BLUE EARTH - Blue Earth Area mentor Randy Kuechenmeister and his Class 3A, No. 2-ranked Bucs capped a perfect regular season and won the South Central Conference football championship outright on Wednesday night.
The Bucs' balanced ground game featured six different backs reaching the end zone to ignite a 48-8 conference victory over the St. James Saints in Blue Earth.
Blue Earth Area (8-0), which clinched the SCC crown with a 5-0 record, earned the No. 1 seed in the Section 3AAA playoffs and with it, a first-round bye. The Bucs will play host to a sectional semifinal game on Saturday, Oct. 27, against an opponent to be determined at a time to be set later.
Gus Phillips, who gained 42 yards on just four totes, reached the end zone on a 21-yard run before Felix Harseim kicked the PAT to stake Blue Earth Area to an early 7-0 lead.
Carter Hanson, who netted 39 yards on five carries, bulldozed across the goal line from 2 yards out before Harseim kicked the PAT.
Quarterback Kysten Zierke hammered his way home from 7 yards out before teammate David Franta scored on a 63-yard run for the Bucs. Harseim's back-to-back PAT kicks staked BEA to a 28-0 first-quarter lead.
Phillips crossed the goal line on an 8-yard run before teammate Taylor Olson reached the end zone on a 2-yard run. Harseim's two PAT kicks pushed the Bucs' edge to 42-0 at halftime.
Zack Gleiter produced St. James' only TD on a 14-yard run during the third quarter before catching the ensuing 2-point conversion pass from Sam Carlson.
Calvin Sanders added a 58-yard scoring run for BEA in the third quarter.
Franta topped all rushers with 123 yards on only three carries for the Bucs, Sanders contributed 77 yards on five totes, while Luke Schavey gained 52 yards on just four touches.
Carter Hanson recorded 11 tackles to top BEA's defense, while Greg Claeys recovered a fumble. Isaac Darrington, Jacob Pettit and Austin Gustafson each contributed an interception for a Buc defense that limited the Saints to 138 passing yards and only 30 more on the ground.
Blue Earth Area piled up 361 rushing yards on 31 carries to go with 15 passing yards from Zierke.