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RECORD-SETTER – Fairmont running back Elijah Johnson (with the ball) runs with Albert Lea defenders Devin Gonzalez (22) and Esteban Mixteco (44) during a football game 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 in a 41-8 victory. Fairmont plays Albert Lea in the Division 3AAA final at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Thomas Mahoney Field in Fairmont. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT – Home, sweet home.

A two-time defending Division 3AAA football champion, Fairmont earned the No. 1 seed through the QRF system, and is eligible to play in two postseason games.

The Cardinals (7-1) begin the quarterfinals at 7pm Tuesday night at Thomas Mahoney Field in Fairmont against the No. 8-seed Albert Lea Tigers (1-7).

“Of course, we know them from when we played them again in Week 3,” Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney said of his 41-8 victory over Albert Lea on Sept. 15. “We (the coaching staff) sit down and watch video from the first play, and then we try to clean up everything we didn’t do well.”

One team the Cardinals may not need to contend with is their pitching staff.

Fairmont gained an incredible 478 yards on 48 carries – highlighted by junior running back Elijah Johnson’s 289-yard, four-car performance at the expense of the Tigers. Johnson set the school’s single-game rushing record with his effort.

“We’re going to separate the last two games at Albert Lea and adjust how we’re going to prepare for the quarterfinals,” said Mahoney.

Surprisingly, Albert Lea snapped its 29th losing streak when it topped No. 6 Belle Plaine (1-7) with a 29-8 decision Wednesday night.

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

“Obviously, we would have faced regular opponents in the second round since we played TCU this season, and we have a long history against Luverne over the years,” said Mahoney. “We haven’t had Luverne on our schedule this year, but we know they’re well-coached and they don’t make too many mistakes.

“TCU seems to have played well since we played them in the season opener (a 48-0 win over Fairmont) on Aug. 31, so we should be ready.”

TCU will make the long trip to Luverne for a 7pm quarterfinal on Tuesday night. The two teams did not play in 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 with a 21-0 decision at Fairmont on Wednesday night, qualified for the No. 2 seed and will play No. 7-seeded Worthington Trojans (2)-6) at 7pm on Tuesday night.

Worthington, which closed the regular season with a 20-14 overtime victory over St. Peter on Wednesday night, and Waseca also did not look at each other this fall.

In a rematch of the regular season, the 3 seed Jordan Hubmen (5-3) play the Belle Plaine Tigers (1-7) at 7pm Tuesday night at Ames Stadium in Jordan.

The Hubmen, who lost 25-13 in Week 8 to TCU, won 35-6 over the Tigers earlier this week.

The Section 3AAA semifinals are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, in home gardens of high-quality crops. The race is set for 7pm on Friday, Nov. 3, on the dugout turf at New Ulm.

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