Bucs — Section Champs!
A monstrous goal line stand during the game’s opening drive propelled the No.6-ranked Blue Earth Area football team to an assertive 28-0 Section 3AA Championship victory over Luverne.
After allowing the Cardinals to return the ball to their own 35-yard line, the Buccaneer defense rose to the occasion with a powerful stand on the game’s first drive.
On fourth down, Luverne ran a swing pass in the flat. David Franta read the play and exploded through the ball carrier to stonewall the receiver at the 1-yard line.
“That stop set the tone for the game,” head coach Randy Kuechenmeister says. “To keep them out of the end zone really built our confidence.”
BEA then proceeded to march down the field 99 yards for the first score of the game.
BEA used effective carries from Hanson and Jacob Olson to pound out of their own goal line, allowing for the Bucs to open up their playbook.
With the ball on the 14-yard line, Hanson shot through the hole, darted to the right and evaded Luverne tacklers until he was tracked down at the opposite 30. The 56-yard sprint into Cardinal territory was BEA’s longest play of the evening.
“The guys up front stayed on people,” Kuechenmeister says. “And Carter made a heck of a run.”
The Bucs gained five yards on the next two plays before throwing an incomplete pass on third down, setting up a critical fourth-and-5 from the Cardinal 25.
BEA quarterback Brady Anderson dropped back and found Steven Plocker settling into a soft spot of Luverne’s zone defense for a first down to keep the drive alive.
BEA faced a third-and-long after faltering on the following two plays. To convert, the Bucs ran a draw play to Hanson and he carved his way to the 1-yard line. One play later, Hanson plunged into the end zone capping a 13 play 99-yard journey.
Both teams’ defenses flexed their muscle following the drive, forcing a combined five punts before BEA started another long march on their own 17-yard line late in the second quarter.
Anderson found his rhythm during the scoring drive, connecting on three consecutive strikes through the air.
He first dialed up Plocker for a 29-yard gain, hit Franta on a 16-yard slant route and then found Darrington on an out route to reach the Luverne 16.
Olson finished the drive, three punishing runs later, to reach pay dirt. Jakob Rintelen added the extra point and BEA went into halftime with a 14-0 advantage.
Out of halftime, BEA’s defense held tough after two Buccaneer turnovers in their own territory.
Luverne was denied from putting points on the board with a team effort from every BEA player on the defensive side of the ball.
“They were making plays,” Kuechenmeister says. “They showed great effort with how hard they played.”
Late in the third quarter, the BEA offense responded after turning the ball over two times in a row. The Bucs put together a seven play, 80-yard drive for their third score of the game.
Hanson once again ignited the Bucs with a 50-yard run. The fullback spun, ducked under a Luverne tackler and raced 50-yards.
A 5-yard face mask penalty at the end of the run moved the Bucs all the way to the Cardinal 22.
BEA gained only one-yard on the following two plays. To pick up the third-and-9, BEA ran another potent 13-yard draw play to Hanson.
Olson took care of business after the conversion, utilizing a textbook lead block to charge into the end zone on a 5-yard scoring play.
The point after attempt by Rintelen was good, giving BEA a 21-0 lead with 2:27 remaining in the third quarter.
BEA quickly regained the ball in excellent field position after a failed Luverne fake punt.
Olson wasted little time in going in for BEA’s final score of the game. He broke a tackle, kept his balance and powered into the end zone from 40 yards out.
Rintelen nailed the extra point giving BEA a 28-0 lead with 11:13 remaining in the fourth quarter.
After the clock ran out, the final statistics revealed BEA’s dominance.
The Bucs gained 360 yards of total offense while limiting the Cardinals to 117.
BEA racked up 14 first downs while limiting Luverne to six.
Hanson led the Bucs in rushing with 157 yards on 14 carries. Olson had a tremendous game as well running for 132 yards on 29 carries and scoring three touchdowns.
“We have improved in a number of areas,” Kuechenmeister says. “Our execution, tackling and pass coverage is much better than in the beginning of the season.”
The State Football Tournament berth is BEA’s fourth appearance all-time and first since 2006. BEA also qualified in 1990 and in 1972.
“I don’t think anybody would have predicted the season we have had,” Kuechenmeister says. “You can never count these kids out.”
BEA played Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in the State Football Quarterfinals at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter Saturday after the Register’s deadline.
WEM entered the contest ranked No. 1 in Class AA with an unblemished record of 10-0.
If BEA advances, the Bucs will play Friday, Nov. 18, at 5:45 p.m. in the Metrodome.