Caledonia goes into hostile territory and takes down Chatfield in thriller

By Dugan Thomas

Mitchell Schmitz carries the ball in the fourth quarter for Caledonia Friday night against Chatfield.

CHATFIELD, MN - 09/26/2014

Caledonia Football had been waiting for this game for a long time. The Chatfield Gophers knocked off the Warriors in overtime in last year's section title game, and went on to win the Minnesota Class AA state title. They stopped Caledonia's 36-game winning streak, and prevented them from winning a fourth straight state title. You could say the rivalry has definitely been renewed again, and all eyes were on this corner of the state to see which football powerhouse prevailed.

The undefeated Warriors came into the game ranked 2nd in state in the latest Associated Press poll, the Gophers 5th. On a warm late September night in Chatfield, these two teams slugged it out blow for blow, and it was epic.

After a slow first quarter when both teams traded punts and couldn't get anything going offensively. Caledonia finally struck with a big play down the sidelines. Austin Bauer dropped back to pass and connected with his favorite target Colton Lampert on a 22-yard pass to put them into the red zone at Chatfield's 12-yard line. Lampert went over his defender and made a great catch getting his foot inbounds to keep the drive alive. Three straight runs by Tanner Gran brought them to the doorstep, and quarterback Austin Bauer finished it off on the next play. Following behind his big offensive line, Bauer took a 1-yard quarterback sneak into the end zone, and the Warriors struck first making it 6-0 after the failed extra-point kick.

A good kickoff return by the Gophers put them out to the 32-yard line, and their offense went to work. Running back Carter Duxbury broke a couple Warrior tackles and was off to the races all the way down to Caledonia's 17-yard line. Another first down was gained inside the 5, then quarterback Drew Hurley dropped back to pass. Warriors defensive end Case McCormick would have none of it, as he busted through the line of scrimmage and took down Hurley for a 10-yard quarterback sack. Caledonia's defense stiffened, and forced Chatfield into kicking a 26-yard field goal. Ethan Woltz kicked it through the uprights, and the Gophers were on the board making it 6-3.

After Chatfield forced Caledonia to punt the ball, the Warriors made a good defensive stand of their own, and the Gophers had to punt after three plays. Sam Stemper continued his big plays of late, and knifed through the line untouched. Chatfield's punter was standing on his own goal line, and he found a whole lot of Stemper in his face. Sam blocked it cleanly, with the ball going through the corner of the end zone for a safety. The Warriors special teams units just keep making big plays this year, and the score went to 8-3 Caledonia.

Caledonia's momentum was short lived, as Chatfield got the ball back in a hurry and had life of their own with good field position. Hurley moved the Gophers methodically down the field, and a 4th down run by Ryan Meeker brought them inside the Warriors 10-yard line. Hurley capitalized on the next play with a perfect pass to Parker Fossum in the end zone for a 8-yard touchdown. They added a two-point conversion to Alex Bradt, and Chatfield took the lead 11-8.

The Gophers continued to kick away from Caledonia's deep returners, and Mitchell Schmitz caught a line drive in the middle of the field, taking it out to his own 40-yard line. The next play the Warriors went into their bag of tricks and Tanner Gran took a reverse handoff for a 15-yard gain. The Warriors then spread out 3 wide receivers with double tight ends, and Bauer dropped back to pass. He caught the Gophers on a blitz, and Mitchell Schmitz was wide open over the middle. Schmitz made the safety miss, caught a block from Tanner Langen on the edge, and took it to the house. A 45-yard quick strike play by the Warriors took the momentum right back. The Alex Goergen extra-point kick was good, and the score was 15-11 which they held onto going into halftime.

In the second half Chatfield had an opportunity to strike first, and they did behind the legs of quarterback Drew Hurley. Hurley dropped back to pass, broke contain off the left side, and sprinted down the sidelines. He broke a tackle at midfield, and raced into the end zone for another Gophers touchdown. An impressive display of speed and athleticism by Hurley gave Chatfield the lead again, with a two-point conversion added on to make it 19-15.

