The Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms football team, the No. 1 seed in the Section 2AA playoffs and the No. 1 team in the state in Class AA in the final Associated Press poll took on second-seeded and No. 10 ranked Maple River in the section final at windy Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton High School Friday night. The Blossoms were vying for a fourth straight section title and a trip to the State Class AA football tournament, but the Eagles ground game, led by running back Boden Simon controlled the game as he rushed for 265 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-18 win.
Blooming Prairie won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving Maple River the ball to start, and an upleasant harbinger of things to come for the Blossoms appeared on the first play from scrimmage when Simon broke loose down the left sideline for a 62-yard gain to the BP 18-yard line. Two plays later, wide receiver Mason Schirmer took a jet sweep handoff around left end and scored from eight yards out, giving the Eagles a 7-0 lead after Landon Fox’s extra point.
The Blossoms, who had the 20-30 mph wind at their back in the first quarter were forced into a three-and-out by a stout Maple River defense, which was giving up only 7.6 points per game coming into Friday night’s game. Punter Colin Jordinson thumped a 53-yard punt, backing up the Eagles to their own 13. The Blossom defense, equally as stout in giving up only 9.2 points per game coming into Friday night held Maple River to a three-and-out, and after taking over at their own 48 after a punt, the high-scoring BP offense, averaging close to 45 points per game for the season struck on the second play from scrimmage as senior quarterback Drew Kittleson zipped a pass downfield to junior wide receiver Cade Christenson, who outran everyone to the end zone for a 52-yard touchdown and a 7-6 Eagles lead after the extra point was blocked.
Maple River would have an answer on their next drive as facing 4th and 3 from their own 27, the Eagles rolled the dice when punter Mason Schirmer sprinted off left end on a fake punt for seven yards and a first down, keeping the drive alive. The Eagles ground game continued to establish itself on the drive as Schirmer added a 37-yard run on a jet sweep to help move the ball to the Blossoms 1-yard line, and running back Tim Bucholz slammed into the end zone to cap off the 15-play, 80 yard drive and a 13-6 lead after the extra point was blocked.
The Eagles kept momentum going their way as their defense forced a three-and-out on the next Blooming Prairie drive, and, taking over on their own 36 after a punt, it was Schirmer on a jet sweep around right end for a 64-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive and a 19-6 Maple River lead after the 2-point conversion was no good.
The Blossoms took over on their own 31-yard line after the ensuing kickoff, but on the third play of the drive, Kittleson was intercepted by defensive back Skyler Jenkins, giving the Eagles the ball at the Blossoms 45. Maple River’s ground game moved the ball into the red zone, but BP’s defense stood their ground and forced a turnover on downs after six plays at the Blossoms 13-yard line. The Eagles defense, though, forced a three-and-out with Blooming Prairie now moving into the wind in the second quarter, and Zach Hermann ran the punt back 15 yards to the BP 21-yard line. The Blossoms defense was again equal to the task as Maple River moved the ball inside the 10-yard line, but they were turned away again on downs giving the ball back to BP at their own 8-yard line.
The Blooming Prairie offense then picked up on the momentum given to them by their defense as Kittleson found senior running back Tyler Archer out of the backfield for gains of 21 and 31 yards, and a 22-yard pass from Kittleson to top receiver Colin Jordinson help the Blossoms move the ball through the wind and down inside the Eagles 10-yard line. Facing 4th and 2 from the 3-yard line, Kittleson rolled out to his right, looked for a receiver, but he tucked the ball in and made his way into the end zone to cut the Maple River lead to 19-12 after the extra point clanged off the left upright.
The Blooming Prairie comeback continued to start the second half as starting from their own 35, a 29-yard pass from Kittleson to Jordinson helped the Blossoms move into the red zone, and on the ninth play of the drive, Kittleson found running room off left tackle and sprinted into the end zone from 12 yards out and a 19-18 Maple River lead after the 2-point conversion was no good.
Maple River’s ground game, though, had an answer on the next Eagles drive as a 38-yard gallop by Simon quickly moved the ball inside the BP 20-yard line. On the fourth play of the drive, Simon took the ball into the end zone from two yards out, giving the Eagles a 26-18 lead after the extra point.
The next two Blooming Prairie drives ended in an interception and a punt, which gave Maple River the ball at their 44 now moving into the wind in the 4th quarter. On the second play of the drive, though, the effectivness of the Eagles ground game showed when quarterback Landon Fox rolled to his right after a play-action fake and throwing on the move, he found wide receiver Mason Frank wide open for a 40-yard touchdown pass and a 33-18 lead after Fox’s extra-point kick.
Maple River’s defense then forced a turnover on downs on the next Blooming Prairie drive, giving the Eagles the ball at the Blossoms 39-yard line. The Eagles running attack went back to work and on the eighth play of the drive, Simon found paydirt from two yards out to account for the final score of the game.
Blooming Prairie finishes with a record of 10-1, while Maple River moves to 10-1 on the season, and they will play Pipestone Area, the champions of Section 3AA in the Class AA state football quarterfinals next Friday night at Hastings High School at 7 p.m.