No. 6 Arrows edge Bucs in state quarterfinal

HEADING FOR SIX — Blue Earth Area running back Rylee McGuire eludes Pipestone Area’s Wyatt Schoonhoven (33) and heads toward the goal line and Arrows linebacker Matt Enger (50) during Class AA state quarterfinal football action Friday night in New Ulm. Blue Earth Area’s Wyatt Tungland (9) blocks Pipestone Area’s Jason Steenstra (40), Bucs offensive lineman Jared Kennedy (54) and Trevor Oppedal (63) deliver blocks, while Buc quarterback Hunter Bleess (4) watches the touchdown run. (Photo by Greg Abel)

HEADING FOR SIX — Blue Earth Area running back Rylee McGuire eludes Pipestone Area’s Wyatt Schoonhoven (33) and heads toward the goal line and Arrows linebacker Matt Enger (50) during Class AA state quarterfinal football action Friday night in New Ulm. Blue Earth Area’s Wyatt Tungland (9) blocks Pipestone Area’s Jason Steenstra (40), Bucs offensive lineman Jared Kennedy (54) and Trevor Oppedal (63) deliver blocks, while Buc quarterback Hunter Bleess (4) watches the touchdown run. (Photo by Greg Abel)

NEW ULM — The Blue Earth Area Bucs and the Class AA No. 6-ranked Pipestone Area Arrows each controlled one half of the Class AA state football quarterfinal.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, the Arrows took control in the last half to get the 19-12 win on Friday night in New Ulm.

Pipestone Area (11-1) will face Moose Lake/Willow River in the state semifinals at 11:30 a.m. next Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Moose Lake/Willow River took a 28-0 halftime lead over West Central Area for the eventual 41-14 victory in the quarterfinal contest in Brainerd.

Blue Earth Area ends the season with a 7-5 record, halting its winning streak at four games.

“I thought our guys played their hearts out, gave everything they had. We just didn’t have quite enough at the end,” Blue Earth Area head coach Randy Kuechenmeister said.

The Bucs and Arrows posted a scoreless first quarter with neither team punting. The Bucs struck first with 5:14 to go before halftime.

After forcing the Arrows to punt for the first time in the game, the Bucs took advantage of good field position to start the scoring run.

Starting at the Arrows’ 41, Bucs senior quarterback Blake Barnett and sophomore wide receiver Caelan Sanders combined for 23 yards to get the team to the Arrows’ 16. Senior running back Zach Buseman handled the rest of the yardage on four totes, including a 7-yard carry into the end zone.

The Bucs carried a 6-0 lead into halftime after Barnett intercepted one of Pipestone Area junior quarterback Cody Thompson’s passes with two seconds left on the clock.

The Arrows used the intermission to regroup and came out firing on all cylinders. After a Jordan Baatz’s short 1-yard carry, Thompson completed a pass to senior wideout Tyl Woelber, who took it 79 yards to knot the game.

“That kid’s athletic, he’s a very good player,” Kuechenmester said about Woelber. “It’s hard to contain him the whole game.

“I thought we bounced back and we got another score.”

The Bucs overcame a fumble on offense and forced the Arrows to turn the ball over on downs with 5:00 remaining in the third quarter to engineer the scoring possession. The Bucs started at the Arrows’ doorstep, the 10-yard line, and took advantage of a face mask penalty to get down to the 2.

Senior running back Rylee McGuire crunched in the short distance to get the Bucs back the lead for a three-play, 55-second drive.

The Arrows, however, put the game out of reach for the Bucs, scoring 13 points in the fourth frame. The team started its first scoring drive of the quarter at the 50 and utilized Baatz, who got out 37 yards on the first play of the series.

Baatz went five more yards and found his way through the Bucs’ defense for the 8-yard TD. Woelber willed a low kick through the goal posts to put the Arrows up, 13-12.

Senior running back Garrett Ploeger added a 5-yard TD with 3:06 to go in the game for the 19-12 lead.

The Bucs attempted to tie the game, but came up short with back-to-back incomplete passes.

“I think they made more plays than we did. Then the wind became a factor,” Kuechenmeister said, referring to the nearly 20 mile per hour winds, accompanied by blistering snow flurries. “Credit to them, they’re a good football team. I thought we played hard and we were right there. We just didn’t have it tonight.”

Thompson went 7-for-18 passing with two interceptions for 139 yards in the win. Woelber recorded 86 yards on two catches, while Baatz finished with 95 yards on 16 rushes.

Bucs junior quarterback Hunter Bleess ended the night with 28 yards on 4-for-15 passing, with Sanders catching a throw for four yards.

Barnett recorded 70 yards on 10 carries, while Buseman had 18 totes to accumulate 62 yards. Defensively, senior defensive lineman Trevor Oppedal, along with senior linebackers Dalton Nagel and McGuire, each had a quarterback sack for a Bucs team that graduates 12 seniors.

“They’re good kids, I like working with them. They gave their heart and soul to the program,” Kuechenmeister said. “You always hate to see kids leave. We’ll miss them, but that’s high school sports.”

Blue Earth Area 0 6 6 0–12

Pipestone Area 0 0 6 13–19

SCORING PLAYS

1st Quarter

No scoring.

2nd Quarter

BEA — Zach Buseman 7 run (try fail), 5:14.

3rd Quarter

PA — Tyl Woelber 79 pass from Cody Thompson (try fail), 11:09.

BEA — Rylee McGuire 2 run (kick blocked), 4:05.

4th Quarter

PA — Jordan Baatz 8 run (Woelber kick), 11:56.

PA — Garrett Ploeger 5 run (try fail), 3:06.

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs: Blue Earth Area 11; Pipestone Area 5. Rushing: Blue Earth Area 37-155; Pipestone Area 27-115. Passing: Pipestone Area 7-18-2-139; Blue Earth Area 3-17-0-28. Fumbles-lost: Blue Earth Area 2-1; Pipestone Area 3-0. Penalties: Pipestone Area 4-46; Blue Earth Area 3-15.

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Offense: Rushing: Jordan Baatz (PA) 16-93; Blake Barnett (BEA) 10-70; Zach Buseman (BEA) 18-62. Passing: Cody Thompson (PA) 7-18-2-139; Hunter Bleess (BEA) 4-15-0-28. Receiving: Tyl Woelber (PA) 2-86; Braden Reick (PA) 3-40; Barnett (BEA) 2-24; Caelan Sanders (BEA) 1-4.

Defense: Interceptions: Sanders (BEA) and Barnett (BEA). Fumble recovery: Carter Nesvold (PA). Quarterback Sacks: Trevor Oppedal (BEA), Dalton Nagel (BEA), Rylee McGuire (BEA), Chris Najera (PA), Wyatt Schoonhoven (PA), Jamison VanderWal (PA), Garrett Ploeger (PA), Tucker DeGroot (PA), Baatz (PA).

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