Jason’s Blog: BP’s tough task…
What: Sec. 1A final–No. 2 BP (10-0) vs. No. 1 Rushford-Peterson (9-1)
Where: Rochester Regional Sports Stadium–Rochester, Minn.
When: Saturday 5:30 p.m. (5:00 pregame)
Radio: Kat Kountry 105, www.katkountry105.com, & RadioPup app
Posted By: Jason Iacovino
Blooming Prairie senior quarterback John Rumpza has passed for nearly 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns this season. No, this isn't the Arena League, either. Passing is not an easy thing to do in high school football.
Senior Jake Decker has been an animal on the field lately--rushing, receiving, intercepting--he's been BP's MVP in the playoffs so far. At 5-11, 170 lbs, Decker isn't your typical ground-and-pound RB / LB combo, but on any given play he's the toughest kid on the field.
BP is 10-0 here in 2014. For the most part, they have dominated at every turn. When Mankato Loyola came to McFarlin Field in week one fresh off beating 2-time defending Section champion Bethlehem Academy, 23-14, in the zero week, many thought BP might be in for a fight. Instead, the Blossoms led 41-0 at the half en route to a 48-13 win.
BP also has dominating wins over two other teams playing for Section titles this week--Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (33-14 in week two) and Lester Prairie-Holy Trinity (41-6 in week three).
So I would love to sit here and tell you the Awesome Blossoms will cruise to victory on Saturday against Rushford-Peterson at the Rochester Regional Sports Stadium...but I can't. The truth is, I have no idea what is going to happen.
The Trojans, a small town program in southeast Minnesota with a big time history, have been missing from the Sec. 1A title game since 2008, when they beat BP, 32-0. The Blossoms felt good about their chances that year as they do here in 2014, but the Trojans dominated from start to finish (R-P would go on to lose to Royalton in the State quarterfinals).
So what can we expect on Saturday?
BP's last game in Rochester was anything but memorable--Rumpza was intercepted 6 times by B.A. in a 28-20 win for the Cardinals, breaking Blossom hearts for the second straight year.
Rushford-Peterson has been impressive this season--their lone loss was a 7-6 defeat at the hands of Caledonia, the No. 2 ranked team in Class AA. In the playoffs so far, they've outscored Kingsland and B.A., 118-20. They're big. They're fast. They're explosive (B.A. quarterback Kollin Hanson was intercepted four times, two of which were returned for touchdowns by Noah Carlson).
As much fun as that week eight game was against New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, the one good thing about next year's district scheduling is there will be less uncertainty for BP as far as what their Section opponents will present. Rushford-Peterson, who has won 3 State Championships since 2002, will likely be on BP's schedule in the regular season.
But that's next year. On Saturday, the Blossoms need to take the field with confidence. Coach Chad Gimbel has to convince his seniors that they are the No. 2 seed in label only--that their 10 wins this year have come against quality opponents and R-P is simply the next team in line.
So how does BP come away with its third trip to State since 2009? It starts with defense, of course. The Blossoms will have to at least slow down the "rush" in Rushford, something they were able to against NRHEG and Goodhue. Both the Panthers and Wildcats had good numbers on the ground overall, but in both cases, Blooming Prairie was able to slow them down as the game progessed.
Matt Kittelson's defense will need a bend-but-don't-break mentality and it cannot give up big runs to the Trojans. Cole Kinglsey had a 65-yard TD rush in the first quarter against the Cardinals.
Offensively, BP simply needs to react to what R-P is willing to give up. The Blossoms are so dynamic, they can beat you with runs between the tackles, outside runs, screen passes, slant patterns, go routes--you name it. If the Trojans play Cover-4 to take away the home run, Rumpza can dink and dunk down the field like he did against B.A.
If the Trojans choose to blitz, the screens and slants can be deadly. The receiving corps of Tristen Haberman, Anthony Nelson, Cole Sunde, and Mitch Jones should be able to beat R-P's secondary.
And, of course, all of this is predicated on BP's offensive line playing their best game of the year. The quintet of Ethan Strunk, Collin Wobschall, Zach Nirk, Scott Romeo, and Riley Olson played very well against Goodhue last Saturday, protecting Rumpza and opening some nice holes for Decker. We need an encore of that performance against a bigger Trojans' D-line.
Oh yeah, penalties, turnovers, and conversions after touchdowns--the ultimate high school football playoff wildcards. BP fans will be crossing their fingers here.
I have all the faith in the world in the Blossoms' coaching staff and senior leaders. I don't think they will be flat and I don't think they will be sloppy--but I simply have no idea how they matchup against Rushford.
Nobody does. We have 48 minutes on Saturday to figure that out.
Jason Iacovino can be heard Tuesdays and Fridays on KRFO-AM 1390 at 3:50 p.m. Leave a comment below and follow him on Twitter @JasonIacovino.