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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Blue Earth Area takes Class 3A title with 30-7 win

  • Kysten Zierke threw two touchdown passes and Blue Earth Area pulled away to beat Rochester Lourdes 30-7 in the Class 3A Championship Saturday in the Prep Bowl.
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  • While his coach hoisted the championship trophy a few feet away and tried to keep his emotions in check, Carter Hanson smiled widely and held a sledgehammer painted maroon and yellow.
     
    The senior running back/linebacker said the tool was a gift to the team from Blue Earth Mayor Rob Hammond with the message: "Be the hammer, not the nail."
     
    Mission accomplished.
     
    Kysten Zierke threw two touchdown passes and Blue Earth Area pulled away to beat Rochester Lourdes 30-7 in the Class 3A Championship Saturday in the Prep Bowl.
     
    David Franta rushed for 144 yards for the second-ranked Buccaneers (13-0), who claimed the first title in school history.
     
    "They're a good team, but we played well in the second half," Franta said.
     
    Griff Slightam had 77 rushing yards for top-ranked Rochester Lourdes (13-1), which had minus 24 yards of offense in the final two quarters.
     
    Gus Phillips had a lot to do with that.
     
    He won't show up in the scoring column, but he may have been Blue Earth Area's most important player Saturday.
     
    The junior linebacker had nine solo tackles — including five for a loss — and three sacks. He also blocked both a punt and field goal.
     
    "I really don't know what was different about today, but it is the best win ever, though," he said. The last time he blocked a kick was in the season opener.
     
    Coach Randy Kuechenmeister described Phillips as the type of player who can make things happen wherever he is on the field.
     
    "He's been making plays all year," Kuechenmeister said. "Players make plays and he did that today."
     
    With the game tied at 7-7, Zierke and Isaac Darrington hooked up on a 6-yard score with 15 seconds left in the first half.
     
    Rochester Lourdes fumbled the second-half kickoff, and the Buccaneers capitalized with a 36-yard field goal by Felix Harseim for a 16-7 lead.
     
    "Huge momentum swing there," Eagles coach Mike Kesler said. "We thought we had some things ready to go. ... We just couldn't get anything going in the second half. Usually we wear people down, but today they wore us down."
     
    Phillips blocked a punt later in the quarter and Darrington caught a 10-yard touchdown pass two plays later for a 23-7 Buccaneers lead.
     
    "It's hard to bring into words what (Phillips) brings to this team on both sides of the ball," said Franta, who added a 5-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
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    "Never in my wildest imagination did I think we'd win 13 games, go undefeated and win the state, but what a credit to the kids," Kuechenmeister said. "I'm just extremely, extremely proud of them."
     
    Franta gave Blue Earth Area a 7-0 lead with about 3 minutes to go in the first half, when he took a pitch to the left, found a seam and outraced two defenders to the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown.
     
    The lead lasted just 13 seconds. On the Eagles' first play, Slightam went to his right, cut up the middle and eluded several would-be tacklers on his way to a 67-yard score.

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