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Linton-HMB holds on, claims 9-man title

Linton-HMB holds on, claims 9-man title

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Linton-HMB's Lucas Schumacher lands with an interception during Friday's nine-man championship game against Cavalier during the Dakota Bowl at the Fargodome.

FARGO — For the second year in a row, Cavalier's North Dakota state 9-man championship dreams ended one game short.

A frantic second-half comeback wasn't enough as Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock quarterback Lucas Schumacher ran for 123 yards, passed for 100 and grabbed two interceptions to lead the Lions to a 32-24 victory over Cavalier in the state title game at the Fargodome.

The Lions, who won a state championship for the first time since 2003, avenged a loss to Cavalier in double overtime in the 2019 state semifinals.

"What happened last year almost scars a person," Linton-HMB's Dean Vetter said. "It was in everybody's head. That makes you want it so much more."

For the second year in a row, Cavalier (12-1) suffers its only loss in the state title game. Tornadoes coach Sandy Laxdal said before the game he plans to retire after this season.

"It's special," Linton-HMB coach Tanner Purintun said. "This group of seniors has gone through so much adversity with the loss last year and COVID this year and injuries and lots of distractions. They've fought through everything and stayed focused. They got a whole team to buy-in to a culture. When your seniors are that great of leaders, it's special."

Cavalier finished with more yards of total offense (375 to 309). The Tornadoes ran more plays and had a higher time of possession.

The problem for the Tornadoes was a first half filled with missed opportunities. Cavalier fell behind 16-0 at halftime. Schumacher intercepted two Cleem passes in the first half.

The Tornadoes were inside the 25-yard line, looking to score, on three different occasions in the first half. Each time, the Tornadoes came up empty.

Linton-HMB even looked to be running away with the game early in the second half. The Lions started the third quarter with a 13-play scoring drive, which ended with a Trey Jacob 15-yard run. A resulting 2-point conversion pushed the lead to 24-0.

Cavalier, however, scored on its next three offensive possessions to make things interesting.

The Tornadoes pulled within 24-8 on a Brannin Cleem 2-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. The lead was trimmed to 24-16 on a Cleem 13-yard run with 9:13 left in the fourth quarter.

After the Lions pushed the lead back to 32-16 on a Schumacher naked bootleg with 4:02 left, Cavalier was able to score once more. Cleem hit Landon Carter for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 2:18 to go. A Cleem 2-point conversion run made it 32-24.

The Schumacher touchdown run nearly sealed the game.

"It was the best feeling ever," Schumacher said.

Cavalier's onside kick went out of bounds. The Tornadoes' defense allowed one first down -- on another Schumacher naked bootleg -- before forcing the Lions to turn it over on downs with 15 seconds left.

The Tornadoes' final desperation play only resulted in a few yards and the team couldn't get back to the line of scrimmage to stop the clock to get another play off.

Cleem finished 13-for-21 passing for 162 passing yards. He ran 31 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

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