Blue Earth Area football coach Randy Kuechenmeister begins his 22nd season as head football coach with some big holes to fill literally.
A year after reaching the State Class AA quarterfinals, the Bucs have to replace their entire offensive line including two 300 poun-ders in Sam Lee and Jonah Pirsig, who are now playing college football for Augustana and the University of Minnesota, respectively.
The cupboard is by no means bare, however. Five offensive starters and eight defensive starters return from last year's team. In all, the team has 16 seniors, 17 juniors, 20 sophomores and 17 freshman participating this year.
Members of this year’s Blue Earth Area football team include, Row 1, (left to right), Garrett Christensen, Brandyn Olsen, Nick Beattie, Chris Ramos, Christian Haugh, Jacob Pettit, Taylor Olson, Carter Hanson, Dallas Barslou, Isaac Darrington, Steven Plocker, David Franta, Micah Twedt and Andy Wigern. Row 2, Martin Granados, Felix Harseim, Quinn Huisman, Jacob Peterson, Seth Anderson, Brad More, Dustin Anderson, Greg Claeys, Calvin Sanders, Trevor Zierke, Gus Phillips, Kysten Zierke and Chance Andrews. Row 3, Jared Hassing, Matt Goodrich, Blake Peterson, Chris Leland, Jacob Johnson, John Bosshart, Charlie Allis, Conor Barnett, Derek Johnson, Austin Gustafson, Dakota Jahnke, Kellen Jacobs, Daniel Krieger and Alex Stewart. Row 4, Lane Anderson, Brandon Williams, Connor Thielfoldt, Kyle Engesser, Michael Munoz, Joe Yates, Luke Schavey, Mathew Bell, Jack Kennedy, Javon King and Zach Curtis. Row 5, student trainer Cynthia Johnson, coaches Travis Armstrong, Doug Storbeck, Logan Becker, Randy Kuechenmeister, Brian Kokos, Shawn Gudahl and Kyle Zierke. Missing from picture, players Justin Ritter and Brett Nowak, coach Jay Frederickson, and student trainers Aeli Olson and Signe Olson.
Four seniors and one junior are back as starters on both offense and defense from last season. Carter Hanson, Isaac Darrington, Steven Plocker and Dallas Barslou return for their final year of action at the high school level and are joined by junior David Franta.
Hanson returns as a running back and middle linebacker. He earned all-conference honors for the second time last year while leading the team with 102 tackles. He also pocketed three interceptions on defense and finished second on the team in rushing with 896 yards.
Darrington also garnered all-conference honors last year.
The 6-foot-4, 185-pound receiver used his height, speed and leaping ability to pull down 27 catches for 507 yards and eight touchdowns. He also recorded 45 tackles and two interceptions from his free safety position.
Plocker provides a nice target at tight end with his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame. He will look to harass the opposing teams offense from his defensive end position.
Barslou and Franta round out the receiving corps on offense for the Bucs.
Barslou returns to his cornerback position on defense with Franta lining up at free safety.
Seniors Kysten Zierke and Taylor Olson are battling for the starting quarterback position. Zierke will return as a starting linebacker on defense.
Brad More and Brandyn Olsen also return as starters on defense at tackle and cornerback respectively. However, More will begin the season on the sideline while recovering from an injury.
"The kids have been practicing hard and have good attitudes," says Kuechenmeister. "It's early and we are finding out what we can do well and we'll go from there."
The Bucs, who finished with a 5-1 conference record and 10-2 overall record last year, will be competing in Section 3AAA this year.
The six other teams in their section are Belle Plaine, Fairmont, Redwood Valley, St. Peter, Tri-City United (formerly Montgomery-Lonsdale and Le Center), and Worthington.
Blue Earth Area begins play by hosting their cross county rival the United South Central Rebels on Friday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. at Wilson Field.
Conference play gets under way on Sept. 21 when the Bucs travel to New Ulm to take on the Eagles.