Jason’s Blog: Fireworks on Fri?
What: State A Quarterfinal, Blooming Prairie (11-0) vs. Minneapolis North (11-0)
Where: Richfield High School—Richfield, Minn.
When: Friday 7 PM
Radio: Kat Kountry 105, www.katkountry105.com, & RadioPup app at 6:30 PM
Posted By: Jason Iacovino
The forecast calls for a chance of rain, but when the Awesome Blossoms and Polars kick things off on Friday night at the State Tournament in Richfield, I expect fireworks to follow.
Blooming Prairie (11-0) has a habit of scoring early and often as was evident just 18 seconds into last Saturday's Sec. 1A final against Rushford-Peterson, when quarterback John Rumpza hit Tristen Haberman for a 91-yard touchdown pass on a go route, giving BP an early 6-0 lead. The Blossoms would go 66 yards in just 1:39 on their second drive, and found themselves up 15-0 after a head's up play by Haberman for a 2-point conversion.
BP would go on to win the game, 36-21, and are averaging 42.5 points per game (45.6 points per game in the playoffs). There were many dazzling plays along the way, but the bottom line is the Blossoms never trailed the Trojans, and their defense didn't give up any offensive points to R-P until the fourth quarter. Haberman and Cole Sunde each found the endzone twice in the win.
It's been a similar formula for BP's next opponent, Minneapolis North (11-0), who also runs a 4-receiver set. Head coach Charles Adams III, who also serves as a police liason at North Community High, told me that although his guys often lineup in the spread, they do tend to lean on their running game.
"This year our running game has got going, where as before we were kind of one-dimensional," he said. "But this year we can run the ball and we have a mobile quarterback that contributes to that as well."
Said quarterback is junior Tyler Johnson, a run-pass threat that will make it very important for the BP defense to stay at home and not over-pursue. Coach Matt Kittelson's defense had the perfect plan to stop R-P's power run game last Saturday, but they did so knowing the Trojans weren't likely to be all that dangerous throwing the ball.
The end result was a lot of tackles by linebackers (Scott Romeo and Riley Olson) and defensive backs (Anthony Nelson and Haberman). Despite their size, the Trojans were not able to push BP around and create big lanes for the wishbone. This lead to a goose egg on the scoreboard until R-P changed to a spread formation, using shifty runner Cole Kinglsey as a read option quarterback.
That offense yielded two scoring drives, but it wasn't so much because BP wasn't in good position to make tackles--it was more or less the elusiveness of Kingsley. That's the type of stuff the Blossoms should expect from the North offense on Friday--it will be speed against speed.
North is also averaging close to 42 points per game this season and they put up 40 against Lester Prairie in the Sec. 4A final (North beat the Bulldogs, 40-13, avenging a lopsided loss to LP / HT in 2013).
"To be honest we prepared for that game all year," Adams III said. "We knew we were probably going to face them again and we wanted to be ready."
The Polars might be a far cry from the Prairies of Minnesota in terms of location, culture, and background, but don't think they aren't in tune to what the good teams around the State in Class A can present. Having said that, I doubt they've seen anything quite like what coach Chad Gimbel's offense will throw at them.
North plays in the Minneapolis City Conference, a mix of bigger schools that struggle on the football field for the most part. Hence, the Polars were able to blow out teams in Class AAA (Henry and Roosevelt), Class AAAA (South), and even Class AAAAA (Southwest and Washburn). None of this should scare the Blossoms too much, however, as they did the same thing in 2013 before having their season come to an abrupt end at the hands of a different Prairie from the Gopher Valley.
Still, this will be the type of game where big plays can come at any time. You have to credit BP for overcoming early hiccups in each of their last two playoff games to regain control of things. Against Goodhue it was a John Rumpza fumble and a turnover on downs deep in Wildcats territory.
Against R-P, the Blossoms gave up a kick return TD and fumbled promptly on the ensuing possession before Haberman saved the day with a great interception in the end zone. BP even failed on a fake punt on 4th and 18 in their own territory, but again, the defense came up with a stop and the Blossoms were back in business.
My sense is it will be even more critical not to make mistakes against the Polars as they seem to have more big play ability. I think the two quarterbacks are going to make this a very fun game to watch, even if it is cold and rainy.
Finally, there will be a Hoosiers-like feel to this game with small rural town going up against the big city, but I don't think that will factor in the outcome. I actually think it's refreshing that sports can give kids from different parts of the world the opportunity to share in something they have in common. The fans should embrace this opportunity as well.
Hopefully, when all is said and done, North will be spending offseason trying to figure out how to stop yet another Prairie.
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.