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Huskies to tangle with Cardinals in Section 3AAA finals — again

JACKSON -- Overcoming five lost fumbles in its 30-9 Section 3AAA high school football semifinal victory over Tri-City United at Swearingen Field last Saturday afternoon, the perennially good Jackson County Central Huskies are preparing to play in...

JACKSON - Overcoming five lost fumbles in its 30-9 Section 3AAA high school football semifinal victory over Tri-City United at Swearingen Field last Saturday afternoon, the perennially good Jackson County Central Huskies are preparing to play in their seventh consecutive sectional championship game.

Second-seeded JCC (9-1) will lock horns with top-seeded Fairmont (8-1) Friday evening (7 p.m.) on the turf-covered field at Johnson Park in New Ulm. The winner advances to the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state tournament.

“Fairmont has the whole package,” said Tom Schuller, JCC’s veteran and highly successful head coach. “They have a great offensive line and lots of talented skilled players. We do look forward the opportunity and the challenge.”

The Cardinals and Huskies have played each other in the last three section title games. JCC won in both 2015 (35-12) and 2016 (21-14), but Fairmont, which finished 9-2 last fall, defeated the Huskies in 2017 by a final score of 29-21. This year, Fairmont is riding a seven-game winning streak after a 42-26 loss to Jordan in the second game of the season. Included among those wins is a 26-21 victory over Waseca, a team which beat an undefeated Hutchinson team (48-20) in the Section 2AAA semifinals last Saturday.

“Fairmont beat Waseca, who pounded Hutchinson,” exclaimed Schuller. “This speaks to the talent and depth that the Cardinals have as a very experienced team. They have 14 seniors starting. We have five seniors on our entire roster, with four of them as starters. Fairmont has scored numerous touchdowns off of blocked punts, kick returns and interception returns. On defense, they are constantly blitzing and stunting.”

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Senior quarterback Garret Myren (6-2, 180) is a dual threat to run or pass and his favorite targets have been big-play threats Dustin Schultz (6-4, 195) and Hayden Berhow (6-2, 175), apair of senior veterans. Defensively, senior nose guard Dominick Ortiz (5-10, 200) is a force to be reckoned with in Fairmont’s 5-2 alignment.

JCC, which has won four of those last seven sectional title game (also winning in 2012 and 2013), had to overcome the adversity of having five offensive drives end with fumbles in its semifinal win over the third-seeded TCU Titans, who finished 5-5. The Huskies utilized a game-long stellar defensive effort, along with an effective fourth-quarter offensive performance to score the game’s last 23 points.

“It’s not often that you can win a game against a good team when you flip the ball over to them five times,” Schuller said about Saturday’s fourth-quarter resurgence. “We fumbled six times and lost five of them, but our guys pulled it off, which seems somewhat miraculous.”

That miraculous response began with three minutes left in the third quarter after the Titans had scored their only touchdown, tied the game with a perfect extra-point kick and had tackled the Huskies in the end zone for a safety, giving them a two-point lead (9-7) two minutes earlier. Following the safety, TCU returned the kick to midfield. But as they had done almost the entire game, the Huskies came through with a four-play defensive stop and forced the Titans to punt for a fifth time.

“Our defense was rock solid,” praised Schuller. “Other than that one drive - following our fifth lost fumble - we didn’t give up much. Our front four put the pressure on, our linebackers made tackles and our secondary covered very well. It was a total team defensive effort which kept us in the game, despite all of our turnovers.”

Three touchdown plunges by junior running back Bradley Buhl capped well-sustained drives by the Huskies - including an 11-play 99-yard march after the Titans had pinned JCC at the 1-yard line following that fifth punt.

Buhl finished the game with 129 yards rushing on 20 carries, getting most of them on those three fourth-quarter drives. Elijah Meium-Bratrud tacked on 81 yards on 14 carries, as the Huskies outgained the Titans on the ground by a 254-102 spread. Junior quarterback Rudy Voss completed 12-of-20 passes for 128 yards, including a 24-yard catch and run by junior tight end Matthew Stubbe for JCC’s first-quarter touchdown.

TCU completed just nine-of-28 passes for 117 yards against the stellar coverage by the Huskies’ defensive backs.

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TCU 0 0 9 0 --- 9 JCC 7 0 0 23 --- 30

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