Warriors put defensive stamp on the first game of the season, blank Southland 26-0

By Dugan Thomas

The Caledonia Warriors wrecking crew prepare to take the field against Southland Friday night.

, MN
- 08/22/2014

The first game of the 2014 high school football season rolled into Caledonia Friday night, and proved one thing. Even though this is a new team, a new band of brothers, and a fresh start, Caledonia Football remains a defensive powerhouse, and they do it better than every other team in the state.

After the final whistle blew and the stats were added up, Caledonia held Southland to 5 first-downs, -1 yards of rushing, and 76 total yards of offense in the game. The Warriors took the ball away 4 times, with a fumble recovery, 3 interceptions, and 2 sacks. They put fear in the eyes of the Southland quarterback, and they de-cleated running backs. So for Caledonia it was business as usual, and for the Southland Rebels, it was a long bus ride home back to Adams, Minnesota.

The zero week schedule not only gave the football season an early start, but it brought the steamy August temperatures with it on a muggy Friday night at Caledonia High School Stadium. The Warrior fans packed the house, and the players were pumped to start the season. Caledonia Football delivered the only way it knows how, with a dominant victory at the hands of a smothering defense.

Southland received the opening kickoff and started with good field position at their own 35-yard line. The Rebels started out with two running plays that went nowhere, then a 6-yard pass defensed nicely by Austin Bauer and cleaned-up by Sam Stemper to force a punt. Tanner Gran fielded the punt at his own 13-yard line, put a juke on the defender and took off down the sidelines. He got popped by two Rebels, who made a nice play on the ball and busted it loose. Southland then pounced on it and took over at Caledonia's own 36-yard line. The Warriors never relenting defense dug-in again and snuffed-out any sort of momentum with 4 straight defensive stops to gain the ball back.

Starting at their own 28-yard line, Devan Heaney busted through the line for a ten-yard scamper to pick-up a first-down. After three more plays brought the Warriors across the 50, Austin Bauer called his own number. The Caledonia senior took a quarterback keeper to the right, cut back across the grain with great vision and hit the sidelines busting it down to the 20-yard line for a 19-yard pick-up. He made another great play on 4th-and-10 from the 20, eluding a defensive-end, rolling out to his left and finding Mitchell Schmitz, who found open space in the zone for a 12-yard catch to pick-up a first-down. Devan Heaney capitalized a play later when ran-in untouched for a 6-yard touchdown behind a huge hole created by the blocking of Eli Craig, Case McCormick, and Mitchell Schmitz. The point-after attempt by Hunter Hoscheit was just wide-right, and the score remained 6-0 Caledonia.

On the very first play after the kickoff from Southland's 31-yard line, Eli Craig busted through the line from his defensive tackle spot and forced the Rebel's quarterback right into Joe Schieber, who cleaned him-up for a big 10-yard sack. The relentless Caledonia defense forced another 3-and-out, and Southland had to punt the ball right back to the Warriors, with great field position starting at their own 43-yard line. Unfortunately the Warriors couldn't take advantage, and the first-quarter ended with a 4th-and-long punt situation. Alex Goergen blasted a line-drive punt down the right-side, and the Southland returner let it roll inside the 10 to the 6-yard line.

Goergen continued his solid play on the next series with the help of Eli Craig, snuffing out three straight running plays for short gains. The Rebels still remained without a first-down and were forced to punt it right back to the Warriors, with Caledonia taking over at Southland's own 43-yard line.

On third-and-3 from the 36, Austin Bauer rolled right and found wide receiver Tanner Langen on the sidelines for a 13-yard gain to pick-up a big first-down. On the next play, Devan Heaney found room over the right side behind a big clear-out block from Hunter Hoscheit, for a 14-yard gain down to the 9 to put Caledonia in business. One play later Austin Bauer was called into action again with another quarterback keeper. He took a step back and followed his running backs over the right side, made a cut to the outside picking-up a block from wide receiver Colton Lampert, and stretched the ball over the pylon for a 6-yard touchdown run. The point-after kick failed, but the Warriors were now off to a 12-0 lead at the 7:07 mark of the 2nd quarter and were starting to dominate.

Southland finally found some offensive chemistry on the next drive, picking-up three straight first-downs with quick timing passes and a few basic runs up the middle. On a 2nd-and-8 from the Warriors 33-yard line, the Rebels tried an end-around quarterback option. Caledonia would have none of it, as defensive-end Case McCormick drilled the quarterback as he pitched it, and linebacker Alex Goergen de-cleated the running back in short order for a huge 5-yard loss. A textbook defensive play by these two defensive stalwarts to keep the Rebels in a long down and distance. A play later on 4th-and-5 from Caledonia's own 30-yard line, Sam Stemper made his presence felt in a big hurry. With pressure off the right-side by Justin Burg, the Rebel's quarterback James Landherr needed to get rid of it. Stemper read the quarterback's eyes, and jumped the route in front of his man for a pretty interception going the other way. His nice return down the sideline was nullified by a block in the back call, but none the less, Stemper made the huge play to stop the Rebel's momentum and keep the shut-out on the board.

