Bucs net home opener; Mavs, Jags hit road for playoffs

OPEN-FIELD MOVES — Blue Earth Area wide receiver Jacob Vaske (15) looks to make an open-field maneuver on Fairmont defensive back Wyatt Quiring during season-opening football action on Aug. 31 at Mahoney Field in Fairmont. Vaske and the Bucs play host to Medford in the Section 2AA quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Wilson Field in Blue Earth. (Photo by Greg Abel)

FAIRMONT – Since 2010, the Blue Earth Area Bucs football team has advanced to the section championship and state tournament four times, stemming back to its days in Section 3AAA and Section 3AA.

The Bucs are currently in their third year in Section 2AA and — as the No. 3 seed — open with a quarterfinal game against No. 6-seeded Medford at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Blue Earth.

“I don’t know a lot about them (Medford), but I know their quarterback (Javis VonRuden) throws the ball fairly well and they have a few good receivers with some kids that can run the ball,” said Bucs head coach Randy Kuechenmeister. “We have to come out, play and try to control (VonRuden) as best as we can.”

Much like the 2015 state-qualifying team, the Bucs closed out the regular season 4-4 after beating St. James Area, 41-0, on Wednesday.

“A lot of things factored into where we’re at in the season,” Kuechenmeister said. “We try to put ourselves in the best position to move ahead and just take it one game at a time.”

Junior quarterback Hunter Bleess, who had 97 yards on 9-for-14 passing and 116 yards rushing on 16 carries, threw a 23-yard touchdown to Caelan Sanders before running for a 19-yard score on Wednesday night. Rylee McGuire added a 4-yard TD for the 21-0 halftime score.

McGuire scored the Bucs’ lone third-quarter TD, good for two yards, and produced 54 yards on 15 totes. Caden Ochsendorf took off down the field for a 60-yard score in the fourth quarter, and Alex Reese, who went 4-for-5 on extra points, got the PAT.

Austin Thielfoldt’s 16 yarder was the Bucs’ final score for the shutout victory.

Jacob Vaske made four receptions for 44 yards, while Sanders caught two passes for 30 yards.

The Bucs’ defense held St. James to four first downs and 70 total offensive yards. McGuire and Dalton Nagel both made five tackles, and Vaske, Jordan Huse and Joe Schavey combined equally for 12 tackles.

Clayton Johnson intercepted a pass and Koby Nagel recovered a fumble for BEA.

Bleess and McGuire have emerged as shining spots for the Bucs’ offense, with the two combining for 467 yards of total offense during Weeks 7 and 8. McGuire also has led the team’s defense in tackles the last two weeks with 11 and 5, respectively.

“They’re doing well and getting better. They’re trying to get more comfortable with what we’re doing,” Kuechenmeister said.

If the Bucs beat Medford on Tuesday, they will play either No. 2-seeded Waterville-Elysian-Morristown or No. 7-seeded Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial at 7 p.m. next Saturday at the high seed’s field.

“We need to be more consistent offensively and continue to keep scoring,” Kuechenmeister said.

Although the Bucs and the Martin County West Mavericks are both in South Central White District, the Mavericks play in the Section 3AA bracket.

The Mavericks received the No. 5 seed and play at No. 4-seeded Windom Area at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Windom.

The Mavericks (1-7) and Eagles faced each other in district play, and have played each other in the section quarterfinals for the third straight year.

“We definitely see them plenty,” Mavericks head coach Tommy Elliott laughed. “There’s only so many wrinkles they (Windom Area) can sort out from midseason until now, so we’re one step ahead because we’ve seen them before.

“We feel good about the matchup and kind of saw it coming two, three weeks ago.”

The Eagles beat the Mavericks, 27-12, during Week 3 of the regular season, a game Elliott said slipped through his team’s fingers.

“Their scores came off some big plays where we had some missed assignments,” Elliott said.

Moving forward, Elliott expects the Eagles to depend on their run game on Tuesday night, which his Mavericks do well at defending.

Offensively, sophomore quarterback Wyatt Geistfeld is coming along for the Mavericks after getting the Week 8 start against Redwood Valley on Wednesday.

“Wyatt’s (progress) is just a matter of reps. He took all the reps last night, so it’s just a matter of time for him,” Elliott said on Thursday. “Hopefully, it’ll take some pressure off (junior running back) Thai Risk.

Risk has been the Mavericks’ leading rusher this season, and much of his success depends on the offensive line.

“We need the guys up front to get Thai in the second level of defense, and that’s where he’s dangerous,” Elliott said. “We expect a lot out of those guys up front.”

If the Mavericks win, the team will have another rematch from the regular season, playing No. 1-seeded Redwood Valley, who received a bye, in the semifinals at 3 p.m. next Saturday in Redwood Falls.

Much like the Mavericks, the No. 8-seeded Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman will play a familiar opponent in No. 1-seeded Nicollet during the Section 3, 9-Man quarterfinals.

“It’s a huge benefit having played them before,” Jaguars head coach Ben Senf said about his team’s Week 7 clash with the Raiders in Nicollet. “We played them tough and scored with two or three seconds left in the first half to only be down 28-22, so we hope that excites the guys.”

The Raiders scored 19 points in the second half to come out with the 48-22 victory. Freshman quarterback Owen Wolter had two touchdown passes in the contest and finished with 173 yards on 14-for-31 passing with one interception.

After the Jaguars took a blow in losing senior quarterback Derek Shoen, Wolter has been the starting QB with senior wideout Quintin Greier being one of Wolter’s main targets.

“Quintin has five touchdowns on the season and has had a heckuva year, and Owen’s ability to make plays is unbelievable,” Senf said. “We’ve seen a lot of bright spots from our younger guys and even our upperclassmen in their leadership.”

The Jaguars closed out the season 1-7 – their win came against West Lutheran in Week 2 – and are hoping to upset the Raiders at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Nicollet in the playoffs quarterfinals.

“It’s hard to beat a team twice,” Senf said. “We know what to expect. We just have to play 48 minutes of football to get to another 48 minutes of football.”

The winner of the quarterfinal game will face either No. 4-seeded Mountain Lake Area or Hills-Beaver Creek, the No. 5 seed, at 3 p.m. next Saturday at the higher seed’s venue.