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Luverne gains victory over New Ulm, move on in football semifinals

Lead Summary
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John Sichmeller for the Star Herald

The Luverne Cardinals football team advanced to the Section 3AAA semifinals after defeating New Ulm on Tuesday night, Oct. 25, in Luverne. The Cardinals took a 28-7 lead into halftime and added 21 points in the second half for a 49-7 victory over the Eagles.
The win provided some redemption for the Cardinals after losing to New Ulm earlier in the season. In that game, Luverne led throughout, but New Ulm scored 28 points in the fourth quarter for a 42-32 comeback victory over the Cardinals.
Tuesday’s victory showed how far the Cardinals have come since that defeat. “Our team has improved each week and this game shows how much we have improved,” said Luverne football coach Todd Oye.
“Our team played well the entire game, with the exception of three turnovers. The offense had their best game of the season as they gained over 500 yards. The defense also played well and held New Ulm under 100 yards,” said coach Oye after the game.
The Cardinals got the scoring started on their first offensive possession when senior running back Kaleb Hein ran 11-yards for a touchdown. After a successful extra point by Patrick Kroski, the Cardinals took a 7-0 lead with 7:44 remaining in the first quarter.
After their next drive ended with a goal line fumble, the Cardinals continued to move the ball efficiently and were able to get back in the end zone when Connor Connell’s 28-yard pass was caught by Gannon Ahrendt in the back of the New Ulm end zone. Kroski’s point-after attempt was good, and the Cardinals upped their lead to 14-0 with 11:54 to go in the second quarter.
After another defensive stop, the Cardinal offense kept the momentum going with an impressive 10-play, 73-yard scoring drive. Hein started the drive with a 12-yard run, and Connell followed it up with a 20-yard run of his own to get the Cardinals into New Ulm territory. The Cardinals finished off the drive with another Connell to Ahrendt touchdown reception, this time from the 10-yard line for a 20-0 lead. Kroski’s extra point kick was blocked by the Eagles with 6:01 remaining in the second quarter.
New Ulm scored their only touchdown of the game when Colton Benson caught a 17-yard pass from quarterback Ayden Jensen. After a successful extra point, the Cardinals’ lead was 20-7 with 3:56 remaining in the first half.
On the Cardinals’ next possession, Hein took the handoff from Connell and ran 65 yards to the New Ulm 2-yard line. Connell punched the ball into the end zone on the next play and the Cardinals’ 2-point conversion was successful when Ahrendt found Riley Sneller in the end zone. With 3:11 remaining in the second quarter, the score was 28-7.
The Cardinals looked like they were going to get one more score before halftime but turned the ball over on a goal-line fumble. The Eagles took the knee on the play as time ran out in the first half with a score of 28-7 in favor of Luverne.
Tyson Cowell started the second half with a bang for the Cardinals as he took the kickoff back 38 yards to give Luverne good field position to start their next drive. The Cardinals capitalized on the excellent field position as they needed only five plays to get back in the New Ulm end zone. Connell broke free on 2nd and 10 from the New Ulm 31-yard line for his second rushing touchdown of the game. After an unsuccessful extra point attempt, the Cardinals’ lead was 34-6 with 9:38 remaining in the third quarter.
The Cardinals turned the ball over on their next possession, but after a defensive stop they were able to get back on track with another touchdown. The 33-yard scoring drive was capped by Hein’s second rushing touchdown of the night, this one from 15 yards out. The Cardinals completed the 2-point conversion when Elliot Domagala ran into the New Ulm end zone to bring the lead to 42-7 with 10:22 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Luverne scored once more when sophomore running back Marcos Diaz broke free for a 24-yard touchdown run. A successful Kroski extra point completed Luverne’s scoring for the night at 49-7 with 4:38 remaining. Neither team scored again.
Team statistics:
Luverne: 402 rushing yards, 112 passing yards, 514 total yards, 26 first downs, 4 penalties for 40 yards, 3 turnovers.
New Ulm: 26 rushing yards, 67 passing yards, 93 total yards, 5 first downs, 6 penalties for 35 yards, 1 turnover.
Individual statistics:
Rushing: Conner Connell 14-140, Kaleb Hein 11-121, Elliot Domagala 14-71, Marcos Diaz 3-29
Passing: Conner Connell 10-15, 112 yards. 
Receiving: Gannon Ahrendt 5-68, Tyson Cowell 3-25
Defense: Elijah Woodley 5.5 tackles, DJ Rock 5 tackles, Riley Sneller 4 tackles

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