3-and-out with the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms
Bethlehem Academy (2-4 overall, 1-2 district) welcomes District Mid Southeast (White) foe Blooming Prairie (6-0 overall, 3-0 district) to town for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
It’s homecoming Friday for the Cardinals, so expect a great crowd at Bruce Smith Field.
The Cardinals are coming off a 14-12 loss at Goodhue while Blooming Prairie looks to maintain its undefeated record with a seventh straight victory. The Blossoms, which field 14 seniors on its roster including a huge chunk of last year’s top-end players, is looking to get back to state for a second straight year.
When the Cardinals have the ball
While head coach Jim Beckman knows Friday’s game is going to be challenging, he believes his guys are up to the task to hang around with Class A No. 2 Blooming Prairie.
For a Blossoms team that has outscored their opponents 325-39 this season, it will be vital for the Cardinals to protect the ball and take advantage of every opportunity.
“As I told the boys all week, if we get a few breaks going our way and play our very best game, we can beat them,” said Beckman. “Nothing is decided until the game is played. I know they are a good team, but if we play our very best I think we can give them a good run for their money. And hey, you never know, we may come out on top Friday. That would certainly be a lot of fun.”
Given Blooming Prairie’s plethora of offensive weapons, Bethlehem Academy will want to keep the ball out of the Blossoms’ hands as much as possible. That begins with controlling the clock. The Cardinals’ best chance of giving Blooming Prairie fits Friday night entails a clean game without turnovers and penalties. You can’t make mistakes against good teams or they will take advantage of them. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
“I don’t know if there are any tricks to slow them down,” said Beckman. “They’re big. They’re athletic. They have about eight seniors starting on offense. In Class A, when you have that many seniors starting, it bodes well for a team.”
The Cardinals haven’t necessarily had a problem moving the chains this year, but they will have to find that extra gear Friday against a highly-touted Blossoms defense.
“We’ve moved the ball pretty well all year,” said Beckman. “I’ve got good production out of Jack Jandro, Josh Oathoudt and Brady Strodtman as well as other offensive players. Our receivers have also done a good job when we’ve needed them to.”
Bethlehem Academy averages 22.2 points per game and Blooming Prairie surrenders 6.5.
When the Blossoms have the ball
Blooming Prairie possesses perhaps the most firepower in Section 1A. Quarterback Kaden Thomas leads the charge for the Blossoms. The senior is 73-96 with 1,173 yards and 19 touchdowns through six games.
Alongside Thomas behind center is Matthew Pryor. The senior running back has been impressive this season, accumulating a team-high 666 yards on the ground and ten rushing touchdowns on 74 carries.
The receiving game is funneled through senior Gabe Hagen, who will play at Division II Minnesota State University, Mankato, next year. Containing Hagen will be a top priority for BA’s defense. “He’s going to be the guy we have to stop because they like to throw to him a lot,” Beckman said.
Karson Vigeland and Colin Jordison pose outside threats, as well.
While the Blossoms present what seems like a daunting challenge, Beckman suggests it would be foolish to count the Cardinals out before kickoff.
“We’ll have a good crowd with it being homecoming. It should be a good game and a tough battle,” said Beckman. “I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion how it will end. BA’s fans have always traveled well and with their success this year I’m sure they’ll travel well for this one.”
The forecast Friday shows a chilly evening with relatively high winds, which could turn out to be advantageous for the Cardinals.
“I think it affects Blooming Prairie with their wide-open passing game more than it’s going to affect us. We pass, but we’re more of a run-first team. If we have poor weather and it’s rainy and cold, it could help us and hurt them.”
Blooming Prairie averages 49.2 points per game and BA surrenders 24.7.
Key to the game
Reiterating from above, Bethlehem Academy’s greatest chance at an upset entails a penalty-and-turnover free football game. Keep the ball out of the opponents’ hands, and you have a chance.
We had a really nice rivalry going with BP until a few years ago when they moved the sub-districts around. I’m glad we are back in competition with them because it’s a great game and fun competition. I know the guys are going to come out and play hard.” — Bethlehem Academy coach Jim Beckman.