FAIRMONT - St. Peter head coach Brian Odland knew his football team was good, but he did not know to what extent heading into Week 5.
Saints quarterback Josh Peymann and triple threat Jordan Sorensen each played key roles in answering that question for Odland at Mahoney Field on Friday night.
Peymann completed an incredible 14 of 18 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns to complement two rushing TDs, while Sorensen delivered at least one pivotal play in all three phases of the game to help engineer Class 3A, No. 6-ranked St. Peter's 28-20 triumph over the Fairmont Cardinals in Fairmont.
BREAKING FREE — Fairmont running back Josh Eversman breaks away from a St. Peter defender as Saints’ defensive end Keegan McCabe (24) gives chase during South Central Conference football action Friday night at Mahoney Field in Fairmont. Photo by Leanna Becker
"This is what you talk about before every season starts - competing for the (South Central) conference title," said Odland, whose lineup improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in league play. "This was a huge win over the perennial conference champions and last year's (Class 3A) state runner-up. It's definitely a big step for our program.
"I'm still just kind of numb thinking about what just happened."
St. Peter ended Fairmont mentor Mat Mahoney and the four-time SCC champion Cardinals' league winning streak at 21, and spoiled the red-and-white's Homecoming in the process.
"We put together an incredible conference run, but unfortunately, all streaks eventually come to an end," said Mahoney, whose team lowered its overall mark to 2-3 and dropped to 1-1 in the SCC. "I thought they (the Saints) were hungrier than we were tonight and just wanted it (the victory) more. My hat goes off to them."
After linebacker Kyle Guetter and the Cardinal defense matched lineman Colin Chabot and the Saint defense to produce a scoreless opening quarter, Fairmont's offense hit paydirt first with 7 minutes remaining in the first half.
Quarterback Mitch Pfingsten zipped a 16-yard strike to split end Luke Becker before firing a 6-yard post pass to flanker Mark Fruechte for the conference clash's initial points. The Cardinals' drive covered 62 yards in 10 plays, but a failed 2-point conversion pass left them holding a 6-0 lead.
Defensive end Keegan McCabe's nine-yard quarterback sack on third down two series later forced Fairmont to punt with a little more than 3 minutes remaining before intermission.
St. Peter countered with a 10-play march that covered 61 yards before soccer player/football placekicker Sean O'Connell's PAT kick swung a 7-6 edge to the visitors with only 23 seconds showing in the second quarter.
Peymann fired quick bubble screens to Cody Erickson to reach Fairmont territory before reeling off perfect passes of 5, 7 and 6 yards to Tom Steidler, Ryan Hoehn and Erickson to set up a first-and-10 at the home team's 11.
Peymann displayed his athleticism by scampering around right end on an option keeper and sped to the pylon for the tying TD just before heading to the lockerroom.
"I didn't realize that he (Peymann) had completed that high of a percentage of his passes tonight," Odland said in reference to his senior signal-caller's 78 percent accuracy on the game.
Peymann then found the 6-foot-3 Steidler for completions of 33 and 18 yards, respectively, to serve as the Saints' opening offensive series' catalyst. Peymann capped the 10-play, 75-yard point-producing drive with a quick 6-yard out to Sorensen for six more points. O'Connell's PAT kick widened the gap to 14-6 with 8 minutes left in the third.
Fairmont lineman Nick Roggow and St. Peter linebacker Jordan Phillips exchanged third-quarter fumble recoveries before Cardinal linebacker Ryan Noll and defense forced a short Saints' punt that Luke Becker returned to his own 48.
Pfingsten rolled and fired a 12-yard completion to Luke Becker before running back Josh Eversman motored around left end and accelerated by the St. Peter secondary for a 36-yard TD. Eversman added the 2-point catch from Pfingsten to knot the game at 14-all with 3:44 left in the third.
Sorensen, who made a first-quarter interception, then delivered an ensuing 54-yard kickoff return to put the Saints instantly in business at the Cardinals' 33.
Peymann hit Sorensen between the numbers on a 12-yard pass, Sorensen reeled off 11 more yards on an option pitch right before Peymann sprinted around right end for a 9-yard TD keeper. O'Connell's kick put St. Peter ahead 21-14 with 1:42 left in the third.
Chabot and end Nathan Kempenich's combined tackle for a 4-yard loss on third down forced another Fairmont punt, and Ryan Hoehn needed only one snap to double St. Peter's lead.
Hoehn caught a Peymann delivery in the right flat, slipped a tackle, hurdled another and accelerated down the sideline for a 61-yard TD. O'Connell's kick made it 28-14 at the 10:48 juncture.
Tadd Abel's fumble recovery via defensive assistance from defensive tackle Bailey Koppen breathed new life into the Cardinals' late comeback bid, giving the hometown team possession at the Saints' 24.
Pfingsten fired a 21-yard out to Luke Becker to reach the 3 before weaving his way through traffic for six more points with 7:39 remaining in regulation.
Fairmont linebacker Jacob Portz, along with Guetter, lineman Colton Hines and safety Luke Becker, held their ground to force a late St. Peter punt, but the Saints' defense limited the Cardinals' charge to a 15-yard completion to Homecoming king Bryce Holm and a 14-yarder to Fruechte before stalling out on fourth-and-6 at the St. Peter 32.
Guetter, Hines and linebacker Levi Becker delivered the stops to regain one last possession with 55 seconds left, but Sorensen recovered a fumbled hook-and-ladder play to seal the Saints' win.
Holm made a team-best five catches for 44 yards, Fruechte added four catches for 59 yards and a TD, while Eversman led the ground game with 79 yards and one TD on 11 carries.
Steidler garnered four receptions for a game-leading 109 yards for the Saints, while Hoehn pocketed three passes for 80 yards.
Peymann also topped St. Peter's rushing performance by carrying 14 times for 67 yards and a pair of TDs on the night.
Fairmont (2-3, 1-1 SCC) travels to St. James next Friday night for another league contest.
Class 3A, No. 6-ranked St. Peter (5-0, 3-0) plays host to Class 3A, No. 2-ranked Blue Earth Area (5-0, 2-0) next Friday night.