After the release of Northstar Football News' 2019 All-MIAC Award Series in which we analyzed and reviewed the careers of the 2019 All-MIAC award honorees to highlight and distinguish the Minnesota boys that balled out in 2019 and made the list. It was a lot of fun, and it was cool to flashback in time to see the accomplishments of these athletes as preps under Friday Minnesota lights, as well as their present success in one of DIII's toughest conferences: the MIAC. As mentioned in my initial "First Team Offense" article, I believe that the MIAC comes in second only to our Eastern border rival the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC). The WIAC, consisting of eight teams: UW-Whitewater (13-2, 6-1 WIAC), UW-Oshkosh (8-3, 6-1 WIAC), UW-La Crosse (7-3, 5-2 WIAC), UW-Platteville (7-3, 4-3), UW-Stout (4-6, 3-4), UW-Stevens Point (3-7, 2-5), UW-Eau Claire (3-7, 1-6), and UW-River Falls (2-8, 1-6) is top to bottom the toughest conference in DIII. It is the only conference in Division III where you can truly be beat any given Saturday if you don't come to play, whether that's an opponent at the top of the standings or at the bottom. There
After the release of Northstar Football News' 2019 All-MIAC Award Series in which we analyzed and reviewed the careers of the 2019 All-MIAC award honorees to highlight and distinguish the Minnesota boys that balled out in 2019 and made the list. It was a lot of fun, and it was cool to flashback in time to see the accomplishments of these athletes as preps under Friday Minnesota lights, as well as their present success in one of DIII's toughest conferences: the MIAC. As mentioned in my initial "First Team Offense" article, I believe that the MIAC comes in second only to our Eastern border rival the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC). The WIAC, consisting of eight teams: UW-Whitewater (13-2, 6-1 WIAC), UW-Oshkosh (8-3, 6-1 WIAC), UW-La Crosse (7-3, 5-2 WIAC), UW-Platteville (7-3, 4-3), UW-Stout (4-6, 3-4), UW-Stevens Point (3-7, 2-5), UW-Eau Claire (3-7, 1-6), and UW-River Falls (2-8, 1-6) is top to bottom the toughest conference in DIII. It is the only conference in Division III where you can truly be beat any given Saturday if you don't come to play, whether that's an opponent at the top of the standings or at the bottom. There are many factors that play into the toughest of the conference when it comes to football, and because Wisconsin doesn't have any DII scholarship programs, the WIAC contains mainly big, strong, Wisco boys - a fact that is supported by the conference's 2019 All-WIAC awards as it is mostly made up of Wisconsin natives. However, eight Minnesota natives were honored by DIII's toughest conference, and NFN is here to break down and review the prep and college careers of these studs. As great representatives of our state and the diverse range of student athletes at the next level, these Land of 10,000 Lakes ballers deserve some press recognition and honor, and I hope you enjoy the feature!
WIAC Offensive MVP: Cole Spieker (6'2, 215 lbs.) UW-La Crosse. WR. Senior. Brainerd, Minn. Brainerd HS.
As a prep at Brainerd High School 2 and a half hours Northwest of the Twin Cities, Spieker was an All-Conference pick in 2014 as a WR on the Warrior team that went 4-1 in the CLC North Conference and 6-3 overall. Hilariously, his high school QB was Hanson Devine, a super good college buddy of mine who is a senior pitcher for St. Olaf's baseball team. A big WR at a solid 215 lbs., Spieker began to contribute to LAX in 2017 as a sophomore when he played in all 10 games, starting six, and had four touchdowns, 255 yards, and 19 catches which resulted in All-WIAC Second Team honors and a foreshadowing of the success to come. His junior year, the Brainerd native started in all 10 games for the Eagles and led the team in catches (42), receiving yards (867), and touchdowns (10). His double digit TD reception mark held up for best in the conference, while his 867 reception yards ranked second. He also had three TDs on special teams, as he blocked punts and returned them for scores vs. Luther (IA), UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Platteville. He was also a 3x selection to D3football.com's Team of the Week. His success garnered him All-WIAC First Team Offense honors and All-WIAC HM Special Teams, but even these results could not have anticipated the upcoming 2019 success. Spieker won the Offensive Player of the Year for the entire WIAC, the first UW-La Crosse player to ever receive the award! He was also a First Team All-WIAC section for the second time in his career after recording conference bests in receptions (83), yards (1,216), TDs (12), and points (78) for the '19 season. He was also second in the conference with 1,287 all-purpose yards. His 1,216 receiving yards are second most in UW-LAX single season history as well. Spieker had four games in 2019 with at least two TDs, and five games with at least 141 yards, including a season high 209 vs. UW-River Falls on October 19th. Against the UW-Eau Claire Bluegolds on Nov. 9th, he caught a school record 17 receptions, which is the fourth best mark in conference history. He finished his Eagle career second in school history in receiving yards (2,338), third in TD catches (26), and fourth in receptions (144). The former Brainerd Warrior received his first All-Region nod in '19 as well, as he was named to the First Team All-West Region team. He was also a Gagliardi Award semifinalist and a D3football.com Second Team All-American. He represented Minnesota proudly in Wisconsin's DIII conference.
