Erase the first six minutes of the State Football Tournament quarterfinal and the Blue Earth Area football team kept pace with Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.
No. 1 ranked WEM scored three touchdowns in the game’s first six minutes, creating an insurmountable gap a feisty BEA team could not completely whittle down.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” BEA head coach Randy Kuechenmeister says. “They were a better team today and that’s it.”
The fast start ultimately spurred WEM to a 35-14 victory.
“It is tough to come back from being down 28-0,” Kuechenmeister says. “The guys showed a lot of guts coming out in the second half and made plays.”
WEM’s scoring onslaught began after forcing a quick stop on BEA’s opening drive. A strong wind from the south resulted in a short punt, giving WEM superb field position.
Sebastian Lee capitalized on the short field and rumbled up the gut for a 32-yard run into the end zone for WEM’s first points of the game.
In a matter of moments, Lee crossed the goal line once again. The stout linebacker read a BEA pass, intercepted the ball and shed would-be tacklers on his way to a 44-yard pick six into the end zone.
Benefiting from a strong wind at their backs, the green-and-white Buccaneers from WEM forced the maroon and gold Bucs to another three-and-out.
WEM wasted little time in adding another score to their early lead.
Quarterback Tate Harmon dropped back and hit Porter Sheehy in stride streaking down the right sideline for a 38-yard touchdown reception.
Add up the barrage of touchdowns and BEA faced a three score deficit after just six minutes of play.
After the initial blows by WEM, both teams’ offenses remained dormant until the waning moments of the first half.
Following a turnover on downs, WEM took over at midfield. Harmon completed a 44-yard pass to Grant Pope who drug BEA defenders with him all the way to the 6-yard line.
Lee capped the drive with a one-yard dive into the end zone with 25 seconds left in the half.
The point after attempt was good giving WEM a 28-0 advantage after two quarters of play.
BEA made adjustments at the half and came out firing on offense during the beginning of the third quarter.
On their first drive, quarterback Brady Anderson found his rhythm in the passing game.
The senior completed three passes for big gains throughout the 60-yard drive.
For the final pass completion, Anderson located the big target of Isaac Darrington tearing through the WEM defense for a 25-yard touchdown reception.
BEA forced a punt during WEM’s next possession, but the maroon and gold Bucs were forced to work out of their own end zone, taking over at the 2-yard line.
Anderson gained three yards on first down, giving BEA enough breathing room to showcase the playmaking ability of David Franta.
The sophomore caught the ball soaring across the middle in the open field. Franta avoided the WEM defense and powered his way down the BEA sideline for a 76-yard gain.
Hanson finished the drive with a 3-yard run off tackle to close the gap to two touchdowns with 3:42 remaining in the third quarter.
Excellent coverage on the kickoff and a WEM penalty marched the Bucs all the way back to their own 3-yard line. The BEA defense denied WEM from working their way out of poor field position, forcing a punt after three plays of futility.
BEA took over on the WEM 35 looking to sustain the shift in momentum.
On second down, BEA dropped back to pass and WEM’s Pope made a terrific break on the ball, coming up with an interception.
WEM followed the big play on defense with a fundamentally sound drive eating up precious minutes left on the clock with crucial conversions to move the chains.
Harmon found Pope for the final dagger on an 11-yard reception with 6:35 remaining in the fourth quarter to give WEM a 35-14 advantage.
Time ran out before BEA could mount another scoring drive, ending the Buccaneers magical season.
Statistics revealed a misleading final score.
BEA out-gained WEM in total yardage 306 to 271 and had one more first down.
Hanson led the Bucs in rushing with 61 yards and in tackles with 13. Darrington paced BEA in receiving with four catches for 81 yards.
Anderson finished the day 13-33 passing for 215 yards.
Finishing the year 10-2 overall, the loss ended BEA’s fourth ever state tournament appearance.
“It was a fun ride,” Kuechenmeister says. “It has been a privilege to work with these kids.”
Kuechenmeister will always remember the way his tight knit group of players came together for one common goal.
“These guys played as a unit,” Kuechenmeister says. “They played together and for each other.”
BEA graduates 11 seniors from the State Tournament squad: Jakob Rintelen, Brady Anderson, Andrew Bell, Jacob Olson, Zac Bartlett, Tyler Schonrock, Mason Meier, Josh Johnson, Jonah Pirsig, Sam Lee and Eric Spellman.
“They were fun kids to be around,” says Kuechenmeister after thanking each one of them.