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Cardinals soar past Trojans

LUVERNE -- Despite outgaining the No. 2 Class AA team in the state, the Worthington Trojans fell to the Luverne Cardinals, 31-7, in a Southwest Conference football contest Friday night.

"It kind of went as I thought," Luverne head coach Todd Oye said. "Worthington is a lot better than their record shows. Their offense is really coming. Worthington has really improved, and we had trouble with their passing game."

Worthington (1-2 conference, 1-4 overall) gained 302 yards (181 passing, 121 rushing) compared to Luverne's 257 (219 rushing, 38 passing).

"I thought we played defense well," Worthington head coach Dennis Hale said. "I thought we carried out our assignments pretty well. We gave up a long pass, and in the second half we messed up on a call and gave up a long run. But overall, defensively, I think we're going to find out that a lot of guys played really well."

The difference in the game for the Cardinals (4-0, 5-0) was the five turnovers that Worthington committed.

"I think the most important thing we did tonight was that we didn't turn the ball over," Oye said. "We limited our penalties, so our mistakes are down."

Worthington received the ball to start the game, but Kyle Vaske's first pass was intercepted by Phil Paquette, who returned the ball to the Trojan six.

"When you kickoff, and you're fortunate enough to get a turnover on the first play and almost bring it back for a touchdown, that's huge momentum for us," Oye said. "That's exactly how you want to start a game, get a turnover and score."

It took three plays before Paquette could punch in the first touchdown of the game, as Luverne took a 7-0 with 10:20 left in the first quarter.

After Luverne missed a field goal on its next possession, the Cardinals came back with another scoring drive.

Starting on Worthington's 41, the Cardinals marched down the field and capped off the drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jeremy Hoff to Weston Sawtelle. After a successful PAT by Sebastiao Sousa Soares, the Cardinal led, 14-0.

On the Trojans first possession of the second quarter, Vaske found Tom Mammen for a 29 yard gain to put the Trojans in Cardinal's territory. Worthington moved the ball down to the 9-yard line, but the Luverne defense held.

Facing a first-and-goal, Vaske was stripped of the ball, and Luverne's Phillip Altman picked up it up -- returning it 89 yards for a Cardinal touchdown.

"That was huge. It was 14-0, and if they score there it's 14-7. But we picked up the fumble and scored to make it 21-0," Oye said. "That's the fourth defensive touchdown we've scored this year, and the third time we picked up a fumble and brought it back. Part of our scheme is to attack and force those turnovers."

Worthington got on the board late in the second quarter. Mike Vorwald hurt the Cardinal defense on the ground and through the air. He started the drive with a 19 yard run, and had receptions for 11 and eight yards to help move the Trojans down the field.

Adou Omot finished the drive with a 1-yard dive to pull the Trojans back to within two scores.

Luverne added a 32-yard field goal as time expired to take a 24-7 lead into halftime.

Neither team could score in the third quarter, but it did not take the Cardinals long to score in the fourth quarter.

After another Trojan turnover, the Cardinals drove the ball 71 yards for the score. Zach Olson accounted for the final 51 yards as he found daylight on the left side and scampered for the touchdown.

With another successful PAT, Luverne had a 31-7 lead.

"We played much better tonight," Hale said. "Late in the game we gave them some gifts for touchdowns, but our defense played quite well. Offensively, we moved the ball, but we always had penalty or a fumble or something bad happen."

The Trojans were threatening again in the final minutes of the game, but time expired before Worthington could find the end zone.

"They are very good, and we knew that going in, so it's no surprise," Hale said. "Every time I lose, it's very disappointing."

Olson led the Cardinals with 89 yards on six carries, while Paquette had 87 yards on the ground.

"Upfront they really challenged us and put a bunch of people in the box," Oye said. "They made it difficult for us to run."

Hoff completed just two passes on the night (37 yards).

"We would have liked to make a few more big plays, and we need to make a few more plays in the passing game," Oye said. "But overall, it was a good victory against a good Southwest Conference team."

On the ground, Tim Roos led the way for the Trojans with 42 yards, while Mitchell Jensen had 30.

Vorwald was 6-of-7 for 72 yards, while Vaske was 7-of-14 for 59 yards. Travis Meinders had 50 yards through the air on the final two drives.

The Cardinals will host Harrisburg next week before traveling to Marshall the following week.

The Trojans will host Marshall next week in their homecoming game.

Worthington 0 7 0 0 -- 7

Luverne 14 10 0 7 -- 31