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B.E. Area earns No. 1 sectional football seed

BEVY OF BUCS — Blue Earth Area’s Cameron Anderson (with football) catches a pass and sprints downfield amid Buc blockers Max Ehrich (2), Luke Schonborn (15) and Kean Hicks (72) during regular-season action against Redwood Valley. The Class AA No. 2-ranked and undefeated Bucs earned the No. 1 seed and first-round bye in the upcoming Section 2 playoffs. (Photo by Greg Abel)

BLUE EARTH — Although 2020 brought the strangest football season of recent memory, some things remained the same.

For the second consecutive year, the Blue Earth Area Bucs enter the Section 2AA playoffs as the top seed, but there is one major change from last season.

In 2019, the Bucs took on No. 8-seeded Norwood Young America in the opening round. This year, the Bucs will have a bye in the opening round because LeSueur-Henderson has shut down for the remainder of its football season, leaving only seven teams in Section 2.

The Bucs will face the winner of Tuesday night’s quarterfinal between No. 4-seeded NYA and No. 5-seeded St. Clair/Loyola at 1 p.m. next Saturday at Wilson Field in Blue Earth.

Head coach Randy Kuechenmeister said he and the Bucs’ coaching staff will follow Tuesday’s game and try to learn all they can about both teams ahead of Saturday’s matchup.

“We’ll monitor it and get some film on them,” Kuechenmeister said. “We’ll be able to put together a game plan and hopefully put ourselves in a position to be successful.”

If the Bucs face a rematch with NYA, Kuechenmeister said he expects an improved lineup from the squad BEA beat 34-8 in last year’s opening round. The Raiders went 3-2 this season, losing to Class AAAA Jordan and Class AAA Sibley East. St. Clair/Loyola would be a new matchup for Kuechenmeister, who said all he knows about the Spartans at this point is their schedule. St. Clair/Loyola ended the regular season at 5-1, with its loss coming in the opening week against Lester Prairie.

Another major change this season is there will be no neutral site games in the playoffs, with each game being played at the higher seed’s home field.

The Bucs earned the top seed in Section 2 with an undefeated regular season where they never scored fewer than 40 points and never gave up more than 18.

“It’s a by-product of a few things,” Kuechenmeister said of his team’s success the past two regular seasons. “First is all the work done in the offseason, second is we have some incredible athletes out there making plays and carrying out their assignments. Once you develop some confidence along the way, that’s a key part, too.”

The Bucs ended the regular season with a 40-0 win over No. 10-ranked Maple River, the third ranked opponent the Bucs easily beat this season.

If BEA is able to prove its seeding correct, the Bucs will play in the Section 2AA finals Nov. 28 at 7 p.m.

“We feel fortunate that we’ve played six games, and we’re hoping, knock on wood, that we keep getting opportunities to play,” Kuechenmeister said.

The Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman Jaguars were able to improve their seed this week.

After missing their first two games because of Martin County’s COVID-19 shutdown, the Jaguars went 0-3, but a rivalry win against the Madelia Blackhawks, 18-6, Thursday, moved the Jaguars from the bottom of Section 3, 9-Man to the sixth seed, passing Madelia and Westbrook-Walnut Grove.

“It was big for our overall team morale,” Jaguars head coach Bennett Senf said of Thursday’s win. “This season has been so up and down. To have it culminate in a win was pretty special. They were clearing the field at 6 (p.m.) when we got there and we didn’t kick off until 8:15. … It was a fun experience for our guys, I told them it would be a game they never forget.”

The Jaguars face Heron Lake-Okabena Fulda in Tuesday’s quarterfinal at 7 p.m. in Heron Lake.

HLO also missed its first two weeks of games, but ended the season at 3-1 with its loss coming Wednesday against Red Rock Central.

HLO is a familiar opponent as the Jaguars beat the Coyotes 36-34 on Sept. 27, 2019, to end the school’s 21-game losing streak.

“They’ve (HLO) got a couple of those same guys back,” Senf said. “… I think it’s a good matchup for our team, especially coming off our win against Madelia.”

The Jaguars also look to repeat their opening section playoff performance from last year. The Jaguars faced Edgerton/Ellsworth in the Section 3, 9-Man quarterfinals, winning 32-28 and earning the first road playoff win in program history.

If the Jaguars overcome HLO, they would move on to the semifinals at 7 p.m. next Saturday, then the championship will be Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. at the high seed.

The Martin County West Mavericks struggled to find their offensive rhythm this season, scoring 14 points or fewer in all four games after missing the first two weeks due to a COVID-19 lockdown. Now they face a team that has played all six games.

“It’s one of those things, I like how we match up with Wabasso,” MCW head coach Tom Elliott said. “They’ve definitely got the upper hand in experience, but I want our guys to come out with energy. It’s been a tough year with losing the first two games, with distance learning, with kinda being behind the eight ball in practice time compared to teams we’ve played. It’s been a tough draw, but the kids have stuck with it and they’re getting better each week. Obviously we would have liked to have some wins in the win column, but I like how we match up and I think if the kids come out strong and keep their heads in the game, we can keep it competitive and give ourselves a chance.”

The No. 7-seeded Mavericks travel to No. 2-seeded Wabasso for a 7 p.m. matchup Tuesday.

It will be a rematch from the second round of last year’s Section 3A playoffs, when the Mavericks took a 14-7 win.

“They’re a tough team and they didn’t graduate a lot from last year’s team,” Elliott said of the Rabbits. “It will be a tough test for us. … They’ve got good size on the line and good size at running back, they’ll be a handful.”

The Mavericks hope to improve on their 2019 section performance when they finished 15 seconds from beating No. 3-ranked Springfield in the section finals.

“We’ve got some guys who spent a lot of minutes on the field throughout the playoffs last year,” Elliott said. “But we’re dealing with injuries and some quarantine issues with a guy or two. … We also have a lot of youth out there. It will be a big learning experience for a lot of guys.”

If the Mavericks can overcome the Rabbits, they will move on to next Saturday’s semifinals at 3 p.m., then the Section 3A championship will be No. 28 at 7 p.m. at the higher seed’s field.

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