Fairmont pockets No. 1 football seed | News, Sports, Jobs

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RECORD-SETTER ­— Fairmont running back Elijah Johnson (with football) accelerates by Albert Lea defenders Devin Gonzalez (22) and Esteban Mixteco (44) during regular-season football action on Sept. 15 in Albert Lea. Johnson went on to set the Cardinals’ single-game rushing record with 289 yards to go with four touchdowns during a 41-8 victory. Fairmont plays host to Albert Lea in a 7 p.m. Section 3AAA quarterfinal game on Tuesday at Thomas Mahoney Field in Fairmont. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT — Home, sweet home.

Two-time defending Section 3AAA football champion Fairmont earned the No. 1 seed via the QRF system, and with it, the right to potentially play host to two rounds of the postseason.

The Cardinals (7-1) kick off the sectional quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Thomas Mahoney Field in Fairmont against the No. 8-seeded Albert Lea Tigers (1-7).

“Obviously, we’re familiar with them since we played back on Week 3,” Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney said in reference to his lineup’s 41-8 rout over Albert Lea on Sept. 15. “We (coaching staff) will sit down and watch film from the first time we played, and then try to clean up any aspect that we didn’t do well.”

One category the Cardinals probably will not have to critique is their ground game.

Fairmont amassed an incredible 478 yards on 48 totes — highlighted by junior running back Elijah Johnson’s 289-yard, four-touchdown performance at the Tigers’ expense. Johnson set the school’s single-game rushing record with his outstanding effort.

“We’ll dissect Albert Lea’s last two games and then make any adjustments accordingly in preparation for the quarterfinal,” said Mahoney.

Ironically, Albert Lea halted its losing streak at 29 in a row when it topped No. 6-seeded Belle Plaine (1-7) by a 29-8 decision on Wednesday night.

If Fairmont defeats Albert Lea in Tuesday’s sectional opener, Mahoney and company would play host to the winner between the No. 4-seeded Luverne Cardinals (5-3) and the No. 5-seeded Tri-City United Titans (4-4) in a 2 p.m. semifinal on Saturday, Oct. 28, back at Mahoney Field.

“Essentially, we’d be facing common opponents in the second round since we played TCU this season, and we have a long history of facing Luverne throughout the years,” said Mahoney. “We didn’t have Luverne on our schedule this year, but we know they’re well-coached and execute without making many mistakes.

“TCU looks like they have improved since we played them in our season-opener (a 48-0 Fairmont victory) on Aug. 31, so we’ll have to be ready.”

TCU will make the long trek to Luverne for a 7 p.m. quarterfinal on Tuesday night. The two teams did not play during the regular season.

Luverne closed out Week 8 with a 33-21 victory over Redwood Valley.

The Waseca Bluejays (6-2), who lost their regular-season finale by a 21-0 decision to Fairmont on Wednesday night, merited the section’s No. 2 seed and will play host to the No. 7-seeded Worthington Trojans (2-6) at 7 p.m. Tuesday night.

Worthington, who closed out the regular season with a 20-14 overtime win over St. Peter on Wednesday night, and Waseca also did not face each other this fall.

In a regular-season rematch, the No. 3-seeded Jordan Hubmen (5-3) plays host to the No. 6-seeded Belle Plaine Tigers (1-7) at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Ames Stadium in Jordan.

The Hubmen, who dealt a 25-13 Week 8 loss to TCU, coasted to a 35-6 win over the Tigers earlier this fall.

The Section 3AAA semifinals are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at the higher seeds’ home fields. The championship is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3, on the artificial turf in New Ulm.

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