JANESVILLE — Blooming Prairie figured Springfield would have a few tricks planned during the Class A football state quarterfinals. The Blossoms were ready at a key moment on Saturday and it helped turn the tide in a 42-20 victory that keeps Blooming Prairie's championship hopes alive.
The second-ranked Blossoms (11-0), who scored touchdowns on their first three drives, led 21-7 with 3:20 left in the half when Springfield faced a fourth-and-2 from the Blooming Prairie 17. Springfield quarterback Decker Sheffler was in the shotgun and he turned and walked away, like he might call a timeout. But Tigers used a direct snap to running back Mason Rummel in an attempt to fool the Blossoms. Blooming Prairie defenders held their ground, however, and stuffed Rommel, turning the ball over on downs.
"Any time you get a fourth-and-short stop, that's a big stop," Blooming Prairie coach Chad Gimbel said. "But on that one especially, when the quarterback walks away, I mean shoot, I was kind of having a letdown honestly, getting ready for a timeout or something. You have to give our kids credit for just being prepared for that."
"We knew they run trick plays a lot, so we just stayed home," Blooming Prairie receiver/defensive back Alex Baldwin said. "We just played our normal defense."
What the Blossoms then did in the final 3:12 of the half all but sealed the victory. After the defensive stand, Blooming Prairie went 82 yards in less than two minutes, and Kaden Thomas hit Baldwin with a 39-yard scoring strike for a 28-7 lead.
On Springfield's next play, Blooming Prairie cornerback Zach Weber had an interception to set up a 44-yard scoring drive. Thomas found Baldwin with another scoring pass, from 15 yards out, with just one second left in the half.
"I just ran my routes and my quarterback gave them to me," Baldwin said.
"We were confident that our quarterback was going to make the right read, make the right throw, and we saw those two safeties so we were going to split the safeties," Gimbel said. "It was just one of those things we drew up in the huddle."
That touchdown gave the Blossoms a commanding 35-7 lead at the half. Thomas, who finished 22-for-28 for 288 yards and four TDs, passed for 181 yards and three TDs in the first half.
"It was really nice going into halftime knowing we were up that many touchdowns instead of what we were," Thomas said.
The Blossoms also opened with a strong ground attack. Senior Matthew Pryor rushed for 97 of his 132 yards in the first half and scored on a pair of 1-yard runs in the first quarter.
"Definitely the run game opened up the pass game and then vice versa, too," Thomas said.
"I was super-happy with the way our offensive line played in the first half and our secondary played the whole game," Gimbel said. "They have some great receivers, a great quarterback and to be able to play the pass defense that we were able to do was awesome."
Scheffler, Springfield's senior quarterback who will play college baseball at Division I Ball State, had a 74-yard TD run for the Tigers in the first half. He then caught an 80-yard TD pass from running back Mason Rummel on a trick play in the fourth quarter. Those two plays accounted for 154 of Springfield's 415 yards.
"The defensive line played a great game," Gimbel said. "We stopped the run game for the most part, except for the quarterback scrambling. He's a heck of an athlete."
The Blossoms finished with 426 yards of offense, 288 passing and 138 rushing. Gabe Hagen caught eight passes for 123 yards and two TDs, including a 62-yarder in the fourth quarter that upped the Blossoms' lead to 42-14.
On defense, Blooming Prairie forced three turnovers. Weber also recovered a fumble to go with his interception, while Karson Vigeland added an interception.
Blooming Prairie advances to the state semifinals, while No. 3 Springfield finishes its season 10-1. The Blossoms play at U.S. Bank Stadium for the second straight year with an 11:30 a.m. game against Ada-Borup this coming Saturday.
"It's definitely a good feeling knowing that we're going to go back," Thomas said. "They're a good team and we had to work hard for that game."