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Nerves show up in Class 3A championship for B-E as team’s top individuals hope to learn from experience at June 25 state tournament

Minnewaska's Dustin Peterson finishes tied for third individually, while West Central Area's Cole Bruss steps up for the Knights from the JV division.

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Brandon-Evansville senior Kyle Schaffran pulls the trigger on a shot during the Class 3A championship at the Alexandria Shooting Park on June 16, 2021. Schaffran led Brandon-Evansville at the championship by busting 93 out of a possible 100 clays. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

The Brandon-Evansville trap shooting team came into the June 16 Class 3A championship shoot at the Alexandria Shooting Park looking like one of the top programs in the state.

Brandon-Evansville won its conference through five weeks of regular-season competition. That was led by six shooters who finished in the top 100 of the individual standings across the state in Braydon Englund (24.6 out of 25 average), Kyle Schaffran (24.4), Chase Holtberg (24.4), Spencer Olson (24.3), Riley Bitzan (24) and Hunter Koep (23.8).

They all secured their spot at the individual state tournament at the Minneapolis Gun Club on June 25, and they were hoping a good performance at Wednesday’s championship would qualify them as a team for the state tournament too.

Brandon-Evansville finished 15th in the Class 3A championship with a team total of 458 out of a possible 500. Mayer Lutheran and Proctor High School tied for the 3A title with a 473.


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Brandon-Evansville's Riley Bitzan takes aim during the Class 3A championship in Alexandria on June 16, 2021. Bitzan was his team's second best shooter on the day as he busted 92 out of 100 clays at the championship. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

“We all know we could have done better,” Bitzan, who will be a senior next school year, said. “We had seen our averages, and they were great this year. You go out there and you have those nerves and you don’t really know how to feel. You look around and there’s all sorts of people. Especially when you know you have the ability to beat a lot of those teams, you get nervous. A lot of people were just tightening up.”

Every one of Brandon-Evansville’s top five shooters finished in the 90s, but with more than 300 teams and 6,500 athletes across the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League competing during the championship from June 14-22, the competition to make the state tournament is fierce.

The top 40 programs overall advance to the Minneapolis Gun Club later this month. Brandon-Evansville is currently 31st in those standings, but with many of the top big-school teams in the state left to shoot.

“The schools are just going to get bigger and bigger coming in,” Bitzan said. “We’re going to have teams like Alexandria, so I guess I don’t have much hope for it to stay like that.”

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Braydon Englund takes aim during the Class 3A championship on June 16, 2021. Englund finished the regular season tied for third out of thousands of shooters in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League as he finished the five weeks of regular-season competition with a 24.6 out of 25 average. He shot a 91 out of 100 during the championship shoot. (Photo by Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

Schaffran led B-E at the championship with a 93 to finish tied for 43rd place individually out of 346 varsity shooters. Bitzan tied for 54th with a 92, while Benjamin Seifert, Englund and Olson all tied for 70th place with 91s to finish off the team scoring.


It was not the team score Brandon-Evansville was hoping to post, but Schaffran is the lone senior in the group of six B-E shooters heading to the state tournament now. This program will have another good nucleus to lean on next season.

" We have a lot of younger guys who stepped up this year," Schaffran said. "(Eighth-grader) Chase Holtberg is a phenomenal shooter. He’s got a really bright future ahead of him. (Wednesday), he didn’t shoot the greatest, but we all know he’s way better than that. I was really impressed, and I’m happy with where we’re headed with me graduating this year. I’m happy leaving behind what we have going on."

Holtberg shot a 79 at the championship, and both Bitzan and Schaffran mentioned how bright of a future he has with this sport.

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Brandon-Evansville's Chase Holtberg shoots during the Class 3A championship at the Alexandria Shooting Park on June 16, 2021. Holtberg was one of the top 100 individual shooters in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League during the five-week regular season with a 24.4 average out of a possible 25. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

Schaffran, who was also one of B-E's top athletes in football and baseball, loves what trap shooting and the opportunity to compete in this high school league has meant to him and other students.

