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Luverne starts fast, holds on for 41-12 win over Worthington

Trojans vs Luverne football1
The Worthington Trojans celebrate their first touchdown of the season Friday night against the Luverne Cardinals. Brock Bruns (9) scored on a long pass and run. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

LUVERNE -- Bailey Cowell made sure Luverne got off to a quick start.

A junior quarterback on the Cardinal football team, Cowell scored three first-half touchdowns en route to a season-opening 41-12 victory over visiting Worthington on Friday night.

“It starts at practice,” Cowell said. “We push hard. We’re a family and a close group.”

Cowell accounted for four touchdowns in the game -- three rushing and one passing. He also had one of four interceptions the Cardinal defense forced in the game.

“Bailey does really well,” LHS head coach Todd Oye said. “He’s quick; it’s hard to defend speed.”

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After falling behind 27-0, Worthington showed signs of life in the final three quarters.

“We are really inexperienced and I think that played a big part,” WHS junior Brock Bruns said. “I think we played a lot more aggressive in the second half as a team. On offense, we saw what the defense was giving us and started taking advantage of that.”

Cowell started the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown. He then added another 18-yard score before LaShad Smith scored from a yard out to give LHS a 20-0 lead.

“We got momentum right away in our running game,” Oye said. “They made adjustments in the second half to get us out of our favorite plays a little. Offensively, we need to work on our passing game. That will come.”

That advantage went to 27-0 on a one-yard score from Cowell.

“Give it to the line for giving me good holes,” Cowell said. “That’s what it’s all about, the team.”

But WHS had a quick score before half. Quarterback Will Brandner found Bruns on the outside. The 6-5 receiver made a move and was off the races for an 85-yard touchdown -- the longest of his career.

“It was a great pass, Will really set me up to catch that ball and turn around and make a play,” Bruns said.

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Out of halftime, the Cardinal defense picked off Brandner’s first pass of the third quarter.

“On defense we graduated a lot of kids,” Oye said. “That was a big interception by Colby Crabtree to start the second half to get us that touchdown to set the tone for the second half. Give Worthington credit, they came back and got a touchdown and it turned into a battle in the second half.”

Four plays later, Cowell threw a one-yard touchdown to Jacob VonTersch for Cowell’s fourth score of the game.

“You just have to stay humble and keep pushing,” Cowell said of his night. “I couldn’t have done it without the boys.”

The Trojans answered with a long touchdown drive. WHS went on a 10-play drive -- all passes -- to find paydirt. The drive was highlighted by a 39-yard pass to Bruns and was capped by an 11-yard aerial to Tommy Lais.

“We have a lot of young guys. We have a few upperclassmen. We talked about playing hard, playing fast and not worrying about mistakes and overcoming adversity. It seemed like the first quarter, we were playing slow and passive and we weren’t ready. After that, we played a lot faster,” WHS head coach Gene Lais said. “They never quit. They believed and played hard. There were a lot of good things. We felt, as a staff, that we could throw the ball against them. I think we could have been better. We dropped a few and maybe had a misread or two. One is on me because I just kind of drew a play up in the dirt we haven’t even practiced.”

Brandner completed 16 of 35 passes for 250 yards. Bruns caught five for 143 yards, while Lais hauled in five for 75 yards.

Smith led Luverne with 77 yards rushing, while Cowell had 63 yards rushing and 44 yards passing. LHS gained 212 yards on the ground, compared to 11 for WHS.

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The Cardinals host Maple River on Friday, while the Trojans will look to build on the positives in another tough game at Jackson County Central.

“Our coaches said we basically played three quarters of that game,” Bruns said. “The first one, you take that away and it's a close game. There’s a lot of things we can take away, good things and bad things.”

Worthington 0 6 6 0 -- 12

Luverne 13 14 7 7 -- 41

Trojans vs Luverne football2
Tommy Lais (84) of WHS is tackled by Luverne's Nick Feit after a short pass reception. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

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