All-Area Football: MBC champs Ellsworth with five All-Area nods
QB: Hunter Johnson (Sr., Cannon Falls)
As the offensive catalyst for a team that shocked Section 1AAA with a championship-game appearance, Cannon Falls quarterback Hunter Johnson finished the year with 2,147 yards through the air, completing 151 of 275 of his passes (54.9 percent). Johnson threw for 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, adding 833 yards and nine touchdowns on 172 carries.
“Hunter is a great leader, and competitor,” said Cannon Falls head coach Josh Hofstedt. “He has worked very hard to become the player he is. He will go down as one of the best (quarterbacks) to play at CFHS.”
RB: Elliot Cox (Sr., Lake City)
A broken leg cut short what could have been one of the best individual seasons in the area, but Lake City’s Elliot Cox did a lot of damage in a little more than four games.
Cox finished with 542 yards on 80 carries, finding the end zone seven times. Cox added 10 receptions for 264 yards and three touchdowns before being injured in the Tigers’ fifth game of the year.
“Elliot’s season was cut short by a leg injury,” said Lake City head coach Trevor Narum. “He is certainly one of the most explosive players I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching. His speed put a lot of heat on defenses. He was equally effective as a receiver as he was as a runner.”
RB: Dennis Schutz (Sr., Ellsworth. Player of the Year)
The main offensive weapon for a team that ran the table in the Middle Border Conference, Ellsworth’s Dennis Schutz did it all.
An All-MBC and All-Region running back, Schutz ran for 1,165 yards and 16 touchdowns, hauled in 21 receptions for 340 yards and two touchdowns, returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns and was 21 of 27 on PATs and 3 of 5 on field goals.
“Dennis is a special player,” said Ellsworth head coach Clair Austin. “He makes things happen with his speed and agility. The opposing defense always had to know where he was at. (Schutz is) explosive and dangerous on kickoffs and punt returns, (and) a great teammate.”
WR: Ben Miller (Jr., Red Wing)
With 41 catches for 426 yards and four touchdowns, Red Wing’s Ben Miller was the go-to receiver for the Wingers’ offense.
Miller’s true value was apparent when he was forced into quarterback duty for a team besieged with injuries in a 7-0 playoff loss to Byron.
Red Wing head coach Matt Schultz described him as a “great athlete, incredibly hard worker, practice leader.”
WR: Ellis Hirman (Sr., Zumbrota-Mazeppa)
In his one season as a wide receiver, Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Ellis Hirman filled the stat sheet. Hirman snagged 29 passes for 546 yards (18.8 average) and seven touchdowns.
“(Hirman) was our best and most athletic receiver,” said Z-M head coach Willie Rauen. “When we needed a first down, we looked to throw to him as much as possible. He had the size, strength and speed that teams had a hard time defending.”
TE: Jacob Ugland (Sr., Z-M)
Serving primarily as a safety valve, Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Jacob Ugland made teams pay for not paying attention. Ugland, and All-SFA White selection, caught 18 passes for 423 yards and five touchdowns as opposing teams keyed on other Cougars.
“(Ugland) was our leader in yards per catch,” Rauen said. “As teams focused on our other receivers we were able to slip him down the seams quite a bit for big yards.”
OL: Austin Noble (Sr., Cannon Falls)
Cannon Falls’ Austin Noble raised some eyebrows this year as the best lineman on one of the area’s most prolific offenses.
Protecting the left side of the pocket for quarterback Hunter Johnson, Noble’s impact has coaches at the next level paying attention.
“Austin is one of the best linemen in the area. With the progress he has made this year as a player, I believe he is one of the best linemen in the state,” Hofstedt said. “He already has (Division) 1 offers.”
OL: Spencer Redding (Sr., Ellsworth)
Ellsworth’s Spencer Redding was an All-Middle Border Conference selection, and it’s not hard to see why.
As a guard on the Panthers’ offensive line, Redding paved the way for more than 3,800 yards of offense, including 2,776 rushing yards.
“(Redding was) the best lineman on our conference championship team,” Austin said, adding he was a “devastating trap blocker.”
OL: Austin Buck (Sr., Goodhue)
Tackling, running, passing and throwing were all things Goodhue’s Austin Buck did for his team. This year, however, the Wildcats needed a lineman halfway through the season. So Buck stepped inside from his tight end position to take over at tackle.
That is the definition of a great teammate, and a great all-around football player.
“Austin started the season at tight end then switched to offensive tackle mid-season,” said Goodhue head coach Tony Poncelet. “The past three varsity seasons, he has played offensive line, tight end, quarterback, and defensive end.”
K: Matt Glasenapp (Sr., Lake City)
A consistent threat to add the point after a touchdown is often overlooked. But Lake City’s Matt Glaesnapp could not be missed.
Glaesnapp hit on 25 of 28 PATs, adding a field goal on his only try of the season. Glaesnapp was named All-Conference, All-Section and the Tigers’ Special Teams Most Valuable Player.
