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Cardinals race past Mavericks

LUVERNE -- Even with four costly fumbles, the Luverne Cardinals advanced to the semifinal round of the Section 3AA football playoffs with a 27-6 victory over Martin County West Tuesday night.

"We turned the ball over four times, so we played pretty sloppy," Luverne quarterback Jeremy Hoff said. "We have a lot of heart, and we can get through that stuff, hopefully."

For the Cardinals (8-1), the passing game in the second half proved the difference.

Hoff was 10-of-19 for 162 yards and three touchdowns and also had an interception on defense.

"To be honest, it was about what I expected," Luverne head coach Todd Oye said following the game. "Fumbling the ball three times in the first half was a big problem for us. Give them (MCW) credit, they played hard, and we were able to execute in the passing game in the second half."

Martin County West (1-8) started with the ball, but was forced to punt on its first possession.

On the ensuing possession, Luverne moved all the way down to the Maverick 16-yard line, but a fumble on a handoff was recovered by MCW's Chris Gaalswyk for the first Cardinal turnover of the game.

Later in the first quarter, Luverne was threatening again.

Taking over on the Mavericks' 49, Hoff found Phil Paquette (16 rushes, 81 yards) on a shovel pass for a gain of 24 yards -- moving the Cardinals deep inside MCW territory.

However, on the Cardinals' first play inside the red zone, MCW's Cam Lillevold recovered a Paquette fumble on the Maverick 13-yard line -- once again ending the threat.

Luverne finally found paydirt on its first drive of the second quarter.

Taking over on the Maverick 32, Luverne needed eight plays to find the end zone.

Facing a fourth-and-nine on the 14, Hoff hit Brent Dinger with a strike to put the first points on the scoreboard.

After a successful PAT by Sebastiao Sousa Soares, the Cardinals held a 7-0 lead.

On the ensuing Maverick possession, quarterback Cody Williams (8-of-20, 100 yards) led MCW into Cardinal territory. However, on a deep pass attempt down the left side, Hoff made a sensational one-handed catch for the interception to end the drive.

"I got lucky (on the catch)," Hoff said.

Neither team could find the end zone in the final minutes, as the first half ended 7-0.

"We're the eighth seed, we're 1-7, and we're playing our hearts out -- down 7-0 at half," MCW head coach Tom Crosby said. "In the fourth quarter, we feel it should have been a 7-6 ballgame. But, obviously they knew they were the one seed, and we were the eight seed."

The Cardinal defense did their part in the first half, holding the Mavericks to just 11 total yards.

"I thought our defense did a nice job, especially stopping the run," Oye said. "Martin County West puts a lot of formations on the field, and we had a lot of adjustments we had to make."

Luverne received the ball to start the second half and immediately went to the shovel pass. This time Paquette rumbled 16 yards. The run was followed by a Hoff pass to Dinger for a 22-yard gain.

Hoff then completed his third consecutive pass to Weston Sawtelle, as the Cardinals moved into Maverick territory.

Hoff to Dinger for 14 yards worked again to cap the drive with a touchdown, giving the Cardinals a 14-0 lead with 8:43 left in the third.

"I think the big one was coming out in the second half with the ball," Oye said. "Martin County West was feeling really good, and they were able to go into half down 7-0. It was big to make those three completions, and then hit Brent Dinger with the touchdown catch from the 14. That was the big drive."

After a MCW punt, Luverne took over on the 40. However, the Cardinals fumbled yet again, turning the ball over to the Mavericks.

From the Luverne 35, Williams and the Mavericks went to work.

MCW needed eight plays, but Williams found Geoff Krumwiede from 13 yards out to pull the Mavericks to within a touchdown at 14-6.

"Their defensive line is so tough, we knew that if we had any chance at all, we had to throw the ball down the field a little bit," Crosby said. "We've always had the capability. We just made it work tonight."

It took less than two minutes for Luverne to answer.

Facing a third-and-six from their own 46, the Cardinals' Zack Clark caught a short pass from Hoff, and scampered 54 yards to paydirt.

"Jeremy Stickling had a great block on the outside for us, and Zack, no one can catch him; he's the fastest kid on the field. It worked out perfect," Hoff said. "That got us back going, and we took control from there."

Luverne scored once more on a big play in the fourth quarter.

Dinger scored from 43 yards out on a reverse to push the lead to 27-6.

"We've been kind of waiting for that all year," Oye said of the big plays. "We had three or four dropped balls in the first half, and in the second half we caught those balls. We have enough speed that we're able to run away from people, and that's what we were able to do in the second half."

Offensively, Luverne had 179 yards rushing and 162 yards passing, while MCW had just 44 yards on the ground and 100 yards in the air. Alex Carpentar had 38 yards on the ground on 16 carries.

"We played good defense," Crosby said. "Tonight we got some offense rolling, and we're young, so we have a lot to look forward to."

Defensively, Luverne's Kyle Heronimus had 11 tackles and a sack, while Zach Olson had 10 tackles and a sack.

Luverne will host Minnesota Valley Lutheran at 3 p.m. Saturday.

MCW 0 0 6 0 -- 6

Luverne 0 7 14 6 -- 27