‘That’s all heart’: Cardinals overpower Burros for first state tournament berth since 2004

Published 11:32 pm Friday, November 5, 2021

DODGE CENTER — What started out looking like a low-scoring, back-and-forth affair in the Section 1 Nine Man title game Friday night, turned into something quite different.

No. 3 seeded LeRoy-Ostrander found their legs in the second half and the defense stifled most anything No. 1 seed Lanesboro tried to do to claim the section title and return to the Minnesota State Football Tournament for the first time since 2004, with a 30-6 win at Triton High School.

Cardinal’s quarterback Chase Johnson exploded in the second half with three touchdown runs of 73, 53 and 38 yards and galloped to 248 yards on 19 carries, pushing the game out of reach for the Burros, who struggled to move the chains for most of the night.

“We saw some things we just weren’t getting down right,” said head coach Trevor Carrier. “We made a little bit of correction on the blocking schemes and we have Chase Johnson back there. He’s going to find a gap. He doesn’t need a lot of room.”

That was certainly true of Johnson’s first score in the second half, as he wound his way through and out of several tackles before busting it down the sideline for the score.

A large part of what Johnson was able to do started with the offensive line, which gave him and running back Tanner Olson the necessary lanes.

“Our offensive line came up big time,” Johnson said. “They’re big, fast, strong and we get good blocking.”

L-O didn’t take long to get on the board in the first half. After stopping Lanesboro on 4-and-2 during their opening drive, the Cardinals pounded it on the ground until Johnson dropped a 28-yard touchdown pass over the shoulder of Layne Bird to take a 6-0 lead with just over five minutes left to play in the first quarter.

Lanesboro answered in the second quarter when the Burros’ Hayden Lawstuen ran it in from 10 yards out to tie the game at 6-6, but it was about the last bit of significant offense Lanesboro could put together the rest of the night.

From there on out the Cardinal defense suffocated the Lanesboro offense, even after the Burros attempted to go to the air late in the second half.

“Look at that defense,” Carrier said. “That’s one of the best teams in nine man football and (the defense) held them to six points.”

The end result was a sweet turn from earlier in the season, when Lanesboro beat L-O 38-27 on Sept. 17.

“They beat us in the regular season, but that’s what hard work does,” Johnson said. “It sets us up for a better chance.”

The Cardinals ran for 280 yards and racked up 321 yard of total offense on the night.

This is the Cardinals’ first state tournament berth since 2004, when L-O was robbed of an upset of then perennial power Stephen-Argyle in the semifinals on a last second passing touchdown.

The idea of being back in the tournament has far-reaching effects for the community and school.

“It means absolutely everything,” Carrier said. “You see this crowd? It’s just a sea of red. We beat the No. 6 ranked team, Grand Meadow, at their place. We beat the No. 2 ranked team in a neutral place on the road. That’s all heart.”

“I think our team has a big heart and we played it like we should,” Johnson said.

The Cardinals will play the champions of Section 4, Wheaton/Herman-Norcross, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11, at Macalester College in the first round of the state tournament.