Finishing his varsity career with 106 extra points made, Glasenapp is tied for fifth place all time in the state record books, according to the Minnesota Football Coaches Association.
DL: Nate Melhouse (Jr., Cannon Falls)
Opposing quarterbacks had a hard time escaping this record-setting defensive end. Cannon Falls’ Nate Melhouse recorded a Cannon Falls’ record seven sacks this season to go along with 86 total tackles.
“Nate is a very explosive (defensive end), he constantly (made) tackles down field,” Hofstedt said. “Nathan plays as hard as any player I have ever coached, and we look forward to his (senior) year.”
DL: Clay Broze (Sr., Cannon Falls)
On the other side of the defensive line from Melhouse was Cannon Falls’ Clay Broze. A force on the wrestling mat, Broze wreaked havoc on the football field as well.
Broze, named to the All-Section 1AAA team, had 51 tackles, six sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown.
“Clay is a great football player,” Hofstedt said. “If Clay wasn’t going to wrestle on a college scholarship he would probably be able to play football under scholarship.”
DL: Nick Connelly (Jr.,Red Wing)
Just a junior, Red Wing’s Nick Connelly made an impact on both sides of the ball. But it was his play at defensive tackle that stood out.
With 54 tackles and a forced fumble, the All-Missota Conference Honorable Mention and RWHS Lineman of the Year made all kinds of plays for head coach Matt Schultz.
“(Connelly was a) two-way starter,” Schultz said, “(and) can have a huge impact.”
LB: Logan Kemmerer (Sr., Ellsworth)
All-Region linebacker Logan Kemmerer of Ellsworth put up some big numbers on a defense that helped the Panthers to an 11-1 record, including an undefeated Middle Border Conference championship.
Kemmerer piled up 110 tackles and two sacks in his final season at EHS.
“He was the heart of our defense and a three-year starter,” said Ellsworth head coach Clair Austin. “(Kemmerer) led by example, which our team followed.”
LB: Riley Huemann (Sr., Goodhue)
Though technically a linebacker, Goodhue’s Riley Huemann played all over on Goodhue’s defense. And his stats show why.
Huemann totaled 90 tackles for the Wildcats, including three tackles for loss. Huemann also recovered a fumbled that he returned for a touchdown.
“For the past two seasons Riley has been a leader by example. What he lacked in size he made up in determination. We moved him around some on defense and he made plays wherever we put him,” Poncelet said.
LB: Tyler Rea (Sr., Red Wing)
In a league loaded with teams boasting enrollments two or three times the size of Red Wing, Tyler Rea’s selection as an All-Missota Conference linebacker speaks volumes to his play.
With 75 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, Rea stood out on a defense that was battered all season.
“(Rea was our) defensive quarterback, a leader, hard worker,” Schultz said. “(Rea) led by example.”
DB: Nick Taranto (Jr., Ellsworth)
With 35 tackles and six interceptions, Ellsworth’s Nick Taranto was an easy choice for both the Middle Border All-Conference team, as well as the All-Area team. In addition to his defensive exploits, Taranto caught 28 passes for 352 yards and four scores.
“Nick was our top (defensive back) and best receiver on our team,” Austin said. “(He) was an unsung hero when everyone else was keying on (running back Dennis) Schutz and (fullback Brandon) VanderMarliere.”
DB: Hunter Prodzinski (Sr., Z-M)
Usually, a linebacker is responsible for calling defensive plays. But All-SFA White selection Hunter Prodzinski had the responsibility to do so for Zumbrota-Mazeppa.
With 72 tackles, Prodzinski played like a linebacker at times, but his three interceptions, and stellar open-field ability, firmly places him among the best defensive backs in the area.
“Defensively, he made all our coverage calls,” sid Z-M head coach Willie Rauen said. “(And he) had one of the most electrifying interception returns versus Dover-Eyota, scoring on an 82-yard, weaving return on the last play of the half.”
DB: Brett Freier (Sr., Ellsworth)
Speed and leadership made Ellsworth’s Brett Freier stand out among his peers. Those qualities, and 74 tackles and four interceptions from his free safety position, earned Freier a spot on this team.
“(Brett was) the fastest player on our team, and a leader of our secondary,” Austin said.
Athlete: Jordan Lundell (Sr., Cannon Falls)
An impact player no matter where he lined up, Cannon Falls’ Jordan Lundell could have made this team at multiple positions.
With 46 tackles, six interceptions and a defensive touchdown, Lundell’s contributions to the Bomber defense were too hard to ignore. Throw in 49 receptions for 859 yards and 11 touchdowns (as well as five rushing touchdowns), and Lundell’s performance on offense was just as impressive. And there’s the two return touchdowns, one kickoff and one punt, that also show Lundell’s contributions to the special teams.
“Jordan is a great athlete with a great work ethic. When you combine those two things, that makes (for) a special player,” Hofstedt said. “He can run the ball, catch the ball, and is a shut-down (cornerback) for us.”
—Compiled by Kyle Stevens, sports writer