Dashing through the snow
After advancing to the Class AA state tournament in New Ulm last week, the Blue Earth Area Bucs put together a valiant effort against the Pipestone Arrows. Unfortunately, the Arrows once again outlasted the Bucs in the fourth quarter, ending the Bucs’ season.
Much like when these two teams met up earlier this season on Oct. 13, the game turned into a defensive grudge match. This time around, not only were both teams fighting one another for every inch of real estate, but the mix of bitter cold, swirling wind, and a large amount of precipitation made for extremely tough sledding late in the ballgame.
“I thought the weather had an impact on both teams. It definitely affected our strategy in all three phases of the game,” said Blue Earth Area head coach Randy Kuechenmeister.
After a scoreless first quarter, BEA’s first touchdown of the game was set up by great field position in the second. Starting from the Arrows’ 41-yard line, the Bucs offense received a boost from quarterback Blake Barnett, and running back Zach Buseman, both of whom saw their first game action since Oct. 3.
The Buccaneers were able to march down inside the red zone to the Arrows’ 16. From there, Buseman’s nose for the end zone led him to paydirt on a seven-yard score with 5:14 remaining before the half. Unable to convert on a two-point attempt, the Bucs enjoyed a 6-0 advantage heading into halftime.
Less than a minute into the third period, Pipestone evened the score at 6-6 on the strength of quarterback Tyl Woelber’s 79-yard touchdown strike to Cody Thompson. After the game, coach Kuechenmeister acknowledged Woelber’s playmaking ability is extremely difficult to game plan for.
“He’s one of the best athletes in the area,” Kuechenmeister said of Woelber. “The receiver got open by a stride, and he just dropped back and split the coverage. He’s very hard to contain for an entire game.”
After that initial setback, the Bucs continued to battle and managed to wrestle the lead back. BEA running back Rylee McGuire capped off a brief three-play, 55 second drive when he found the end zone on a two-yard score with 4:05 remaining in the third.
After three quarters of play and battling sixth ranked Pipestone, along with an unforgiving Mother Nature, the Buccaneers were in good shape, leading 12-6. However, as Kuechenmeister revealed, the Bucs contingent knew they weren’t out of the woods quite yet.
“We felt good because we answered back and were playing well, but we were not comfortable. I think anyone who has played or coached at this level knows what that feeling is like.”
With the wind at their back and given excellent field position, the Arrows managed to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Garrett Ploeger’s five yard run with 3:06 remaining proved to be too much for the Bucs to overcome.
For the game, Blue Earth Area actually outgained Pipestone on the ground, compiling 155 rushing yards to Pipestone’s 115 yards. Barnett was BEA’s leading rusher with 70 yards on just 10 carries.
Although disappointed with the season ending loss, BEA’s Kuechenmeister was happy with how the team picked up its play towards the end of the season. Finishing up with a record of 7-5, including four straight victories prior to the Pipestone defeat, the Bucs mentor saw plenty of grit and determination along the way from his squad.
“I thought we really played well as a team down the stretch,” Kuechenmeister added. “We put ourselves in positions to be successful and that’s what I was most proud about.”