Fairmont and Blue Earth Area entered the contest ranked No. 5 in their respective classes and after four quarters of hard, fast and physical play, the Cardinals narrowly edged the Bucs 15-13.
“Our guys played their hearts out,” head coach Randy Kuechenmeister says. “As a coach, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Both teams’ desire to win was heard through the echo of popping pads the entire evening.
To open the contest, the two rivals immediately began trading punches.
Fairmont’s Adam Schultz bobbled the opening kickoff, corralled the ball and then sprinted down the Cardinal sideline to return the ball 88 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
With Blue Earth Area shell shocked, Fairmont opted to attempt a two-point conversion. Alek Borchardt received a reverse and snuck into the end zone for a crucial two-point score.
After the quick strike, both squads’ defenses began to flex their muscles. BEA limited Fairmont to only two first downs in the opening half thanks to bone- crushing hits and disciplined coverage.
Defensively, the Buc onslaught was led by David Franta who recorded 10 tackles from his cornerback position. Kysten Zierke and Jacob Olson followed close behind with six stops apiece.
“The defense played hard, played physical and left it on the field,” Kuechenmeister says.
Late in the half, an Isaac Darrington tackle stopped Fairmont short of the first down marker forcing the Cardinals to turn the ball over on downs. The stop set up the Bucs’ first scoring drive of the game.
Blue Earth took over on their own 20-yard line with 1:52 remaining in the half and strung together an 11-play 80-yard drive.
The Buccaneers mixed in spinning, acrobatic runs from Olson and efficient passes to Steven Plocker and Darrington to get into scoring position.
On fourth and goal from the three, Olson rushed in for BEA’s first score with no time remaining in the half.
The Bucs ran Olson off- tackle for the two-point conversion, on a similar play to the one he previously scored on, but were stonewalled by a savvy Cardinal defense.
Fairmont built off the momentum-shifting play by striking first in the third quarter.
The Cardinals established excellent field position on their first drive of the half after a 21-yard Buccaneer punt. Fairmont took over on BEA’s 35-yard line and immediately did damage with a 20-yard draw play to Brandon Martin.
A swing pass to Schultz and another draw play to Martin marched the Cardinals to the Buccaneer 3-yard line. There, the BEA defense held tough until fourth down.
On their last opportunity to score, Fairmont quarterback Ben Kain dialed up a play-action pass, delivering a strike to a wide open Levi Becker in the left corner of the BEA end zone for six points.
The point after attempt was good, putting the Cardinals up 15-6 with 6:33 remaining in the third quarter.
BEA responded in the fourth quarter, capitalizing on a shanked punt.
The Bucs took over on their own 43-yard line and used big gains from Olson and Zierke to march down to the Fairmont 2-yard line.
Carter Hanson dove in, untouched for the score and the point after attempt was knocked through the uprights by Jakob Rintelen.
BEA scored with 4:45 remaining in the game and kicked the ball deep with the hope of getting a quick stop.
Everything appeared to be going to plan until Fairmont completed a critical third and five pass play – reminiscent of Becker’s fourth down touchdown – to extend their possession.
After precious seconds had ticked off the clock, BEA finally got the ball back on their own 15-yard line with under a minute remaining.
The Buccaneer drive stalled, turning the ball over on downs to Fairmont for the last snap of the game.
Statistically, BEA had better numbers on offense and defense.
BEA outgained Fairmont by almost 100 yards of total offense, but the Cardinals two big plays on special teams proved to be the difference.
Olson led the Bucs in rushing with 103 yards on 20 carries.
Plocker caught a team-high six passes for 61 yards to lead BEA in receiving.
“We are going to let this loss sink in and then move forward,” Kuechenmeister says.