Willmar's Jordan Smith and Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City's Kurtis Huisman were each selected to the Tribune's All-Area football team for the third straight year.
Eight other players are also repeat All-Area picks, including three from Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg: senior quarterback/defensive back Kevin Steinhaus, senior tight end/linebacker Taylor Freetly and junior running back/defensive back Joel Bauman. Others chosen for the second time include: Nick Amor, a senior guard/defensive tackle from ACGC; Cole Gigstad, a senior defensive end/guard from Renville County West; Jeff Jerve, a senior two-way tackle from Montevideo; Mitch Neubauer, a senior defensive back/running back from BOLD; and Josh Vosika, a senior linebacker/guard from BOLD.
KMS, which plays in the Class A state championship on Friday, also had Mitch Hagen, a senior fullback/linebacker, named All-Area. New London-Spicer, which reached the Class AAA state semifinals, and ACGC also had four players each chosen.
NLS players named are: Brandon Murphy and Anthony Dauk, both senior guards; Taylor Dammermann, a senior linebacker/fullback; and John Nething, a junior middle linebacker. ACGC members besides Huisman and Amor are: Deron Buboltz, a senior running back/defensive end; and Joel Slinden, a senior tackle/linebacker.
Litchfield and MACCRAY each had three players named. Litchfield selections are David Cox, a senior tackle/defensive end; Nic Johnson, a senior linebacker/running back; and Steve Hendrickson, a senior safety/running back. Those picked from MACCRAY are senior quarterback Caleb Hanson; senior wide receiver/defensive back Jay Hilbrands; and junior defensive tackle/guard Cory Behm.
Benson, BOLD, Dawson-Boyd, Montevideo and Willmar landed two players apiece on the team. Benson's picks are Chris Carruth, a senior defensive tackle/guard, and Aaron Lindahl, a senior defensive back/quarterback. BOLD players are Neubauer and Vosika. Dawson-Boyd selections are Colin Bergeson, a senior linebacker/fullback; and Matt Anderson, a junior running back/defensive back. Those from Montevideo are Jerve and senior defensive back/quarterback Eric Brandon; and Willmar's picks are Smith and senior linebacker/quarterback Alec Saunders.
Also making the All-Area team was Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa senior wide receiver/defensive back Shane Weller, Hancock junior wide receiver/defensive back Brendon Foss, Minnewaska senior guard/defensive tackle Dan Snider, Morris senior center/defensive tackle Josh Love, Paynesville senior running back/defensive back Shane Kampsen, Redwood Valley senior defensive back/running back T.J. Juell, and Yellow Medicine East junior defensive end/running back Mason Hegna.
5-10 170 senior QB-FS
Steinhaus has the highest passing efficiency in the area for the second straight year, currently at 128.87. He has completed 75-of-111 passes for 1,323 yards with 21 touchdowns and only five interceptions with the Class A state championship still remaining. He has also run for 238 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, he has intercepted 10 passes and has 45 tackles.
6-1 175 junior QB
Hanson was second in the area in passing efficiency with a 111.21. The left-hander completed 61 percent of his passes (124-for-204) and threw for 1,803 yards with 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He also ran for 239 yards and five touchdowns, helping the Wolverines finish 8-2. Also the team's punter, Hanson averaged 30 yards per boot.
6-1 195 senior RB-LB
Huisman, a finalist for the Mr. Minnesota Football Award and the Most Valuable Player in the West Central South Conference, led the area in scoring with 204 points. He had 28 touchdowns, 34 extra-point kicks and one conversion run. He ran for 1,240 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 7.6 yards per tote. He also caught 16 passes for 318 yards and seven touchdowns. On defense, Huisman had 47 tackles, including one sack, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions. He also averaged 31 yards per punt.
5-11 185 senior RB-DE
Buboltz, a transfer from Buffalo Lake-Hector, led the Falcons in rushing this season with 1,678 yards, averaging 7.2 yards per carry, and scored 23 touchdowns. He also had three receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown. He was second overall in the area in scoring behind Huisman with 158 points and was selected the Most Valuable Back in the West Central South Conference. On defense, Buboltz led the area with 12 sacks and finished with 43 tackles.
6-2 185 junior RB-DB
Bauman shattered the area's single-season record for rushing yards and still has a game remaining. Utilizing his quickness and ability to read blocks, he has gained 2,652 yards this season. He averages 7.5 yards per carry and 204 yards per game. He also has scored 28 touchdowns. In five postseason games, Bauman has rushed for 1,385 yards. He is also a solid defensive player, but has played sparingly of late to keep him fresh on offense.
6-1 180 junior RB-DB
Anderson, a quick and elusive back, rushed for 1,682 yards and 22 touchdowns, while catching nine passes for 124 yards for the Blackjacks. He also kicked off and did some of the team's punting. On defense, he had five sacks, three pass breakups and was fourth on the team with 21 tackles this season.
