CLASS AA FOOTBALL: Cardinals make fourth straight trip to the Metrodome with 27-0 victory

ST. PETER -- Luverne is headed to the Metrodome -- again. The Cardinals advanced to the Class AA state football semifinals for the fourth year in a row after blanking Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop 27-0 in a first-round matchup at Gustavus Adolphus College.

LHS Mulder
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Luverne's Taylor Mulder (22) plunges in for a first-quarter touchdown during Saturday's Class AA state football game in St. Peter.

ST. PETER -- Luverne is headed to the Metrodome -- again.

The Cardinals advanced to the Class AA state football semifinals for the fourth year in a row after blanking Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop 27-0 in a first-round matchup at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Now, they'll be taking their tour back to the home of the Vikings.

"It's insane to believe that we're actually going to the Dome again," defensive back Nick Meyer said.

"I didn't think it would happen," quarterback Ryan Hoff echoed. "To have a chance four years in a row, that's tough, especially with all the guys we lost last year."


G-F-W came into the game with a vaunted rushing attack, but Meyer and the rest of Luverne's defense held the Thunderbirds to 101 yards on the ground -- 200 below their season average.

"Without a doubt, our kids are thrilled," Luverne's head coach Todd Oye said.

Meyer picked off his eighth pass of the year late in the game -- an errant throw that deflected off teammate Josh Boomgaarden right into his clutches.

"It just kind of fell into my hands," he said. "I got some lucky breaks (Saturday)."

He wasn't the only lucky Cardinal.

From the beginning, most of the breaks seemed to bounce the red and white's way.  

Luverne forced four turnovers, including a fumble on the opening kickoff that Lucas Nath recovered.

Taylor Mulder scored on a one-yard plunge moments later to give the Cardinals a quick 6-0 lead.


Mulder carried the ball 14 times for 70 yards, but he gave way to Hayden Bauman midway through the second quarter after he tweaked his right hamstring.

"He went down, which wasn't good, but we've got two other guys who can go in there and do a good job," Hoff said.

Bauman kept the lucky streak going for the Cardinals.

He coughed the ball up stretching for the goal line, only to watch it plop right in front of him. The running back simply reached out and grabbed the ball in the end zone for six points.

That touchdown came just a few minutes after quarterback Ryan Hoff hooked up with Trevor Stoffel on a five-yard scoring strike and with Boomgaarden for the two-point conversion.

Luverne went into halftime holding a 20-0 lead.

Even when the Thunderbirds forced turnovers of their own, they couldn't catch a break.

Mulder had coughed up the ball the same play he was injured.


But linebacker Britton Stratton stripped the T-Birds' Lucas Seehafer on the very next play and Michael Graff dove on the loose ball to gain possession right back for the Cardinals.

"Our defensive coaches came up with some great schemes and gave them different looks," Oye said. "But you've got to credit the kids for not only talking about it, but putting it into effect during the game."

The Cardinals held G-F-W to 159 total yards, 96 of which were gained by Jay Rogotzke, the school's career rushing leader.

The most important defensive stat, though, was the zero on the scoreboard.

"We just focused on No. 22 (Rogotzke)," Meyer said. "If you take him out, you don't have to worry about anything else, and that's what we did."

Luverne tacked on a late two-yard touchdown run by Richard Gonzalez to make the final tally 27-0.

The Cardinals finished with 320 total yards (185 rushing, 135 passing).

Hoff completed 10 of his 21 tosses, but he also threw two interceptions.


Oye wasn't overly concerned, but he does want to eliminate the turnovers and the 45 yards of penalties that his squad was whistled for.

"A lot of the time, when you're facing better competition you're more likely to hold or whatever it might be," the coach said. "We'll talk about those mistakes and we'll correct them."

There will most likely be less room for error when the Cardinals play Moose Lake/Willow River (12-0) Friday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis for a chance at the state title.

It's familiar territory for a program that has reached the Class AA championship the previous three years.

This year's group of seniors, though, is determined to make its own mark.

"I feel like no one really respected us and they thought last year's senior class was the reason we won," Meyer said. "We have kids that might not have started before, but they played scout team and they worked and worked."

Only six starters returned on this year's Cardinals squad, and Luverne dropped two conference games in the regular season.

Nevertheless, this group just keeps winning now, when it matters most -- keeping the program's postseason tradition intact.


"Everyone said since we lost so many people from last year that we wouldn't be good. That's all we heard over the summer," Hoff said. "We got to practice, people started filling in, surprising everyone and silencing all the haters out there."

G-F-W 0 0 0 0 -- 0

Luverne 6 14 0 7 -- 27

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