FAIRMONT — “Any time Waseca and Fairmont play football, it always seems to be an important game,” Brad Wendland said in reference to his Class AAA No. 10-ranked Bluejays playing host to Mat Mahoney’s Cardinals at 7 p.m. Friday night in Waseca.
The clash of perennial high school gridiron titans will be a rematch of last year’s Section 3 championship game, and possibly a preview to this fall’s sectional showdown.
“Whoever wins Friday night’s game will likely hold an edge when it comes to the end-of-the-season seeding meeting,” said Mahoney, whose lineup posted a 27-6 sectional final victory over the Bluejays last Nov. 6 after claiming their Week 4 regular-season battle, 28-15, on Sept. 24 in Fairmont.
In fact, Fairmont carries a four-game winning streak over Waseca into Friday night’s South Central White District contest. The Cardinals and Bluejays did not play in the covid-condensed 2020 campaign, but Fairmont squeezed out a narrow 20-14 win in 2019 and a 26-21 decision in 2018. Waseca, however, edged Fairmont by a 14-9 margin during their 2017 regular-season matchup.
Fairmont, which netted three points in the ‘others receiving votes’ category in this week’s Class 3A state poll, hits the road for the third time during the first four weeks of the current schedule.
“We’re looking forward to the second half of our schedule,” a smiling Mahoney said in reference to playing three of its final four regular-season games in Fairmont.
The Cardinals are coming off a 41-20 home win over Jordan, fueled by quarterback Brendan Schmidtke’s 12-for-16 passing performance that generated 189 yards and three touchdowns — with all of them landing in the sure hands of split end David Maakestad.
Maakestad produced a breakout game by making five catches for a game-best 143 yards and the three scores before adding his fourth TD via a 7-yard run.
“We’re gaining confidence with each week, and starting to make the big play at critical junctures in games,” Mahoney said in reference to Landen Meyerdirk’s 63-yard rushing TD to open the third quarter and his 55-yard kickoff return late in the second half, in addition to linebacker Aden Welcome’s quick-reflex interception in the opening half.
“No. 13 (Welcome) can stop the run, knows when to blitz and wraps up on every tackle,” Wendland said in reference to Fairmont’s 165-pound senior linebacker. “In the defensive front, (Hank) Artz just jumps out on film when you scout Fairmont. Not only is he a physical defender, but he’s exceptional because he plays to the whistle.”
Artz and Welcome will look to get their hands on senior quarterback Oliver O’Brien, senior running back Christian Rodriguez and sophomore jack-of-all-trades Damarius Russell.
Russell erupted for 255 all-purpose yards and four TDs during Waseca’s 49-7 rout over Tri-City United — a pivotal sectional win for the Bluejays.
Waseca, TCU, Fairmont, Belle Plaine and Luverne all sport 2-1 overall records to share top honors in the seven-team sectional standings thus far.
Russell garnered scoring passes of 64 and 10 yards, respectively, from O’Brien; returned last week’s opening kickoff 78 yards for six more points; and delivered one of Waseca’s pair of pick-6s by returning his interception 47 yards to paydirt.
O’Brien added a 2-yard scoring run, Rodriguez broke free for a 64-yarder for six points, while Max Neaves shredded the TCU defense for a 60-yard TD rumble.
Linebacker Kyle Ahlschlager packed point production from the defensive perspective by returning his interception 33 yards for Waseca’s second pick-6 of the night.
“O’Brien can beat you with both his throwing arm and legs and he does a great job of putting their offense in motion,” said Mahoney. “Both Rodriguez and Neaves are tough to bring down, so at the end of the day, Waseca wants to run power on you.
“We’ll have to stop their power running game and minimize their big-play opportunities.”
Fairmont plays host to New Ulm next Friday for Homecoming, while Waseca plays host to Jordan during Week 5.
The Fairmont Cardinal junior varsity football team improved to 4-0 on the season by shutting out the Jordan Hubmen, 34-0, during action Monday at Ames Stadium in Jordan.
Nolan Schultze hauled in three touchdown passes to top Fairmont’s rout, while teammates Jace Teveldal and Jaron Schutz each made one scoring reception.
Blaze Geiger tossed three TD passes, while Hadan Toomer and Tyler Kurt connected for one apiece.
Hunter Johnson recorded an interception to top the Cardinals’ defensive performance.
Fairmont (4-0) plays host to Waseca in a 6:15 p.m. junior varsity game Monday night at Mahoney Field in Fairmont.
The Marshall Tigers claimed the No. 8 spot in this week’s Minnesota Associated Press’ Class 4A football poll, while the Jackson County Central Huskies and Pipestone Area Arrows pocketed the No. 5 and No. 6 spots, respectively, in the Class 3A rankings.
The Blue Earth Area Bucs received five points in the ‘others receiving votes’ portion of Class 2A, while the Martin County West Mavericks netted six points in the ‘extra’ section of the Class 1A poll.