Chargers jolt No. 7 Cardinals

FAIRMONT – Halfback Dalton Asplin delivered Dassel-Cokato’s first two touchdowns against Class AAA, No. 7-ranked Fairmont on Friday night before he stunned nearly everyone at Mahoney Field by throwing for a TD with 11 minutes left in the nonconference football clash.

Only 70 seconds later, Tommy Halonen scooped up a muffed running punt along the visiting Chargers’ sideline and sprinted 43 yards to paydirt to jolt the hometown Cardinals via a 17-point edge.

Asplin rushed for a game-best 111 yards, while split end-converted-quarterback Zach Martin threw for 78 yards and one TD to guide Dassel-Cokato to a 31-21 upset victory over Fairmont.

“The game came down to five or six plays, and they (the Chargers) made them – we didn’t,” said Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney. “You have to give them credit for working through a very difficult and emotional week, too.”

Indeed. Martin and the Chargers played inspired football, dedicating the game to junior teammate Luke Nelson. Nelson suffered a severe head injury while making a tackle during last Friday night’s loss to Orono.

Martin’s slashing draw play produced 25 yards on a second-and-11 situation during D-C’s first possession, and a facemask penalty on Fairmont tacked on 15 more yards to reach the Cardinals’ 24. Fullback Derek Antil and Asplin then combined to methodically plow the distance to paydirt, with Asplin crossing the goal line from 5 yards out.

Fairmont, however, countered during the early stages of the second quarter after linebacker Tim Tow recorded two of his game-best 18 tackles to force a D-C punt two series later.

Quarterback Spencer Chirpich, who completed 18 of 40 passes for a game-leading 242 yards and three TDs, went to the airwaves early and often. Chirpich zipped two passes each to split ends Luke Becker and Josh Eversman before tossing a 15-yard scoring spiral to tight end Jay Ruen. Kolin Kelly’s PAT kick staked the Cardinals to a 7-6 lead with 10 minutes left in the second frame.

Tow, safety Jay Ruen and lineman Kory Brown bent but didn’t break in halting the Chargers’ methodical march to the Fairmont 21, but Nate Nelson picked off Chirpich’s first pass of the ensuing possession via downs.

Nelson’s interception put D-C in business at the Fairmont 25 and Asplin later accelerated across the goal line from 14 yards out with only 3:16 left before halftime.

“Nate is Luke’s cousin and they’re best friends, so Nate was wearing Luke’s jersey (No. 43) in honor of him tonight,” said Martin. “It’s kind of nice that it was his (Nate Nelson) interception that set up our second touchdown.”

Chris Fausch and Tow later sacked Martin for a 7-yard loss to set up a fourth-and-19 with time winding down before intermission. Luke Becker intercepted Martin’s toss, but Becker’s helmet was accidentally knocked off during the turnover to prevent the fleet-footed senior’s return into open real estate.

Linemen Nick Roggow and Kory Brown later finally slammed the brakes on the Chargers’ time-consuming opening drive of the third quarter to take over on downs.

Derek Edman pounded out 31 of his team-best 81 rushing yards on the Cardinals’ possession before Chirpich launched a perfectly-timed 40-yard sideline scoring strike to Eversman. Kelly’s PAT kick extended Fairmont’s lead to 14-12 with 3:24 left in the third.

Martin, however, didn’t waste any time in answering for D-C, rolling to right and zipping a 37-yard spiral to end Eric Monson. Fairmont was assessed a personal foul on the play, adding 15 more yards to the hometown 23.

Martin later fired a 26-yard aerial to a wide-open Joel Carlson, who had worked behind the Cardinals’ secondary, for six more points to swing an 18-14 lead back to the Chargers with 1:29 left in the third.

Michael Chvojicek’s interception four snaps later set up D-C at its own 32 to start the fourth frame.

The Chargers appeared to have false-started on their second play of the offensive series before Asplin took Martin’s handoff and lofted a wobbly halfback option pass to an awaiting Carlson, who sprinted the final 30 of the 65-yard TD connection.

Halonen’s special-teams return and his ensuing PAT kick was countered by Chirpich’s 29-yard scoring strike to Ruen with 5:49 left in the game.

Carlson made three receptions for 115 yards and two TDs for D-C, while Becker topped Fairmont with nine catches for 85 yards. Eversman contributed seven receptions for 113 yards and one TD.

Fairmont (2-1) kicks off South Central Conference action next Friday night by playing host to Class AAAA, No. 10-ranked Waseca (3-0) at 7 p.m. at Mahoney Field in Fairmont.

Dassel-Cokato (1-2) plays host to Annandale next Friday night at 7 p.m. in Cokato.

D-C 6 6 6 13 – 31

FMT 0 7 7 7 – 21


1st Quarter

DC – Dalton Asplin 5 run (kick failed), 6:50.

2nd Quarter

F – Jay Ruen 15 pass from Spencer Chirpich (Kolin Kelly kick), 10:00.

DC – Asplin 14 run (run failed), 3:16.

3rd Quarter

F – Josh Eversman 40 pass from Chirpich (Kelly kick), 3:24.

DC – Joel Carlson 26 pass from Zach Martin (pass failed), 1:29.

4th Quarter

DC – Carlson 65 pass from Asplin (kick failed), 11:05.

DC – Tommy Halonen 43 punt return (Halonen kick), 9:55.

F – Ruen 29 pass from Chirpich (Kelly kick), 5:49.


First downs: FHS 14; D-C 16. Rushing: FHS 21-103; D-C 47-229. Passing: FHS 18-40-2-242; D-C 5-12-1-143. Fumbles-lost: FHS 1-0; D-C 1-0. Penalties: FHS 6-56; D-C 6-60.


Offense: Rushing: Asplin (DC) 26-111, Derek Edman (F) 8-81, Derek Antil (DC) 22-70. Passing: Chirpich (F) 18-40-2-242, Martin (DC) 4-11-1-78, Asplin (DC) 1-1-0-65. Receiving: Luke Becker (F) 9-85, Eversman (F) 7-113, Carlson (DC) 3-115, Ruen (F) 2-44, Eric Monson (DC) 1-37.

Defense: Interceptions: Nate Nelson (DC), Becker (F), Michael Chvojicek (DC). Tackles: Tim Tow (F) 18.