And just like that – it was over.
I’m sure most people around here were surprised when the football team’s run to another state championship ended in Winona but, like coach Schroeder said, “It’s Chatfield’s turn.”
The end of the fall sports season and the beginning of the winter season closes another chapter in my long novel of sports coverage over the years.
As I stood on the field in Winona, I realized this was the first time I had been witness to a loss by the Caledonia football team, and that many players – and fans alike – had never been part of a losing game. That date goes back to Sept 2, 2011, when the Warriors lost to P-E-M 17-3 in the first game of the season.
Since then, the Warriors have won three state titles and 36 of their last 37 games – not too bad at any level while simultaneously putting together a 50-2 record that can’t be matched anywhere in the state.
I wasn’t in attendance when the Warrior volleyball squad and coach Scott Koepke lost in Rochester to Dover-Eyota Oct. 26. Koepke’s young squad will certainly miss the likes of Lottie Augedahl, Lauren Rusert and Alexy Bearbower – all three were named to the 2013 all-conference squad – but looking at the roster, this will be a very good team next season… and the one after, and the one after that.
Over the years I’ve dealt with hundreds of coaches, and I wish they were all as helpful as Koepke, who provides me with game stats, quotes and even pencils his own thoughts and comments for me to use as I see fit when I’m not at the game. New girls soccer coach Tim Colleran was a pleasure to work with this fall, and it appears that he has the program heading in the right direction with a solid group of players coming back next season. Sixteen should return from a team that finished 5-8-1, including a 4-3-1 record in conference play. The Warriors were in serious contention for a shot at the conference title right up to the end of the regular season and should be an improved and experienced squad next fall.
The boys soccer program continues to look for an identity on the field, but Dustin Moburg’s team did win two more games than they did a year ago. At times this season he had seventh and eighth graders on the field against much more battle-tested teams.
Which leads me back to the football season.
Coming here in July of 2012 I had no idea of the dominance that the Warrior program had established over the years. I’ve been part of good teams, great teams, bad teams and really bad teams. No doubt, Caledonia has been a really great team over the years and it’s been fun to stand on the sidelines and cover the team. But after the loss to Chatfield I heard someone say, “Well this really sucks,” to which someone else said, “Well, we knew it would happen someday.”
The Warriors 36 game winning streak and three straight state championships is something that will be talked about for a long time. I was working nights this fall at the La Crosse Tribune and the talk in the sports department included a conversation about the Warriors on a regular basis. A good amount of players on the team had never lost a varsity game, and to put things in perspective, I remembered back to a five-year stretch in Wisconsin where I covered a team that lost 33 straight games.
In 2001 I was covering the Reedsburg Area High School team. On Sept. 12 the Beavers beat rival Baraboo and then didn’t win another game until the end of August, 2005. The losing streak was tough to watch. With a new coach to start the 2002 season, Reedsburg went 0-9 in 2002, 2003 and 2004, losing by at least 30 points 12 times and 40 points a half dozen more times.
At one point while covering a soccer game game, the football coach came up to me and said that he and his staff were upset with my coverage of the team and that “some of my staff wants to kill you.” The old saying “Don’t kill me – I’m just the messenger,” was never more true for me than at that moment.
It became increasingly difficult to write a story week after week after talking to the coach because he really didn’t know what to say about the losses. Needless to say, the coach didn’t stay very long in Reedsburg and the team returned to the playoffs the next season, and then lost in the Div. 3 state championship game in 2008 and won the title the next season. I was there for that also.
In 2011 I witnessed one of the most one-sided games in Wisconsin football history when Waunakee came to Reedsburg and scored 56 points in the first quarter alone. At one time the total was the fifth-most points ever scored in a quarter in the nation in high school football. To this day I will never forget the look on the Reedsburg coach’s face during that awful 12 minutes of football. I have never spoke to him about it. Some things are better left alone, and as the Beavers proved, things will get better.
Sitting here writing this, snow is falling outside and winter begins today as the Warrior gymnastics and boys basketball teams start practice with wrestling and girls basketball starting next Monday.
It’s the busiest season of the year for me, and my wife and daughter are excited as well because they like to watch basketball and gymnastics. It breaks up what otherwise can turn into a long winter if you are the wife and daughter of a sports writer.
See you in the gym.
Brady Ambrose is the sports coordinator for the Caledonia Argus. Contact him at [email protected]