" I love trap shooting. I waterfowl hunt a lot, so shooting is kind of a big thing for me," Schaffran said. "I love competing. I love being the best and winning. I hate losing, and trap shooting is a really mental sport. You don’t have to be so athletically inclined like football and baseball. It’s one of those sports where you need to be really mentally tough and focused."


This year’s championship was a good experience for all these B-E shooters. Now Englund, Holtberg, Schaffran, Olson, Bitzan and Koep will try to learn from it and put together good shoots at the state tournament.

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Brandon-Evansville's Hunter Koep shot a 90 during the Class 3A championship at the Alexandria Shooting Park on June 16, 2021. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

“Kyle is the only one who has been down there before,” Bitzan said. “We’re all excited to see how we can compete individually against other top shooters in the state. I think after this competition, we learned. It’s nothing to get that nervous about. I think we’re all ready. It’s good we had this championship first to get that experience.”

Weather can play a factor in what scores are, but the individual champion from the state tournament almost always busts 100 straight clays or close to it. These six Brandon-Evansville students have shown they can shoot like that. They're excited to get another chance to prove it on a big stage.

"I think all six of us have a very realistic chance of placing high up at the tournament," Schaffran said. "I think we’re all very capable of competing with some of these kids who shoot 100 straights. It’s very possible, but you got to go in, stay humble but have that confidence too. I can’t wait."

Peterson leads Minnewaska, Bruss leads WCA

Minnewaska’s Dustin Peterson has been one of the top shooters in this league i n recent years, and he proved that again at the Class 3A championship.

Peterson shot a 98 to tie for third with three other shooters in Jacob Dobson of Pillager, Devan Nelson of Frazee-Vergas and Lance Klersy of Monticello. Pillager’s Harley Gummert and Adler Jopp of Mayer Lutheran High School both shot a 99 to tie for first.


Minnewaska finished ninth as a team with a five-person score of 463. Dylan VanZee, who entered in the junior varsity division based on season average, shot a 93 to finish second best overall for Minnewaska. Kyler Andreson added a 92, Luke Hoffman a 91 and Mason Reichmann and Parker Tauber both shot 89 as the fifth score.

West Central Area shot a team score of 447 to finish 23rd out of the 40 teams. Cole Bruss, who like Minnewaska’s VanZee was listed in the junior varsity class, had a huge day for WCA as he led the team with a 97 out of 100. Bruss led all JV shooters among 253 student athletes in that division.

David Larson shot a 94 (fourth best) from the JV class as well as the Knights’ second score, while Brennan Anderson (86), Jaden Stevens (86), Jeremy Fisk (84) and Gavin Backman (84) rounded out WCA’s top-five scores.

Complete scores for every individual on each Class 3A team can be found at the championship website .


B-E VARSITY SCORES -- Kyle Schaffran - 93; Riley Bitzan - 92; Benjamin Seifert - 91; Braydon Englund - 91; Spencer Olson - 91; Hunter Koep - 90; Katrina Buchholz - 88; Brandon Johnson - 88; Evan Shores - 88; Allex Schmidt - 86; Caleb Englund - 86; Logan Froemming - 84; Tate Meichsner - 82; Anakin Bosek - 81; Aaron Gillespie - 79; Chase Holtberg - 79; Hunter Grothen - 78; Bryce Froemming - 78; Jordan Thoennes - 78; Erik Bitzan - 77; Justin Thoennes - 69; Dustin Gillespie - 68; Rhys Perrin - 59

MINNEWASKA VARSITY SCORES - Dustin Peterson - t-third, 98; Kyler Anderson - 92; Luke Hoffman - 91; Mason Reichmann - 89; Parker Tauber - 89; Kaley Murken - 88; Joseph Marquardt - 87; Ty Walsh - 87; Haley Murken - 85; Eli Rust - 85; Levi Schulz - 84; Isaac Hennen - 83; Makayla Hagen - 81

WEST CENTRAL AREA VARSITY SCORES - Brennan Anderson - 86; Jeremy Fisk - 84; Dylan Hanstad - 82; Meadow Christenson - 80


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Brandon-Evansville's Spencer Olson shot a 91 during the Class 3A championship at the Alexandria Shooting Park on June 16, 2021. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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