By Brady Ambrose
Special to the Caledonia Argus
Fueled by an offense that nearly doubled-up their opponent and a stifling defense that allowed just 43 rushing yards on 38 attempts, the Caledonia Warriors began defense of their 2011 state 1AA championship with a solid, 19-0 win over Plainview-Elgin-Millville Aug. 31 at Caledonia.
The Warriors made the final game between the two schools a textbook example of a strong defense as they shut down the Bulldogs in nearly every aspect of the game. P-E-M ran 62 total plays in the game and averaged just 1.63 yards per play as the Caledonia defense, led by senior Kevin Lapham, harassed Bulldog quarterback Beau Nelson all night long.
Every time Nelson dropped back to pass, Lapham or somebody else on the Caledonia defense either knocked him down or came close to doing it and by the time Ryan Pitts scored on a 48 yard run with 28 seconds left in the third quarter, the Bulldogs were all but done.
Caledonia coach Brent Schroeder said, “I’m happy the way a lot of kids jumped to different positions, they prepared well in the offseason and the last three weeks doing it, we really had to do that to keep the shutout tonight.”
“We had a couple kids go down with minor injuries and some others stepped up and didn’t miss a beat. I’m proud of the way they did that,” the coach added.
The Warriors scored first on a 36 yard field goal by Levi Schmitz with 9:36 left in the first half. The Bulldogs answered with a nice drive into Caledonia territory but ended up going backwards at the end of the drive.
Starting at their 21 yard line P-E-M moved to the Warrior 45 on a five yard run by Eric Rahman. A 15 yard penalty call on the Warrior defense for unnecessary roughness gave the Bulldogs a first down at the Caledonia 34, and on second and nine Nelson found Damian Forbes wide open at the Caledonia 15. But Forbes let the ball slip through his fingers.
On third and nine P-E-M was called for holding, and on third and 22 the Bulldogs were forced to punt. The ensuing snap went over the Bulldog punters head and the Warriors took over at the P-E-M 26 yard line.
On first down quarterback Alex Varney hit Alex Goetzinger with a 12 yard strike to the 14, and two plays later Ryan Pitts scored from 10 yards out to put the Warriors up 10-0 with 3:01 left in the first half.
The two teams then traded punts the final three minutes and the Warriors took the 10-0 lead into the locker room at the break after holding P-E-M to just 45 yards of offense on 30 first-half plays.
The third quarter was much of a repeat of the first half until the Warriors took control late in the quarter. Caledonia opened up the second half with a drive that stalled at the Bulldogs 41, and P-E-M could get no farther than their own 42 on their opening drive.
On their next possession Caledonia again was forced to punt, but Schmitz uncorked a booming punt to the Bulldogs nine yard line with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
On first down Nelson’s pass attempt was incomplete and on second and 10 Tyler Jacobs picked up four yards to the 13. On third and six Nelson was sacked by Collin Coffield at the five yard line forcing P-E-M to punt from the back of their end zone.
The snap then sailed over Bulldog punter Nate Evers, and Evers made a great catch but stepped out of bounds to give Caledonia a safety and a 12-0 lead with 37 seconds left in the quarter. After a nice return by Adam Buttell Caledonia started at the P-E-M 48 and on the first play from scrimmage Pitts broke loose on the right sideline and raced 48 yards for his second touchdown of the game to give Caledonia a 19-0 lead after three quarters.
“I burned a little fire under Ryan Pitts’ butt earlier in a film session and he ran like a stallion tonight,” Schroeder said of the junior back, who finished with 98 yards on 11 carries.
With a comfortable 19-0 lead Caledonia then settled in and held the Bulldogs in check the entire fourth quarter.
Winners of 38 of their previous 44 games, P-E-M basically had all they could stand of the Caledonia defense when on back-to-back plays Nelson was sacked by Jeremy DeWall and West Spier. Then on the next play linebacker Zach Kasten put an NFL-caliber lick on Nelson and leveled him for a five yard loss.
“Our first win at home is great and any time we beat P-E-M is great. The main thing we’re proud of is bringing the hammer home for all the Warriors that came before us,” Schroeder said after the game.
Ryan Pitts led all rushers with 98 yards on 11 carries, and Varney added 72 yards on 13 carries. Kasten led the defense with 13 tackles and a quarterback sack.
P-E-M 0 0 0 0 – 0
Caledonia 0 10 9 0 -19
C-FG Schmitz 36 9:36.
C-Pitts 10 run (Schmitz kick) 3:01.
C-Safety, punter stepped out of end zone :45.
C -Pitts 48 run(Schmitz kick):28.
First downs 9 10
Rushes’Yards 38-43 36-235
Comp-Att-Int 11-23-0 3-9-1
Passing Yards 101 45
Total Yards 144 280
Penalties-Yards 4-27 7-60
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-0
Rushing: PEM-Rahman 15-69, Ihrke 3-14, Heim 1-6, Jacobs 4-5, Barnes 1-3, Ellringer t-o, Nelson 11-(minus 20), Evers 2-(minus 24); C-Pitts 11-98, Varney 13-72, Swindell 5-38, Strub 2-19, Kasten 2-1, DeMorett 2-(minus 1), Cuda 1-(minus 2).
Passing: PEM-Nelson 11-23-101-0; C -Varney 3-9-45-1.
Receiving: PEM-Barnes 4-44, Rahman 2-26, Wagner H5, Evers 2-14, Jacobs 2-2; C-Strub 1-24,
Goetzinger 1-12, Buttell 1-9.
Records: PEM 0-1; C 1-0.