FAIRMONT - While the rain pelted the Fairmont football practice field on Wednesday afternoon, the Cardinal gridders diligently studied game footage inside the high school.
"We were able to walk through a number of things in practice and take a second look at New Ulm's game film," said Fairmont mentor Mat Mahoney. "I'd have to say that it was a good chance of pace for us."
The rain-altered practice schedule also helped reinforce the red-and-white roster's main focus during Homecoming week - competing at a high level against the visiting Eagles during Friday night's 7 p.m. contest at Mahoney Field.
"Really, we haven't had too many distractions this week. It's always nice to have the alumni back to support us, but our players know we still have to put forth our best effort during the game, too," said Mahoney.
After losing a down-to-the-wire 21-20 non-league dogfight with St. Paul Central during Week 3, Fairmont (1-2) kicks off its South Central Conference schedule against New Ulm head coach Rob Bute's purple-and-white clad warriors (1-2, 1-0 SCC) this week.
"We dominated last week's game, but reality set in, we gave up a couple of big plays on special teams and we lost a game that we should have won," Mahoney said in reference to the Cardinals' 436 yards of total offense and 20 first downs compared to the Minutemen's 190 and seven, respectively. "The good thing, however, is that we're still 0-0 in the conference."
Ironically, both two-time defending SCC champion Fairmont and New Ulm shared the same fate during Week 3.
"We only gave up 131 yards of total offense, including just 66 on the ground, to Windom (Area) last Friday and we lost 27-12. What does that tell you?" said Bute, whose offense produced 210 total yards. "We lost two fumbles, got picked three times and had two of our punts blocked. That's very uncharacteristic of this group of players.
"Our defense played well, but our special teams did not click, like Fairmont last week."
Outside linebacker Luke Guggisberg, who topped New Ulm's tackling charts with 14 a week ago, and nose guard Derek Anderson (13 tackles - six for a loss - and two quarterback sacks) will look to put the clamps on Fairmont's high-octane offensive trio of quarterback Ben Kain, tailback Alek Borchardt and flanker Adam Schultz this week.
Kain completed 16 of 28 spirals for a stellar 195 yards and one TD, Schultz made a staggering 10 catches for 178 yards and a score, while Borchardt churned out a game-best 167 yards and one TD on 29 carries.
"One of the questions coming into this season was whether our defense was going to be solid after replacing a lot of starters from a year ago," said Bute. "I think we've answered that question, but our offense still has got to get turning."
Senior quarterback Adam Loose, fullback Alex Kollmann and split end Kaleb Juntunen will look to jumpstart the Eagles' offense after posting solid numbers last Friday night.
Loose completed 10 of 22 passes for 141 yards and two TDs, Kollmann generated 55 yards and three key runs for first downs on 15 totes, while Juntunen made five catches at Windom Area's expense.
Now, three king candidates - end Colton Higgins, free safety Chris Heide and linebacker Logan Peymann - will look to spearhead the Cardinals' defensive effort during the senior co-captains' final Homecoming game.
"Loose's a good quarterback who makes good decisions, so we'll have to be aware of where he's at all of the time," said Mahoney.
Fairmont will travel to Waseca on Oct. 1 before playing host to rival Blue Earth Area on Oct. 8.