By Brady Ambrose
The Caledonia Warriors began defense of their class AA state championship with two wins last week, beating Dover-Eyota 45-0 Tuesday night and then handling Lewiston-Altura 20-7 Saturday at CHS.
The win sets up a rematch with Chatfield this Friday night at Winona State at 7 p.m. In their first meeting this season the Warriors battled back from a 12-0 deficit in the season opener and won 19-18 when Mason DeMorett scored from a yard out with 2:11 left in the game.
The one-point win has been the Warriors biggest test of the season, and the Gophers will no doubt remember that loss as they fumbled the ball four times in the game and threw an interception, missing three extra points and a field goal. They also turned the ball over on downs at the Warriors five yard line. “Absolutely, it’s going to come down to the wire,” coach Brent Schroeder said about the rematch with Chatfield.
Undefeated and still ranked #1 in the state, the Warriors had their hands full Saturday against a solid Lewiston-Altura squad, who led with 9:12 left in the third quarter when Brady Lange scored on a 38 yard run to put the Cardinals up 7-6.
“We won, I’m happy,” Schroeder said, who watched as the Cardinals rolled up 305 yards of offense with a strong ground game that featured a heavy dose of mis-direction and counters that the Warriors struggled with most of the game.
“Coach (Brent) Olson does a good job with those guys,” Schroeder said. “It’s a lot of mis-direction and it was a good learning curve for us tonight about staying home and staying in our gaps. We’ll definitely be learning a lot from the film, I’ll tell you that.”
But Caledonia used three big scoring plays to seal the win.
After the Cardinal defense blocked a Caledonia punt, L-A took over at the Warrior 39 yard line with 4:16 left in the first quarter. The Cardinals moved to the Caledonia 20 where they faced a fourth-and-short, but Lewiston was called for a false start that pushed them back five yards. Cardinal quarterback Storm Seefeldt then hit Jake Schultz with a short pass, but Caledonia’s Tanner Langen wrestled Schultz to the ground just short of the first down.
With the score 0-0 after the first quarter, Caledonia struck quickly to take the lead. After a Cardinal punt the Warriors took over at their own 20. DeMorett, who finished the game with 208 passing yards, hit Alex Goetzinger with a pass across the middle that Goetzinger hauled in and raced 80 yards down the sideline to give Caledonia a 6-0 lead with 8:09 left in the first half.
The Warriors then had a chance to increase their lead at the end of the half, but came up short on a great goal-line stand by the Cardinals. Starting at their 32 after a Lewiston punt with 2:16 left in the quarter, DeMorett completed back-to-back passes to Sam Schulte to move Caledonia to their own 44. DeMorett then connected with Sean Conner on a 24 yard completion to the Cardinal 32 yard line.
With 64 seconds on the clock and facing a fourth and three, DeMorett picked up the first down on a keeper and then hit Goetzinger with a strike that gave Caledonia a first-and-goal at the four yard line. But Lewiston-Altura then shut down the Warrior offense on four straight plays, stuffing Ryan Pitts for no gain on third down and then stopping DeMorett on fourth and goal with 7 seconds left on the clock.The teams entered the break with Caledonia clinging to a 6-0 lead.
The goal line stand by the Cardinals was a big momentum changer at the start of the second half. After the Warriors punted on their first possession, the Cardinals took over at the 50 yard line. Lange gained 10 yards on second and eight to the Warrior 38, and on the next play Lange raced 38 yards to give Lewiston-Altura the lead at 7-6. But the Cardinal lead was short-lived after Caledonia marched 70 yards on their next possession to regain the lead.
Starting at the 30, Pitts gained 15 yards on two carries to the 45 yard line and then added a 12 yard run to the L-A 43. DeMorett hit Schulte with a completion to the 36, and Pitts picked up a first down to the 30 yard line. Pitts added a nine yard run to the 21, and DeMorett added a first down dive to the 19 to keep the drive alive. Two plays later Pitts, who rushed for 193 yards on 31 carries, scored from 19 yards out to give Caledonia the lead at 13-7 with 5:32 left in the third quarter.
