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B.E. Area football trio to continue stellar careers

HEADED TO WISCONSIN — Blue Earth Area seniors Luke Mertens (left), Austin Thielfoldt (center) and Anders Fering will continue their respective football careers at college programs in Wisconsin this fall. Mertens and Fering are headed to the University of Wisconsin-Stout, while Thielfoldt is headed to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Mertens/Faribault County Register)

BLUE EARTH – Three more members of the undefeated 2020 Blue Earth Area Buc football team will continue their playing careers in college.

Austin Thielfoldt, Anders Fering and Luke Mertens all signed letters of intent Monday to join Division III football programs in Wisconsin.

Fering and Mertens both will join the University of Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devils in Menomonie, Wisconsin, while Thielfoldt will be close by with the Blugolds at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, just 30 minutes east on I-94 in Eau Claire.

While Fering and Mertens will battle during Blue Devil practices on the defensive and offensive lines, respectively, Thielfoldt will continue his hybrid wide receiver/running back role, which he said was one major draw for him to the Blugolds.

“I really liked the campus, the campus was awesome,” Thielfoldt said. “Just a gorgeous campus. The coaching staff really seemed like they wanted me, too. … And then I felt I fit really well into their program, especially where they want me to play. So just kind of a mixture of the school itself, and at the end of the day a college degree (in elementary education) is what I want. So the school was one and then two, it just kind of felt like a good fit for me.”

Thielfoldt joins a program that went 4-6 in the 2018 season, and 3-7 in 2019. He said the idea of helping the program grow was another aspect he enjoyed about UW-Eau Claire.

“Eau Claire’s kind of going on up, they’ve had a couple of years where they haven’t been the best, but just to kind of see the program get better,” Thielfoldt said of what he is looking forward to. “Also new memories, things like that, in the four years that I’m planning on playing there. So just getting to see the team get better each and every year.”

Mertens and Fering will have a similar opportunity with the Blue Devils, who ended the 2018 season 5-5 and the 2019 season 4-6.

Fering and Mertens both said continuing their careers as teammates will be a big help in adjusting to college life, but they won’t just be teammates, they will be roommates.

Both also said the academic opportunities at UW-Stout were big draws for them. Fering said UW-Stout having a Construction Management major program was key for him, while Mertens said the mechanical engineering program in Menomonie was too good to pass up.

“I’ll be majoring in mechanical engineering, and they have an amazing engineering program,” Mertens said. “They’ve got a 98% job placement rate there. And they are Wisconsin’s only Polytechnic college. What that means is, your classrooms and workshops are, like, one in the same. So you’re in the classroom part, learning about techniques … And then boom, you take all those skills, and you just walk 20 steps, and you’re in a workshop applying them, you know what I mean? So in a degree like engineering, that’s huge to get that experience right there in the classroom.”

As the Buc high school seniors move on to their college lives, they each had something they were most looking forward to.

Thielfoldt said he is looking forward to meeting new people and finding new hobbies in a big city. Mertens said he is looking forward to experiencing life outside of southern Minnesota, but added that he hopes to move back and spend his life in the area after school. Fering laughed and said he’s looking forward to getting out of the house after spending much of the past year inside it. Fering added that he is looking forward to just continuing to play football because his shortened senior season didn’t feel like enough.

As the three look ahead to their college careers, they each looked back on the success they had within the BEA football program the past few seasons.

Fering said the group of seniors graduating this year knew they would have a lot of high school success early on.

“I think our grade is just a special one,” Fering said of the 2021 graduating seniors. “Our grade developed a lot of these kind of kids who get to keep playing at the college level.

“I think all of us had such a successful time playing from when we started in sixth, seventh, eighth grade. We did really well all the way up to and now in our final year. So I think we’re all just gonna bring that with us going forward.”

Thielfoldt agreed and said that success came from pushing each other from a young age. He said every player wanted to be the top guy, causing each one to work harder and harder throughout their high school careers. But he added, there were some older influences that drove the work ethic for this year’s seniors.

“I think it really helped watching that 2012 team make the state championship run,” Thielfoldt said of BEA’s undefeated state champion 2012 football team. “I think we kind of just, at a young age, thought that was pretty cool. And then looking back, we kind of just were like, ‘you know, we want to be that good.’ Everything kind of just fell into place.

“And we’ve had some pretty good leaders the past couple of years who just kind of came through and showed us the ropes. You know, Caelan Sanders last year, Koby Nagel, good athletes who went on to play college football and just kind of lead by example, showing us kind of what we need to do to be able to get to that next level.”

While Thielfoldt focused on older players as one of the Bucs’ driving forces of success, Mertens credited the BEA coaching staff as another.

He said the coaches always taught players to focus on the team instead of their individual success. He said coaches were always willing to work with any player and put focus on creating a solid team as a whole.

He added the team chemistry, on and off the field, played a major role. He said his time in the BEA football program has helped prepare him for his future on and off the field.

“We were super close,” Mertens said. “And that translated to how we played. It was a fun three years.

“I would like to thank my coaches and teammates for always pushing me to become a better man and player. My experience with Buccaneer football has, I feel, prepared me well for both football at the next level and just life in general.”

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