Almost Famous: BP’s sophomores have great expectations
Published 9:02 pm Monday, August 29, 2022
BLOOMING PRAIRIE – When it comes to high school football, Blooming Prairie might as well be located in Texas.
The Awesome Blossoms have an odd nickname and simple uniforms that haven’t changed in decades, but that is not why they stand out in southeastern Minnesota. BP, which won its first state title in 2018, has usually ended its season playing in the section title game or state tournament over the past 15 years.
In BP, parents sometimes wander by to watch practice, the sidelines are still full of screaming cheerleaders and there is usually a pick-up game being played by kids near the field on Friday nights.
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Those games are where BP sophomores Brady Kittelson, Cole Wangen and Alex Lea learned to play football and now they are ready to start writing their own story into the history of Blossom lore.
Brady is the son of BP assistant coach Matt Kittelson and the younger brother of Drew Kittelson, who was a Mr. Football Candidate last season and is now playing at Minnesota State University in Mankato.
“Football means a lot in this town. It’s our main sport and you can’t let anyone down,” Brady said. “It’s a big step going up after Drew. He’s one of the best quarterbacks to ever go through the program. It’s kind of nerve racking just stepping up and trying to play that role that he played.”
Brady was also the team’s manager as a middle schooler when BP won the state title so he has seen the Blossoms at their best.
It is not uncommon for Gimbel to give sophomores like Brady a chance at quarterback, but it is rare for BP to use sophomores in other leadership positions. Gimbel credited the competitive nature of Wangen, Lea and Brady as to why they were given varsity roles last season as freshmen.
“They work hard in the weight room in the off-season and they work to improve every day. Their attention to detail, improving techniques, improving their best each day makes them special,” Gimbel said. “They play the game with confidence; they didn’t play the game like freshmen last year. They just have a strong feel for the game with uncanny instincts.”
Lea took his hits as a starting linebacker last season, but he didn’t pout or think about a position change. He got in the weight room this summer.
“I was the smallest guy in a lot of games and I was always getting pushed around,” Lea said. “That lit a fire in me to get into the weight room and get bigger and better for the years to come.”
Wangen got a taste of playing running back at the varsity level last season and he made the most of his carries in mop-up duty. He’s ready to take the next step as one of BP’s primary ball carriers this fall.
“I’m super excited. It’s going to be fun,” Wangen said. “We all put a lot of work in the weight room and I’m ready for it to pay off. We took offseason training seriously this year and we had a good group of guys in the weight room.”
While they all credited the coaching staff for keeping BP’s program on top, neither Lea, Brady or Wangen could recall when or why they started playing football. They just know it’s something they love and something that has brought them all together.
“Everyone plays football here and we have good friendships with our teammates,” Lea said. “It brings us together. It’s always been a part of our lives from the start.”
BP will have plenty of other sophomores competing this fall including Owen Krueger, a 6-foot, 4-inch, 295-pound lineman, lineman Cooper Cooke, lineman Victor Hernandez, wide receiver and linebacker Jacob Pauly and linebacker, wide receiver and halfback Bo Zweiner.
The young Blossoms will learn a lot about football this fall and they’ll also learn a lot about tradition.
“It’s a source of pride in our school, in our community, in our football team,” Gimbel said. “Fridays are a day of excitement here for sure. There is lots of talk of the upcoming game and in the off season it’s a topic of discussion what the upcoming season will look like. That excitement is what builds a tradition.”
BP will begin its season when it hosts Hayfield at 7 p.m. Friday.