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Cardinal blitz Windom in weather-shortened football game

Lead Summary
John Sichmeller for the Star Herald

The Luverne Cardinals football team upped their record to 2-1 after defeating the Windom Eagles in a shortened game Thursday night in Luverne.
The Cardinals raced out to a 36-0 halftime lead, and just 18 seconds into the second half the game was stopped due to lightning. Both coaches mutually agreed to call the game final, giving the Cardinals the 36-0 win.
The story of the night was the resurgence of the Cardinal offense. After starting the season with 21 first-half points against Redwood Valley, the Cardinals had gone scoreless in six straight quarters heading into Thursday night's game. The Luverne offense utilized several big plays enroute to a 29-point opening quarter versus the Eagles.
“It was really fun. We started off hot in Redwood and then the offense had a few rough spots in the Jackson game,” said junior quarterback/tight end Connor Connell.
“This week I think we focused on getting everybody involved and taking care of the football. We knew we were the more physical team, we just had to execute.”
The Cardinals were able to keep the Eagles guessing early in the game as three different players contributed plays for more than 20 yards on the Luverne opening drive.
Taking over at their 20-yard line, the Cardinals got their first big play when Connell connected with senior wide receiver Gannon Ahrendt on a 25-yard passing play. On the next play senior running back Tyson Cowell broke free for a 25-yard gain. On the next play, Connell ran for 21 yards, bringing the Cardinals to the Windom 5-yard line. Two plays later the Cardinals scored their first touchdown of the game when Connell’s pass found senior running back Kaleb Hein for a 3-yard touchdown catch. Sophomore quarterback Carter Sehr was able to find Ahrendt in the end zone on the two-point conversion, giving the Cardinals an 8-0 lead with 9:30 to go in the first quarter.
The Cardinal defense started strong as well, as senior defensive lineman Zachary DeBoer was able to sack the Windom quarterback on the first play for a loss. After the Eagles failed to move the ball on their next two plays, they were forced to punt the ball back to the Cardinals, and Luverne took over on their own 24-yard line.
Just two plays later, the Cardinals got back in the end zone when junior running back Gavin DeBeer took the second down handoff and broke free down the right side of the field for a 76-yard touchdown run. Patrick Kroski’s point-after kick was good, and the Cardinals upped their lead to 15-0 with 7:11 left in the first quarter.
After another successful defensive stop, the Cardinal offense would continue to rack up big plays. Connell was able to complete a pass to Hein for 25 yards on first down, and on the ensuing first down Connell ran for 18 yards and another Cardinal touchdown. Kroski’s extra point kick was good, and the Cardinals led the Eagles 22-0 with 5:04 left in the first quarter.
Windom once again went three and out on their offensive possession and punted the ball back to Luverne. It took the Cardinals just three plays before they were back in the end zone after Sehr threw a beautiful pass over a Windom defender and into the arms of Connell for a 29-yard score. After another successful Kroski kick, Luverne was up 29-0 with 1:45 to go in the opening quarter.
Both defenses held strong to start the second quarter, but the Cardinals got one more big play from Connell to cap the scoring for the night. Taking over at the Windom 48-yard line, Connell broke free and ran down the right side of the field for his third touchdown of the night. Kroski connected on the extra point to bring the lead to 36-0 with 5:01 remaining in the second quarter.
Neither team scored in the remainder of the half, and the Cardinals took a 36-0 lead into halftime.
Windom received the ball to start the second half, but the teams would only get three plays in before lighting was spotted by the officials and the teams were directed to leave the field. Both coaching staffs met during the delay and agreed to end the game with Luverne winning 36-0.
After his big night on offense, Connell was also happy to see the improvement that his team is showing on the defensive side of the ball as they move throughout the season.
“The main things we have improved on are alignment and knowing what our leverage is and where our help is coming from on defense,” Connell said after the game.
“We have also gotten more physical, especially this week, which has helped us in short yardage situations.”
The Cardinals’ next game will be on the road versus New Ulm on Friday night. Game time is 7 p.m.
Team statistics:
Luverne: 289 rushing yards, 82 passing yards, 371 total yards, 15 first downs, 6 penalties for 55 yards, 0 turnovers.
Windom: 1 rushing yards, 87 passing yards, 88 total yards, 3 first downs, 2 penalties for 10 yards, 1 turnover.
Individual statistics:
Rushing: Conner Connell 5-105 (2 TD), Gavin DeBeer 1-76 (1 TD), Kaleb Hein 8-69, Tyson Cowell 1-25, DJ Rock 4-18
Passing: Conner Connell 3-5, 53 yards (1 TD). Carter Sehr 1-1, 29 yards (1 TD).
Receiving: Conner Connell 1-29 (1 TD), Kaleb Hein 2-28 (1 TD), Gannon Ahrendt 1-25
Defense: Conner Connell 5 tackles, Zachary DeBoer 2 tackles, Gavin Baum 2 tackles, Anyuon Atem 2 tackles

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