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Late score helps Marshall edge Fairmont 30-27

Photo courtesy of Greg Abel/Fairmont Sentinel Marshall’s Brevin Runia carries the ball during their game against Fairmont on Friday. Marshall defeated Fairmont 30-27.

MARSHALL — Opposing high school football teams know about Marshall’s record-setting receiver Bryce Lance — an Ivy League recruit — and path-clearing offensive lineman Deylin Hasert — who’s being recruited by a handful of Division I programs.

So, Tigers’ senior quarterback Brevin Runia could get lost in the mix. Not Friday night, however, at Mattke Field on the Southwest Minnesota State University campus in Marshall.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder rebounded from three first-half interceptions to finish with a game-best 207 passing yards and one touchdown to complement a game-high 90 rushing yards and two more scores to power Class 4A, No. 2-ranked Marshall to a hard-fought 30-27 victory over the upset-minded Fairmont Cardinals on Friday night.

Runia put the finishing touches on the Tigers’ final offensive possession by converting a third-and-6 situation and a second-and-9 with respective runs of 12 and 13 yards to run the clock out.

“I always want the ball in my hands during clutch situations,” Runia said with a chuckle. “Seriously, our whole offensive line worked their butts off tonight, and definitely make us skill players look way better than we are.

“We knew going into the game that Fairmont would be a challenge with their quarterback (Zach Jorgensen) back from a year ago.”

Jorgensen proved Runia’s analysis by firing a 15-yard swing pass to wide receiver Eli Anderson for the game’s initial TD on the heels of a costly Tigers’ pass interference penalty with 6:29 remaining in the opening quarter.

Despite Anderson’s interception that caromed off Lance’s hands during Marshall’s ensuing possession, Runia and the Tigers’ defense forced a punt.

Lance then redeemed himself by returning Jorgensen’s punt 34 yards to the Cardinals’ 16. Runia then lofted a perfect fade pass to Lance in the left corner of the end zone to cover the distance for six points. Lance’s catch made him Marshall’s all-time leading TD receiver at the 4:32 mark. Jorgensen notched the first of his game-best three blocked PAT kicks to keep the game tied.

Eddie Garcia’s fumble recovery at Fairmont’s 37 later set up Runia’s 1-yard TD keeper before Jorgensen batted down another PAT kick for a 12-6 Tigers’ lead with 1:31 left in the first.

The two powerhouse programs then triggered a back-and-forth tempo as Fairmont defensive back Jake Harris stepped in front of a Runia spiral and returned it 20 yards for a pick-6 and a 12-all tie with 10:39 left in the first half. Owen Burmeister kicked the PAT for a 13-12 edge.

Marshall answered on the next series behind Runia’s completions of 14 and 12 yards to tight end Jack Bly and running back DeMario Gaines’ 45-yard slashing sprint. Gaines scored from 2 yards out for the first of his two TDs on the game. Fairmont’s Tanner Rosch sacked Runia on the 2-point conversion pass to leave the Tigers ahead 18-13.

Eli Anderson then delivered a pivotal defensive gem with time winding down in the second quarter. Anderson pocketed his second interception of the Cardinals’ season-opener and returned it 41 yards to the Marshall 34. Anderson capped his defensive highlight by grabbing a 34-yard TD strike from Jorgensen with 21 seconds left before halftime. Jorgensen then ran for the 2-point conversion to stake Fairmont to a 21-18 halftime lead.

The Tigers and Cardinals then combined for three TDs during the first four possessions of the second half before grinding out a defensive-minded fourth frame.

Runia utilized his powerful running style to account for 30 of Marshall’s 12-play, 65-yard scoring march before sneaking across the goal line from 1 yard out. Hudson Artz and Jorgensen stopped Gaines short on the 2-point run to keep the game at 24-21 in favor of the home team with 5:07 left in the third.

Jorgensen then counter-punched for Fairmont by reeling off 20 yards on a scramble up the middle before threading a 41-yard screen pass to Hudson Artz for his third passing TD of the night. Jorgensen finished the game with 143 yards.

Runia and the Tigers recaptured the lead for the final time during the early stages of the fourth quarter. Runia zipped back-to-back 18-yarders to Keaton Maertens and Gaines to reach the Fairmont 21. Gaines later scored on a 9-yard run before Jorgensen blocked his third PAT kick to keep the game at 30-27.

Brock Lutterman’s fumble recovery late in the fourth breathed new life into the Cardinals’ comeback bid at the 50, but Fairmont couldn’t move the ball. Runia then put the game in the books by converting on two key down-and-distance runs to run out the clock.

Marshall (3-0) plays host to Class 3A, No. 6-ranked Waseca next Friday night, while Fairmont (0-1) plays host to New Ulm at Mahoney Field.

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