No. 8-ranked B.E. Area football steamrolls to state
JANESVILLE – After a one-year hiatus, Blue Earth Area head coach Randy Kuechenmeister and his Class AA No. 8-ranked Bucs football team trampled their way over Medford and into the state quarterfinals.
Running back Koby Nagel erupted for a game-best 152 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Gavin Storbeck threw for 150 yards – including one scoring strike apiece to Caelan Sanders and Cameron Anderson – to power top-seeded Blue Earth Area to a 59-15 running-time rout over the No. 6-seeded Tigers in Friday night’s Section 2 football championship game.
Blue Earth Area (9-2) advances to play No. 3-ranked Minneapolis North (10-0) in a 5 p.m. state opener Saturday, Nov. 9, in Kasson. The Polars defeated No. 6-ranked St. Agnes, 56-0, for the Section 4 crown.
“Qualifying for the state tournament never gets old,” said a grinning Kuechenmeister, who reached the state quarterfinals in 2017, losing a down-to-the-wire 19-12 decision to Pipestone Area. “Our guys executed on both sides of the line of scrimmage and we get to play another week.”
The hard-running Nagel established the playoff clash’s high-scoring tempo by taking the initial handoff, found a seam and sprinted 66 yards up the middle of the Janesville turf surface to set up his ensuing 5-yard TD trot with only 26 seconds elapsed. Sanders then lofted a 2-point conversion pass to Max Ehrich for a quick 8-0 lead.
“The guys upfront in our offensive line – center Luke Norman, guards Kean Hicks and Nick Frank, and tackles Luke Mertens and Adam Griffin – really created some big holes to run through tonight,” said Nagel. “It feels good to be going back to state after making it when I was a sophomore. I started on defense in the secondary back then, but now it’s nice to have a bigger role on the team as a senior.”
Nagel put his defensive skills on display, intercepting a Willie VonRuden pass and returning it to the Medford 41 only three snaps later. Storbeck zipped an 11-yard quick-out pass to Anderson before Nagel slashed his way 16 yards to the end zone for the second of his three TDs on the night. Storbeck fired the ensuing 2-point conversion pass to Sanders to double the gap to 16-0 with 7:18 remaining in the opening quarter.
Medford quickly countered when running back Jerone Chavis broke a couple of tackles at the line of scrimmage before sprinting for a 55-yard gain to reach the Bucs’ 9. VonRuden later sprinted 7 yards around left end for a score. VonRuden then lofted a 2-point post pass to Kael Hermanstorfer to whittle the Tigers’ gap to 16-8 with 6:25 left in the first frame.
It took Blue Earth Area’s high-octane offense – which amassed 467 total yards on the sectional final – only 1:26 off the scoreboard to counter via Storbeck’s 43-yard completion to Cameron Anderson. Anderson caught the crossing route, pivoted on a dime, slashed left and outsprinted the Medford secondary for six points. Storbeck zipped a 2-point pass to Anderson to restore a 16-point advantage at 24-8 with 4:59 remaining in the first quarter.
In fact, Blue Earth Area proved highly efficient by producing points on all five of its first possessions to build a 40-8 halftime lead.
Linebacker Zac Murphy and defensive lineman Adam Griffin slammed the brakes on the Tigers’ next series to force a punt. Storbeck hit Sanders for key completions of 9 and 12 yards, Sanders contributed two long sweep runs and Nagel capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run. Storbeck then threaded the needle on a 2-point slant to Anderson with 9:12 left before intermission.
Griffin’s quarterback sack and linebacker Adam Schavey’s open-field tackle for a loss forced another Medford punt and the Blue Earth Area offense put another six points on the scoreboard.
Anderson opened the five-play, 59-yard drive with a 16-yard sweep run, Storbeck later connected with Sanders on an 11-yarder and Storbeck used a nifty high-step move to sprint for a 29-yard QB keeper for a TD. Sanders then weaved through traffic for a 2-point run and 40-8 lead with 4:56 to go before halftime.
Murphy’s sack for a 10-yard loss on the opening series of the third quarter created another Medford punt, and Sanders generated double-digit yardage gainers via a 15-yard end-around run and a 35-yard TD reception from Storbeck. Hicks kicked the PAT for a 47-8 lead.
With VonRuden reaggravating an ankle injury in the second quarter, Medford reserve quarterback Justin Ristau later completed a 27-yard TD pass to Josiah Hedenstein at the 5:54 juncture of the third quarter.
Jaxen Klinkner and Cole Warmka each contributed a 4-yard TD run to close out the Bucs’ scoring effort. Warmka’s TD was set up by Logan O’Hara’s late fumble recovery.
Storbeck completed 7 of 12 passes for 150 yards and two scores, Sanders pocketed a game-high five catches for 96 yards and a TD, while Anderson added two receptions for 54 yards and six points.
MED 8 0 7 0 – 15
BEA 24 16 13 6 – 59
BEA-Koby Nagel 5 run (Max Ehrich pass from Caelan Sanders), 11:34.
BEA-Nagel 16 run (Sanders pass from Gavin Storbeck), 7:18.
MED-Willie VonRuden 9 run (Kael Hermanstorfer pass from VonRuden), 6:25.
BEA-Cameron Anderson 43 pass from Storbeck (Anderson pass from Storbeck), 4:59.
BEA-Nagel 2 run (Anderson pass from Storbeck), 9:12.
BEA-Storbeck 29 run (Sanders run), 4:56.
BEA-Sanders 35 pass from Storbeck (Kean Hicks kick), 9:05.
MED-Josiah Hedensten 27 pass from Justin Ristau (Jacob Andrews kick), 5:54.
BEA-Jaxen Klinkner 4 run (kick failed), 1:38.
BEA-Cole Warmka 4 run (kick failed), 2:44.
First downs: BEA 17; Medford 4. Rushing: BEA 46-317; Medford 28-73. Passing: BEA 7-12-0-150; Medford 3-8-1-46. Fumbles-lost: BEA 0-0; Medford 4-1. Penalties: BEA 4-34; Medford none.
Offense: Rushing: Nagel (BEA) 18-152; Jerone Chavis (MED) 11-44. Passing: Storbeck (BEA) 7-12-0-150; VonRuden (MED) 2-5-1-19, Ristau (MED) 1-3-0-27. Receiving: Sanders (BEA) 5-96, Anderson (BEA) 2-54. Hedensten (MED) 1-27.
Defense: Interception: Nagel (BEA). Fumble recovery: Logan O’Hara (BEA).