Going Deep: Blossoms find the path to growing its quarterback core

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2023

BLOOMING PRAIRIE — Quarterback is perhaps the most difficult position to play in all of sports.

On most teams, the quarterback is responsible for calling plays, checking the defense, making audibles, dodging pass rushers, and having to make a quick read before throwing a pass to the open receiver.

Most high school football teams have a difficult time developing a quality signal caller, but Blooming Prairie head football coach Chad Gimbel seems to have cracked the code. For the majority of the last 20 seasons, the Awesome Blossoms have fielded a potent passing attack, despite playing in the cold and often windy weather of southeastern Minnesota in the fall.

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“Matt (Kittelson) runs the quarterbacks and he’s been doing it for years. There’s a reason for that. He does a great job of coaching them and getting them up to speed. The players do a great job of getting together in the offseason, working and getting to know the schemes,” BP head coach Chad Gimbel said. “We’ve always said that all we need is one quarterback every three years and you should be able to do that. We kind of know in advance who’s got the abilities to run that position. It’s more than just physical traits. It’s the mental side and it’s the leadership side; we’re looking for all of those things.”

BP’s first standout quarterback under Gimbel may have been his best, and Spencer Ohm was certainly the most successful college quarterback to come out of BP. Ohm threw for 6,600 yards with 73 career passing TDs as an Awesome Blossom and he went on to throw for 4,802 yards and 42 TDs at Division II Concordia St. Paul.

The only other BP quarterback who played under Gimbel to throw a pass at the college level was John Rumpza, who totaled 112 TD passes from 2012-2014 before going on to be a backup quarterback at Winona State University.

Over the last 10 years, BP has had three different quarterbacks surpass 2,500 yards and 30 TDs in a season. Those players include Kaden Thomas, who led BP to a Class A state title in 2019, Drew Kittelson and Rumpza.

While many of those players made memorable plays, Gimbel prefers to think of how their play helped BP stay in contention for a section title or more almost every year for the past two decades.

“It takes 11 guys. A lot of times quarterbacks get their names and stats in the paper, but our offensive line is our unsung heroes and they know that. We let them know that those guys are the difference makers,” Gimbel said. “You don’t look at this quarterback or that quarterback, it’s about how the team did this. We want that success from one team to the next. People have success and they feel good about themselves. I want kids to have a positive experience and we don’t try to compare teams. Sometimes its hard, when you’re used to a senior and you forget what it was like for that senior when they were a sophomore. I remember a lot of sophomore quarterbacks who overthrew wide open receivers, but the thing is, they learn and they grow.”

BP was fine tuning its offense last Friday as it was wrapping up its first week of team workouts. BP meets just seven of the 11 eligible days throughout the summer as he believes in letting the players have a chance to enjoy their summer.

Last Friday’s workout was held at dusk and BP junior Brady Kittelson, who is the younger brother of Drew and the son of Matt, was at the helm. Brady wasn’t so much focused on his throws as he was trying to learn a few new wrinkles in the offense on a quiet summer night in late June.

“It takes a lot of brains and it’s a leadership role here,” Brady said of playing quarterback for BP. “You have to stay calm and practice and work on team bonding. Game nights are a rush and people forget what they’re doing. You have to remember the details and remember what we were taught.”

Brady was the starter last season and he’s starting to see what the Awesome Blossoms quarterbacks before him have gone through. He’s also starting to feel confident.

“I know there have been some great quarterbacks like Spencer (Ohm) and John Rumpza. I know Rumpza has the passing touchdown record in a season and I’d like to get that, but it’s going to be hard to do,” Brady said.

Gimbel often identifies his future quarterbacks before they even get to middle school and Brady was no different.

“In fifth grade I wanted to be a running back or receiver, but our coach told us that the quarterback would be able to run too and that’s when I decided I wanted to be a quarterback,” Brady said. “You’ve got to dedicate a lot of your time to coming out here and throwing to your receivers and you’ve go to look at the playbook a lot and watch a lot of film. It’s a lot of time.”

After winning state in 2019, BP was ranked No. 1 in 2020, but there were no playoffs that season due to COVID-19 regulations. The Awesome Blossoms spent 2021 and 2022 playing Class AA football, but now they’re back in Class A for at least two more years.

Gimbel doesn’t consider Section 1A to be much easier, but at least the team will be against familiar opponents like Goodhue and Rushford-Peterson.

“We know it’s not going to be a picnic. Right now our goal is just to keep getting one percent better each day,” Gimbel said.