By Brady Ambrose
Whatever the plan was, it couldn’t have worked much better when the Caledonia Warriors opened up defense of their state championship with their most lop-sided win of the season, a 53-0 thrashing of the Triton Comets Saturday night at home.
Led by quarterback Alex Varney, who threw half-a-dozen touchdown passes to three different receivers, and a stifling defense that pitched their fourth shut-out of the season, the Warriors (9-0) blew the game open with 20 first quarter points and were never challenged by the Comets (7-3) who came into the game riding a six game winning streak of their own.
With a first-round bye, Caledonia was well rested and had an extra week to prep for Saturday’s game, and it showed.
Coach Brent Schroeder said, “Coach Fruechte does a great job. They changed their defense up completely and moved into the box, and we recognized it right away and that’s why we went over the top on them. He does a great job of that.”
The passing barrage started on Caledonia’s second possession of the game. After a Triton punt the Warriors took over at their own 47 yard line, and on the first play Brad Strub gained 17 yards to the 30. Two plays later Varney hit junior Adam Buttell with a 24 yard scoring toss that put the Warriors up 6-0 at the 7:36 mark of the first quarter.
After the two teams traded possessions the Warrior defense forced the first of four Cobra fumbles and Caledonia struck quickly when Varney hit Levi Schmitz with a 33 yard strike. Schmitz cut back against the grain and rumbled in to the end zone to put the Warriors up 13-0 with 4:10 left in the quarter. Triton took over at their own 28 yard line but fumbled again as Blaine Knutson recovered for Caledonia at the Triton 23 yard line. A holding penalty pushed the Warriors back 10 yards, but it didn’t matter as Varney connected with Alex Goetzinger on first down with a 33 yard touchdown pass that put Caledonia up 20-0 70 seconds after their previous score.
“The light bulb was coming on on the offensive line and we’re getting healthy,” Schroeder said.
Caledonia held the Cobras to another three-and-out on their next possession, and the Warriors took over at the Triton 49 with 27 seconds left in the quarter. Facing a third and 10 to start the second quarter Strub, who gained 112 yards on 15 carries, picked up 11 yards to the 38. On the next play the senior raced in from 38 yards out to put the Warriors up 27-0 27 seconds into the second quarter and took the Cobras out of the game.
On their next possession Triton started at their own 22. On third down Brad Myers picked up two yards, forcing a fourth and two.
With nothing left to lose the Cobras went for it, and on fourth and two Caledonia’s Sam Schulte stuffed Triton’s Patrick Ramirez for a two yard loss. The Warriors took over at the Triton 29 yard line. Caledonia failed to pick up a first down and punted, and the Cobras took over at their own 10 yard line after a beautiful punt by Schmitz.
Triton managed just one yard on three plays and punted with Caledonia taking over at the Cobra 44 with 5:49 left in the first half.
Varney hit Goetzinger with a nine yard completion to the 33 and two plays later Varney rumbled 15 yards to the 16.
On the next play Varney and Goetzinger teamed up again for another scoring pass from 16 yards out that put the Warriors in command at 33-0. But Caledonia wasn’t done yet. After forcing another Cobra punt the Warriors needed just six plays to score again, this time on a 24 yard strike from Varney to Buttell that gave Caledonia a 39-0 lead at halftime.
The Cobras started the third quarter on a positive note when they picked up their first, first down on their opening drive and moved into Caledonia territory for the first time as well. At the Warrior 44 Triton’s drive stalled when on third and five quarterback Zach Otto’s pass to Justin Erdman fell incomplete and Triton punted.
Caledonia then mounted their longest drive of the game, a 12 play march that started at their own 19 yard line with 9:03 left in the third quarter. Varney hit Goetzinger with a 19 yard completion to the 40 and two plays later Strub raced to the Triton 37 with an 18 yard run.
Seven plays later Varney hit Schmitz with a 30 yard strike that put the Warriors up 46-0 with 3:41 left in the third quarter. Triton then turned the ball over again on their next possession when Goetzinger recovered a Cobra fumble at the Triton 28. Jacob Swindell then carried three straight times with the final one a 16 yard score that gave the Warriors a 53-0 lead.
The running clock was then in effect the entire fourth quarter with Caledonia getting most everyone on the roster in the game. “We’re finally getting healthy and I think tonight we came out overall pretty healthy,” Schroeder said. “We found a few tricks on defense and had them dialed in, Blaine Knutson stepped in for Zach Kasten and he had it dialed in this week, he really had everything understood.” Schroeder also praised the play of senior Jeremy DeWall, saying “He came out of the tunnel foaming at the mouth so I knew he was ready to go tonight. As long as we keep playing hard, that’s all I want, I’m proud of the boys.”
The win now sets up a rematch for the Warriors with the team that held them to their lowest offensive output of the season when Chatfield comes to Caledonia for a 7 p.m. game Friday night.
The Gophers (9-1) lost 6-0 at Caledonia Oct. 5 and are coming off a 29-12 win over Lewiston-Altura Saturday night. It will be the eighth straight year that Caledonia has played for the Section 1 AA Championship.
CALEDONIA 53, TRITON 0
Triton 0 0 0 0 — 0
Caledonia 20 19 14 0 — 53
First quarter: C—Buttell 24 pass from Varney (kick failed); C—Schmitz 33 pass from Varney (Schmitz kick); C—Goetzinger 33 pass from Varney (Schmitz kick).
Second quarter: C—Strub 38 run (Schmitz kick); C—Goetzinger 16 pass from Varney (kick failed); C—Buttell 24 pass from Varney (pass failed).
Third quarter: C—Schmitz 30 pass from Varney (Ashbacher kick); C—Swindell 16 run (Ashbacher kick).
Rushing: T—Meyers 10-25; C—Strub 15-112.
Passing: T—Otto 1-6-0-12; C—Varney 10-15-0-188.
Receiving: T—Ramirez 1-12; C—Goetzinger 5-74.
Total yards: T: 95-12—107; C: 212-188—400.
Fumbles-lost: T—4-4; C—1-0.
Records: T 7-3; C 9-0