First Team Offense
WR: Cole Spieker (6'2, 215 lbs.) UW-La Crosse. SR. Brainerd, Minn. Brainerd High School.
All-Purpose: Kevion McDonald (6'1, 205 lbs.) UW-Stout. SR. Hopkins, Minn. Hopkins High School.
A product of Hopkins, Minn. right outside of Minneapolis, McDonald has been on my radar since his 2014 senior year Hudl tape knocked my socks off and became one of my favorites of the '14 recruiting class. In it, posted here: Hopkins Hudl , you can see an obviously dynamic athlete who is explosive, athletic, and physical at point of contact. I remember being surprised as well as excited when I saw the news that McDonald was heading to Menomonie, Wisconsin to play for the UW-Stout Blue Devils. I believe he could have played scholarship football, and this point is supported by McDonald's immediate contribution to Stout in 2015 when he played in nine games and started seven, won rookie of the year, and caught 28 passes for 422 yards and two TDs.
McDonald as a Blue Devil.
He had three starts in nine games his sophomore year and was third on the team in receiving with 19 catches for 294 yards and two TDs. McDonald made a big jump his junior year of 2017 as he was named Second Team All-WIAC and led the Blue Devils in receptions. He was also Team MVP, 3x Offensive Player of the Week, and 2x Stout athlete of the week. He was instrumental in Stout's 25-22 upset win over then No. 4 ranked St. Thomas (Minn.), as he caught a 77-yard TD on Stout's first play from scrimmage, and finished with seven catches for 133 yards and two TDs. After a break from football in '18, McDonald came back strong in his 2019 senior campaign as he won the First Team All-Purpose offensive honor this year after ranking eighth in the conference with 47 catches, and totaled 606 yards and 3 TDs with a long of 57. He also returned 21 kicks for 352 yards (16.8 average) with a 35 yard long of a return. These stats ranked him fifth in total yards in the WIAC with 1,090. He left no doubt in his ability to succeed at the college level. Congratulation, Kevion! Stout Hudl
Second Team Offense
OL: Levi Ross (6'4, 268 lbs.) UW-River Falls. SR. St. Francis, Minn. St. Francis High School.
Ross just wrapped up a more than successful career with the River Falls Falcons who was named to the 2016-17 WIAC scholastic honor roll, the 2017 All-WIAC Second Team, the 2018 All-WIAC First Team, and now the 2019 All-WIAC First Team to boot. A mauler of a guard, Ross anchored an offensive line that was the 4th ranked rushing offense in the conference with 115.5 yards per game and 15 TDs in 10 games on 3.4 yards a clip. They were also the #1 passing offense in the WIAC with 259 completions off 448 attempts for 3,255 yards (7.3 per) with 19 TDs for 325.2 yards per game.
Ross at St. Francis.
These statistics combined to make the Falcons the #1 total offense in the WIAC with 4,407 total yards off 788 plays plus 34 TDs and 440.7 yards per game. With these stats, it's an interesting question to how River Falls finished last in the conference in 2019. Ross was a Minnesota All-Star game selection in high school who blocked for 3x FCS All-American RB at North Dakota John Santiago while in high school. Congratulations on the career, Levi! St. Francis Hudl
Second Team Defense
DL: Ryan Flathers (6'2, 230 lbs.) UW-La Crosse. SR. Lewiston, Minn. Lewiston-Altura High School.
Flathers is receiving his 2nd Second Team All-WIAC Defensive honor after he was named to the list in 2018. His career has been marked with consistent improvement as Flathers recorded one tackle in one game his freshman year of '16, 20 tackles in nine games with two starts as a sophomore, and 39 tackles, 9 sacks (second in WIAC), 12 TFLs, and two FFs in 2018 while being named WIAC Defensive Player of the Week and D3football.com Team of the Week. In 2019 the Lewiston native recorded 40 tackles, 10 TFLs, 7 sacks, and a FF in his senior year season and was awarded his second consecutive All-WIAC Second Team honor. The Lewiston-Altura grad, whose program recently produced Dartmouth LB Thomas Hennessy, played DB as a prep while listed at 6'3, 215 lbs. and packed a heckuva punch.
Flathers at Lewiston-Altura.
According to Maxpreps, he posted 57 tackles, three FRs, two FFs, a sack, and an interception his senior year while adding 638 yards and 10 TDs on the ground. A great DIII recruit that La Crosse found a natural position for, Flathers played his butt off and had a great career. Flathers vs. Dover-Eyota
DL: Mason Olson (6'2, 295 lbs.) UW-Stout. SR. Clear Lake, Minn. Becker HS & NDSCS.
