Special teams fuel win over Chatfield
By Brady Ambrose
For the second straight game the Caledonia Warriors found a way to win. The top-ranked Warriors remained undefeated after edging Chatfield 6-0 at Caledonia Friday night.
The Warriors took advantage of some big-time plays on special teams, including Zach Kasten’s blocked punt that set up the only points of the game with 6:04 left to play when quarterback Alex Varney scored from two yards out.
The #9 ranked Gophers gave Caledonia everything they could handle and then some. Chatfield dominated the first quarter, running off a 17 play drive on their second possession of the game, moving to the Caledonia nine yard line. The drive included a pair of fourth down conversions that resulted in first downs as Chatfield picked up a first down on fourth and four when Gopher quarterback Nate Skare hit Reid Danielson with an eight yard completion to the 21.
Four plays later Chatfield faced a fourth and seven at the 18 and got a break when the Warriors jumped offside. Now facing a fourth and two the Gophers picked up another first down when Jacob Neis gained six yards to the Warrior eight.
A holding call pushed Chatfield back 10 yards and the Gophers faced a third and 10 at the 10 yard line. After a one yard gain the Gophers attempted a field goal but the kick was blocked by Ryan Pitts, which helped the Warriors dodge an early bullet.
Caledonia ran two plays before the end of the quarter with the score 0-0 as the Warriors ran only four offensive plays and totaled just four yards of offense in the first 12 minutes.
Caledonia coach Brent Schroeder said, “Chatfield’s a great ball club. They’ve got some horses and they are well coached.”
The Gophers then mounted another long drive as the first half came to a close. Starting at their own 24 with 4:49 left in the half the Gophers again drove down the field with a 15 play drive. But Chatfield would again come up empty. With a first and 10 at the Caledonia 31 Chatfield’s Jayme LaPlante gained 13 yards on third and 10 on a reverse to the Warriors 18 yard line. With 19 seconds left the Gophers spiked the ball to stop the clock, and on second down Caledonia’s Kevin Lapham sacked Skare for no gain.
Skare spiked the ball again on third down and Chatfield set up a 41 yard field goal attempt, but the kick was wide and the two teams left the field tied 0-0 at the end of the first half.
The third quarter was again a defensive struggle. The Warriors started the quarter with their best drive so far, moving to near midfield before being forced to punt on fourth and eight. The Warrior defense then held Chatfield to a three-and-out, and Caledonia took over at their own 37 yard line with five minutes left in the quarter.
Ryan Pitts picked up eight yards to the Warrior 43 and a first down, and on the next play Pitts rumbled to the 50 as the Caledonia offense started to kick into gear. Pitts then picked up 13 yards to the Gopher’s 37 and the junior gained seven more yards on his next carry.
With a first and 10 at the 26 Alex Varney gained four yards and two plays later Varney picked up a first down to the 15. Pitts added a four yard run and the third quarter ended with score still knotted at 0-0 but with the Warriors threatening.
On third and six from the 11 Jacob Swindell fought for five yards and on fourth down the Warriors went for it, but Varney was tackled for a two yard loss and Chatfield took over at their own eight yard line.
Again the Caledonia defense rose to the occasion as they held Chatfield to a three and out. On fourth and four Kasten broke through and blocked the Chatfield punt and the Warriors were again in business, this time from the Gopher’s 14 yard line. Varney gave the Warriors a first and goal at the one, and on the next play Pitts rumbled in for an apparent touchdown but the Warriors were called for holding. But the call didn’t matter as Pitts gained the 10 yards back on the next play, giving Caledonia a first and goal at the two yard line, and two plays later Varney dove into the end zone to give Caledonia a 6-0 lead with 6:04 left in the game.
The Caledonia defense forced another punt on Chatfield’s next possession and the Warriors took over at their own 33 yard line with 4:25 to play.
Caledonia got a huge first down when Varney picked up six yards on fourth and five to the Caledonia 45 yard line. But the drive stalled and the Warriors were forced to punt with 2:16 left to play. Levi Schmitz then uncorked maybe the punt of the year so far with a 48 yard boot to the Chatfield eight yard line. Two plays later Lapham scooped up a fumble by Skare and Caledonia took over at the Chatfield 17 yard line with 1:38 left.
Varney then took a knee on three straight plays and was sacked for a five yard loss on fourth down, and the Gophers had one last chance to score, but two plays later Caledonia’s Sam Schulte sealed the win as he picked off a Skare pass at the Chatfield 39 yard line. Varney took a knee one more time and the Warriors escaped with the 6-0 win.
“The guys did a great job of sticking with it,” Schroeder said. “Coach Fruechte did a great job of getting the guys prepared on offense all week. The guys are just humble and hungry and nobody cares how many yards anybody gets, everybody just does their job and that’s all we ask for.”
The Warrior defense stood tall, pitching their third shutout of the season while giving up just 144 yards to a Chatfield team that put up 41 points and 357 total yards in their 41-6 win over Fillmore Central the previous Friday.
The Warriors will travel to Southland this Friday for a game against the 3-3 Rebels, who lost 7-0 to Rushford-Peterson. Game time is 7 p.m.
Chatfield 0 0 0 0 — 0
Caledonia 0 0 0 6 — 6
Fourth quarter: Cal—Varney 2 run (kick blocked) 6:04.
Rushing: Cha-Neis 17-72, Cal-Pitts 15-80
Passing: Cha-Skare 3-13-1-27, Cal-Varney 0-3-0-0;
Receiving: Cha-Danielson 2-21, Cal-N/A
Rush-Pass-Total: Cha-117-27-144, Cal-155-0-155
Fumbles-lost: Cha-2-1, Cal-2-0
Records: Chatfield 5-1, 2-1;
Caledonia 6-0, 3-0.