By Brady Ambrose
Ryan Pitts will be the first one to tell you he doesn’t like playing in the mud.
You would never know it though, as the Caledonia senior plowed his way through the mud – and the Rushford-Peterson defense – to propel the Warriors to a 14-0 win over the Trojans in a game that started Friday night and ended 24 hours later.
“It’s awful, I hate it,” Pitts said when asked about the muddy conditions Saturday night.
Pitts and the offensive line showed who had the better running game when the senior finished with 278 yards on 39 carries to hand the Trojans their second straight loss.
In a showdown with the once-beaten Trojans, Pitts scored the only two touchdowns of the game, one Friday and one Saturday, as the Warriors, ranked #1 in Minnesota in class AA, remained unbeaten at 6-0.
The game started at 7 p.m. Friday night but was postponed with 1:15 left in the first half when lightning began to dance across the sky. At the time, the Warriors were leading 7-0 courtesy of a touchdown run from Pitts, who broke loose in front of the R-P sideline and raced 46 yards to give Caledonia the lead with 7:58 left in the first quarter. Pitts had 13 carries for 119 yards before the game was delayed.
Caledonia needed every one of those yards as the Trojans played a tough defense that stopped nearly everything that Caledonia threw at them, except Pitts.
The Warriors threatened again later in the quarter. With 1:56 left, Pitts rumbled 21 yards to the Trojan 41 yard line. Two plays later quarterback Mason DeMorett hit Sam Schulte with a completion that gave the Warriors a first-and-10 at the R-P 15 yard line just as time ran out in the quarter. But the drive stalled when DeMorett was sacked on third-and-seven for a 15 yard loss. On fourth-and-22 Caledonia went for it, but DeMorett’s pass was picked off.
R-P took over at their own 27 yard line, but the Warrior defense held and forced the Trojans to punt.
The Caledonia drive stalled forcing another punt as the teams traded possessions. The weather then became a factor. The officials called the game and it was decided to return to action Saturday night.
With a light rain still lingering, the teams returned Saturday and started the game at the 1:15 mark of the second quarter. After a Caledonia punt the Trojans mounted a serious threat to tie the game. A bad snap on the punt sailed over Mason Ashbacher’s head and Ashbacher picked up the ball near his own 20 yard line and rumbled to the 35 where the Trojans took over with 19.5 seconds left in the half.
R-P quarterback Jonnie Koenen hit Alex Vix with a pass to the Warrior 14. Koenen then passed to Cole Kingsley and the ball fell incomplete, but on the play Caledonia was called for pass interference giving the Trojans a first-and-goal at the Caledonia seven yard line.
The Warrior defense stepped up big as Blaine Knutson sacked Koenen to end the first half with Caledonia clinging to a 7-0 lead.
Pitts and the Caledonia offensive line then began to take over the game. Starting at their own 15 Pitts churned his way to the 37 yard line gaining 15 yards. After DeMorett hit Schulte with a completion to the R-P 48, Pitts gained 12 yards to the 29 but was called for illegal use of his helmet after he ran over a R-P defender.
The Warriors turned the ball over to the Trojans, who in turn gave it back three plays later after they punted with 4:31 left in the third quarter.
Starting at their own 25, the Warriors then gave R-P a steady dose of Pitts, who gained 23 yards on three carries. But, the drive stalled on an incomplete pass and a holding call on Caledonia.
“We knew right away it was going to be a ground and pound game,” Pitts said. “Both teams were going to have a hard time passing; then it comes down to the guys in the trenches. We came out a little slow, but we picked it up and got some momentum. The guys in the trenches really got it done tonight and that makes it real easy for me.”
On the Warriors first possession of the fourth quarter they started at their own 31. Pitts gained 21 yards to the R-P 48 and two plays later gained nine more yards to the 37.
Pitts carried the ball on the next four plays, scoring from 30 yards out on fourth-and-four to give Caledonia a 14-0 lead with 8:50 to play.
The Warrior defense then produced a turnover after Tanner Langen intercepted a pass and returned it to the Rushford-Peterson 48. On the first play Pitts tore through the Trojans for a 28 yard gain, but Caledonia was called for holding on the play.
Adam Buttell then took over carrying the ball on the next several plays. Buttell gained 15 yards on second-and-19 and added 18 more on the next play to the R-P 25. Pitts gained 10 yards to the 15, and Buttell gained six more to the nine yard line.
Pitts was stopped at the two yard line on the next play, and the drive then stalled when the Warriors fumbled at the goal line, giving the Trojans a first down at the Warrior’s three.
“We had a hard time passing and we hoped we wouldn’t turn the ball over, but we did,” Pitts said. “The field plays a big factor, but the guys did a great job.”
Once again the defense held and forced R-P to punt, but the Warriors then coughed up the ball again on their next possession at the Trojan four yard line. Langen then sealed the win for the Warriors with his second pick of the game on the Trojans first play with 23 seconds left.
Pitts led all players with 278 yards, while Buttell added 54 yards on just six carries in the game. The Caledonia defense pitched their second straight shutout and held the Trojans to just 118 yards of total offense. Caledonia will host Hayfield Friday night in the last regular season home game.