MINNEAPOLIS — Athletes the size of Gabe Hagen, all 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds of him, typically find a home on the offensive line, especially on teams playing in the state’s second-smallest high school classification.
Hagen, though, isn’t like most athletes his size. Heck, he isn’t like most athletes of any size.
The Blooming Prairie senior compliments his rare God-given physically with a set of raw skills that make him almost impossible to cover out wide at receiver or block on the edge of the defensive line.
Entering the Class A state championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium, the top-ranked BOLD Warriors simply hadn’t seen a player of Hagen’s skill-set in its 13 previous contests and quickly discovered that no amount of practice or film-study was going to be able to fully prepare them for what they saw in the flesh on Friday afternoon.
Hagen is the quintessential game-breaker and the ultimate the x-factor. He’s a quarterbacks’ best friend and a defensive back’s worst nightmare, and that’s pretty much what the two players standing in those exact positions said after the game.
“He’s a really easy target for me,” Blooming Prairie quarterback Kaden Thomas said. “He is such a mismatch for everybody. He’s a 6-5 guy that runs a 4.7 in the 40 and that’s hard to guard.”
And how about having to cover him one-on-one on the outside.
“Well, I don’t know what you want me to say,” said BOLD’s all-district defensive back, Gavin Vosika. “He’s just a dude.”
A dude, indeed.
Hagen certainly shined on offense — leading the Blossoms in receptions (8), receiving yards (125) and receiving touchdowns (2) — but it was his heads-up play on defense that set the tone for a game that the Blossoms would ultimately dominate down the stretch and win, 41-15.
After watching his team give the ball to the Warriors on a rare punt on the game’s opening possession, Hagen pried free off of the left edge as BOLD quarterback, Jordan Sagedahl, was forced to get rid of the ball in order to avoid a sack on 3rd-and-long.
Well, Sagedahl definitely evaded being swung to the turf, but had a front-row seat when Hagen plucked the ball from mid-air near the line of scrimmage and rumbled into the end zone untouched from 18 yards out.
“I saw that (Sagedahl) was falling down and he threw it in my direction,” Hagen said. “It went in slow motion for me and I just took it to the house.”
Hagen’s defensive touchdown not only allowed the Blossoms’ offense to stay on schedule and slowly figure things out against the stout Warriors defense, but served as the deciding points in Blooming Prairie’s 21-15 halftime advantage. The future Minnesota State University tight end also found the end zone on a more traditional route in the first half, turning up field for a 26-yard catch-and-run with 4:02 remaining in the second quarter.
Hagen, though, wasn’t quite done yet.
On the Blossoms’ first drive of the second half, Hagen not only snatched a 19-yard toss from Thomas on a play he simply out-jumped Sagedahl on 3rd-and-12, but made a touchdown reception in the middle of the third quarter that will be remembered for a long, long time by those both in attendance and watching at home on TV.
The highlight-reel grab — which quickly caught fire on social media shortly after it was made at the 5:44-mark of the third quarter — came on a slightly under-thrown pass from Thomas and with Vosika glued to his body near the left side of the end zone. After the ball bounced off his chest and began falling to the turf, Hagen fell onto his back and reached out with his non-dominant left hand and speared it just before it hit the turf.
Touchdown. Six points. Blossoms lead 27-15.
Sometimes winning football games, on the grand stage at the state tournament or otherwise, is simply about having superior individual talent, and there wasn’t a better player on the field Friday morning than Gabe Hagen.