The football season was abbreviated, but the football talent in west central Minnesota found time to shine.
Renville County West won a second straight Section 2 9-Man championship and finished as the area’s lone undefeated team at 6-0. In Litchfield, the Dragons went 7-1 and won in the Section 2AAA finals, securing the school’s first section championship since 2006.
Elsewhere around the area, BOLD played in its seventh straight section final and Paynesville was the highest scoring offense in Class AA (44.3 points/game). Willmar went 6-2 in 2020 and knocked off No. 1-ranked Hutchinson in Week 4.
In total, seven schools are represented in the 11-player All-Area football team, with the Willmar Cardinals leading the field with three.
The West Central Tribune’s All-Area Football Team was selected by the sports department based on nominations provided by area coaches.
Here is the All-Area Football team, presented in alphabetical order:
The All-Area Football team
Sr. QB, 6-1, 190 pounds
A record signal-caller in just seven games, Litchfield’s Ben Alsleben completed 63.5 percent of his passes while setting school records for completions (129 of 203), passing yards (1,938) and touchdown passes (24). Voted the East Central South District’s Most Valuable Quarterback, he also set single-game school records for completions (33), attempts (54), passing yards (403) and touchdowns (6). He also carried the ball 90 times for 325 yards and seven touchdowns, leading the Dragons to the third-highest scoring offense in Class AAA (41.3 points/game) and the Section 2AAA championship.
So. RB/DE, 6-1, 205 pounds
The youngest member of the All-Area team, Thomas Dineen was one of the top factors in Benson winning the Mid State 4 title and helping the Braves to their first winning record since 2008.
The Benson sophomore was named the district’s Defensive Lineman of the Year after accounting for 44 tackles (8-1/2 for loss) and seven sacks. On offense, Dineen was the workhorse, going off for 929 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns and four 2-point conversions. With two years to go in his high-school career, he’s already fifth in school history in career rushing yards (1,280).
“Thomas works just as hard off the field as he does on it by putting the extra time in the off-season, and it shows on game nights,” said Braves head coach Adam Foslien. “He’s a very humble and competitive athlete as often times, he credits his teammates for his success.”
Sr. LB/RB, 6-0, 210 pounds
Renville County West
The lone returning player from the 2019 All-Area team, Jaden Kolker resumed his place as one of the area’s best defenders while lifting Renville County West to another Section 2 9-Man championship.
A standout linebacker for the Jaguars, Kolker finished with 44-1/2 tackles along with three interceptions and one fumble recovery while being named the 9-Man South West District’s Defensive Player of the Year. At running back, he also accounted for 623 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 89 carries to go with seven catches for 63 yards and a receiving touchdown. Kolker is also a winner of the Academic Excellence Award.
“As a running back, (Kolker) ran with power, blocked with grit, was a threat out of the backfield as a receiver and had the understanding of what calls needed to be made for the line protection,” said RCW head coach Ryan Hebrink. “As a linebacker, he had the ability to make reads and react to the play almost as if he was in the offensive huddle before the snap. Jaden is one of the best, if not the best high-school defensive player that I have seen.”
Sr. WR, 5-10, 190 pounds
Racking up 16 offensive touchdowns in just seven games, Bennett Lecher was a threat everywhere on the field for the Litchfield offense.
An All-East Central South District selection, Lecher had a Dragon-best 51 catches for 681 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. He was also capable of breaking off big runs with 153 yards and four touchdowns on just 17 carries.
Lecher finished off his senior year with three school records with receptions in a season, touchdown catches in a season and most touchdown receptions in a game (3).
Sr. OT/LB/DT, 6-1, 260 pounds
Voted New London-Spicer’s team Most Valuable Player, Nick McKenzie capped off his career with a strong showing in 2020.
Playing at defensive tackle and linebacker, McKenzie tallied 63 total tackles (50 solo) along with 4-1/2 sacks and one fumble recovery. On offense, 70-to-75 percent of the Wildcats’ offense was from McKenzie’s side of the line, according to NLS head coach Dan Essler.
An All-East Central South District pick, McKenzie was nominated for the district’s Most Valuable Lineman award.
“Nick is one of the top linemen ever to play at NLS,” Essler said. “He is very explosive and smart. He was a three-year starter for us, which is very rare at NLS, especially for a lineman. He is being recruited by most of the MIAC schools for both football and wrestling.”
