Caledonia Football doesn't rebuild, it reloads: Warriors committed to being back on top in 2014

By Dugan Thomas

This band of brothers will be leading Caledonia Football into the 2014 Minnesota high school season.

, MN
- 8/14/2014
November 1, 2013, Winona State University Maxwell Field. Minnesota Class AA Section-1 championship game.

The Chatfield Gophers did something that no other football team in Minnesota has been able to do for 3 years.

They beat the Caledonia Warriors and prevented them from winning a fourth straight state title. They also stopped their 36-game winning streak, the 5th longest winning streak in the history of Minnesota state high school football.

If you were at the game and saw the celebration on the field you would know. Chatfield took down goliath. Team members, the student body, parents and fans of all ages flooded the field congratulating the Gophers.

Chatfield's very own CCTV game broadcasters were giddy with excitement. "We win, we win, we win! The Chatfield Gophers have broken the dynasty! The dynasty ends tonight!"

The 10-10 tie game at the end of regulation forced sudden death overtime. The Chatfield Gophers had four plays from the 10-yard line to score. They were stuffed on three straight plays by the Warriors and were forced to kick a field goal to take a three-point lead.

In high school sudden death overtime, each team has a chance to possess the ball from the ten-yard line and score, it was the Warriors turn. A touchdown wins, four plays to score a touchdown from the ten wins it.

On the very first play, Adam Buttell went in motion out of the backfield to the right, and quarterback Mason DeMorett snapped the ball rolling out to his right. What happened next sent the Chatfield sideline into hysteria, and all it took was one half-second to separate a glorious win from a devastating loss. The half-second of hesitation was all it took for the interception to happen. Without it, Buttell likely would have caught it for a touchdown.

would not have been there without Mason DeMorett. The 80-yard TD strike on the Warriors opening offensive play of the game to Sam Schulte was perfect. Each reverse pitch sweep toss to Ryan Pitts was perfect. The two-minute drill offense to put them in position late in the game, was run perfectly. Mason took a lot of heat in the weeks after the game, and it was not deserved. This loss was not the fault of Mason DeMorett. Assistant head coach Carl Fruechte has taken a lot of heat for the play call, and it is not deserved. Everyone knows that Carl Fruechte and Brent Schroeder are the heart and soul of Caledonia Football, and they are the best in the business, period.

At least twice, penalties took points off the board for Caledonia. From what I saw on tape, they were legit. The Caledonia defense over pursued on Jake Neis's 40-yard touchdown run, and multiple field-goals were missed. Bottom line, Chatfield had fewer mistakes and penalties than Caledonia did, and they won the game.

I take nothing away from the Chatfield Gophers. They went on to win the 2013 Class AA state football title. They won the Class A state wrestling title in February. They had an incredible year, they deserved it.

The point I'm trying to make, is that it took 3 years, and 36 straight games for someone to come within a half-second of the Caledonia Warriors football team.

In the last seven years, the Warriors have won 5 MN Class AA state titles, and 6 Section-1 championships. Their record in that span is 87 wins and 5 losses. Caledonia doesn't rebuild, they reload with one of the best high school football programs in the state of Minnesota. There's Eden Prairie, there's Totino-Grace, there's Cretin-Derham Hall, and there's Caledonia. The Warriors are currently 5th all-time in Minnesota high school football history, with 6 state titles.

This is the dynasty Chatfield wanted to take down. Every other team in MN Class AA was trying to do the same thing.

2014 is a new year. I don't need to ask Caledonia head coach Brent Schroeder what the goals of his team are this year. Those goals are the same every year, for all players and coaches involved.

Win the 2014 MN Class AA state championship for Caledonia High School, and the communities of Caledonia, Brownsville, Eitzen, and Freeburg. The players and coaches have been working their butts off since November 1, 2013 to accomplish this goal, and this is how they do it. 

Games are won at practice

If you want to be the best, you have to practice against the best. Everyone knows that Caledonia has been a staple at the Augustana Football Camp in Sioux Falls, South Dakota every summer. Going against some of the best football teams in the upper Midwest, Caledonia competes against all sizes of schools regardless of division or rank.

They have individual skill development, and 7-on-7 drills, but this is a full-contact camp. The controlled scrimmages against other camp squads is where you separate the men from the boys, and Caledonia doesn't back down from anyone.

Sioux Falls high schools Lincoln, Roosevelt, and O'Gorman. Minnesota schools like Mankato West and Wayzata. Schools that have an enrollment 5-6 times the size of Caledonia are competing at these camps. The Warriors coaches have lined-up full-contact scrimmages all summer with some of Minnesota's best football programs, just to get better from the competition.

I visited Caledonia Football practice a couple times this last week. The first time I've been to a Caledonia Football practice since I was a senior defensive captain for the Warriors in the early 90's. What I saw amazed me.

With the building of the new high school and athletic complex in 2003, it allowed the football team to have a complete training facility with a dedicated weight room, and 4 full-size football fields. This was no ordinary high school football practice, this was a professional operation. It was no different than what I saw in Mankato a couple weeks ago at Minnesota Vikings training camp.

