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B.E. Area tramples JCC in football opener

FREE FOOTBALL — Blue Earth Area defensive end Luke Mertens (52) beats Jackson County Central’s Trace Michelson (blue 55) to the fumbled football caused by the Bucs’ Max Ehrich (on ground) during Friday night’s season-opener in Jackson. The Bucs’ Nick Frank (white 55), Adam Schavey (11), Cole Warmka (8) and Riley Anderson (30), along with the Huskies’ Levi Lindley (9), Cameron Scholten (74) and Caleb Vancura (59), move toward the football. (Photo by Greg Abel)

JACKSON — The Blue Earth Area Bucs football team looked in mid-season form, clicking on all cylinders in all three phases of the game during Friday night’s pandemic-modified season-opener at Swearingen Field in Jackson.

The three-pronged offensive attack of split end Cameron Anderson, quarterback Gavin Storbeck and running back Max Ehrich helped engineer the Bucs converting their six first possessions into points against host Jackson County Central.

Anderson produced three touchdowns — two via catches and one on a 75-yard punt return, Storbeck completed 12 of 14 passes for 163 yards and four TDs, while Ehrich pounded out 124 yards and one score to pace Blue Earth Area’s 45-14 rout over the Huskies.

JCC opened the game with an eight-play, 72-yard march to paydirt to grab an early 6-0 lead. Quarterback Levi Lindley connected on two passes to Damian Meyer-Andre to cover 40 yards before running back Elijah Meium-Bratrud capped the drive with a 10-yard slashing TD run with 7:48 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Bucs then reeled off six consecutive scoring drives to that bridged the first and third quarters to amass an insurmountable 37-6 lead by the 9:26 juncture of the third.

“I’d say a low-scoring first quarter (tied at 6-all) was a product of not having film on them (the Huskies), and they changed their blocking scheme on the ground from a year ago,” said Bucs defensive coordinator Travis Armstrong, whose lineup limited JCC to 68 rushing yards and forced two fumbles scooped up by Luke Mertens and Thomas Claeys. “We made adjustments on how we played the option, and once we took it away, they weren’t able to move the ball much.”

Ehrich displayed his mettle by handling all five totes during the Bucs’ opening 72-yard scoring drive, capped by a 4-yard burst up the middle with 5:35 left in the first.

Buc defensive linemen Kean Hicks and Anders Fering stymied JCC’s next possession to force a punt, and BEA needed only eight snaps to reel off 79 yards. Storbeck threaded the needle on a 37-yard slant to Cameron Anderson for six points on the heels of Ehrich’s bulldozing 11-yard run en route to a 12-6 lead at the 11:23 mark of the second.

“Kuech usually runs to set up the pass,” Armstrong said in reference to BEA head coach Randy Kuechenmeister, “and Max got our ground game going.

“After that, Gavin couldn’t miss with his throws and found Cameron matched up one-and-one a couple of times. I like our chances when that happens.”

Mertens’ fumble recovery — off Ehrich’s jarring hit — at the JCC 30 led to Storbeck firing back-to-back rockets to complete the short march to paydirt. Storbeck hit Ashton Lloyd for a short gain before the 6-foot-4, 220-pound end hammered his way for a 13-yard gain. Storbeck then spotted Austin Thielfoldt over the middle for an 11-yard TD to widen the gap to 18-6.

After Hicks and Ehrich forced another JCC punt, Cameron Anderson delivered a special-teams gem. Anderson sprinted right, cut left, broke two tackles and picked up a maroon-and-gold blocking wedge for a 75-yard TD return and 24-6 edge with 3:38 left in the second.

Nick Frank and Mertens combined for a quarterback sack on fourth-and-13 to regain possession for BEA at the JCC 34 with time winding down. Ehrich pounded out 14 yards before Storbeck zipped a 20-yard post pass to Cameron Anderson for a 30-6 halftime lead.

Storbeck opened the third quarter with a 16-yard scoring strike to Lloyd before Lindley connected with Meium-Bratrud for a 31-yard TD completion with 8:24 left in the game. BEA running back Waylen Douglas closed out the season-opener’s scoring with a 12-yard run and the ensuing 2-point conversion.

Blue Earth Area (1-0) plays host to Luverne at 7 p.m. next Friday night at Wilson Field in Blue Earth, while Jackson County Central (0-1) plays host to Windom Area next Friday night at Swearingen Field in Jackson.

BEA 6 24 7 8–45

JCC 6 0 0 8–14

Scoring Plays

1st Quarter

JCC–Elijah Meium-Bratrud 10 run (run failed), 7:48.

BEA–Max Ehrich 4 run (kick failed), 5:35.

2nd Quarter

BEA–Cameron Anderson 37 pass from Gavin Storbeck (conversion failed), 11:23.

BEA–Austin Thielfoldt 11 pass from Storbeck (kick failed), 7:49.

BEA–Cameron Anderson 75 punt return (pass failed), 3:38.

BEA–Cameron Anderson 20 pass from Storbeck (pass failed), 0:49.

3rd Quarter

BEA–Ashton Lloyd 16 pass from Storbeck (Kean Hicks kick), 9:26.

4th Quarter

JCC–Meium-Bratrud 31 pass from Levi Lindley (Meium-Bratrud run), 8:24.

BEA–Waylen Douglas 12 run (Douglas run), 2:34.

TEAM STATISTICS

First downs: BEA 15; JCC 9. Rushing: BEA 34-228; JCC 31-68. Passing: BEA 12-15-0-163; JCC 7-16-0-128. Fumbles-lost: BEA 1-0; JCC 3-2. Penalties: BEA 4-40; JCC 3-25.

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Offense: Rushing: Ehrich (BEA) 16-124; Meium-Bratrud (JCC) 9-47. Passing: Storbeck (BEA) 12-14-0-163, Lloyd (BEA) 0-1-0-0; Lindley (JCC) 7-16-0-128. Receiving: BEA: Cameron Anderson 4-74, Lloyd 4-53, Thielfoldt 3-24, Anders Fering 1-12. JCC: Damian Meyer-Andre 3-48.

Defense: Fumble recoveries: Luke Mertens (BEA), Thomas Claeys (BEA).

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