Taking nothing away from Blooming Prairie teams of recent lineage — and there have been some dandies — but there’s just something about this year’s squad that feels different.
From Day 1, there has been a sense of optimism swirling around the program that’s stayed squarely on the side of confidence and far away from arrogance. Having finally separated themselves from the rest of the Section 1-A pack and retaining several key members of last season’s team that finished just one game shy of the Prep Bowl, it felt like the regular season was merely a prelude to great things to come.
And that’s pretty much what happened.
Making a giant statement in Week 1 with a 46-0 drubbing of traditional powerhouse, Rushford-Peterson, and entering a pivotal Week 4 matchup against, Goodhue, Blooming Prairie experienced some palpable resistance for the first time all season but managed to pull away for a rather convincing 27-6 victory over the previously undefeated Wildcats. Using the win as a launching-pad, the Blossoms blasted up the QRF and Associated Press state rankings and bullied their way to a perfect 8-0 record.
Blooming Prairie out-scored its final four opponents of the regular season by a combined score of 215-21 and didn’t flinch as the Section 1-A tournament commenced, dispatching of formerly state-ranked Randolph and Goodhue by an average score of 57-19.
When it came time to meet Section 3-A champion, Springfield, on neutral ground in the opening round of the state tournament in Janesville, the Blossoms scored the game’s first three touchdowns and led 42-14 until the final moments of the fourth quarter when the previously undefeated Tigers tacked on a meaningless touchdown as time expired.
In previous seasons, Blooming Prairie has always displayed a high level of execution and is no stranger to blowout wins, but this year the Blossoms have taken things to a completely new level. The 42 points it scored in the state quarterfinals was the second-lowest total of the entire season as Blooming Prairie enters Saturday’s showdown against Ada-Borup ranked No. 1 in the state in scoring offense at 49.5 points per game.
It was just two short years ago that the Blossoms lost to Goodhue in the section championship game, finished 8-3 and averaged 26 points per game. In the two years before that, Blooming Prairie ended 7-3 each season and put up roughly 25 points per contest in the span. For most programs, that would be considered a successful three-year run, but not for the Blossoms.
Prior to 2015, Blooming Prairie was coming off a six-year run in which it averaged 10 victories per season, had captured three section championships and advanced all the way to the state semifinals on two occasions (2011 and 2009).
Having strung together a few “down” seasons in a row, the fall of 2018 was a pivotal time for the BP program. Head coach Chad Gimbel had guided the Blossoms to the top of the Class A heap and transformed the school into an bona fide southern Minnesota powerhouse.
The team, though, was thirsty to reassert itself as a state-title contender and elevate from “really good” to “great.” Shaking off the disappointment of a season-ending injury to its star quarterback, Seth Peterson, the Blossoms quickly gained traction last season, survived a see-saw 20-14 victory over Goodhue in the middle of the regular season before taking down the Wildcats once again, 21-18, in the section championship.
Much like this season, Blooming Prairie started the state tournament with a resounding victory — beating United South Central 42-0 — before hitting the ceiling once again in the state semifinals with a 37-7 loss to a big, physical and talented BOLD team at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The humbling defeat to the Warriors offered the Blossoms some perspective. It not only served as an eye-opening experience to what it’s like to take the field at the cavernous and glitzy home of the Minnesota Vikings, but offered some insight as to what it was going to take in order to survive against teams of BOLD’s pedigree.
Whether or not the Blossoms have extracted anything from last season’s state semifinal experience is still up in the air, but what cannot be debated is the fact that the program has fully returned to its place as an unquestioned Class A front-runner.
The Blossoms have never played in the Prep Bowl and there is reason to believe this is the best chance they’ve ever had. Ada-Borup is a dangerous and seriously skilled opponent, but Blooming Prairie has proven on numerous occasions throughout the previous two-plus months that it is more than capable of meeting high-level opponents head-on and coming out the other side unscathed and better than ever.
It’s “one step at a time” for the Blossoms, but not all steps are created equal. If they can win this one, it would be more like a giant leap.
Blooming Prairie, Ada-Borup, 11:30 a.m., Saturday, The Bank.