FIRST TEAM

Hunter Nelson, senior, quarterback, Faribault

2021 statistics: 148-226, 65% completion percentage, 2,219 yards, 22 touchdowns, 3 interceptions. 127 rushes for 582 yards, 13 touchdowns.

With it all said and done, Hunter Nelson departs the Faribault football program as the most successful quarterback to wear the green and white. The senior finishes his career as the program record holder in career completions (213), career passing yardage (3,187) and career passing touchdowns (33). He also has the records for completions in a single game (21), completions in a season (148), single-game passing yardage (305), season passing yardage (2,219), touchdown passes in a game (5) and touchdown passes in a season (22). Those career marks are set in spite of Nelson not grabbing the full-time starting job until he was a junior in a season that was shortened due to COVID-19.

Brady Strodtman, senior, running back/linebacker, Bethlehem Academy

2021 statistics: 149 rushes for 874 yards, 12 touchdowns. 6 receptions for 79 yards. 54 solo tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 9 fumble recoveries, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 pass breakup.

More than any other player in the area, Strodtman was in danger of changing the game every time he touched the ball. That’s evident not only threw his gaudy rushing numbers, but also by the nine fumbles he recovered and two interceptions. He also added two defensive touchdowns to his ledger. So much of what the Cardinals have done the past two seasons have revolved around Strodtman that it’s hard to think about the team without the bruising running back/linebacker next year.

Matthias Lenway, senior, running back/linebacker, Faribault

2021 statistics: 205 rushes for 1,394 yards, 14 touchdowns. 9 receptions for 154 yards, two touchdowns. 32 solo tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup.

Despite not seeing the field much until his senior year, Lenway quickly established himself as one of the most prolific running backs in the Big Southeast District as a senior. In his first season as a starter, Lenway was left to shoulder heavy rushing loads on a weekly basis. That was perhaps most true in a 35-28 victory against Willmar in the Section 2-4A semifinals when he carried the ball 34 times for 177 yards and a touchdown.

Evan Brossard, senior, fullback/linebacker, Kenyon-Wanamingo

2021 statistics: 97 carries for 612 yards, 3 touchdowns. 72 total tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles.

Brossard captained a defense that at times operated as one of the best in the Mid Southeast District with gaudy tackle totals. He also served as the lead blocker for Josh Schmidt, who racked up 912 rushing yards, while also battering opposing defenses himself for more than 600 yards on the ground.

Laden Nerison, senior, wide receiver/defensive back, Kenyon-Wanamingo

2021 statistics: 22 receptions for 302 yards, 3 touchdowns. 26 carries for 315 yards, 4 touchdowns. 41 total tackles, 6 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles.

Nerison did just about everything for the Knights, from running the ball, catching the ball and even passing the ball, as he completed 8 of 12 passes for 168 yards as a Wildcat quarterback. Defensively, he was also a disruptive force in the defensive backfield.

Isaac Mata, senior, wide receiver/defensive back, Faribault

2021 statistics: 22 receptions for 467 yards and 3 touchdowns. 37 solo tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble.

The relatively small Mata certainly didn’t play like an undersized safety, as the senior led the Falcons in total tackles and solo tackles. He also tied for the team high with three interceptions. Offensively, it was usually a bad omen whenever Hunter Nelson wound up to throw toward Mata, who finished the year with only 22 catches but averaged 21.2 yards a reception. Those big plays originated from seam routes down to the middle to bubble screens with a slew up broken tackles up the sideline.

Domanik Paulson, senior, wide receiver/defensive back/punter, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown

2021 statistics: 407 yards receiving, 273 yards rushing, 233 return yards, 8 total touchdowns, 29 total tackles, 4 interceptions, 40.1 yards per punt.

Paulson had his hand in just about everything for the Buccaneers as the team’s most threatening receiving option on the outside and the team’s second-leading rusher. His four interceptions helped turn some games in their heads, as did his punting, which forced opponents frequently need to drive the length of the field.

Devin Lockerby, senior, offensive/defensive line, Faribault

2021 statistics: 20 solo tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup.

Those statistics generously tell only half the story given the North Dakota State bound lineman’s work on the offensive line at the guard position. A good portion of Lenway’s and Nelson’s rushing totals can be attributed to the large running lanes created by Lockerby and the rest of the offensive line. He’s proven to be an irreplaceable part of Faribault’s offensive scheme throughout his career.

