By Brady Ambrose
Well, here we go again.
If there was ever any doubt about who the big dog on the block was around here, the Caledonia Warriors answered the question Friday night with a 29-0 dismantling of Chatfield. The #1 ranked team in the state, undefeated at 10-0, pitched their second straight shutout in the playoffs and fifth of the season with a dominating performance against the team that proved to be their biggest challenge of the regular season.
Led by a downright mean defensive effort, Caledonia held the Gophers to just 70 total yards of offense, including a grand total of one yard in the first half, while rolling up 282 yards of their own as Ryan Pitts led the way with 126 yards on 23 carries.
Head coach Brent Schroeder said of the defensive effort, “The key was to stop their run, keep them in front of us – that was the key defensively. We just brought as many guys as we could at their running game.”
The game started much like the first meeting Oct. 5. After a Chatfield punt on their first possession the Gophers intercepted an Alex Varney pass on the Warriors first try with the ball. Three more punts followed, and the first quarter ended with a 0-0 tie. The Warriors punted again to start the second quarter, and Chatfield took over at their own 20 yard line.
The Warrior defense then stepped up when Jeremy DeWall, and West Spier sacked Gopher quarterback Nate Skare for a four yard loss and the Gophers punted again. With good field position at the Gopher 45, Caledonia quickly went to work. Brad Strub raced 33 yards to the Chatfield 22, and two plays later he picked up 10 more to the 12. Three plays later Strub scored from three yards out to give the Warriors the lead at 7-0 with 7:19 left in the first half.
The Caledonia defense then forced another three-and-out and the Warriors took over at the Caledonia 45 yard line. Alex Varney hit Levi Schmitz with a long pass to the Gophers 18 yard line with Schmitz making a fabulous diving catch. Varney kept the drive alive as he picked up a first down to the seven yard line, and Pitts scored two plays later to put the Warriors up 13-0.
“The coaches had us well prepared. A lot of the credit goes to the offensive line, and it makes it real easy to run when they are all pushing like that. All the credit goes to them – they did a great job. We beat them 6-0 the first time and both teams came in real confident, but we came out to play tonight and executed real well and it showed at the end of the night,” Pitts said.
The special teams then got into the act for Caledonia on Chatfield’s next possession. Taking over deep in their own territory at the nine yard line, Chatfield got out to the 13 but Kevin Lapham sacked Reid Danielson for an 11 yard loss on a reverse attempt by the Gophers. On third and 17 from the two yard line Zach Kasten appeared to tackle Chatfield’s Jacob Neis in the end zone for a safety, but the officials ruled otherwise.
With time still running off the clock Schroeder ran onto the field to question the officials and was called for a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the process, which at the time was the biggest play of the game for the Chatfield offense. Facing a fourth and 2 the Gophers punted, but Kasten broke through the line and blocked the punt. The ball sailed back and hit the goal post for a safety that gave the Warriors a 15-0 lead at halftime.
The Warrior defense took over on Chatfield’s first possession of the third quarter when Kasten, who led Caledonia with 10 tackles, stopped Neis short on fourth down at the Chatfield 28. Pitts picked up eight yards on first down, five more on second down and two plays later the senior scored from three yards out to put the Warriors in control at 22-0 with three minutes to play in the third quarter.
Jacob Swindell then started to put the nails in the coffin when he picked off a Skare pass on Chatfield’s next play from scrimmage.
Starting at the Gophers 43, Swindell gained 19 yards to the 20 on second and six as time ran out in the third quarter. On fourth and short the Warriors got another first down to the 11 on the second play of the fourth quarter. Varney picked up five yards to the six and Pitts scored his third touchdown of the game on the next play to seal the deal at 29-0.
“Offensively they don’t give up very many points, and coach Fruechte did an awesome job taking what they gave us,” Schroeder said.
On their next possession the Gophers finally got across midfield when Skare hit Jayme LaPlante with a completion to the Warriors 27. But on fourth and seven Sam Schulte put the final nail in the coffin when he intercepted a Skare pass at the 24 yard line. Caledonia then ran time off the clock with a nine play drive that stalled at the Chatfield 38. The Gophers were all but done as the Warriors won their sixth straight section title.
“It’s just a compliment to coach Fruechte and what he started; even the pride in our field all the way to the maintenance guys today was top-notch. I’m proud of our community and everybody that puts in the extra hours,” Schroeder said.
Caledonia now turns their attention to Friday when they will take on Sibley East at Burnsville High School at 7 p.m. The Wolverines (9-1) are making their second appearance and first since 1986. Their only loss of the season is a 43-14 loss at Mayer Lutheran Sept. 7.
CALEDONIA 29, CHATFIELD 0
Chatfield 0 0 0 0 — 0
Caledonia 0 15 7 7 — 0
CAL—Strub 3 run (Ashbacher kick), 7:19.
CAL—Pitts 12 run (Ashbacher kick blocked), 3:14.
CAL—Kasten blocked punt for safety, 1:16.
CAL—Pitts 3 run (Ashbacher kick), 3:03.
CAL—Pitts 7 run (Ashbacher kick), 8:58.
First downs – CH 2; CA 14.
Rushes-Yards CH 23-18; CA 58-240. Comp-Att-Int – CH 2-9-2; CA 3-6-1.
Passing yards CH 52; CA 42.
Total yards CH – 70; CA 282. Penalties-Yards – CH 1-5; CA 3-30. Fumbles-Lost – CH 2-0; CA 0-0.
Rushing: CH—Neis 15-22, Viss 3-9, Haffner 3-(-1), Skare 1-(-4), Danielson 1-(-8); CA—Pitts 23-126, Varney 13-24, Swindell 3-22, Strub 16-70, Cuda 3-(-2).
Passing: CH—Skare 2-9-2-52; CA—Varney 3-6-1-42.
Receiving: CH—LaPlante 1-44, Danielson 1-8; CA—Swindell 1-4, Schmitz 1-37, Pitts 1-2.
Tackles: CA – Kasten 10, Lapham 5, DeWall 5, Schmitz 5. Spier 5. Records: CH 9-2; CA 10-0.