No. 5 Fairmont to clash with No. 2 Lourdes

FAIRMONT – Contrasting offensive styles.

Ninth-year Rochester Lourdes football mentor Mike Kesler and his QRF No. 2-ranked Eagles will pit their high-octane running game against seventh-year Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney and his No. 5-rated Cardinals’ potent passing attack in Friday night’s 7 p.m. Class AAA state quarterfinal clash on Burnsville High School’s gridiron.

“As long as I can remember, Fairmont’s always been known for its power game, but they have a totally different look now,” said Kesler, who’s guided Lourdes to six state appearances over the last eight seasons, including a runner-up finish to Class AAA state champion Blue Earth Area in 2012. “After watching them, it looks like they like to air it out. Fairmont’s quarterback (Spencer Chirpich) throws a nice ball, and he has tall athletic receivers who can catch it.”

Ironically, while Chirpich has completed 133 of 230 passes for a single-season school-record 31 touchdowns and 1,949 yards, running back Derek Edman’s 651 rushing yards top the Cardinals’ ground game that has amassed 1,054 yards.

“A lot of people think we’re one-dimensional, but our offense is fairly balanced when you look at the actual numbers,” said Mahoney, who engineered the Cardinal program’s first-ever appearance in the Prep Bowl championship game in 2011.

While Fairmont’s air attack accounts for 65 percent of the offense’s yardage en route to a scoring clip of 28.3 points, Lourdes leans quite heavily on its three-pronged backfield.

How much? The Eagles have generated a staggering 87 percent of their 3,504 total yards of offense via the ground. In fact, tailback Kane Carstens, fullback McKay Carstens and quarterback Michael Brandt have combined to produce 2,317 of Lourdes’ 3,051 rushing yards.

“Obviously, their strength is running the football. They can hurt you in a lot of different ways because their backs get to the perimeter quickly,” said Mahoney. “We have to be able to tackle in the open field, cover the gaps and not give them one lane to run in.”

So far, that describes tailback Kane Carstens during Lourdes’ stretch run. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound twin brother of McKay Carstens tops the Eagles’ statistical charts with 1,305 yards and 22 TDs on 151 totes.

“Kane has been on quite a roll lately. He’s run for close to a 1,000 yards and 18 touchdowns in the last four games,” said Kesler.

But Kane Carstens represents only one part of Lourdes’ skilled backfield as McKay Carstens has generated 581 yards and six TDs on 87 carries, while the 6-2, 185-pound Brandt has kept the football 96 times to pile up 431 yards and three scores.

“We’re traditionally known for our ground game,” said Kesler, who’s offense averages 33.8 points per outing. “We take pride in controlling the line of scrimmage and taking time off the clock.

“While people love to watch a lot of offense, defense still wins championships.”

In addition to the senior twin tandem of Kane Carstens and McKay Carstens in the Eagles’ defensive secondary, younger brother Mason Carstens – a 5-10, 175-pound sophomore – anchors the Lourdes’ 4-3 defensive scheme.

The Carstens-fueled defense has yielded only 13.4 points per game to opposing offenses, while Cardinal linebackers Tim Tow and Jay Ruen – the red-and-white’s leading tacklers – have spearheaded Fairmont’s 4-4 defense that has allowed only 12.2 points per outing and produced four shutouts in 10 games.

So, what will be the key to advancing to the Class AAA state semifinals inside the Metrodome on Saturday, Nov. 16?

“We have to be patient and take what they’re willing to give us. We have to play 48 solid minutes against these guys, with no letdown,” said Mahoney. “After placing second at state the last two years, both teams are hungry to get back to the dome again.”

“We want to run the ball, wear down the opposition and control the clock. It’s as simple as that,” said Kesler.