While Blue Earth Area football fans will see many familiar faces on the Bucs' sideline this year, they will see many unfamiliar teams on the opponents' sidelines.
A merger of the South Central Conference and the Southwest Conference into the 13-team Big South Conference has given the Bucs many new foes to compete against this year. In fact, the Bucs will only face two of their former SCC conference members (Fairmont and New Ulm) this season.
The Bucs will get a look at one of their new conference foes when they host the Marshall Tigers in their season opener on Aug. 29 at Wilson Field.
The 2014 Blue Earth Area Buccaneer football team is pictured above. Row One: Conor Barnett, Derek Johnson, Connor Thielfoldt, Kyle Engesser, Jacob Johnson, Chris Leland, Martin Granados Jr., Mathew Bell, Zach Curtis, Luke Schavey, Jack Kennedy, Kellen Jacobs, Bailey Olson. Row Two: Lane Anderson, Blake Peterson, Caleb Jordan, Chandler Kienitz, Brandon Olson, Adam Legred, Kolt Gorg, Joe Yates, Jacob Hedland, Nick Alphs, Chandler Karl, Cole Hendricksen. Row Three: Tannor Wolf, Dylan Anderson, Petter Nilsen, Logan Jahnke, Kaylan Legred, Chris Sanders, Camden Bowers, Michael Munoz, Jace Huber, Reed Krieger, Chandler Pettit, Roger Ziegler, Zac Schonrock. Row Four: Mason Mauris, Brian Krieger, Tyler Hannaman, Bryan Karp, Sam Hahn, Darrel Raney, Matthew Meier, Liam Holland, Lucas Determan, Ben Wigern, Lucas Kramer. Row Five: Karli Olsen, Kaitlyn Olsen, Jared Armon, Skyler Munoz, Rylan Krieger, Jesse Rasche, Dylan Herfindahl, Zach Adams, Jacob Willette, Cole Klinkner, Zaine Stewart. Row Six: Travis Armstrong, Brian Kokos, Jay Frederickson, Randy Kuechenmeister, Shawn Gudahl, Ty Sturtz, Kyle Zierke. Missing: Charlie Allis, Justin Spellman, Joe Ritter, Signe Olson (student manager). To see more photos, go to cu.faribaultcountyregister.com
"This will be a good test for us," says Bucs head coach Randy Kuechenmeister. "They are the biggest school in the conference and are a solid team with a lot of returning starters."
Blue Earth Area will feature a squad made up of 17 seniors, 20 juniors, and 22 sophomores.
"We lost some good athletes, good kids that graduated, but we have five offensive and seven defensive starters who are back for this year," comments Kuechenmeister.
Luke Schavey returns as the starting quarterback. He is joined by receivers Derek Johnson and Bailey Olson and lineman Kellen Jacobs. The fifth returning starter is Kolt Gorg who is making the switch from the offensive line to running back.
Johnson and Olson return as starters in the defensive backfield. Jacob Johnson joins Schavey and Gorg as linebackers and Martin Granados takes his place in the defensive line along with Jacobs.
"It will be important for us to stay healthy," says Kuechenmeister. "And, we have to find out what we do well."
The Bucs will travel to Redwood Falls to play the Redwood Valley Cardinals on Friday, Sept. 5, before hosting cross county rival United South Central in their only non-conference game of the year.
Conference play resumes Sept. 19 at Fairmont. The maroon and gold will then host Windom Area and Pipestone Area on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, respectively, and then close out the season on the road with a game at New Ulm on Oct. 10 and the regular season finale at Luverne on Wednesday, Oct. 15.
While Kuechenmeister looks forward to the season he admits the new, larger conference makes it difficult to predict pre-season favorites. Additionally, some schools will play seven conference games and others will play eight conference games.
"I would have to think that Marshall is the favorite with their size and the number of players they are returning," says Kuechen- meister.
Next year be ready for more change with the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) adopting 'District Football Scheduling' for 2015 and beyond. The purpose of creating districts is to come up with a solution for schools that have had difficulty filling their regular season football schedule.
Blue Earth Area is tentatively slated to be in the South Central District, which is comprised of 28 teams. The South Central District will be divided into smaller sub-districts made up of schools of similar size enrollment.
The goal of the MSHSL is to have schedules for the 2015 and 2016 football seasons completed by Nov. 1 of this year.