So close, and yet so far.
The Blue Earth Area Buccaneer football team’s stellar season came to a heartbreaking end on Saturday night, Nov. 8, in Burnsville.
The Bucs were playing the Glencoe-Silver Lake Panthers in the quarterfinals of the State Class AAA Football Tournament.
BEA was trailing 20-7 at halftime. The Bucs scored in the third quarter to make it 20-14 and then proceeded to spend the entire fourth quarter trying to make one more touchdown.
With kicker Sam Hahn’s deadly accuracy on extra point kicks, the Bucs and their fans knew they could win with a TD and that automatic PAT.
The game came to a heart-wrenching end when BEA finally got to about the 11-yard line of the Panthers, but just could not punch it in and time eventually ran out, ending the Bucs’ hopes of another possible state championship.
Final score was 20-14, only BEA’s second loss of a great season.
The statistics seem to show Glencoe-Silver Lake with a bigger advantage in areas like first downs (21 to 14), rushing yards (248 to 105), total offensive plays (73 to 48) and time of possession (36 minutes to 12).
Yet, the game was a nail biter until the very end.
The Buccaneers uncharacteristically had more yards passing than rushing. Quarterback Luke Schavey was 11 of 20 for 173 yards. He had two passes for touchdowns but he also was picked off twice.
The difference in total yardage gained between the two teams was not that much. G-SL had 297 yards while BEA came in with 278.
Here is how the action went in the game.
The Bucs’ first possession ended with the Panther’s intercepting the ball at their own 42 and running it back 22 yards to the Buc’s 28.
Eight plays later, on a fourth down and seven yards to go play, they scored on a 10-yard pass play.
With the extra point try, BEA trailed 7-0.
The Bucs were forced to punt on their next possession, but their defense turned right around and stopped the Panthers, forcing them to punt as well.
The first quarter ended with the score still 7-0.
The second quarter started with another BEA punt.
The Bucs could not stop the Panthers, and G-SL went on a 10-play, 73-yard scoring drive, ending with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Now BEA trailed 14-0.
The Bucs finally got their offense going on the next drive, taking just four plays to cover 88 yards and get into the end zone.
First Jacob Johnson ripped off a 16-yard run, followed by a 22-yard pass completion from Schavey to Bailey Olson. It ended with a massive 50-yard pass play from Schavey to Conor Barnett.
Now the score was 14-7.
The Bucs stopped the Panthers on their next possession and forced a punt. But, G-SL did the same thing to BEA and forced them to punt.
Then the Panthers ripped off a 45-yard gain on their first play from scrimmage. Six plays later they were in end zone with a 21-yard pass completion.
The Panthers missed the critical extra point kick, setting the stage for that final dramatic end to the game. The score was 20-7.
The Bucs fumbled the ball on their next possession as the half came to a close.
G-SL’s opening drive of the second half was stopped by BEA and the Bucs took over when the Panthers failed to convert on a fourth and 14 play and fumbled the ball out of bounds.
BEA used just three plays to cover 59 yards and score a touchdown.
First Schavey ran the ball for nine yards, then connected with Bailey Olson for a 31-yard pass completion. Olson tipped the ball up and then caught it.
Next, Schavey hit Barnett deep in the corner of the end zone on a 19-yard touchdown pass. Barnett took the ball away from the Panther defender for his second touchdown catch of the game.
With eight minutes to go in the quarter, BEA trailed by just six points, 20-14.
The Bucs took over on downs when the Panthers went for it on fourth and six inches and failed to convert, stopped for a loss by the Buc defensive line.
But, G-SL picked off their second BEA pass and stopped the Bucs from gaining any momentum as the third quarter came to a close.
The fourth quarter started with G-SL once more trying for a first down on fourth down and three and being stopped by the Buccaneer defense.
Three incomplete passes in a row (all nearly caught) and the Bucs had to punt again, with 9:35 left in the game.
But, the maroon and gold defense once again turned right around and stuffed the Panther offense, forcing them to punt, as well.
The Bucs marched down field with the running game, but ended up faced with a fourth and one situation which became a fourth and six when BEA was hit with a delay of game penalty.
The Buccaneers turned the ball over on downs.
The Panthers got one first down, but then they fumbled the ball and the Bucs recovered at midfield at the G-SL 49-yard line with 2:41 left in the game.
Schavey carried the ball the next three plays for gains of six, six and two yards. Then he hit Derek Johnson for a 13-yard gain with 1:45 left.
Schavey carried for two plays with gains of five and three yards.
But, on the next play where he ran it to the four, a penalty on the offense for holding moved the ball back to the G-SL 24.
On a third and 12 situation, with 35 ticks on the clock, Schavey hit Bailey Olson for an 11-yard gain, setting up a fourth and one yard to go, at the 14 yard line, with 21 seconds left.
Schavey ran the ball to the 11, good for the first down, and the team quickly lined up for the quarterback to spike the ball.
With just 11.3 seconds left in the game, the Bucs had time for two tries to score.
On the second and goal play, Schavey threw a pass into the end zone which was nearly picked off.
After a time out, with 6.8 seconds left, Schavey was sacked for an 8-yard loss and the game came to a heartbreaking end.
Leading rusher for the Bucs in the game was Schavey with 80 yards on 21 carries. Jacob Johnson had 22 yards on four totes.
Three BEA receivers had nearly even yardage in the game. Barnett had two catches for 69 yards and both ended in touchdowns. Bailey Olson grabbed four passes for 67 yards and Derek Johnson had five for 53 yards.
G-SL was 7 of 19 passing for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
They rushed the ball 52 times for 248 yards and one TD.
While BEA coach Randy Kuechenmeister was disappointed in the loss, he says overall it was an enjoyable season because of the players.
“I can’t say enough about this group of kids,” he said. It’s too bad we weren’t able to score at the end because I felt the kids deserved the opportunity to play again. However, that’s sports.”
He added that he is very proud of what the team was able to accomplish this year.