Andy Donahue, senior, offensive line/linebacker, Bethlehem Academy

2021 statistics: 35 solo tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception.

Donahue formed a fearsome defensive tandem with Brady Strodtman at linebacker for the Cardinals, while also helping to pave the way for Strodtman and other Bethlehem Academy ball carriers on the offensive line at guard.

Matt Nelson, senior, offensive/defensive line, Bethlehem Academy

2021 statistics: 7 solo tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery.

Nelson’s solo tackle total doesn’t jump off the page, but his 28 assisted tackles do. The senior consistently clogged up running lanes this season to slow down opposing ball carriers long enough for the calvary to arrive. He was also a reliable option all fall on the offensive line at tackle.

Tim Neirby, senior, offensive/defensive line, Faribault

2021 statistics: 18 solo tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery.

Neirby was Faribault’s most disruptive defensive lineman, and he did it while playing part time on defense so as to preserve the senior for his work on the offensive line at tackle. Many of the same things written about Lockerby’s work creating running lanes are attributable to Neirby, who also led the Falcons in sacks and was second in tackles for loss.

SECOND TEAM

Elliot Viland, sophomore, quarterback/safety, Bethlehem Academy

2021 statistics: 47-108, 730 yards, 8 touchdowns, 10 interceptions. 33 rushes for 80 yards, 1 touchdown. 2 solo tackles, 1 fumble recovery,

Viland grew into the role of starting quarterback as the year progressed. He finished with more interceptions than touchdowns, but that’s partially to be expected of a sophomore taking over a varsity offense for the first time.

Josh Schmidt, senior, running back/linebacker, Kenyon-Wanamingo

2021 statistics: 163 carries for 912 yards, 10 touchdowns. 26 total tackles, 1 interception.

Schmidt operated as the primary ball carrier for the Knights, and at times carried the offense up and down the field. He also proved to be a bruising tackler at linebacker.

Elijah Hammonds, senior, running back/linebacker, Faribault

2021 statistics: 32 solo tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup. 36 rushes for 264 yards, 4 touchdowns.

When Matthias Lenway was awarded the starting running back job over Hammonds prior to the season, Hammonds dedicated himself to providing the largest possible impact he could while playing a full compliment of snaps at outside linebacker. He did just that by leading the Falcons in tackles for loss, finishing second in sacks, causing a pair of fumbles and recovering two more. He also stayed ready to spell Lenway at crucial moments on offense, leading to Hammonds scoring the game-winning touchdown in the section semifinal victory at Willmar.

Charlie King, junior, tight end/linebacker, Bethlehem Academy

2021 statistics: 26 solo tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 2 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery. 14 receptions for 211 yards, 3 touchdowns.

Another talented two-way linebacker for the Cardinals, King’s four interceptions and seven tackles for loss showcase just how invaluable he was for the Bethlehem Academy defense this fall. He also served as a reliable receiving option for Viland and provided strong run blocking at tight end.

Dylan Holicky, sophomore, running back/linebacker, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown

2021 statistics: 364 rushing yards, 1 touchdown. 49 total tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks.

Holicky emerged as a two-way star for the Buccaneers. He led the team in rushing with 364 yards and a touchdown, while also consistently blowing up plays in the backfield as a linebacker.

AJ Worrall, senior, wide receiver/defensive back, Faribault

2021 statistics: 28 receptions for 430 yards and 7 touchdowns. 27 solo tackles, 4 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries.

Whenever Faribault moved the ball inside the 30-yard line, the opposing defense might have been better off sending an automatic double team to Worrall. The senior hauled in a team-high seven touchdowns, mostly by beating defensive backs one on one and reconfiguring himself to haul in a pass from Hunter Nelson in the end zone. Defensively, Worrall also operated as a lock-down cornerback.

Trevor Steberg, senior, wide receiver/defensive back, Kenyon-Wanamingo

2021 statistics: 9 catches for 237 yards, 3 touchdowns. 10 carries for 104 yards, 2 touchdowns. 45 total tackles, 12 pass breakups, 4 interceptions.

A constant big-play threat on the outside or out of the backfield for the Knights. Steberg also counteracted those big plays on defense, where he broke up pass after pass downfield.

Johnny Frank, junior, wide receiver/defensive back, Faribault

2021 statistics: 28 receptions for 257 yards, 2 touchdowns. 29 solo tackles, 4 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, 2 tackles for loss.