Sr. FB/LB, 6-0, 185 pounds
A three-year starter for Minnewaska, Tyson Meyer was a hard-hitting menace for any opponent in his way.
On defense, he was the Mid State 1 District’s Most Outstanding Linebacker after accounting for 82 total tackles, including 6-1/2 for loss, to go with one interception, one forced fumble, one blocked kick and three pass breakups. On offense, he had 581 yards and eight touchdowns on 115 carries. He’ll go into Laker history with careers records in rushing yards (2,553), scoring (202 points) along with rushing attempts in a game (31).
“Tyson is one of the most talented high-school athletes I have ever been around,” said Minnewaska head coach Jeremy Christensen. “He has a drive and work ethic that are second to none. Combine that with his natural ability and you have a very good football player.. … You don’t get kids like Tyson very often and we’re extremely proud of what he has accomplished as a member of the Minnewaska football program.”
Sr. FB/HB/DT, 6-0, 235 pounds
A lead blocker for two years in the BOLD backfield, Tim Peppel became the featured back for the Warriors and defied expectations.
The Mid State 2 District Running Back of the Year, Peppel bulldozed his way to 832 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 111 carries, lifting the Warriors to a 6-2 record. On the defensive line, Peppel had 33 tackles (14 solo), 1-1/2 sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
“Tim was our physical leader in 2020,” said BOLD head coach Derek Flann. “He was double-teamed on almost every snap on defense and carried a massive load for us in our running game on offense. … Tim was a punishing runner for us every time he touched the ball since his sophomore season. He had over 10 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons. On defense, Tim was often put across from the opponent’s best offensive lineman and was asked to neutralize the line of scrimmage. In most cases, Tim proved to be immovable for opposing lines.”
Sr. OG, 6-0, 295 pounds
A starter on the interior of Willmar’s offensive line since his sophomore season, Taggert Reynolds earned All-North Central White District honors for the second straight season. With 17 pancake blocks, he helped push the Cardinals’ offense to 200 rushing yards per game. Named Academic All-District (3.7 or higher GPA) and a Senior Scholar Athlete, Reynolds was voted by his team as the offensive MVP and the Pat Tillman Award winner for outstanding leadership.
“Taggert has been through a lot both on and off the field. His character and work ethic are what defines Taggert,” said Willmar head coach Jon Konold. “He has a heart of gold and loves the game of football. With the pandemic and the initial postponement of the season, I was really worried about Taggert and how he would deal with the loss of his senior season. The opportunity for Taggert to play and finish his career will be a memory that he will never forget. Taggert’s strengths on the football field are many and his ability to lead the offensive line and communicate with his fellow linemen was the secret to our success up front.”
Sr. QB/WR/S/CB/P, 6-1, 170 pounds
Drew Sagedahl did a little bit of everything on the field for BOLD. And he did it all effectively.
Lining up at quarterback on offense, Sagedahl completed 61 of 120 passes for 603 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. His legs were just as dangerous with 303 yards and six touchdowns on 54 carries. And on the goal line, Sagedahl lined up wide and hauled in four catches — all for touchdowns — and 27 yards. In two games this year, the Warriors’ senior had a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, Sagedahl was named Mid State 2 District’s Defensive Back of the Year with 26 tackles (14 solo) and four interceptions. Then on special teams, Sagedahl averaged 34.3 yards per punt.
“Drew is an exceptional athlete that has played a lot of different roles for us over the past two years,” said BOLD head coach Derek Flann. “He has played wide receiver and quarterback at various times in the past two years. He made big plays to generate turnovers from us from his position at safety on defense this year. He has been an excellent punter for us on special teams as well. Drew’s versatility has allowed us to use his abilities in a number of different ways to take advantage of matchups whenever we could.”
Jr. QB, 6-0, 175 pounds
While labeled as a quarterback, Willmar junior Alex Schramm emerged as the area’s top running threat.
Named the North Central White District’s Most Valuable Quarterback and voted team MVP, Schramm scrambled around for 1,028 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns on 139 carries. He also kept defending defenses honest in the air, connecting on 34 of 78 passes for 555 yards and three touchdowns. Along with his on-field accolades, Schramm was named Academic All-District (3.7 or higher GPA).
