FAIRMONT - Fourth-year St. Peter mentor Brian Odland and the Saints' football team have already matched last season's entire victory total.
Odland and his Class 3A, No. 6-ranked Saints will look to improve to 5-0 overall by spoiling the Fairmont Cardinals' Homecoming when the two South Central Conference gridiron powers clash at 7 p.m. Friday at Mahoney Field.
"We have five players on the homecoming court, and all of them are involved in a multitude of activities, in addition to being good leaders on and off the football field," Fairmont mentor Mat Mahoney said in reference to king candidates Levi Becker, Luke Hested, Bryce Holm, Ryan Noll and Jacob Portz. "So far, knock on wood, we've had no problems this week and have kept the distractions at a minimum."
Now, the Cardinals (2-2, 1-0 SCC) will look to extend their incredible league winning streak to 22 in a row by carrying the momentum from last Friday's 40-32 shootout victory over Waseca on the Bluejays' home turf into this Friday night's homecoming game.
"We need to continue to play at that high of a level," Mahoney said in reference to his Cardinals' 283 yards of total offense and 5-for-5 effort in 2-point conversions.
"Fairmont definitely gave us a lot of different looks on offense to watch on film," said Odland. "After watching (quarterback Mitch) Pfingsten complete passes to six different receivers last week, we're concerned about shutting down their throwing game."
All-Area split end Bryce Holm corraled a game-best eight passes for 90 yards to complement a pair of 2-point receptions to top Fairmont's diversified receiving core, while split end Luke Becker pocketed four catches - half for TDs - and 36 yards to go with one 2-point conversion.
Tight end Justin Barnes contributed a 7-yard scoring grab and a conversion reception, split end Ryan Noll's 46-yarder set up a Pfingsten rushing TD, while Mark Fruechte and Kyle Guetter chipped in an 11- and a 13-yarder, respectively.
"St. Peter switched to a 3-5 (base defense) last year, and their guys pursue well to the football," said Mahoney. "They've given up only 15 points in four games, so that tells you something."
Linebacker Ryan Hoehn led the defensive effort by recording 13 tackles during St. Peter's 24-8 SCC victory over St. James during Week 4, while linebacker Dylan Connor and nose guard Colin Chabot supplied seven stops each.
While Hoehn and Co. have made a smooth transition from St. Peter's storied 'radar' scheme to its current 3-5 alignment, quarterback Josh Peymann has adeptly implemented the Saints' spread offense without a hitch this fall.
"St. Peter does a nice job of running the option, and Peymann makes good decisions," Mahoney said in reference to the Saints' signal-caller, who ran for 43 yards and passed for 61 more during last Friday's victory. "We'll need to read our keys and stick to our assignments in defending it."
In fact, St. Peter enters Week 5 with a 37-point scoring average, and has accomplished that lofty number with an offensive line that features only one blocker tipping the scales at more than 200 pounds.
"We're not big upfront, with just (tackle) Arik Lokensgard being over 200 (pounds), but we're quick off the ball and have a lot of speed," said Odland. " ... We have a nice trio of running backs (Derek Meyer, Keegan McCabe and Jordan Phillips) who don't have big (rushing) numbers because of our even distribution of carries, but our rotation really helps us keep our two-way players a little fresher on defense."
So, what will be the key to Friday night's SCC clash?
"We will have to continue to do what we do well against a defense that's one of the fastest we'll see this season," Odland said in reference to the Cardinals' secondary of linebackers Levi Becker, Kyle Guetter, Jacob Portz and Ryan Noll, along with cornerbacks Jordan Voss and Dan Sumey, and safety Luke Becker.
"We need to stay hungry, like the way we played last week against Waseca," said Mahoney. "We need to play with that intensity each and every game from here on out."