6-3 205 senior WR-FS-P-K
Despite missing two games and despite facing double and triple coverage most of the time, Smith still put up impressive numbers. He caught 39 passes for 547 yards and five touchdowns. On defense, he intercepted five passes, four of those coming in one game. He also had 34 tackles and six pass breakups. He was the area punting leader with a 40.8 average, was 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts and was 14-for-15 on conversion kicks. On kickoffs, he had 23 touchbacks.
6-5 190 senior WR-DE
Weller led the area this season in receiving yards with 1,270 and average yards per catch at 20.8. Despite facing constant double coverage, he was second in receptions with 62 and had 15 touchdown catches, helping BBE finish 6-4. On defense, Weller had 35 tackles and one interception.
6-2 180 junior WR-CB
Foss led the Tribune area in receptions this season with 74 in only nine games, an average of over eight catches per game. He was second in receiving yards with 902 and also caught eight touchdowns passes for the Owls. Defensively, Foss amassed 75 tackles, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
6-4 175 senior WR-FS
Using a height advantage often against smaller defensive backs, the 6-4 Hilbrands hauled in 52 catches for 761 yards and 10 touchdowns this season for the Wolverines. He was equally adept on the other side of the ball, intercepting eight passes. He also chipped in with 19 tackles.
6-5 205 senior TE-LB-P
Even though KMS doesn't pass much, Freetly has been the main target, catching over half of the team's completions. With one game to go, he has 43 receptions for 917 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is also an outstanding blocker. And on defense, Freetly is second on the team with 88 tackles, including 10 for losses. He also serves as the Fighting Saints' punter, averaging just over 30 yards per punt.
6-5 270 senior OT-DT
Powerful and agile, Jerve dominated on the offensive side and was named the Most Valuable Lineman in the West Central South Conference the last two years (he shared the honor this year). He helped the Thunder Hawks average over 235 yards per game on the ground and 100 in the air. On defense, he finished with 45 tackles, including 12 for losses. He also had an interception. And he had three touchbacks on kickoffs.
6-1 245 senior G-DT
Amor was an exceptional blocker for the Falcons, helping to produce two 1,000-yard runners this season. ACGC averaged over 375 yards per game rushing and 80 passing this season en route to a 10-1 season. On defense, Amor was just as dominant, powering his way to 57 tackles, including four sacks.
6-3 215 senior T-LB
Slinden, the co-Most Valuable Linemen in the West Central South Conference, was another outstanding blocker for the Falcons, helping the team manufacture a pair of running backs with 1,000-or-more yards. Slinden did not give up a sack as the Falcons went 10-1 and reached the section championship. He also led ACGC with 80 tackles this season, including one sack.
6-2 205 senior OT-DE
Cox was a mainstay on the offensive line, helping the Dragons lead the Wright County Conference in rushing yards (3,184) and total offensive yards (4,104). Cox has started the last two years on the offensive line. He started the past five games at defensive end and the Dragons won four of them.
6-5 215 senior OG
A punishing blocker and quick for his size, Murphy was a big reason why the Wildcats advanced to the state tournament this season. He was selected the Most Valuable Lineman in the West Central North Conference. NLS averaged 6.1 yards per play as Murphy opened big holes on sweeps and traps. The Wildcats averaged 243 yards per game on the ground and 86 through the air.
5-10 245 senior OG
Dauk was also an exceptional blocker with both the run and the pass for the Wildcats this season. He was a great trap blocker and his quickness off the ball allowed him to get downfield to make blocks. NLS averaged 329 yards per game this season en route to reaching the Class AAA state semifinals and finishing 10-3 this season.
5-11 215 senior G-DT
Snider was one of the hardest linemen to get past in the West Central South Conference. according to many defensive linemen polled. Powerful and with excellent technique, Snider helped the Lakers average 166 rushing and 78 passing yards per game. On defense, he had 40 tackles, including six for losses.
Yellow Medicine East
6-1 175 junior DE-RB
Despite being outsized by most offensive linemen this season, Hegna was hard to stop as a pass rusher. The 175-pounder was third in the area in sacks this season with 10. He also had six tackles for losses and three fumble recoveries while amassing 52 tackles. On offense, he ran for 100 yards and three touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 140 yards. He also had a punt return and a kickoff return each for a touchdown.
5-11 215 junior DT-OG
Behm was second in the area this season in sacks with 11 with power rushes and with his relentless drive. He finished with 44 tackles, four pass deflections and a fumble recovery as the Wolverines went 8-2 and reached the section semifinals. Behm also was a solid run and pass blocker on offense, contributing to the Wolverines averaging 183 yards rushing and 185 yards passing per game.
Renville County West
6-3 200 senior DE-OG
Gigstad, the area leader in sacks last season, had six this year as opposing offenses often double-blocked him. Still, he managed to finish with 99 tackles, including 17 for losses. He also recovered four fumbles. As an offensive lineman, he helped the Jaguars average 320 yards per game this season.
