Like a pair of heavy-weight boxers squaring off in a title match, Caledonia and Chatfield traded jabs all night long, but neither could knock the other one out – until the last play of the game.
That’s when Chatfield senior AJ Riley intercepted a Mason DeMorett pass intended for Adam Buttell to end the game along with Caledonia’s bid for a fourth straight 1AA title as the Gophers beat Caledonia 13-10 in overtime at Verizon Wireless Stadium in the section 1AA championship game.
Riley’s pick came on Caledonia’s first play from scrimmage in overtime after the Gophers took a three point lead on a 27 yard field goal by Nate Skare.
The Warriors took over at the 10 yard line to try and match the Gophers – or win the game – but Riley stepped in front of Buttell at the goal line and ended the game to give Chatfield the win and a trip to the MSHSL state tournament where they will play Jackson County Central Friday night at Rochester.
“It came down to making plays at the end,” Warrior coach Brent Schroeder said, who lost for just the second time in his tenure as Caledonia head coach. “It’s Chatfield’s turn. I don’t know if anybody notices how small we are; we’re not supposed to be here but we are. I’ve got 130 pound fullbacks and 160 pound middle linebackers – I don’t think anybody realizes what those guys do. I know nobody else in the state has got that.”
The Warriors started the game with a bang when DeMorett and Schulte connected on an 80 yard touchdown pass on the Caledonia’s first offensive play of the game, ironically beating Riley on the play down the right sideline to give Caledonia a 7-0 lead at the 5:34 mark. After that the teams traded possessions and the quarter ended with the Warriors leading 7-0.
The Gophers tied the game on their first series of the second quarter. Starting at the Caledonia 44 Jacob Neis gained six yards on first down. On the next play Neis took off on a 40 yard run to tie the game at 7-7 with seven minutes left in the first half.
Caledonia’s next drive stalled and Chatfield took over at their 16 with 5:22 left. The Gophers then put together a 15 play drive all the way to the Caledonia 16 yard line but the drive came up short when Skare missed a 26 yard field goal attempt to end the first half.
After struggling to get the offense moving in the first half, Caledonia finally got going to open up the third quarter. Starting at the Chatfield 29 yard line after a bad Chatfield punt, DeMorett hit Sean Conner with a strike to the Gopher two-yard line when Connor made a shoestring grab on the play. But Caledonia was called for holding two plays later and then illegal motion on the next play to push them back to the nine yard line. Caledonia then tossed two straight incomplete passes to bring up fourth and nine where Mason Ashbacher drilled a 26 yard field goal to put Caledonia in front 10-7 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Chatfield took over at their 32 but were pushed back on a false start penalty. On second and 17 Skare hit Drew Hurley for a seven yard gain back to the original line of scrimmage and then hit Hurley again with a 32 yard completion to the Caledonia 24 yard line.
Time then expired in the fourth quarter with the Gophers facing a fourth and six at the Warrior 20 yard line. On the first play of the fourth quarter Skare connected on a 27 yard field goal that tied the game at 10-10 just four seconds into the final quarter.
Caledonia started their next drive at their own 32 yard line. On third and six Ryan Pitts gained 11 yards to the 47 and then gained seven more to the Chatfield 44 yard line. After a Caledonia first down the Gophers were called for pass interference, and Caledonia was in business at the Gopher’s 25 yard line. Pitts gained 14 yards on the next two plays to the 11 yard line and three plays later scored what appeared to be the go-ahead touchdown for Caledonia.
Instead, the Warriors were called for holding on the play that pushed them back to the 17 yard line. Buttell then gained eight yards to the nine, but a 26 yard field goal attempt by the Warriors sailed wide to the right and Chatfield took over on downs at the 20 yard line with 6:53 to play.
The Caledonia defense then rose up and held the Gophers short of first down and the Warriors took over at their 23 yard line with 2:36 to play. Pitts rumbled 11 yards to the 34 on first down and two plays later the Gophers were whistled for a horse collar penalty that gave Caledonia the ball at the 44. Jacob Cuda picked up a yard on second and seven, and Pitts picked up five yards. On the next play Pitts picked up a first down to the Chatfield 30 yard line with 65 seconds left in the game. On second and seven at the Gopher’s 27 Caledonia was called for holding, and the Warriors faced a second and 17 at the Chatfield 37.
DeMorett hit Schulte with a five yard completion and on the next play Caledonia tried the old hook and ladder toss as DeMorett hit Butell with a short pass and Butell pitched the ball to Pitts. The play only gained seven yards, and the Warriors called time out with the ball on the 25 yard line and six seconds left to play. Caledonia then lined up for a 42 yard field goal attempt to win the game, but West Spier’s kick was blocked as time ran out, and the teams went to overtime tied at 10-10.
Chatfield won the toss to start overtime and lined up at the 10 yard line. The Warrior defense held the Gophers out of the end zone on three straight plays. The Gophers lined up for a 27 yard field goal attempt and Skare drilled the kick through the uprights to give Chatfield a 13-10 lead.
Needing a field goal to tie or a touchdown to win the Warriors took over at the 10, but on the Warriors first play Riley stepped in front of Buttell for the game-winning interception.
“It was a well-designed play,” Schroeder said, “We didn’t see the corner and coach Fruechte apologized, but he doesn’t have to – he’s won me more games than ever. It was a good call.”
The Warriors end their season 10-1. “I’m real proud of them. I’ve got a great staff and I know I’ve got a pack down in that locker room right now that’s pissed off and they’ll be in the weight room tomorrow. We’ll be back.”
CALEDONIA 10 (OT)
Chatfield 0 7 0 3 3 — 29
Caledonia 7 0 3 0 0 — 10
First quarter: Cal—Sam Schulte 80 pass from Mason DeMorett (Mason Ashbacher kick), 5:34.
Second quarter: Cha—Neis 40 run (Sawyer Prinson kick), 7:00.
Third quarter: Cal—FG Ashbacher 26, 2:49.
Fourth quarter: Cha— FG Nate Skare 36, 11:56.
Overtime: Cha—FG Skare 27.
First downs 14 15
Rushes-Yards 38-190 36-134
Comp-Att-Int 5-9-0 8-14-1
Passing yards 86 182
Total yards 276 316
Penalties-Yards 7-65 7-55
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0
Rushing: Cha—Jacob Neis
24-132, Alex Bradt 8-35, Nate Skare 4-19, Jayme LaPlante 1-8, Alex Haffner 1-(-4); Cal—Ryan Pitts 31-138, Jacob Cuda 2-1, Adam Buttell 1-1, Mason DeMorett 2-(-6).
Passing: Cha—Skare 5-9-0-86; Cal—DeMorett 8-13-1-182, Pitts 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: Cha—Drew Hurley 3-76, LaPlante 1-6, Neis 1-4; Cal—Sam Schulte 3-89, Adam Buttell 3-44, Sean Connor 2-36, Alex Goetzinger 1-11, Pitts 0-2.
Records: Cha 10-1; Cal 10-1.