Both team traded punts going through the third quarter, and Chatfield found momentum again when the Warriors missed on a fake punt. The good field position around midfield, gave the Gophers an opportunity to strike again early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Drew Hurley marched Chatfield into scoring position with his running on the edge, and Carter Duxbury found the end zone with a 2-yard touchdown plunge. The score was 25-15 Chatfield, and they stunned the Warriors in a hurry.

Just when Caledonia was starting to move the ball, Drew Hurley made another big play. Austin Bauer went to the air and was looking for Lampert down the left side when Hurley came out of nowhere. He ranged from his safety position, and made an incredible interception getting a foot inbounds just before Lampert could get his hands on it. In high school football, one incredible athlete can take over the game, and Drew Hurley was giving the Warriors fits.

Chatfield took over again, but on third down Hurley got greedy. He lofted a pass down the left sidelines and Austin Bauer was there to make the interception at the Gophers 43-yard line. The Caledonia defense found the turnover they were looking for, and the Warriors went right to work.

From their power-I formation, running backs Devan Heaney, Tanner Gran, and Hunter Hauser-Caldwell took turns carrying the ball with success, and marched it right down the field. From the 14-yard line, Gran took a pitch right, put his foot in the ground and cut back to the middle with daylight. He turned on the speed and found the end zone untouched for a huge touchdown to put Caledonia right back into the game. The Alex Goergen extra-point kick cut Chatfield's lead to 3 points 25-22.

With time winding down in the game, Caledonia needed the ball back in a hurry, and the Warriors defense was feeling it. Two straight running plays went nowhere, then on third down Drew Hurley tried a quarterback sweep. Justin Burg ran him to the sidelines and tackled him for no gain, to make a huge play which forced a punt. With the momentum shifting to Caledonia quickly, the Gophers punt snap went over the head of Chase Salerno and into the end zone. Salerno quickly fell on it, but it was another safety for Caledonia. The score moved to 25-24 and the Warriors were getting the ball back.

The free kick and the return by Tanner Gran gave Caledonia the ball at it's own 44-yard line. A holding on Caledonia took the Warriors back and they couldn't get a first down on this series, forcing them to punt.

Luckily the Warriors defense came through again on the next series. On third down at Chatfield's 22-yard line, Mitchell Schmitz and Seth Twite stuffed the running play at the line of scrimmage, and the ball popped loose. Justin Burg fell on it, and the Warriors had a huge turnover, taking over with time winding down.

A holding penalty dropped Caledonia back on it's second play, but an Austin Bauer quarterback draw found success down the left sideline. From the 18-yard line, the play of the game was made with just 1:50 left on the clock.

Bauer dropped back to pass, with a blitz in his face, he threw a back shoulder fade to Colton Lampert down the left side. Lampert made an incredible adjustment to the ball, cut inside the defender , and struck end zone glory. The Caledonia sideline erupted, and the Warriors stormed back with 15 unanswered points late in the 4th quarter to regain the lead 30-25. The intensity of this game overwhelmed the players, and Lampert was mobbed in the end zone by his teammates.

The game definitely wasn't over though, with a good kick return and a 12-yard pass completion, the Gophers quickly marched into Caledonia territory.

With about a minute to play Chatfield's Dillon Bance went back to pass. The ball fluttered on him as he passed it to the right sidelines, and Mitchell Schmitz was there. He ranged over from his linebacker spot and grabbed the huge interception to seal the game for Caledonia, and break the hearts of the hometown crowd. Three straight kneel downs by Austin Bauer ran out the clock, and the Warriors stayed undefeated on the season at 6-0.

This rivalry keeps getting more intense every year, and I expect these two teams will meet again in the Section 1 playoffs coming in a few weeks. A great game played by two southeast Minnesota powers, maybe the two best teams in all of Class AA.

