Blooming Prairie outdone in state semis
MINNEAPOLIS — This didn’t go as planned. That was a big problem for Blooming Prairie, though it worked out wonderfully for Dawson-Boyd.
In a game where at least the offensive success of the respective teams was a complete switch from what most expected, No. 3-ranked Dawson-Boyd gouged the No. 8-ranked Blossoms with its passing attack and emerged with a 50-27 win in the state Class A football semifinals at the Metrodome on Saturday morning.
It was the 11-2 Blossoms who entered with the vaunted passing game. And 13-0 Dawson-Boyd? It had hung its hat on its devastating ability to run the ball, led by 1,000-plus yard rushers Esten Weber and Justin Lee.
Turned out that none of that came to fruition Saturday. Instead something else did. It was Dawson-Boyd and its quarterback Joey Lee showing that it can get things done through the air when necessary.
"We like to rely on the run and let the passes come," Joey Lee said. "(Blooming Prairie) did a good job filling the holes and that helped open things up for the passing game."
That passing game was absolutely necessary against Blooming Prairie, which was in the state semifinals for the second time in three years. The Blossoms — save for one long romp by Weber — were all over Dawson-Boyd’s running game, continually stuffing it. What they couldn’t contain was the Blackjacks’ passes.
Much of that had to do with the Blossoms' defensive alignment. They stacked things up in order to slow down that Dawson-Boyd running attack. And that, in turn, left Lee with openings through the air.
"Their running game is too solid for us to not (bring extra players) against it," said Blooming Prairie coach Chad Gimbel, whose team played man-to-man on the Blackjack receivers, something it normally avoids. "We knew they could pass, too. We'd hoped to get more pressure on (Joey Lee) with our defensive line. But their line is awfully good at pass blocking."
Joey Lee, a sophomore, finished with 240 yards passing, 171 of them going to tight end Zach Stelter. Lee threw four touchdown passes, Stelter grabbing three of them.
"We knew that (Stelter) was good and that they liked to throw to him," Gimbel said.
Dawson-Boyd had passed for 1,190 yards entering the state quarterfinals and rushed for 3,884.
Again, Blooming Prairie and its star quarterback Luc Zellmer was supposed to be the sweet passers. The Blossoms threw for 2,773 yards heading into state.
But against Dawson-Boyd, which hung tightly on the Blossoms receivers, Zellmer — who never did completely recover from a thumb injury he incurred shortly into the season — was intercepted twice and finished just 14-for-34.
Zellmer finished with 168 yards passing. He also mixed in four touchdown strikes, the final one giving him the state record for career touchdown passes with 102.
But Zellmer, whose team trailed 21-13 at halftime and 36-19 after three quarters, wasn't in much of a celebrating mood.
"The record doesn't mean much right now," said the senior. "I needed to make more plays than I did. I needed to get the ball out sooner and hit our (receivers)."
Though the final score was lopsided, the Blossoms actually looked like they might win the game early on. Blooming Prairie owned a 13-7 lead with 7:47 left in the second quarter. That came after Zellmer's second TD pass, this one for 38 yards over the middle to Michael Thomas.
But shortly after Blooming Prairie then stopped Dawson-Boyd on downs, with middle linebacker Luke Hueman coming up with two huge tackles for loss, disaster struck.
Blossoms all-around star Gabe Kartes tried to field the ensuing Blackjack punt on the run. The ball didn't travel as far as he'd thought, and it bounced off him at the 50 and into the arms of a Dawson-Boyd player.
Eight plays later the Blackjacks were in the end zone. Instead of Blooming Prairie having potentially gone up by two scores, it now trailed 14-13.
Then, just before the half, things turned for good in the Blackjacks' favor. It was another Dawson-Boyd touchdown march, this one sparked by Weber romping 58 yards up the middle on a draw play on third-and-21.
Six plays later, Joey Lee dashed into the end zone from the 3. It ended the half.
Blooming Prairie never recovered.