BLUE EARTH – The Blue Earth Area Buc football team plays the defending state champion Chatfield Gophers in the Class AA state quarterfinals at 7pm tonight at Rochester Mayo High School.
“They like to run with the ball” BEA head coach Randy Kuchenmeister said. They have a very good quarterback/running back (6-foot, 195-pound Sam Bakker) who is tough to tackle. Their line isn’t gigantic, but it’s fast. We have to try to control their running game. We know we won’t stop it, but we have to contain it.
We look forward to the opportunity to play in the state tournament. “It’s exciting for our players.”
The Bucs come into the game with a 9-2 record and a three-game winning streak, including last week’s 44-20 win over previously unbeaten St. Clair/Mankato Loyola in the Section 2 championship game.
In that game, the Bucs controlled the time of possession as Parker Myers ran for 118 yards, Noah Johnson for 94 yards and Ashton Lloyd for 67 yards. All three ran for touchdowns, and Lloyd threw three touchdown passes — two to Colton Hubley.
Bucks scored 22 points in the fourth quarter.
Lloyd’s other receiving options, in addition to Hubley, include Austin Stauffer, Abram Kukos and Jack Norman, who caught an 80-yard TD pass in the division title game.
The Bucs will take advantage of what the Gophers’ defense allows, whether it’s on the ground or through the air, but Cushion Meister said he thinks the Gophers will try to stop the run.
On defense for the Bucks, William Ellis, Nicholas Nelson, Lloyd and Myers bring the thunder. Other players feed off their super intensity. Any of these four can go after the quarterback or get behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.
Defensive backs Soren Fring, Kukos, Norman and Johnson bring stability to the position.
Zachary Benson, Isaiah Cornelius and Hubley are helping the Bucs defense to just 20.8 points per game this season.
The Blue Earth District is making its ninth appearance in the state, with its final trip coming in 2019. BEA won the 2012 Class AAA state championship with a perfect 13-0 record, defeating Rochester Lourdes 30-7 in the finals.
The Chatfield Gophers brought a 10-0 record into the game. In fact, the Gophers have won 23 games. The Gophers’ last loss was 31-6 against Plainview-Elgin-Millville on Sept. 3, 2021.
In 2021, Chatfield defeated West Central/Ashby 14-13 in the Class AA state championship.
In that game for the Gophers, Parker Delaney scored on a 6-yard run and safety Carter Daniels returned a fumble 31 yards for a score.
Daniels had 11 tackles and two fumble recoveries in that game, and he’s back to help lead the Gophers’ defense this season.
Other defensive highlights in the state title game included two interceptions by cornerback Isaac Erding. He will be on the field tonight.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself and we know we’re going to put pressure on the program to win, but when the guys get on the field, it all goes away and it’s about the game of football.” Chatfield head coach Jeff Johnson said.
Johnson is in his 17th year at Chatfield and has an overall record of 110-62 en route to a .640 winning percentage.
The leader of the Gophers’ defensive line is inside linebacker Keelan Schott. The Gophers’ Carter Daniels and Eli Happ have experience in the secondary, while Luke Carrier and Drew O’Connor are the other experienced top linebackers.
We have experienced players to help us. Johnson said. “We have to be in a position to stop them every game, which I’m sure our players can do.”
Chatfield’s run-heavy team had 143 yards rushing in last year’s state title game. Kailan Schott was the leading rusher for the Gophers, gaining 71 yards on 10 carries, while Delaney had 48 yards on 13 attempts.
“We played in a tough division with some good teams, so we feel good about going to the state tournament.” Johnson said. Every team is good at this stage, so we have to be ready and play well to win.
This season, the Gophers are scoring 40 points per game on offense and giving up just 9.4 points per game on defense.
Backer is the Gophers’ top option. He ran for 208 yards, including a 99-yard TD run in the third quarter of their 10-8 Division 1 championship win over Caledonia last week. He carried the ball 21 times and threw just five passes, completing one for nine yards.
The Gophers had just 5 receptions for 67 yards in the 2021 state title game.
We like to run the ball and that’s what we’re good at doing. Johnson said. We have seen various defense schemes to stop us. This helps us. We have wide receivers that can catch the ball.”
Chatfield brings a rich state champion to the 2022 state tournament. Chatfield won the Class C state championship in 1994, 1995 and 1996, plus the Class AA state title in 2013 and last year. This is Chatfield’s 10th trip to the state tournament.
From this year’s eight-team state tournament field, four teams — Chatfield, Barnesville, Moose Lake/Willow River and Eden Valley-Watkins — advanced to the 2021 state tournament field.
Three other quarterfinal games Jackson County Central (11-0) vs. Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsad (9-2) at St. Anthony Village High School, Moss Lake/Willow River (9-1) vs. Barnesville (10-0) are located ) at St. Cloud Tech High School, and Eden Valley Watkins (10-0) vs. Sauk Center (7-3) at Monticello High School.
All games start at 19:00 tonight.