Conducted by Caledonia coaches Brent Schroeder and Carl Fruechte, the practices had complete and detailed organization, they had intensity, and they had pace. Trying to squeeze in the maximum amount of work and training in the 4-5 hours of time allowed is the goal. The players had enthusiasm throughout, and they were enjoying it. These kids love to play football, and all they want to do is get better every day.

They go from offensive line drills, to defensive line drills, with offensive, defensive, and special teams scrimmages mixed in. The offense led by Coach Fruechte, with assistants Mitch Mullins, and John Hauser teaching on every play. Getting the kids in the right spots, showing them how to run their routes, teaching them the fundamentals.

The defense led by Coach Schroeder is as complex as you get in high school football. The blitzes, the shifts, the offensive tendencies and looks. Coach Roger Knutson working with the linebackers, the attention to detail on every defensive package. That is why Caledonia has been a defensive juggernaut for the last decade. The things that these coaches see, and how fast they see them is remarkable. They teach and do everything the right way, that's why they are the best. Five state titles in seven years, will tell you everything you need to know. 

Caledonia plugs and plays year after year

Caledonia reloads with talent year after year, they have shown this. The off-season strength and conditioning program led by Ernie and Eddie Hodges is a staple of this football program. When a player gets through the spring and summer, and they arrive in the fall, they are fully built to start on this football team, and this year is no different.

This year's Caledonia Warriors squad will be led by the offensive line. The talent and size on this squad is immense. Averaging 6' 2" and 240 pounds, this is the biggest offensive line in recent memory. Triggered by 2nd year starting center Justin Burg, the line is loaded with talent and experience from last year. Case McCormick, Brandon Tornstrom, Blake Mauss, Hunter Hoscheit, Brody Holter, and Joe Schieber will be seeing extensive playing time. This is the heavy moving company, and I believe they will be plowing monster holes this year.

Austin Bauer is the new leader of this football team at quarterback. If you watched last year's Caledonia basketball team you would know, this kid has ice running through his veins. He has the talent, he has the athleticism, and he has the smarts. Early reports are in on Austin Bauer, he's got the arm, he takes care of the football, and he can run. Backing up Austin this year will be freshman Owen King. From what I've seen in camp, it's hard to believe he's a freshman. Last year's star on the courts eighth-grader is looking like a star on the football team. He has King and Fruechte in his blood, and he definitely will be one to watch in the years ahead.

The backfield lost an extremely talented runner with the graduation of Ryan Pitts, but the Warriors have multiple running backs ready to step in and go. Devan Heaney, Tanner Gran, Mitchell Schmitz, Eli Craig, Sam Stemper, Hunter Hauser-Caldwell, and Alex Goergen, all have experience at both tailback and fullback, and they will carry the load this year. With the big moving company in front of them, this is the year Caledonia pounds the ball and controls the clock. I believe Devan Heaney is your home-run hitter, and early reports have Mitchell Schmitz and Tanner Gran being your workhorses.

The wide receiver group will be led by Tanner Langen, Colton Lampert, and Jacob Winjum, with Seth Twite at tight-end. I've seen multiple running backs playing the wide receiver position as well, I believe they'll be constantly changing it up this year, rotating in players. They have the talent and the skill, and they have the speed. From what I've seen in camp, Langen, Lampert, Twite, and Winjum have natural pass catching abilities, and they were impressive.

Coach Schroeder's defense will again be led by the linebackers, it always is. That stacked 4-by-4 formation has thrown roadblocks in southeast Minnesota for the last decade. Seth Twite and Mitchell Schmitz were break-out stars last year at linebacker, and they will again be leading this defense this year. Eli Craig, Sam Stemper, and state wrestling stud Alex Goergen will all get their shot this year as well. This is a fast, strong, and tough group, there will be pads cracking this fall, I guarantee it.

The defensive line looks to be loaded with Justin Burg and Case McCormick at defensive end. State heavyweight wrestling standout Blake Mauss at defensive tackle, with Hunter Hoscheit, Brody Holter, Brandon Tornstrom, and Joe Schieber all vying for a spot.

The back end will be Tanner Langen returning at cornerback, with Jacob Winjum, Colton Lampert, Tanner Gran, and Devan Heaney. I expect to see Austin Bauer at free safety, with Langen and Lampert being a natural fit back there as well.

This is your 2014 Caledonia Warrior Football team.

To me, it looks stacked. Just like it does year after year. The competition in the Southern Football Alliance Blue Division will be Chatfield and Rushford, they play the Warriors tough every year. Chatfield is the defending state champion by a half-second. I would have to bet most people already have September 26th circled on their calendars this year. The rematch of Caledonia-Chatfield should be epic, and I can't wait for the season to start. First game is Friday August, 22, a home game in Caledonia against Southland High School.

There's a couple sayings that I've recently fell in love with, thought up and written by me.

Caledonia doesn't build rocket scientists, everybody knows this.

...Caledonia builds football players.

In Caledonia, football isn't just a game.

...in Caledonia, football is a way of life.

Amen, brother.