BEA clinches section in closing seconds
On Friday, Nov. 3, excited Blue Earth Area Buccaneer fans took to North Main Street and honked their horns as they paraded back into town. They were celebrating the school’s third state tournament berth in four years.
Third seeded Blue Earth Area won the Section 2AA crown by defeating top seeded Maple River 11-10 in a classic fight to the finish. It was BEA’s second consecutive playoff victory that featured a game clinching score on their last possession of the game.
With 5:23 remaining in the second quarter, Blue Earth Area drew first blood with a 20-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Hunter Bleess to sophomore receiver Caelan Sanders. One of the Bucs’ most potent offensive weapons, Sanders led all BEA receivers in the game with four catches for 89 yards.
Following the touchdown, Bucs junior kicker and German foreign exchange student, Alexander Reese, was unable to convert the extra point as the BEA lead remained 6-0.
Maple River scored a touchdown later in the second as they enjoyed a 7-6 lead at the half. In a hard-nosed defensive struggle, the score remained 7-6 in favor of Maple River after three quarters of play.
The stingy Bucs defense allowed the Eagles just 84 yards of total offense in the game. BEA head coach Randy Kuechenmeister credits his stellar defensive unit for keeping the contest close and giving Blue Earth Area a chance to pull out a late win.
“Maple River is a really good team, so you can’t take everything away, but I was really happy with how we controlled their running game,” said Kuechenmeister.
With about nine minutes to go in the final period, Blue Earth Area took an 8-7 lead when senior linebacker Dalton Nagel recorded a safety following a botched Maple River punt attempt. However, Maple River answered back with an impressive 45-yard field goal to regain the lead, 10-8 with 2:51 to go.
Starting from their own 40 yard-line and trailing with under three minutes left, the Buccaneers embarked on a six-play, 54-yard drive on their final possession.
Showing incredible determination, along with great poise while guiding the Bucs offense, signal caller Bleess found senior receiver Jacob Vaske for a 32 yard connection. Bleess followed up that big play with a 19 yard hookup to sophomore wideout Caelan Sanders.
Bucs senior running back Rylee McGuire also got involved in the drive; his rugged running style bringing BEA to Maple River’s six yard-line.
Facing a fourth down and five, Bucs coach Kuechenmeister again called on the leg of his European born kicker. From 23 yards away, Reese was able to focus in as he booted the game winning field goal with 18 seconds remaining.
As the kick was launched from the right hash mark, Kuechenmeister said there was no doubt the kick was good from his vantage point.
“I’m happy for Alex, it was definitely a good feeling to see him hang in there and make his first field goal of the season,” Kuechenmeister said.
Having missed an extra point earlier in the game added even more pressure to the moment. Reese explained his roller coaster of emotions prior to the big kick.
“I was so nervous, especially after I missed the first kick. When I went out there, I was thinking, ‘Please don’t let me miss it,’ Reese recalled. “Then, when I kicked it in between the goal posts, I was like, wow. I’m so happy right now.”
Including the regular season finale against St. James, Blue Earth Area has now won four straight games. When asked if this recent hot streak has exceeded expectations, coach Kuechenmeister explains he always maintains high expectations for his team, this year being no different.
“The bottom line is that kids are stepping up and making plays,” Kuechenmeister said. “They are playing well and have put themselves in a good position.”
To kick off the opening round of the Class AA State Tournament, the Bucs traveled to New Ulm last Friday for a meeting with 10-1 Pipestone Area. The Arrows defeated the Bucs earlier in the season with a 7-0 shutout at BEA on Oct. 13.
Results from this game will appear in next week’s edition of the Faribault County Register.