“As a first-year starter, Alex stepped into a crucial role for the Cardinals,” said Willmar head coach Jon Konold. “Alex probably will be more noted for his running ability but he also developed his abilities as a passer as the year went on. The bigger the game, the better Alex performed. Versus three of the top programs in the district, Alex rushed for more than 180 yards in each of the games. By the end of the year versus Detroit Lakes, Alex probably played his best game en route to a 35-0 victory, passing for 150 yards and rushing for 170. Alex is a great football player on the field and even better student and person off the field. We look forward to having Alex in the backfield once again as a senior.”
Sr. LB, 5-10, 200 pounds
Making the change from defensive end to linebacker, it didn’t matter for Kaden Streed as he remained Willmar’s top defensive player.
Voted the Cardinals’ Defensive Most Valuable Player and an All-North Central White District pick, Streed finished with 56 tackles (26 solo, eight for loss), three sacks and one interception. Streed was also a Senior Scholar Athlete (3.4 or higher GPA).
“Great leader on and off the field. Always willing to put in the work to get better,” Willmar head coach Jon Konold said of Streed. “Moving to linebacker this year was kind of risky for us, taking an All-District defensive end and putting him in a new position. Not knowing how Kaden would play this could be really costly. But as Kaden always does, he rises to the occasion and becomes an All-District linebacker. After the last game, I told Kaden that it feels like you have been playing for us forever, but now the time seems as though it has flown by. Kaden is irreplaceable and will go down in Cardinal history as one of the best.”
Sr. WR/S, 6-4, 190 pounds
Renville County West
20 receptions, 429 yards, 7 touchdowns, 4 2-pt. catches; 7 carries, 71 yards; 30 tackles, 2 interceptions; All-9-Man South West, Academic Excellence Award
Sr. LB/RT, 6-0, 225 pounds
56 tackles (26 solo, 4 for loss), 2 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries; Two-year starter at right tackle for Class AA’s highest-scoring offense; All-Mid State 3
Sr. QB/OLB, 6-0, 170 pounds
Renville County West
36-73 passing, 663 yards, 9 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 85 carries, 819 yards, 13 touchdowns; 35 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 defensive touchdown; All-9-Man South West
Sr. WR, 6-2, 180 pounds
43 catches, 796 yards, 10 touchdowns; All-East Central South; Set two school single-game records for receptions (12) and touchdown receptions (3) and season record for receiving yards
Sr. QB/DB, 6-0, 175 pounds
443 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 148 carries, 923 yards, 11 touchdowns; 12 tackles, 3 interceptions; All-Southwest West, District MVP, District Offensive Back of the Year
Sr. WR/DB, 5-10, 155 pounds
21 receptions, 456 yards, 5 touchdowns; 25 tackles, 5 interceptions, 1 defensive touchdown; All-Mid State 4, District Most Valuable Defensive Back
Jr. WR/DB, 5-10, 140 pounds
Lac qui Parle Valley
30 receptions, 610 yards, 5 touchdowns, 13 carries, 147 yards, 1 touchdown, 1-1 passing, 11 yards, 1 touchdown; 21 tackles, 4 interceptions; 1 punt return touchdown; All-Southwest West, All-District Academic Team
Jr. OT, 6-2, 296 pounds
24 pancake blocks; All-North Central White, District Offensive Lineman of the Year, Team Lineman of the Year
Sr. WR/DB, 6-0, 170 pounds
14 receptions, 386 yards, 5 touchdowns, 6 2-pt conversion receptions; 37 tackles (13 solo), 1 interception; All-Mid State 3, District Most Valuable Defensive Back
Sr. OL/DT, 5-10, 240 pounds
56 total tackles (7-1/2 for loss), 2-1/2 sacks, 1 forced fumble; All-Mid State 1, District Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman
Sr. QB/TE/WR/FB/LB/DB/K, 6-0, 185 pounds
4-7 passing, 27 yards, 4 touchdowns; 5 receptions, 58 yards, 1 touchdown; 37 tackles (13 solo), 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions, 1 defensive touchdown; 25-29 on PATs, 1-1 FGs; All-Mid State 2, District Special Teams Player of the Year; Owns state extra points records in a game (12 vs. Sauk Centre in 2018), single season (82 in 2018) and career (178).