On their next possession the Cardinals drove all the way to the Caledonia five yard line and moved into Warrior territory in just three plays on long runs from Andrew Knapczyk and Collin Rain. With a first down at the Caledonia 30, Lange gained 21 yards to the nine, but the Warrior defense held.
Facing a fourth and goal at the five, the Cardinals attempted a 15 yard field goal from the left hash mark, but Austyn Neldner’s kick wasn’t even close, and the Cardinals came away from the drive with nothing to show for it.
Caledonia nailed the door shut on their next possession. After the missed field goal, Pitts gained 20 yards on first down to the 40, and Jacob Cuda rumbled six more to the 46 yard line. DeMorett then hit Sam Schulte with a 54 yard bomb down the left sideline, with Schulte making another great catch and raced into the endzone in front of the Lewiston bench to give the Warriors a 20-7 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Cardinals put together another nice drive only to come up empty. After the Schulte touchdown, Lewiston quickly moved into Caledonia territory when Seefeldt hit Brady Borkowski with a 22 yard completion to the Warriors 43. On the next play Lange raced 27 yards to the 16, but Pitts knocked the ball free from Lange and Danny Dunbar recovered for Caledonia and the Warriors took over at their own 16 yard line.
Pitts then scored from 38 yards out, but Caledonia was called for a block in the back. Facing a fourth-and-two, the Warriors got a break when the Cardinals jumped offsides as DeMorett’s hard count fooled them. The Warriors moved to the 13 yard line with 2:31 left in the game and ate up 9:14 during the drive.
The Cardinals took over at their own 10 yard line with 2:26 to play, but Sam Schulte intercepted a Seefeldt pass attempt with 1:36 to go, and Caledonia ran out the clock for the 20-7 win.
“Playoff time is about making big plays,” Schroeder said. “It really is. The state tournaments we’ve been in, we just try to put the kids in the right position and then it’s up to them to do it. Mason did a good job tonight. He was poised and never panicked and did a good job with coach Fruechte and coach Hauser. I was real proud of them – and pretty much everybody.”
The Warriors opened up the playoffs with a 45-0 crushing of Dover-Eyota Tuesday night as they handed the Eagles their ninth loss of the season without a win. Ryan Pitts scored on a 40 yard run on the Warriors first play of the game to set the tone, and Caledonia jumped out to a 28-0 lead with 4:12 left in the first half when DeMorett hit Sean Connor with a four yard pass for a touchdown.
The Warriors went up 35-0 on their opening drive of the second half when Connor and DeMorett hooked up again, this time on a 13 yard completion with 6:51 left in the third quarter. Caledonia added a 17 yard field goal and a 36 yard run from Devan Heaney with 4:33 left in the game for the 45-0 final – the Warriors fourth shutout on defense in their last six games.
“We stayed healthy; that’s big,” Schroeder said, “And that was a big stand by our younger guys there at the end, so that was fun. The kids are understanding where they are going and starting to trust each other. Seth Twite has done a good job stepping in the last couple weeks so kudos to him. Danny Welcher stepped in as outside linebacker and he’s doing well, and that makes a difference.”
Jacob Cuda had 109 yards on 12 carries for the offense as Caledonia rolled up 455 yards of offense, 392 of them coming on the ground.
Lewiston-Altura 0 0 7 0 — 7
Caledonia 0 6 14 0 — 20
Second quarter: C—Alex Goetzinger 80 pass from Mason DeMorett (kick failed);
Third quarter: LA—Brady Lange 38 run (Austyn Neldner kick); C—Ryan Pitts 19 run (Mason Ashbacher kick); C—Sam Schulte 54 pass from DeMorett (Ashbacher kick).
Rushing: LA—Lange 13-146, Collin Rain 14-71; C—Pitts 31-193. Passing: LA—Storm Seefeldt 3-7-1-34; C—DeMorett 10-19-0-208, Pitts 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: LA—Brady Borkowski 2-30, Jake Schultz 1-4; C—Schulte 6-78, Goetzinger 2-97.
Total yards: LA: 271-34—305; C: 234-208—442.
Fumbles-lost: LA—3-2; C—2-1.
Records: LA 6-4; C 10-0.