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Mahnomen, Minn., defensive lineman Jacob Hedstrom (52) takes down Sleepy Eye St. Mary's quarterback Jordan Anderson (10) during the first half of Friday's class 1-A state semifinal game in the Metrodome. Mahnomen won 32-12. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

Mahnomen storms into Prep Bowl XXX

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MINNEAPOLIS - There was a big target on Mahnomen senior running back Avery Fairbanks during the Class 1A semifinals against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's inside the Metrodome, but unfortunately for the Knight's defense, it was misplaced.

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Instead it was junior quarterback Jacob Pavek's turn to gash the Knight defense up, as the tall and swift Indian runner racked up 173 yards rushing on 17 carries (10.2 ypc) and four rushing touchdowns in Mahnomen's 32-12 route of the Knights Friday.

The victory propels the Indians (13-0) into the Class 1A championship game, which will be played in the Metrodome next Friday against either Blooming Prairie or Dawson-Boyd at 1 p.m.

Mahnomen controlled the line of scrimmage again, rushing for a total of 333 yards for a 5.9 ypc, while Sleepy Eye St. Mary's managed just 58 yards on the ground for a 3.1 ypc.

"We came out keying on stopping their run and forcing them to pass," said Mahnomen head coach John Clark Jr.

The Indians dominated the first half by racking up 222 yards on the ground, with Pavek recording 124 of those on 13 carries, which helped put his team in third and short situations to go 6-7 on third down conversions.

But Fairbanks was not to be denied either, as he gathered up 88 yards in the first half on the ground and 129 for the game.

The Knights were stifled to 23 rushing yards and trailed 24-6 at halftime.

The early indicator the Knights were going to try to stop Fairbanks came on the Indian's opening drive where Pavek made perfect reads in the potent veer-option offense.

"We came out knowing they were going to key on Avery and I just made the right reads," Pavek said. "They were crashing hard down on Avery and the offensive line kept on their blocks."

Pavek's correct reading of the defense and knowing when to keep the ball was evident on the first drive, where he picked up 42 of Mahnomen's 67 yards on the QB keeper.

The first play started it all, as Pavek rambled for 19 yards over the left side and the Indians were off.

He capped the series on a one-yard dive, as the Indians didn't even have one third down snap.

"Jacob played a very intelligent game, because they were slamming down on Avery," Clark said. "The offensive line once again had an outstanding game."

After a three and out by the Knights, the Indians went on one of their patented, turf-eating, clock-winding drive which ate up 77 yards and took 12 plays.

This time, Fairbanks took advantage of Pavek's ability to loosen up the defense, by running for 41 yards on the drive. That lulled Sleepy Eye to sleep on Pavek, who pulled the ball back in on second and five, split the linebackers and went untouched for a 25-yard touchdown.

The Indians converted their second-straight two-point conversion on a pass by Pavek to Lucas Littlewolf, which extended the lead to 16-0. In fact, the Indians added another eight points by two-point conversions by going 4-4 on them.

"Defenses just have to respect our run so much, they have to honor it on two-point conversions," Clark said. "It's something we use to our advantage."

The only hiccup Mahnomen had on defense came on a 72-yard touchdown pass by Jordan Anderson to Adam Sellner on a slant and run to pull the Knights to 16-6.

"They got one play on us, after we had a little confusion on it," Fairbanks added.

But another 12-play drive on the ensuing series covered 76 yards, as both Pavek and Fairbanks drove the way. Pavek capped it on a 12-yard option keeper for the 24-6 margin.

The final breath was knocked out of Sleepy Eye St. Mary's on another great call by Pavek.

After the Knights pulled to within 24-12 on a nine-yard pass from Anderson to Shawn Mathiowetz, Pavek saw a glitch in the St. Mary's defensive set on second and one in the fourth quarter.

The play called was a handoff to Fairbanks, but instead, Pavek pulled up and ran right up center and went untouched for 37 yards into the end zone.

"It wasn't the play which was called, but I saw the linebackers stacked up on the line and I just took it up the middle," Pavek said.

It was just another example of the maturation of Pavek behind center, Clark said.

"He just runs the offense so well and he has great instinct, which is something you can't teach," Clark added.

The Indian defense also contained the Knight's rushing attack, but Anderson still was able to exploit passes underneath for a total of 257 yards by going 19-34 and two touchdowns.

"He was hitting the underneath stuff and was pretty patient, whereas most high school quarterbacks get frustrated and start forcing it," Clark said of Anderson.

Each of Mathiowetz and Sellner had 102 yards of receiving.

But for the Indians, they survive another week and will play in Prep Bowl XXX, a place they have not been since 1998.

"We're not going to change too much and just plan on running the ball again," Fairbanks said.

Can't argue with that.

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Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN. 
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