For virtually all of the 2012 high school season, the members of the Blue Earth Area football team have carried a chip on their collective shoulders. When All-State linemen Jonah Persig and Sam Lee graduated after last season and signed to play Division I football, a lot of people wrote the Bucs off for 2012. On Saturday, BEA opted to carry that chip for one more week. The Bucs bulldozed Perham 31-21 at Mall of America Field, rushing for 288 yards and three touchdowns in a semifinal game of the Class AAA state tournament. The win lifts BEA into the state tournament's championship game for the first time in school history. "We heard a lot of talk that we weren't going to be that good this year," senior lineman Christian Haugh said. "You heard it on the street, you heard it in the coffee shops, it was going around. "We took that to heart. We wanted to prove that we could still be a good team and now we're one win away from a state title." The Bucs used a perfect blend of power and speed to run the ball almost at will against the Yellowjackets. BEA finished with four players who rushed for 50 yards or more, including quarterback Kysten Zierke who finished with a team-high 109 yards. "I was a little surprised that we ran it so well but we've been pretty good at it all year," Zierke said. "That 3-4 defense is sometimes susceptible to quick-hitters. We tried some right away and they were effective so we kept going." Blue Earth scored on its first five possessions of the game. A 33-yard swing pass from Zierke to Carter Hanson resulted in the first touchdown before David Franta rushed 33 yards for another score late in the first quarter. Early in the second, Felix Harseim booted a 27-yard field goal to put Blue Earth Area up 17-7. Franta found the end zone again with a 5-yard run just before halftime, giving his team a 24-13 advantage. BEA's front wall of Haugh, Seth Anderson, Garrett Christensen, Chris Ramos and Kellen Jacobs continued to control the line of scrimmage in the second half. On their first drive of the third quarter, the Bucs drove 48 yards in seven plays. Franta capped the march with a 5-yard dive into the end zone and Harseim's PAT made it 31-13. Perham had to play catch-up the rest of the way and the BEA defense held firm. Bucs' head coach Randy Kuechenmeister said the doubts about this year's team had to do with more than just the loss of Persig and Lee. "We actually graduated our whole offensive line," Kuechenmeister said. "But you know what, the guys behind them were pretty good, too. We've gotten better and better with every game and these guys believe they can get it done." Blue Earth Area out-gained Perham in total yards 354-285. Hanson finished with 69 yards rushing on 10 carries, Franta had 65 yards on eight carries and Gus Phillips had 54 yards on 10 carries. Payton Jordahl was Perham's leading rusher with 37 yards on eight carries. Quarterback Jordan Hein was 14 for 24 for 205 yards and one touchdown. He did not throw an interception. Zierke led the Bucs in tackles from his linebacker spot with nine stops. Franta had eight and Hanson finished with six. Phillips had 2.5 tackles for a loss for minus-14 yards. "This has just been a great experience for our team, for us coaches and for our communities," Kuechenmeister said. "They've been supporting us all year and that makes it a lot of fun." Blue Earth Area (12-0) will take on Rochester Lourdes (12-0) in the Class AAA state championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Metrodome.