Warriors show the heart of a champion
By Dugan Thomas
Ryan Pitts was just short of the goal line late in the 4th quarter Friday night as Sam Schulte looks for the call.
CALEDONIA, MN - 08/23/2013
This was the game everyone wanted to see.
This was the game that had football fans from Duluth traveling 250 miles south to see.
They didn't leave Caledonia disappointed.
Caledonia and Chatfield exchanged blows like it was a playoff game, and in the end, the Warriors found just enough magic to clinch their 27th straight win.
Mason DeMorett plunged across the goal line from a yard out with 2:11 left in the game to put Caledonia ahead 19-18. They secured the win about a minute later when Jacob Nielsen stepped in front of a Nate Skare screen pass, and the celebration was on.
Chatfield sure looked like a team that only lost five players from last year's team. They were sharp, they were crisp, and they relied on their best offensive weapon, Jake Neis.
No wonder the kid gained over 1300 yards last year, Neis is one smooth operator. He's got great feet and fluid hips, and before you knew it, he broke off a 50-yard run to put the Gophers in scoring position.
The Warriors put up one heck of a stand inside their 10-yard line, but Skare hit Alex Bradt with a jump pass on 4th down from two yards out to score the first six points of the game.
Caledonia's offense showed a little rust early on, and had to punt the ball right back to Chatfield. The Gophers capitalized and put together a nice drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by Neis to put the Warriors in a quick 12-0 hole.
The momentum swings in this game were some of the biggest I've ever seen, as Caledonia found it's groove. Carl Fruechte pulled a trick out of his bag and dialed up a Ryan Pitts halfback pass.
Pitts darted right and flipped a beautiful high looping pass that Sam Schulte ran under and secured, for a 38-yard touchdown to put the Warriors on the board.
Caledonia's defense got the ball back, and with just one minute left in the half, DeMorett found Alex Goetzinger on an 11-yard slant to put the Warriors into the lead 13-12.
That momentum was almost huge for Caledonia, as Ryan Pitts took the second half kickoff the distance for an apparent touchdown. The little yellow flag proved differently, as a holding penalty was called around midfield.
My heart just dropped when I saw the flag, I couldn't believe that sprint to glory was snatched away from Ryan. He made one big cut, hit the far sideline, and flashed the break-away sprinter speed that earned him a 5th place finish in the state track meet last spring.
The momentum was snatched away as well, as Chatfield dug deep and took back control of the ball. Jake Neis took a delayed handoff to the right, made a jump cut to the left, and out angled the Warriors for a 59-yard touchdown run.
The Chatfield extra point kick failed, which was something that plagued the Gophers all night long. They had three touchdowns, but not a single extra point to go with them. They even had the ball deep in Caledonia territory again, but decided to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal to put them up eight.
Special teams and turnovers ended up being the achilles heel of the Gophers, as they fumbled the ball back to the Warriors with time running down in the game.
Mason DeMorett and the Caledonia offense started from their own 29-yard line, and pulled out another one of their surprising tricks. Empty backfield and five-wide was the call, and the hurry-up offense was in full display.
DeMorett completed four straight passes to start the drive, as Chatfield looked confused and didn't have an answer. Adam Buttell was a bulldog with no fear, as he caught everything thrown his way, and plowed through everything that was in his path. Before you knew it, the Warriors were inside the 10-yard line.
Chatfield stood strong one last time, and were able to force a fourth and short.
I still don't know how Ryan Pitts kept his feet. He looked like he was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage, but he never gave up and kept churning, easily getting the first down.
One more Pitts run brought them within inches to set up DeMorett's plunge into the end zone, and Caledonia had it's first Southern Football Alliance Blue Division win.
It was a battle that will be talked about for a long time, but it might not be over this season yet. Most predictions have these two teams back in the section title game, and I for one sure hope they meet again. This is what high school football is all about.
Head Coach Brent Schroeder has a team this year that he can already be proud of, and I can't wait to see how the rest of it unfolds.
With the new football conference schedule, Caledonia already has it's bye this week. The next game will be Friday September 6, an away game at Wabasha-Kellogg.
Really impressed with the offensive line for being almost a whole new unit this year. Justin Burg did an excellent job moving over and filling in at center when Shay Rohrer sprained his knee. I saw a number of different guys rotating in during the game, and they gave Mason DeMorett plenty of time in the pocket.
Big game in the middle for Alex Goetzinger, who was all over place and was constantly in Chatfield's backfield. He led the defense with 9 tackles and a forced fumble. Tanner Langen had 8 stops and a big 4th down pass breakup, and Blaine Knutson had 6 tackles and two fumble recoveries. West Spier and Mitchell Schmitz each registered a sack, and Shane Sheehan had a fumble recovery.
Jacob Nielsen had a great game on both sides of the ball, but the play he made on the interception was fantastic. He sniffed out the screen and patiently waited for it to develop, before snatching away the INT. Quarterback Nate Skare will have that play torturing his dreams for awhile.
The receiving trio of Sam Schulte, Adam Buttell, and Alex Goetzinger are going to be a fun group to watch this year. Mason did a great job of getting the ball in their hands, and letting them make a play. I think they found something with that empty backfield five-wide formation. I guarantee you the Wabasha-Kellogg scouts were at the game, they better put that in their defensive practice sheet this week.
Special thanks to coaches Brent Schroeder and Carl Fruechte for letting me be on the sidelines for the game, and for letting me come into the locker room and meet some of the players after the game. I haven't been on the sidelines for a high school football game in over twenty years, it's definitely a special feeling.
Southern Football Alliance - Blue
Caledonia 0 13 0 6 - 19
Chatfield 12 0 6 0 - 18
First quarter: Ch-Alex Brandt 2 pass from Nate Skare (kick failed); Ch-Jacob Neis 1 run (kick failed).
Second quarter: C-Sam Schulte 38 pass from Ryan Pitts (Mason Ashbacher kick); C-Alex Goetzinger 11 pass from Mason DeMorett (pass failed).
Third quarter: Ch-Neis 59 run (kick failed).
Fourth quarter: C-Mason DeMorett 1 run (pass failed).
Rushing: Ch-Neis 22-183; C-Pitts 18-68.
Passing: Ch-Skare 5-20-1-112; C-DeMorett 11-30-1-131.
Receiving: Ch-Drew Hurley 3-78, Jayme LaPlante -132; C-Adam Buttell 5-50, Alex Goetzinger 3-40, Sam Schulte 4-79.
Total yards: Ch: 256-112-368; C: 84-169-253.
Fumbles-lost: Ch-6-4; C-0-0.