Consider this Gabe Hagen's coming-out party.
Not that the Blooming Prairie defensive end/receiver was an unknown commodity before the Awesome Blossoms' 41-15 victory over BOLD in the Class 1A championship game. At 6-5 and 250 pounds, Hagen stands out every time he steps on a football field.
But it was his play that stood tallest Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Using soft hands and relying on his 4.7 speed in the 40, Hagen caught eight passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, including a juggling grab in the end zone while on his back.
"When the other team's wide receivers are bigger than your offensive line, it's a tough task," BOLD coach Derek Flann said.
Hagen's ability to catch the ball was his most significant contribution, but he first showed up on defense, too.
Luke Larkoski chased down quarterback Jordan Sagedahl on BOLD's second possession, forcing an ill-advised throw that landed in Hagen's hands. He ran 18 yards untouched with the interception for a 7-0 lead.
"That's huge," Blooming Prairie coach Chad Gimbel said. "That definitely set the tone. If you score a special teams or defensive touchdown, you have an 80 percent better chance of winning."
The two teams ping-ponged back and forth for the rest of the first half, with BOLD appearing to have halftime momentum after scoring a touchdown late in the second quarter to close within 21-15.
Blooming Prairie (13-0) stopped BOLD on the opening possession of the second half, then embarked on the game's most significant drive. Quarterback Kaden Thomas drove the Blossoms 69 yards in nine plays, capped by Hagen's circus catch touchdown, to open up a 28-15 lead. BOLD (13-1) never threatened after that.
It's first state championship for Blooming Prairie. For BOLD, it was the second championship game loss in two years and fifth since 1992.
Asked what made him such a matchup nightmare, Hagen, who has committed to Minnesota State Mankato, acknowledged "my size helped me the most."
BOLD's Gavin Vosika, who defended Hagen for much of the game, said, "I don't know what you want me to say. He's a dude."