In a senior-laden wide receiving corps, the junior Frank carved out a role in the offense for himself while also proving to be invaluable defensively. He finished fourth on the team in total tackles as a defensive back, broke up pass plays down field and blew up run plays near the line of scrimmage. The Falcons are set to lose a lot of experience next year, meaning that role for Frank is likely to grow even further.

John Smith, senior, offensive/defensive line, Kenyon-Wanamingo

2021 statistics: 39 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles.

Smith was a disruptive force from his spot at defensive end, but his biggest impact likely came on the offensive line. As a returning starter on the offensive line, he helped pave some big holes for the various K-W ball carriers.

Hank Schoolmeesters, senior, offensive/defensive line, Bethlehem Academy

2021 statistics: 7 solo tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble.

Similar to Matt Nelson, Schoolmeester’s seven solo tackles tell only part of the story, as he also assisted on 22 other tackles as a defensive lineman. Also similar to Nelson, his run blocking from his offensive position at center was crucial for the Cardinals.

Brady Beske, junior, offensive/defensive line, Faribault

2021 statistics: 11 solo tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 tackle for loss.

Beske operated as another steady, reliable part of Faribault’s offensive line, and will help anchor a unit that’s replacing a few multi-year starters next year. Defensively, he also rotated in to clog up running lanes and provide pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

HONORABLE MENTION

Ian Ehlers, junior, tight end/defensive back, Faribault

2021 statistics: 29 solo tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery, 1 tackle for loss. 15 receptions for 296 yards, 3 touchdowns.

Ehlers started to carve out a role for himself defensively as a sophomore in 2020, and graduated to a full-time starter as a junior this fall. He showcased a wide skill set from his spot at linebacker, where he tied for the team lead in interceptions with three, while also proving to be a reliable tackler at the line of scrimmage. Offensively, he grabbed hold of more and more responsibility at tight end and by the end of the season was a dangerous threat in the passing game. His 19.9 yards per reception were the second-highest for Faribault.

Jordan Klecker, senior, wide receiver, Faribault

2021 statistics: 32 receptions for 497 yards, 4 touchdowns.

The fact that Faribault’s leading receiver in receptions and yardage lands in the honorable mentions speaks to the depth of talent in the area and for the Falcons. Klecker was a vital part of Faribault’s screen-passing offense. He also subbed in occasionally defensively, where he intercepted a pass and recorded three solo tackles.

Derrick Sando, sophomore, running back/defensive back, Bethlehem Academy

2021 statistics: 63 rushes for 371 yards, 5 touchdowns. 25 solo tackles, 2 pass breakups, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries. 2 special teams touchdowns.

Sando served as Bethlehem Academy’s dynamic change-of-pace running back that was capable of turning any play into a 20+ yard gain. Beyond the offensive game-breaking ability, his work at safety was vital for Bethlehem Academy. His 28 solo tackles was the third highest on the team.

Oliver Linnemann, sophomore, wide receiver/defensive back, Bethlehem Academy

2021 statistics: 27 carries for 115 yards, 1 touchdown. 24 solo tackles, 2 pass breakup, 2 interceptions, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 special teams touchdown.

Another sophomore dynamo for the Cardinals that emerged this fall. He also added an interception for a touchdown to his punt return for a touchdown.

Jax Bokman, senior, wide receiver/defensive back/kicker, Bethlehem Academy

2021 statistics: 19 receptions for 282 yards, 2 touchdowns. 16 tackles, 3 pass breakups, 1 tackle for loss, 1 fumble recovery.

Bokman was the top receiving option for Viland on the outside and mixed a team-high 19 receptions with a team-high 282 receiving yards.

Aiden Tobin, senior, running back/linebacker, Bethlehem Academy

2021 statistics: 51 carries for 190 yards, 4 touchdowns. 5 receptions for 130 yards, 2 touchdowns. 28 solo tackles, 6 fumble recoveries, 4 tackles for loss, 3 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles.

Perhaps the most utilized player for the Cardinals beside Strodtman, as the senior often served as a lead blocker at fullback in addition to posing an additional rushing threat and weapon in the screen game. His 13 converted 2-point conversions also provided crucial points throughout the season.

Reach Regional Sports Editor Michael Hughes at 645-1106 or follow him on Twitter @APGSoMnHughes. © Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Sports Editor for the Northfield News. Also a California native looking for tips on surviving the winter and an Indiana University grad on the quest for a good breaded pork tenderloin.

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