Caledonia has a bye week this week, and gets a chance to rest up and get healthy before it goes into the Class AA Section 1 playoffs. The next game will be at Caledonia High School Friday October 10, against Wabasha-Kellogg, game time 7:00 PM. 

Game Notes:

Caledonia and Chatfield are building quite a rivalry over the last few years in football. That’s what is so great about sports - the rivalries that fuel the fire and make the game more interesting. Packers/Vikings, Gophers/Badgers, Yankees/Red Sox. The football atmosphere on Friday night in Chatfield is what it’s all about, and these two teams were waiting all year for this matchup. When Colton Lampert made the game winning touchdown catch with under two minutes to play, the excitement from the players and the traveling fans showed exactly how much this game meant to them. Chatfield has narrowed the gap on Caledonia over the last two years, Caledonia beat Chatfield in the 2012 section title game 29-0, and Chatfield beat Caledonia in the overtime classic last year 13-10. I expect these two teams to meet again in this year’s section championship game, and you would have to bet it’ll be another exciting instant classic.

In high school football, and even sometimes in college or the pros, the fastest player on the field, or the best individual athlete can take over the game. (Think Percy Harvin, Randy Moss, or Reggie Bush) That’s what I saw on Friday night during the third quarter. Chatfield quarterback Drew Hurley was the best player on the field, and made two incredible plays that no one else could’ve made. He broke contain and sprinted past three Warrior defenders for a touchdown down the sidelines. Then he ranged from his safety spot midfield to pick off a pass on the sidelines just before it was about to be completed. Hurley's quarterback sweeps and running on the edge gave Caledonia fits for most of the game, but when it mattered late in the fourth quarter, coach Schroeder’s defense locked him down, and didn’t allow another point. Great teams make big plays to win close games, and it was Caledonia’s playmakers that came through in the clutch in the fourth quarter. Austin Bauer started  the big plays with an interception. Then Tanner Gran made a play with his cutback touchdown run. Justin Burg and the Caledonia defense stuffed Chatfield's run, and created the fumble for a turnover. Then Austin Bauer and Colton Lampert connected for the biggest play of the game in the final two minutes to take the lead. Coach Fruechte and Austin Bauer saw the mismatch on the edge, and they took advantage of it. Mitchell Schmitz finished it out with the big interception at the end to seal it.

Those are the facts. The Warriors made the plays they needed to make in their close games against Chatfield and Rushford this year, and they remain undefeated. Anyone who says they're a better team than Caledonia has an opportunity to do so. It's called the playoffs. This is a new year and a new group of teams. Everyone in Minnesota Class AA has an opportunity to take advantage this year. Section 1 has taken home the state title in 6 of the last 7 years. Caledonia (5) Chatfield (1). Playoffs start Tuesday, October 21.

Southern Football Alliance - Blue

Caledonia    6   9   0  15  -  30

Chatfield     0  11  8   6   -  25

First quarter: Ca—Austin Bauer 1 run (kick failed).

Second quarter: Ch—Ethan Woltz 26 FG; Ca—Safety, Sam Stemper blocked punt rolls through end zone; Ch—Parker Fossum 8 pass from Drew Hurley (Alex Bradt pass from Hurley); Ca—Mitchell Schmitz 45 pass from Bauer (Alex Goergen kick).

Third quarter: Ch—Hurley 51 run (Jarrett Oakley run).

Fourth quarter: Ch—Carter Duxbury 2 run (kick failed); Ca—Tanner Gran 14 run (Goergen kick); Ca—Safety, tackled in end zone ; Ca—Colton Lampert 18 pass from Bauer (run failed).

Rushing: Cal—Gran 14-51; Cha—Carter Duxbury 11-86.

Passing: Cal—Bauer 9-17-2-135.

Receiving: Cal—Lampert 7-83.

Total Yards: Cal—89-135—223. Cha—163-44—207.

Fumbles: Cal—1-1; Cha—3-2.

Records: Cal 6-0, 6-0; Cha 3-2, 3-2.