SECTION 3AA FB: Cardinals win in final seconds

MARSHALL -- Senior quarterback Ryan Hoff fired a six-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Joey Slieter with eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter Friday night to give the second-seeded Luverne Cardinals a thrilling 21-17 victory ov...

LHS' Stoffel
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Luverne's Trever Stoffel (11) looks for running room as Jackson County Central's Steven Salzwedel chases during the first half of Friday night's Section 3AA final in Marshall.

MARSHALL -- Senior quarterback Ryan Hoff fired a six-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Joey Slieter with eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter Friday night to give the second-seeded Luverne Cardinals a thrilling 21-17 victory over the top-seeded Jackson County Central Huskies in the Section 3AA championship football game at the Regional Event Center at Southwest Minnesota State University.

The victory gives Luverne (9-2) its fourth consecutive section title and another trip to the Class AA state tournament. The Cardinals will play Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter Nov. 14 (1 p.m.) in the state quarterfinals.

JCC, which ends a terrific season with a record of 9-2, held a pair of 10-point leads over Luverne, including a 17-7 advantage to begin the fourth quarter. Later holding a 17-14 lead, the Huskies had a first-and-goal from the three-yard line.

But Luverne -- aided by a pair of JCC penalties -- made a defensive stand and later drove in for a dramatic game-winning touchdown in the final seconds.

"What a great game and a great effort by both teams," Luverne head coach Todd Oye said after the game. "Our guys made a lot of key plays throughout the game, both offensively and defensively. We also stayed poised on that final drive and did a great job of getting a touchdown."


The wind was a major factor in the game, as all of the points were scored when the team with the wind at its back had the ball. That was evident early on when JCC took a 10-0 lead after the first quarter.

The Huskies stopped Luverne on a fourth-and-two play on the game's opening possession, taking over at their own 40-yard line. Senior Skylar Prochaska (16 rushes for 62 yards) had four strong runs covering 22 total yards to start the drive, as JCC moved into Luverne territory -- with the wind at its back.

JCC moved to the Cardinals' 21-yard line before an incomplete pass on third-and-seven set up a field-goal attempt. Senior Taylor Menke lined up for a 38-yard try and booted the ball through the uprights to put the Huskies up 3-0 with 4:01 on the clock.

The Huskies then forced a punt after a three-and-out and started their second offensive series at their own 48-yard line. A wide receiver pass from senior Trevon Bargfrede to junior Nolan Luhmann for 36 yards down the right sideline moved JCC into the red zone.

JCC used a pair of timeouts before the end of the quarter, and five plays after Luhmann's big catch, senior quarterback Joel Hartzler tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to Prochaska. Menke added the extra point, lifting the Huskies to a 10-0 lead with 30 seconds to go in the opening period.

The next four possessions ended in turnovers -- two by each team -- in a span of 3:50. Prochaska recovered a fumble, and junior Jordan Phibbs intercepted a pass for the Huskies, while junior Britton Stratton and senior Nick Meyer recovered fumbles for the Cardinals.

Meyer's loose-ball pickup -- the fourth turnover in that stretch -- gave Luverne the ball at JCC's 23-yard line at the eight-minute mark of the second quarter. A 17-yard reception by senior Josh Boomgaarden (nine catches for 96 yards) helped set up a one-yard touchdown plunge by senior Taylor Mulder, as the Cardinals trimmed the gap to 10-7 (junior BG Xaisongkham made the PAT) with 6:05 left before halftime.

The score remained the same for the rest of the half, and JCC started the third quarter with the ball and the wind.


"The wind was a huge factor in this game," Oye said. "Whoever had the ball with the wind at their back had the advantage."

Each team was forced to punt twice on the first four possessions of the third quarter, and JCC started its third series at the 50-yard line.

Hartzler (10-for-19 passing for 184 yards, 11 rushes for 33 yards) fired an 18-yard pass to freshman Zach Copley and later went over the top to Bargfrede (three catches for 83 yards) for a 19-yard touchdown connection.

Menke's PAT put JCC, which limited Luverne to 10 total rushing yards, up 17-7 with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.

Luverne, though, answered with a potent aerial attack on the ensuing drive. Hoff, who completed 23 of 38 passes for 224 yards, found Mulder for a 10-yard gain and a key first down early in the possession.

Hoff then opened the fourth quarter with a 19-yard toss to Boomgaarden and followed with a 38-yard bomb to junior Adam Gruis (three catches for 53 yards) over the middle, as the Cardinals used the wind to their advantage.

Hoff's one-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Hayden Bauman on the next play, and Xaisongkham's extra point brought Luverne back within three (17-14) with 11:29 remaining in the game.

"Ryan Hoff was throwing the ball really well (Friday)," Oye said. "We knew coming in that it was going to be a challenge running the ball against JCC's physical defense. We knew we were going to have to pass the ball in order to be successful, and our receivers made some great catches."


JCC countered by going to the air and found success against the wind, as Hartzler hooked up with Bargfrede for a 29-yard gain. Luhmann (four receptions for 92 yards) later had a 40-yard catch-and-run down the right sideline, giving the Huskies a first-and-goal at the three.

However, the Huskies -- who committed 13 penalties for 85 yards -- were faced with a first-and-goal from the 13 after two five-yard penalties. A two-yard run was then followed by three straight incomplete passes, as Luverne took over on downs at its own 11.

Luverne moved 20 yards before punting the ball away with 3:46 on the clock. Stratton¹s punt rolled out of bounds at JCC's 26-yard line.

The Cardinals stopped the Huskies on the next three plays and utilized all three of their timeouts, as JCC punted the ball right back after gaining just four yards.

Beginning at the 50-yard line with 3:10 to go, Luverne stuck with the passing game. Boomgaarden had receptions of eight and 12 yards sandwiched around a 12-yard catch by senior Trever Stoffel (four catches for 29 yards), as the Cardinals had a first down at the Huskies' 18 with 2:39 left.

Luverne later faced a third-and-14 situation from the 22 with about a minute to play when Hoff found Meyer over the middle for a 13-yard completion. Junior Collin Rofshus followed with a three-yard run on fourth-and-one, and Luverne spiked the ball to stop the clock with 12 seconds left.

On second-and-goal from the six, Hoff rolled to his right and threw a dart to Slieter in the end zone for a touchdown. Xaisongkham made it 21-17 with the extra point, as Luverne took the lead for the first time with just eight seconds on the clock.

Bargfrede reeled in a long pass from Hartzler near Luverne's 30-yard line as time expired on the ensuing possession -- sealing the Cardinals' comeback victory.


LHS 0 7 0 14 -- 21

JCC 10 0 7 0 -- 17

JCC's Hartzler
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Jackson County Central quarterback Joel Hartzler (11) looks to break a Luverne tackler during Friday night's Section 3AA final in Marshall.

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