Former Buc players make impact at Gustavus
One of the many things I enjoy about covering sports is getting to know the high school athletes and keeping tabs on them as they continue their athletic careers in college.
Last year it was a trip to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and the chance to watch Amanda Eckhardt play volleyball. (She has since decided to concentrate only on softball.)
This year’s trip was much shorter. I journeyed past Mankato to St. Peter and the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College to watch the Golden Gusties take on the Hamline Pipers in a Saturday afternoon football game.
There are five recent Buccaneer grads involved in the football program.
Joe Kuechenmeister is a student assistant coach working with the offense. Tom More and Logan Becker are in their first year at Gustavus where Tom is listed as a defensive lineman and Logan as a wide receiver. Cody Sukalski begins his second year at Gustavus as a starting wide receiver. Now in his third year as a Gustie, Jordan Becker has stepped into the role of starting quarterback.
Gustavus and Hamline are members of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The conference has nine schools competing in football. This was the opening weekend for conference action.
Gustavus scored first in the game, returning a Hamline fumble for a touchdown in the first quarter. That would be all the scoring for the first half.
Sukalski opened the second half with a 24-yard kick off return that took the ball out to the 42 yard line. The Gusties would put together a 10-play drive that culminated with Jordan Becker completing a 21 yard touchdown pass to put the home team up 14-0.
Hamline came back to score 14 unanswered points – tying the score at 14 going into the fourth quarter.
It was the Gusties who would come up with the final TD to win the game.
The winning drive started with just over three minutes remaining in the game. A key play in the drive featured the two former Buc teammates hooking up on a 20 yard pass completion on a third and 10 play to keep the drive alive.
Gustavus finally pushed the ball over the goal line with 1:02 remaining in the game and held on to claim a 21-14 victory.
Jordan Becker was 21 of 35 passing with 228 yards. He threw for one touchdown and had four interceptions. Sukalski caught four passes for 26 yards and returned two kick offs for 45 yards.
This was the first college football game I had attended since approximately 1987. I had been told this was a great place to watch college football and I was not disappointed.
The home games are played at Gustavus Stadium which just opened last year replacing the 100-year-old Hollingsworth field – one of the ten oldest fields in college football prior to its decommissioning in 2006.
While the official name is Gustavus Stadium, the field continues to be called Hollingsworth Field after Lloyd Hollingsworth – a long-time Gustavus coach, teacher and athletic director.
Named a state-of-the art facility by Athletic Business Magazine, the stadium has a seating capacity of 5,000. This includes seating on a grass covered earthen berm that sits above the field around the end zones. It provides a relaxing place to view the game and is a great place for families with young kids to sit. Parking is close and access to the stadium is easy and fan friendly.
The new facility also has a wonderful press box that is air-conditioned and heated. It includes a media area, home and visiting radio booths, filming booths and coaches booths.
While the new complex is part of an exciting college atmosphere, I think it would also be a great place to hold the Section 2A high school football playoffs. It is true the stadium does not have lights, but starting the games earlier could solve that issue. What an experience it would be for the participating teams to play at Hollingsworth Field.
If you are looking for some sports entertainment on a Saturday afternoon and the Gusties are in town, take a trip up Highway 169 and check out the former Buc players now wearing the black and gold.
My thanks to Tim Kennedy, the sports information director, and his staff for all of their help during the day.