Caledonia kept to the ground on the next two plays, and just ran out the clock before halftime to go in with a 12-0 lead. From my calculations, the Warriors held Southland to three first-downs, and less than 50-yards of total offense in the first-half. That's one impressive stat line, and the Warriors definitely came-out to play in this first game of the season.

Caledonia received the second-half kick-off, and Tanner Gran had a nice return off the left-side to start at their own 33-yard line. On the second play, Caledonia's Austin Bauer took to the air and launched a fade down the left-side for wide-out Colton Lampert. With great concentration on the ball, Lampert high-pointed it off his chest, and came down with the tip in bounds for a 26-yard gain down to the Rebel's 41-yard line. Unfortunately the drive stalled from there, and a 4th-and-5 pass to Mitchell Schmitz fell incomplete to turn the ball over to Southland.

The Caledonia defense continued it's stellar play, and held the Rebel's to three-and-out on the next series, with Southland punting the ball inside the Warriors own 20-yard line. From a power I-formation, the Warriors offensive line and running backs went to work on this next series with offensive coordinator Carl Fruechte making a great change-up call.

On the very first play, Alex Goergen burst off the left side with kick-out blocks by Mitchell Schmitz and Tanner Gran, and a linebacker sealed-off by Eli Craig for a nice 14-yard pick-up. Gran and Goergen then alternated carries, as Mitchell Schmitz wanted in on the fray with a carry of his own. Running behind a determined offensive line, Schmitz refused to go down, carrying the pile for an impressive 14-yard gain down to Southland's 40-yard line. After a holding penalty set them back to the 50, Sam Stemper stepped into the running-back role and brought fresh legs with him. Taking advantage of that same left-side, Stemper jumped a defender at the line of scrimmage and took-off down the sidelines, kicking in the accelerators before being tackled at the Rebel's 21-yard line. A 30-yard scamper that brought Caledonia to the red-zone, and made them hungry for another score. Devan Heaney kicked one outside to the 10 yard-line, and in a flash Tanner Gran found paydirt on the very next play. Switching-it-up and going right this time from the power-I, Gran raced through a monster hole with the help of Hoscheit, Schieber, and Hunter Hauser-Caldwell, for a 10-yard touchdown scamper. A perfectly booted extra-point by Hoscheit, sent the score to 19-0 at the 5:15 point of the third quarter, and Caledonia was rolling.

After two Caledonia kick-off penalties gave the Rebel's great field position at their own 43-yard line, defensive ends Justin Burg and Case McCormick gave Southland quarterback James Landherr a scare of a lifetime. Through the lens of my Canon 7D, I could see the eyes of Landherr growing big when those two monster ends converged on him with no place to go. Burg got there first to pick-up the sack, and McCormick cleaned him off to send Southland to a long 2nd-and-19 from their own 34-yard line. A 10-yard pass play gave the Rebel's some hope, but another pass attempt was thwarted on third-down by a big rush up the middle. Landherr slipped and fell down as Craig, Goergen, and McCormick converged on him, and Southland had no choice but to punt it again.

Starting from their own 33-yard line, Caledonia went back to the power running game. Devan Heaney went to the right side, broke a tackle, cut back to the left and broke two more as he was off to the races. The 23-yard dash down the left sidelines grew even bigger with a 15-yard late hit penalty by Southland to get Caledonia knocking on the door once again. Caledonia couldn't take advantage though, as a fourth-down pass to the end-zone to Tanner Langen bounced off his fingertips, and the Rebels took over at their own 24-yard line.

The third-quarter concluded for Southland, and the fourth-quarter started with a bang for Caledonia, as Seth Twite blitzed up the middle and caused Landherr to get rid of the ball in a hurry. Mitchell Schmitz stepped in front of the pass in the right flat and picked it off to give the Warriors the ball right back at Southland's own 22-yard line. A great defensive call by coach Schroeder, and a perfectly timed defensive play by Twite and Schmitz.

The turnover bug hit Caledonia once again though, as Tanner Gran got smoked by a big hit on a run off the right side and coughed the ball up. The fumble was picked up by the Rebels, and they returned it to the 35-yard line.

Caledonia didn't quit bringing pressure though, as Joe Schieber chased Landherr to the sidelines and forced him to get rid of the ball with no receiver in the area. The 15-yard penalty backed Southland up, and Schroeder just kept dialing-up the pressure. Ezekiel Ott, Justin Burg, and Sam Stemper converged on Landherr, and forced him to get rid of the ball early. A backside screen that Seth Twite jumped all-over to pick-off another interception, and another huge takeaway by the Warriors. This defense is fun to watch, and they just never give-up.

Starting at Southland's own 17-yard line, the Caledonia moving company went to work. Two Devan Heaney runs brought them to the doorstep, and Sam Stemper finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. Another great extra-point kick straight through the up-rights by Hunter Hoscheit gave Caledonia a commanding 26-0 lead, and the game was easily in hand as the fourth-quarter started to wind down.

