ROCHESTER — Goodhue has weapons on offense. Running back Mason Huemann may not hit a bunch of home runs, but rare is the carry where the senior loses yards. Quarterback Jack Gadient can run and throw, and when he airs it out, fellow senior Ryan Schoenfelder is as tough a matchup as there is in the area.
All three of those players made an impact on Saturday in the Section 1A championship game. But one oft-overlooked position came up just as big. Senior Mariano Bigalk, a wide receiver most of the time, kicked two field goals to help the Wildcats defeat Blooming Prairie, 19-14, for a berth in the Class A state tournament.
"Being a kicker is part of my job," Bigalk said. "I play for my team. All I think about is making that kick for my team."
Goodhue head coach Tony Poncelet knows having a kicker is a huge advantage.
"Mariano has been kicking for us since ninth grade. And he is No. 2 in the Minnesota State High School record book for PATs made. He's always been good, and he gets better every year. We'll go to him at any time," Poncelet said.
The Awesome Blossoms, who lost to the Wildcats by 22 points in Week 5, were a much tougher out than they were in late September. The defense loaded the box, trying to stop Huemann from gashing them again. Huemann had 270 yards and five touchdowns in the first game against Blooming Prairie, and added 223 yards and a pair of scores on Saturday.
"Blooming Prairie is much improved since then," Poncelet said. "We were pretty physical with them then, and this time they were ready for it."
Along with Bigalk, who also had a 24-yard reception, Gadient and Schoenfelder made sure to get the Wildcats a win. Schoenfelder had four catches for 113 yards, while Gadient finished 9 of 14 for 165 yards.
"(Schoenfelder) is a big target, he's a special guy," Gadient said. "He's going D-I (to North Dakota). He's a good athlete."
The Blossoms, meanwhile, relied on quarterback Seth Peterson. Blooming Prairie had 39 yards rushing on 20 attempts, forcing Peterson to move the ball through the air. Peterson did just that, piling up 277 yards on a 17-for-30 performance, with a touchdown and an interception.
That pick, by Sam Opsahl, came with four seconds left in the first quarter, on a play that started at the Goodhue 3-yard line. The Wildcats led 3-0 at the time, thanks to Bigalk's 26-yard field goal with 4 minutes, 48 seconds on the first-quarter clock.
Goodhue capitalized on the turnover, going on a nine-play drive that was capped by a 7-yard Huemann touchdown run.
The Blossoms answered with a touchdown, highlighted by Peterson going 5-for-5 for 66 yards, including a 35-yard strike to Gabe Hagen to pull within 10-7.
Both teams swapped fruitless drives before the Wildcats got one last chance to score before halftime.
A couple of runs and a couple of passes had Goodhue at the Blooming Prairie 48-yard line. Then Gadient hit Schoenfelder on an out-and-up for 42 yards.
"It's not something we really practice, but it's there when we need a big play," Schoenfelder said of his big catch-and-run.
Huemann was then stuffed on three-straight runs, but Bigalk hit from 24 yards as time expired to give the Wildcats a 13-7 lead at the break.
After forcing the Blossoms to punt to open the second half, Goodhue moved deep into Blossoms territory once again, only to have a Bigalk field goal blocked. That led to a Blooming Prairie touchdown, with Peterson connecting with Tim Wolf for 39 yards and a 14-13 lead with 2:55 to play in the third.
The Wildcats then marched 66 yards in 11 plays, the final seven of which were Huemann runs, including the last, a 1-yard lunge to make it a six-point Goodhue lead. The two-point pass failed, and the stage was set for a spectacular ending.
Both teams punted before Blooming Prairie got what turned into its final chance at a win. The Blossoms got the the Goodhue 19, but a bizarre situation unfolded as Peterson took the shotgun snap, and all 22 players stopped. But there was no whistle, and by the time Peterson realized it, Schoenfelder was on him for a 13-yard loss. A false start followed, and Peterson's 4th-and-26 heave fell incomplete.
Then Huemann iced the game with a 34-yard run on the second play of the drive, and Goodhue made good on its promise to get to state, a stated goal after last year's loss in the section semifinals.
"I'm so happy for our seniors. Losing last year really bothered them. We put the work in in the offseason. We did the camps, we did workouts, we did the speed and agility, and it's paying off," Poncelet said. "And I love seeing hard work get rewarded."
The third-ranked Wildcats (11-0) will face Mayer Lutheran (10-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Shakopee High School. The Crusaders' lone loss this season was a 28-27 defeat at the hands of Blooming Prairie (8-3) in Week 7.