6-0 265 senior DT-C
Hard to stop because of his strength and determination, Love amassed 93 tackles this season, including two sacks and six other tackles for loss. He also had a forced fumble and recovered a fumble for the Tigers. On offense, Morris utilized his blocking to average 264 yards per game.
6-0 215 senior DT-OG
Carruth was consistent all season for the Braves, finishing with 97 tackles, including three for losses. He also had a sack and a fumble recovery as Benson went 5-4. As an offensive lineman, Carruth helped the Braves average 120 yards rushing and 182 passing this season. He allowed only one sack in 293 pass attempts.
6-1 200 senior LB-FB
Exceptionally physical and aggressive, Dammermann had 113 tackles for the Wildcats this season. He also had a sack and two fumble recoveries. On offense, he ran for 807 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He also had three receptions, including one for a touchdown.
6-1 210 senior LB-G
Vosika was a stalwart on both sides of the ball for the Warriors this season. He was named the West Central South Conference Most Valuable Defensive Player where he showed exceptional range and finished with 116 tackles and two fumble recoveries. On offense, his power blocking helped the team average 309 yards per game on the ground and 70 more through the air.
5-11 180 junior MLB
Nething led the Wildcats in tackles this season with 138, including 86 solo stops. He also had two fumble recoveries and an interception as NLS finished with a 10-3 mark. He was a big reason why the Wildcats posted three shutouts and held seven opponents to two touchdowns or less.
5-11 206 senior LB-FB
Bergeson roamed all over the field to compile 125 tackles this season for the Blackjacks, who went 7-3. He had 82 solo tackles, including seven for loss. He also intercepted four passes and returned two for touchdowns. On offense, the fullback churned for 185 yards and three touchdowns and was an excellent blocker. He also caught five passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.
6-1 210 senior LB-QB
Smart and aggressive, Saunders was always around the ball. He finished with 75 total tackles for the Cardinals, including seven for losses. He also had an interception, a sack and a fumble recovery. At quarterback, he ran for 372 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 56 percent of his passes for 660 yards and six touchdowns.
5-10 180 senior LB-FB
Physical and aggressive, Hagen is currently second on the team with 117 tackles and has recovered two fumbles and intercepted two passes, including one for a touchdown. On offense, he is an excellent lead blocker for the area's top ground gainer, but also proved he can run the ball as evidenced by his 121 yards in the state semifinal game against Springfield. For the season, he has carried for 654 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 19 passes for 174 yards and a score.
5-8 210 senior LB-RB
In his first year as a starter, Johnson performed admirably, leading the team with 81 tackles, including eight for losses. He also had five sacks and one interception as the Dragons went 7-4. On offense, Johnson ran for 1,246 yards and 23 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He also caught eight passes for 75 yards.
6-3 165 senior FS-QB-K-P
Lindahl was a solid pass defender this season, intercepting three passes and making 36 tackles, including three for losses. He also served as the team's punter, averaging 27.4 yards per kick. As a kicker, he converted 15-of-21 extra points and had a 30-yard field goal. And he also averaged 14 yards per punt return. At quarterback, he threw for 1,356 yards and 13 touchdowns and ran for 389 yards and nine touchdowns.
5-10 180 senior DB-RB
Although Neubauer's best position was on offense, it was his versatility that landed him on the All-Area team. He was a steady pass defender for the Warriors, making 35 tackles, intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble. At running back, he averaged nearly nine yards per carry en route to finishing with 1,408 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught six passes for 21 yards.
5-10 190 senior DB-RB-P
Kampsen was arguably one of the best return players in the area, bringing back three kickoffs for touchdowns. As a defensive back, he made 23 tackles, including two for losses. He also intercepted two passes and had a sack. He rushed for 1,037 yards this season for the Bulldogs and scored 18 touchdowns. He also caught eight passes, including one touchdown. As a punter, he averaged 30 yards per kick.
6-3 175 senior DB-QB
Brandon was among the hardest defensive players to catch a pass against, according to several of the area's top receivers. He intercepted a school-record nine passes and made 33 tackles, including six for losses. He also had three pass breakups. Behind center, the quarterback threw for 846 yards and eight touchdowns with only three interceptions. He ran for 129 yards and six touchdowns. And he converted 15-of-16 extra points and booted a 30-yard field goal.
5-11 180 senior S-RB
Rarely beaten on a big play from his defensive back position, Hendrickson was a thorn in receiver's sides all season, intercepting three passes and making 45 tackles while playing in a strong Wright County Conference. On offense, he ran for 451 yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry, and scored six touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 69 yards and completed 2-of-3 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.
5-8 165 senior FS-RB-WR-P
Juell was a solid all-around player for the Cardinals. He ran for 906 yards and 10 touchdowns, while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He also completed 4-of-6 passes for 89 yards and one touchdown, caught eight passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns and averaged 20 yards per kickoff return. Juell was also a strong punter this season, averaging just over 34 yards per kick, including four that landed inside the opponents' 20-yard line. On defense, Juell amassed 83 tackles, three pass breakups and recovered three fumbles.