BVU Football Flies Past Hamline, Stuns Concordia-Nebraska with 2-0 Start


Allie Hartman

Tanner Frost, Sports Editor

Picked to finish last in the American Rivers Conference, the Buena Vista Football team has so far exceeded initial expectations by sweeping their pair of non-conference opponents and doubling its win count from last year two weeks into the season.

With a chip on their shoulder and an evolved, experienced squad, the Beavers earned their second 2-0 start to a season since 2003. The last came in 2017 when Buena Vista defeated Mayville State and the Central Dutch in a now-famous overtime thriller.

However, it’d be disingenuous to say it’s been an easy path thus far. Head Coach Grant Mollring is the first to admit that.

“I think we have a lot of positives happening for this football team so far with the biggest being the culture we are continuing to cultivate. Our guys have responded very well when things have gone our way, as well as when we have been faced with a lot of adversity. I think all athletic teams face negative things throughout their season, but ours have been minimized by our guys believing in each other.” says Coach Mollring.

And believe they have.

With a slightly shortened fall camp beginning on August 11th, the Beavers had 25 days to ready themselves for their first test of the year. September 5th would mark game one.

Firing on all cylinders in St. Paul, Minnesota, Buena Vista exploded on both offense and defense to a quick 20-0 lead in the first quarter. From there on, BV would cruise to a 51-7 victory on a beautiful Thursday night up north.

However, a bigger test loomed in the ground-and-pound Concordia Bulldogs the next week. Taking on the Bulldogs in Storm Lake on Community Night, Buena Vista had the script flipped on them in the first half as Concordia fired first to a raring 24-0 lead at halftime.

Buena Vista was shaken, but certainly not out of the game at Peterson Field.

Junior defensive Lineman Mason Wickett played a major role in Saturday’s thriller. The 6’4” nose tackle out of Humboldt, Iowa caused havoc in the Bulldogs’ offensive line, as well as rallying the troops during and after halftime with a pair of theatrical speeches to his defense.

“I knew we were going to win, even at halftime, because I looked at everyone on the sideline and saw how calm and collected we were despite the score. We knew what we had to do in order to win,” says Wickett.

Alongside Wickett’s resolve, the Buena Vista offense grew into the game in the second half. Sophomore running back Bryland Menicucci punched in BV’s first touchdown of the game nine minutes after the break. Sophomore Quarterback Reyes Lara III then found Colby Laughlin for a five-yard touchdown to start the fourth quarter.

The stellar Beaver defense found its footing in the second half as well, after junior safety Morris Aranda picked off a pass and found the end zone himself. The final nail in the coffin for Concordia and the finale of the team’s comeback culminated in a touchdown pass from BV’s other quarterback Dylan Laughlin to Josh Lange for Buena Vista’s first lead of the game, 27-24.

But despite his composure, Wickett almost lost his cool when push came to shove with less than four seconds to go. Lined up for a 33-yard field goal attempt and still down by three, Concordia’s placekicking team had the chance to send the game into overtime as the fans and players alike anxiously awaited.

However, it was a disappointment for the Bulldogs and jubilation for the Beavers in the end. Jordan Spilinek missed his second field-goal attempt of the night to send J. Leslie Rollins stadium into a frenzy.

Beavers win 27-24.

“I wasn’t able to watch the kick. I was too nervous on the sideline. When I saw the ref give the ‘no good’ signal I stormed the field and celebrated with the team. I was proud of our team for fighting back against all odds.” says Wickett.

A combination of the now returned BVU “Blue Steel” Marching Band, a packed to the brim stadium, and a late comeback win for Buena Vista proved Saturday’s Community Night would be one for the books.

“Community Night has been a great atmosphere for the past couple of years. This year was extra special with the addition of the band. I’m excited about their program to get off of the ground and know that they have been working very long days to put together their performance. Hats off to them for a great opening night. I’m excited for what’s next to come for this group.” says Coach Mollring.

Maturity and adversity have been points of emphasis for Mollring and his staff as well. Tactical changes on both sides of the ball have been highlighted by a new, exciting 3-4 blitzing defense.

Defensive Coordinator Jake Mandelko has been impressed with his group so far, who have now only allowed 15.5 points per game in two matchups, plus two shutout halves.

“As a staff, we love what we see from the guys. They are having fun, playing fast and playing for each other. They’ve embraced the change and have been working hard. It’s nice to see the success we’ve had early on, but we know we have work left to do.” says Coach Mandelko.

Staying steadfast alongside Coach Mollring, Coach Mandelko focuses in on a new challenge in the Nebraska Wesleyan Prairie Wolves.

“It’s a great start but we know how much better we can be. We have matured a lot as a team. We were able to start executing and playing with more speed. We grew a lot from week one to week two. We need to continue doing so. The team needs to prepare well this week because we have a new and different challenge. It’s a very talented spread offense coming to town with a play-maker at Quarterback.”

With Homecoming week underway and a big test ahead of them, Coach Mollring and his squad prepare for their first ARC matchup with Nebraska Wesleyan on Saturday. For Mollring, a good week of practice is the path to a 3-0 start.

“I’d be a fool not to think we are riding a high of momentum. I think a very important test for our program is how well we respond this week in practice. I want to see the same intensity, focus, and determination that we saw in the 2nd half of the game on Saturday.” says Coach Mollring.

The Beavers play the aforementioned Prairie Wolves in Storm Lake on Homecoming Day this Saturday the 21st at 1:00 P.M. It will also be Hall of Fame Day, where past BVU star players and teams will be recognized into the BVU Athletics Hall of Fame during the break.