of the hometown fans. Receiver Ryan Rasche lined up as the center and snapped the ball to Stewart, who picked up some nice blocks and broke 69 yards for a touchdown, putting JCC on the scoreboard with 7:44 to play in the third quarter.

"We thought we reacted well and had that covered," said Oye. "But Stewart made a great run."

The point-after kick by Trevor Hage was good and JCC seemed to be back in contention, trailing just 13-7.

But then Paquette and Olson churned for 76 yards on two rushes and Olson dashed in with Luverne's second fumble recovery of the game and the Cardinals were in control.

"We were able to come up with several big plays in a row that turned the game in our favor," said Oye. "JCC has a good team and they will get better as the season progresses."

The Huskies came back, capping a well-executed drive with a nine-yard touchdown burst by Stewart, closing the gap to 25-13 with 6:29 to play in the game.

Four completed passes from Nathan Brandt to Rasche highlighted the drive, as JCC marched 51 yards to score.

But LHS drove the dagger into the Huskies on the next series.

After three short rushes netted another Cardinal first down, Olson broke free -- on an inside trap play -- for his third TD of game, sprinting 53 yards to give Luverne a 31-13 lead. Trevor Stoffel ran in the two-point conversion, increasing the advantage to 33-13.

After a pass interception by Dalton Gath -- Luverne's fourth pick of the game -- the Cardinals scored their sixth touchdown of the night when Codie Swanson punched it across from two yards out with 1:21 showing on the clock.

Olson finished 113 yards rushing on just four carries, while Paquette added 64 yard on 12 rushes. Hoff carried nine times for 27 yards and Bauman gained 24 yards on eight carries.

That balanced Cardinal attack produced a total of 230 yards on the ground.

Hoff, who intercepted a pair of passes, was 4-of-10 through the air. Sawtelle's two long catches netted 110 yards.

Rasche had five catches for 63 yards for the Huskies, intercpeted a pass and recovered a fumble.

Oye credited Olson and fellow linebacker Kyle Heronimus with stellar defensive games for the Cardinals, along with Dinger at defensive end and nose guard/defensive tackle Sam Dooyema.

"Our special teams really played well too," praised Oye. "It was a solid all-around team effort and it was a big win in the conference for us."

Luverne hosts Pipestone Area and JCC travels to Marshall in a pair of league games Friday.

Luverne 0 7 18 14 -- 39

JCC 0 0 7 6 -- 13