This brought the Warriors second-string teams into action, and allowed the starters to savor a hard-fought win, ending the game with a 26-0 shutout. A great start to the season for Caledonia Football, and a great confidence booster going forward as this team tries to find it's identity. This game proved that Caledonia Football doesn't rebuild, it reloads with talent across the board, and the Warriors will again be one to watch in the race for the Southern Football Alliance Blue Division crown.

The (1-0) Caledonia Warriors head to Harmony, Minnesota next Friday night August, 29th, for a showdown with the (0-1) Fillmore Central Falcons, game time 7:00 PM.

Game Notes:

I think Blake Mauss was an inspiration to his team when he showed-up on the sidelines Friday night. Blake was involved in a serious farm accident last weekend that took away his football season. He unfortunately shattered his kneecap in an ATV collision on the farm, and he will be greatly missed as one of the best football players on this team. Everyone in the Caledonia community is thinking and praying for Blake and his family, and we all hope for a speedy recovery from this injury so in time he is able to resume his successful athletic career. Blake, thank you for your strength and your courage, Caledonia Football is family, and we're behind you every step of the way.

Caledonia plugs and plays every year with new talent, and this game proved it with the way the new starters played Friday night. Juniors Eli Craig and Joe Schieber stepped-up big with new roles on the offensive and defensive lines, and they were amazing in my film review. Both of those studs showed their muscle early on and throughout this game. The new linebackers Alex Goergen, and Sam Stemper played like seasoned veterans, absolutely nothing rattled them out of the gate, and they were making plays all over the field. Goergen had 7 tackles, a forced fumble, 2 carries for 24 yards, and a number of huge hits that caught my attention. As only a sophomore, this kid has star written all over him. Stemper had 2 carries for 31 yards and a touchdown, 4 tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception. He was constantly in the Southland backfield getting pressure on the quarterback, and as only a junior, this kid is a naturally instinctive football player and his future is bright.

The new running back tandems were outstanding. Devan Heaney ran hard and he ran tough for 19 carries and 123 yards with a TD to lead the group. Tanner Gran had 20 yards and a touchdown, with Sam Stemper and Austin Bauer getting TD's on the ground as well. Mitchell Schmitz ran hard and plowed through everything in his way, along with Alex Goergen and Hunter Hauser-Caldwell. These guys are all interchangeable at tailback and fullback, and they'll be a fun group to watch this year. Austin Bauer was excellent commanding the offense at quarterback, and he's going to be a huge asset to this team with his running and passing ability.

Justin Burg and Case McCormick had huge games on both sides of the ball. They have big bodies, with tough mentalities, and they absolutely tortured Southland Friday night. Hunter Hoscheit was constantly pancaking guys, opening-up holes, and doing what he does best, out-muscling his opponent, he was excellent. The returning studs from last year shone bright once again. Seth Twite, Tanner Langen, Hunter Hauser-Caldwell, Mitchell Schmitz, and Colton Lampert all had a great night, with no weaknesses in their game whatsoever.

The game was far from perfect, I'm sure all the players know that, and the coaches will be drilling it into their heads to coach them-up and make them better this week. I'm the positive guy though, that's my job. I'm going to continue to call it as I see it, because these kids deserve the recognition for all their hard work, and for representing the Caledonia community in such a great way. Thank you to the players, the coaches, and the support staff for everything you do for Caledonia Football, it's going to be another great season!


Southland 0-0-0-0—0

Caledonia 6-6-7-7—26

First quarter

C—Devan Heaney 6 run (kick failed) 3:19.

Second quarter

C—Austin Bauer 6 run (kick failed) 7:07.

Third quarter

C—Tanner Gran 10 run (Hunter Hoscheit kick) 5:15.

Fourth quarter

C—Sam Stemper 1 run (Hoscheit kick) 9:00.

Team Statistics

First downs;5;12



Passing yards;77;59

Totals yards;76;297



Individual Statistics

RUSHING: S—Cole Erie 7-13, Nick Finbraaten 6-8, Bryce Larson 5-6, Josh Anderson 2-(minus 4), James Langherr 6-(minus 24); C—Heaney 19-123, Sam Stemper 2-31, Bauer 5-27, Gran 6-20, Mitchell Schmitz 3-14, Goergen 2-24, Ezekiel Ott 1-0, Owen King 1-(minus 2), Austin Werner 1-(minus 3), Ben McCabe 3-1.

PASSING: S—Langherr 11-22-3-77; C—Bauer 7-13-0-59, Owen King 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING: S—Anderson 4-34, Erie 2-18, Mike Schmitz 1-11, Finbraaten 2-9, Larson 1-8, Lucas Mandt 1-7. C-Colton Lampert 2-31, Tanner Langen 2-13, Mitchell Schmitz 1-13, Seth Twite 1-5, Austin Werner 1-3.

RECORDS: S 0-1, 0-1; C 1-0, 1-0.