Olson is a product of the more than successful Becker Bulldog program that puts a lot of players into college football programs at all levels. Olson is no exception to the typical success the Bulldog recruits, although his path to the WIAC was non-traditional as he spent his first two collegiate seasons at North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) - one of the Midwest's premier junior college programs located in Whapeton, North Dakota. Olson was a MCAC Academic Award Winner while at NDSCS, and was a great Juco recruit after earning the conference MVP, MVP of the Team, All-Conference, 2015 All-Western Division First Team, and was a member of the All-State Vikings team as a prep. He was a force to reckoned with to say the least, and continued his tradition of dominance into his first year in the WIAC as a junior when he recorded 28 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, and a sack.
Olson at Stout.
He improved upon '18 as he tallied 31 total tackles, 9.0 TFLs, and 3.0 sacks in his final collegiate season; netting him his first All-WIAC honor after being named to the Second Team Defensive list! Becker Hudl & NDSCS Hudl
Honorable Mention Offense
OL: Alex Bongers (6'1, 265 lbs.) UW-La Crosse. Soph. Nerstrand, Minn. Bethlehem Academy High School.
2019 was Bongers' first All-WIAC award winning season, and it shouldn't be surprising as it is no easy task to crack UW-La Crosse's large and physical roster as only a sophomore. However, the Nerstrand native proved more than up to the task while leading an Eagle offense that finished third in the WIAC in scoring with 318 total points (31.8 per game) on 43 touchdowns, seven FGs. and 39 extra points. Bongers still has a lot of potential room on his frame and is poised to be a dominant offensive lineman in the conference as an upperclassman. As a prep, Bongers played for the Bethlehem Academy Cardinals in Fairbault, Minn. It was hard to find stats for the sophomore, but in 2016 he did post 44 tackles, 4.0 TFLs, and 2.0 sacks as a defensive lineman. I'm looking forward to watching the MN native in his career in LAX. Bongers Hudl
QB: Ben Beckman (6'1, 192 lbs.) UW-River Falls. SR. Blaine, Minn. Blaine High School.
Beckman is a Blaine native and graduate who went down in Bengal lore after throwing three touchdowns as the QB in Blaine's 2014 6A Section 5 quarterfinal win against archival Centennial. That isn't the cool part. Blaine lost their starting kicker early in the '14 season, so with the game on the line with 8.7 seconds left on the clock with the game tied at 21, Beckman was tasked with kicking the go-ahead, game-winning 22-yard FG. He found the uprights and avenged a 56-26 whacking by the Cougars only two weeks earlier. Beckman found similar success right across the border in River Falls, Wisconsin as he went 31-62 with 408 yards and two interceptions in 2015, 63-128 with 850 yards and two TDs, two interceptions and 106 rushing yards in 2017.
Beckman as a Bengal.
This underclassman experience paid off in 2018 as he threw 163 completions off 316 attempts for 2,155 yards, 13 TDs, and 13 interceptions. He added 77 yards and three TDs on the ground and was named 2018 All-WIAC Second Team for his efforts. This year as a senior Falcon signal caller put together his best statistical season as he went 248-425 for 3,108 yards, 19 TDs, and 14 picks with 302 yards and five TDs on the ground. A stellar cap to his career indeed, and one could argue this All-WIAC HM nod doesn't do it justice! Blaine Hudl
Honorable Mention Defense
DL: Aaron Wisecup (6'0, 260 lbs.) UW-Stout. SR. Monticello, Minn. Monticello High School.
Holding the #1 spot on this list for scariest roster photo, #49 for the Blue Devils originally enrolled at Concordia-St. Paul where he did not play football, but transferred in 2016 and immediately made an impact as he saw action in all 10 games and recorded 17 tackles, 4 TFLs, and two sacks. After a 2017 sophomore season tallying three sacks, the Monticello native earned All-WIAC HM honors in 2018 after he had 59 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, and 3.5 sacks. Wisecup's second consecutive All-WIAC nod in 2019 came after he posted 31 tackles, six TFLs, four sacks, and two FFs leading a Stout dline with fellow Minnesotan honoree Mason Olson. Stout should be pumped about his transfer, as not only did Wisecup have a great college football career, but as a prep at Monticello High School he was a 3x All-Conference pick, an All-State selection as a senior, conference lineman of the year, team offense MVP when the team broke the school rushing record, and he competed in the Minnesota All-Star game. Looks like a move to Wisconsin can actually be beneficial! Congrats, Aaron. Monti Hudl
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed! Stay tuned as NFN travels back across the border and beyond to review and highlight the Minnesota boys and former preps who were named to the 2019 All-NSIC teams.