Behind sophomore QB, Dawson-Boyd rolls into Class A title game
MINNEAPOLIS - Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson said his quarterback really can't be considered a sophomore any more. Not only has Joey Lee lined up behind center in eight regular-season games this season but he now has five playoff starts behind him.
And a lanky, baby-faced kid who shows off a bright set of braces when he smiles also isn't supposed to have a hand in seven touchdowns in a state semifinals game.
But Lee did just that in Dawson-Boyd's 50-27 throttling of Blooming Prairie in the Class A semifinals on Saturday in the Metrodome, and the Blackjacks are headed for a Prep Bowl championship game in their first-ever trip to the Minnesota State Football Tournament.
"It all worked out today," Lee said. "It felt like a dream."
The Blackjacks, now 13-0, will played 13-0 Mahnomen for the Class A championship at 1 p.m. Friday at the Metrodome.
Against the Awesome Blossoms, Lee ran for three touchdowns and threw four scoring passes -- three of them to senior Zach Stelter -- and ran for three more TDs.
"He kind of gets overshadowed," said Larson, referring to Lee's role in an offense in which runners Esten Weber and Justin Lee have combined for more than 3,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. "We've never had to put him a position where we needed him to make plays, but we needed him today and he really stepped up and got the job done."
Lee completed 12-of-23 passes for 240 yards and fired scoring strikes of 38, 22 and 15 yards to Stelter. Lee also threw a 5-yard TD pass to senior wideout Evan Robertson. Stelter finished the game hauling in 8 passes for 171 yards and Lee had scoring runs covering 1, 2 and 3 yards.
In addition to his TD reception, and before he left the game with an injury, Robertson made three key defensive plays that turned the game in favor of the Blackjacks.
Robertson recovered a muffed second-quarter punt that blunted the Awesome Blossoms' momentum and sparked a scoring drive that gave the Blackjacks' a 14-13 lead. The Blossoms had just scored to take a 13-7 lead and forced D-B into a three-and-out and the punt that return man Gabe Kartes fumbled at midfield.
On the Blossoms' next possession, Robertson intercepted quarterback Luc Zellmer to set up a nine-play drive that ended with Lee's 3-yard TD run with no time left on the first-half clock. During the drive, Weber ran for 58 yards on a third-and-22 play, and later, with the Blackjacks facing a third-and-16 play, Lee hit Stelter for a 26-yard gain to the Blooming Prairie three yard line. Lee ran in two plays later as the clock ticked to zero.
In the span of 7 minutes, 47 seconds, the Blackjacks turned a six-point deficit into a 21-13 halftime lead. When Lee hit Stelter with a 38-yard TD pass on the first series of the second half, the game was essentially over.
Late in the third quarter, Robertson intercepted Zellmer again, and the Blackjacks turned the gift into another Lee-to-Stelter touchdown pass and a 36-19 lead.
The Blackjacks didn't come into the game intending to try and beat the Awesome Blossoms through the air, but they were confident in their ability to do it if necessary, Stelter said.
"To be honest, we didn't think they would be able to stop the run," Stelter said. "They came up and filled holes and were stopping us, but we have a lot of playmakers on this team and if we have to throw the ball we can do it."
"We like to rely on the run and let the passes come," Lee said. "But they did a good job of coming up and filling holes and that left things open in the middle of the field."
Blooming Prairie had no choice but to sell out against the Blackjacks' running game and take their chances, head coach Chad Gimbel said.
"Their running game is too solid for us to have played them any differently," Gimbel said. "Their offensive line is awfully good at pass blocking. We weren't able to get any pressure on the quarterback."
Lee said he was nervous until, oddly, he threw an interception early in the game that helped set up Blooming Prairie's first touchdown.
"He threw that early pick," Larson said, "and he told me, 'Coach, that's the last mistake I'm going to make today.' For him to say that and then go out there and back it up is pretty special."
Lee believes it's pretty special that the Blackjacks were able to keep their season alive long enough for him to play his biggest game on the second-biggest stage.
"The last two years we lost to Minneota in the section finals and just couldn't get here (the state tournament)," Lee said. "We finally got by that and so it's all surprises from here."
None bigger than the one he produced Saturday.
NOTES: Dawson-Boyd enters Friday's championship game ranked No. 3 in the state and Mahnomen is ranked No. 3. Class A's top-ranked team, New Ulm Cathedral, suffered its only loss of the season to Springfield in the first round of the state tournament.
Blooming Prairie quarterback Luc Zellmer didn't get the only thing he wanted on Saturday, but he did leave the game with a pretty nice consolation prize.
Zellmer threw four scoring passes, giving him a state-record 102 for his career. Zellmer's TD throws moved him past Chris Meidt, who threw 101 TDs for Minneota from 1984-1987. Other's on the list include third-place Wes Stetner (94 for Hancock from 2000-2003) and 9th place Joe Mauer (73 for Cretin-Derham Hall from 1999-2000.