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Good game: Luverne outscores Worthington 22-14 in Big South Conference football clash

The Luverne Cardinals held on for a victory against the Worthington Trojans in a competitive contest in Luverne

The Worthington Trojans sideline leans in as Luverne defensive back Tyson Cowell (4) and Linebacker Riley Sneller (13) chase Worthington's Jacari Swinea (11) out of bounds during a Friday night game in Luverne.
The Worthington Trojans sideline leans in as Luverne defensive back Tyson Cowell (4) and Linebacker Riley Sneller (13) chase Worthington's Jacari Swinea (11) out of bounds during a Friday night game in Luverne.
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LUVERNE -- A valiant attempt for their first victory of the 2022 high school football season came up short Friday night as the Worthington Trojans fell 22-14 to the host Luverne Cardinals in a Big South Conference showdown.

The regular season is winding down and the playoff season looms for area high school football squads

In a first half that ended 15-14 in Luverne’s favor, Worthington had chances to score in the second half, but didn’t. And LHS tacked on a TD with 1:16 remaining in the game for insurance.

The loss dropped WHS to 0-5 while Luverne improved to 3-2.

Luverne Cardinals Gavin DeBeer (24) celebrates with a leap the tiring touchdown by Kaleb Hein (47) during Friday night's game in Luverne.
Luverne's Gavin DeBeer (24) celebrates with a leap on a touchdown by teammate Kaleb Hein (47) Friday night.
Tim Middagh/The Globe
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Worthington kicked to Luverne to open the game, but on their first play from scrimmage the Cardinals fumbled and WHS senior linebacker Nasim Zeidi recovered. Twice during their 35-yard drive to the end zone, the Trojans converted on 4th-and-2 runs. Anthony Linder, a senior lineman who wears No. 74 but was used sparingly as a line-busting runner on offense for the past two seasons, took the football at the 1-yard line and pushed it in for a touchdown.

The Trojans were held for a total minus-2 yards in last week’s loss to Marshall and went into Friday’s game having been shut out in their previous two contests. But Linder’s score, with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter, gave the visitors a much-needed boost. Triston Sauerbrei booted the extra point.

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As Trojan defense hits Cardinals running back Kaleb Hein (47) knocking the ball out Worthington's Nasim Zeidi snatches up the ball for the turnover during the Friday evening game in Luverne.
As the Trojan defense hits Cardinals running back Kaleb Hein (47), knocking the ball out, Worthington's Nasim Zeidi snatches it up for the turnover.
Tim Middagh/The Globe

With just 1:17 remaining in the quarter, Luverne evened the score at the end of a short 44-yard drive following the Worthington kickoff. Quarterback Conner Connell completed a 7-yard TD pass to Kaleb Hein, and the extra point was good to knot the score at 7-7.

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Worthington started the game with a quarterback tag team of Tucker Brandner, who has typically handled the signal-calling duties since the season opener, and senior wide receiver/defensive back Abagotte Opiew.

"We just wanted to use their different skills, and we tried to give our special players chances to make special plays. And we did. We made some special plays," said WHS head coach Geno Lais.

Opiew was behind center immediately following Luverne’s touchdown, and on first down he rushed 50 yards to the LHS 6-yard line. Moments later -- on the first play of the second quarter -- Brandner, who was quarterbacking again, scored on a 5-yard carry. And again, Sauerbrei kicked the EP.

Worthington Trojans Quarterback Abagotte Opiew (5) makes a sudden switch back step to break into open field with a keeper to penetrate deep into Cardinal territory In a Friday Night game in Luverne.
Worthington's Abagotte Opiew (5) breaks into the open field with a keeper to penetrate deep into Cardinal territory Friday night in Luverne.
Tim Middagh/The Globe

Worthington’s lead lasted until midway before intermission as Luverne went on an 80-yard scoring drive that culminated in a touchdown run by Connell, who faked a pitch right and rambled up the middle nine yards. Eschewing the extra point, the Cardinals went for two and got it when Carter Sehr hooked up with Elliot Domagala.

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Luverne rallied again before halftime but stalled just about a yard short of the goal line on a pass play to Gannon Ahrendt as the gun sounded.

The Cards moved deep into Worthington territory in the third quarter helped by two first downs on fourth-down situations. On a 4th-and-5 play, LHS earned another set of downs on a fake punt and run by Sehr. Later, on 4th-and-7, Cowell ran for another first on a sweep. But finally, on a 4th-and-8 at Worthington’s 17, a pass was intercepted by the Trojans’ Abagotte Opiew at the 13-yard line.

After another long Opiew run covering nearly 50 yards, Worthington attempted a would-be go-ahead field goal early in the fourth quarter. But Sauerbrei’s 40-yard try was short.

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Worthington’s last good chance to get a go-ahead score started with under nine minutes remaining at its own 23-yard line. The Trojans missed by less than a yard at picking up a 3rd-and-8 situation at their own 40 on a screen pass from Brandner to Jacari Swinea. On fourth and inches, a fake handoff to Linder and carry by Brandner failed as he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage.

Thus, Luverne had possession of the football with 3:59 remaining in the game and made the only score of the second half with 1:16 to go as Connell ran it in from six yards away. The extra point was made. Worthington needed a TD and a 2-point conversion to tie, but did not succeed.

Even so, the Trojans played well. Coming off the loss at Marshall, the effort was especially noteworthy, and Coach Lais said he was not surprised that the team came ready to play.

"Our coaches, our players, and everybody else were not surprised at all," he said. "That's kind of what they expected tonight, to come back, to bounce back and play. ... We felt confident and prepared tonight.

Worthington’s next game is at Trojan Field on Friday against Fairmont. Luverne is at Pipestone Area.

Worthington 7 7 0 0 -- 14

Luverne 7 8 0 7 -- 15

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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