Caledonia Football: Putting their bad breaks in the review mirror, Mauss and Stemper are ready to tear it up in 2015
By Dugan Thomas
CALEDONIA, MN - 08/20/2015
A promising season shattered before it even began.
An MVP season broken off before he could get to postseason glory.
Blake Mauss and Sam Stemper were two of the most promising faces of Caledonia Football in 2014, but injuries and bad luck forced them to take a separate path. Their dreams were shattered for a year, but hope was never lost.
Back for their senior season, the path to a state title has put the fire back in their eyes. Those dreams are alive and well in 2015, and it took an off-season of pain, perseverance, and determination to get them back on the football field.
August 16, 2014 will be a day forever remembered for Blake Mauss. A massive scar on his right kneecap will assure him of that.
Working on the farm that day was just another day. A cow was loose in the fields, and Blake was looking to control it. Speeding down the tall rows of corn driving a utility vehicle chasing after it, he never envisioned what would happen next.
His boss driving a pick-up truck was doing the same thing, and they met at the worst possible moment. Not being able to see each other because of the tall rows of corn, they collided almost head-on at the edge of a field. The impact spun Blake around and threw him from the utility vehicle. The steering wheel and the ATV were a crumpled mess.
Lucky to be alive, but in massive pain, Blake was rushed to the hospital with a serious knee injury. Blake's fears were realized when his injury was diagnosed. A comminuted fracture of the patella (kneecap). Shattered into 6 pieces, his patella fracture was the worst of its kind.
Blake's junior football season was lost, his wrestling season gone too. Coming off a sophomore campaign where he was turning heads on the defensive line, and winning a starting job. He took 2nd at wrestling sections that year, and finished 5th at State at 285 pounds, as just a sophomore.
All that promise was lost in an instant, and the road back to the top was a long and painful one.
A month in a wheelchair and a full leg cast, and another month of therapy to even be able to bend his knee again. Two screws holding the kneecap together will probably be there forever. Range of motion exercises and strengthening of the quadriceps muscle were done to get the flexibility back in the knee.
Blake was back to running in just a few months. With the help of Coach Carl Fruechte, and a ton of heart and desire, Mauss took to the track this past spring and gave it everything he had.
The goal was not speed on the track. The goal was getting back on the football field.
By early summer Mauss was participating in football practice, and by Augustana football camp, Blake was back to full contact. Playing and starting on both sides of the ball, offensive and defensive line, Blake has come full circle.
These days the training room and the ice machine are a regular sight for Mauss. They will probably never go away in his high school career. But he has a career to continue. That was his goal, and it's a promising one. The talent is still there, the heart and desire is still there, and Caledonia Football will always be there.
It's all come full circle for #60, because of his work ethic, and the trainers and coaches who helped him get there. Strapping on a helmet and shoulder pads, and wearing a Warriors jersey will be a special feeling this weekend for Blake. The 2015 season looks to be an impressive one, and Saturday night against La Crescent, Blake Mauss's dreams will begin again.
Sam Stemper RB/LB
Sam Stemper took a different path for Caledonia Football in 2014. One half of the season he was an MVP candidate, the other half, he was on the sidelines watching his teammates in agony.
The third game of the year, Sam became a star in a close tooth-and-nail contest with rival Rushford-Peterson. Stemper perfectly read the R-P quarterback's eyes and jumped a pass in the left flat. With open field in front of him, he was off to the races. A cut-back move at the 30 guaranteed him end zone glory with the 75-yard interception return TD. The only points in the game for the Warriors in the 7-6 win to keep them undefeated.
The next game against Hayfield, Stemper had a quarterback sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Against Kingsland 2 interceptions, with one being a 27-yard INT return touchdown to go with his 4 tackles. The defensive instincts and playmaking ability Stemper was showing, was completely off the charts. He was a natural at the linebacker position, put a problem was brewing.
His right shoulder was beginning to take a beating. The ligaments were becoming strained and loose. The shoulder was dislocating during games, and the pain was immense. Sam wanted to play threw it and he did, to the best of his ability. He had a huge blocked punt and a fumble recovery in the midseason contest against Chatfield to help secure the win. The bus ride back from Chatfield wasn't fun at all though, in pain and discomfort the whole way, he knew something was terribly wrong.
Afraid of bad news, Sam didn't tell anyone. He sat out practice all week, and prepared mentally for the next game on Friday night against Wabasha-Kellogg. He gave it everything he had that night, but his right shoulder was becoming too painful to even touch. It was time to see the trainers and do the unthinkable for an injured football player. Going to the hospital in La Crosse to see a specialist.
Initial X-rays showed no bone damage, but a follow up CT-scan confirmed it. A fractured shoulder glenoid. The glenoid is the ball and socket of the shoulder joint. This consists of the shoulder dislocating and pushing against the rim of the glenoid socket, causing a fragment of the bone to fracture. Sam's MVP season as feared, was now over.
Sam's shoulder was a mess, and the surgery was complicated.
The ligaments and labrum of the shoulder were all tore. 7 anchors were placed to stitch the tissue back together, and a screw was used to secure his bone back into place. The surgery was a success, but the healing time and rehab was immense.
The most painful part of it though, was standing on the sidelines with a completely helpless feeling, knowing there was absolutely nothing he could do in the postseason contest with BOLD. A 21-0 defeat in the state semi-finals that ended Caledonia's magical run to another state title.
Sam's junior wrestling season lost as well, there was only one thing left to do. Rehab his butt off to get back for football in the fall of 2015.
After one month he could do small exercises. After four months he could begin lifting weights. The early mornings in the weight room, the blood, sweat, and the tears. By spring time Coach Carl Fruechte had him on the track squad. The range of motion exercises, the core strengthening, Coach Fruechte is a master of getting these kids ready for football.
Sam hit the summer football circuit at full speed. The full contact at Augustana football camp gave him the confidence the shoulder was back and ready. It was still sore, the ice was still needed, but he had no restrictions, he was full-go.
It's been a long 10 months, but Sam Stemper is back to 100%. I looked him in the eyes this week at practice, and he told me Saturday night against La Crescent can't come soon enough. To strap on those pads, the helmet, the black and Vegas gold, that's all he's ever wanted.
Caledonia Football head coach Brent Schroeder had this to say about Blake Mauss and Sam Stemper.
"The heart and desire of those two young men is immense. To be able to come back from their injuries, and the passion they show for the game is outstanding. The individual work that Coach Carl Fruechte does to get them ready for the field, is a testament to him and our football program. I can't wait to get Blake and Sam back out there Saturday night, and watch them fly around with their teammates."
I believe everyone in the Caledonia community agrees Coach Schroeder. That's a walk-off quote Coach, I don't think I need to say another word.
Except for these two sentences.
We'll see you Saturday night at Caledonia High School against La Crescent.
Mark my words, this will be a special season for the Caledonia Warriors.