Caledonia Football: Warriors skill position stars are lighting it up in 2015
By Dugan Thomas
Caledonia senior running back Mitchell Schmitz.
CALEDONIA, MN - 10/02/2015
Caledonia Football is known for it's punishing defense. Year in and year out, they dominate southeast Minnesota with their relentless style of play. In 2015 it's no different, as the Warriors are leading the Southeast District - White Division in team defense by a large margin. Caledonia has only allowed 674 yards of total offense through 6 games, an astounding average of only 112.3 yards/game. The problem - the defense is getting no love, because the offensive skill position stars are grabbing all the headlines.
This year's crop of skill position talent is off the charts. The Warriors are putting on a show every Friday night, and lighting up the scoreboard. Caledonia is averaging 49.6 points/game through their first six games, and nobody's even come close to stopping them. It all starts with a gunslinger, and Coach Fruechte is letting the sophomore stud air it out.
Owen King in his first year starting at quarterback has looked like a seasoned vet for the Warriors. That's one well-prepared, poised, and talented athlete at the helm. The kid doesn't get rattled, and he just makes plays. Perfect mechanics and footwork developed by his coaches have enabled Owen to chuck it all over the field. King leads the division in passing as just a sophomore. His 55 completions on 76 attempts gives him an incredible 72% completion percentage, with 832 yards passing and 14 touchdowns. Owen's deep ball is a thing of beauty, and his roll-out throws on the run highlight his athleticism. The kid is a baller with a Division-I arm, college scouts better put the King household on speed dial.
Senior running back Sam Stemper has come out of nowhere in my opinion. He was mostly a defensive linebacker specialist for the Warriors last year and didn't get many carries. This year he's come back from his shoulder injury like a man possessed. Not only killing it at his linebacker spot, but leading the team in rushing with 496 yards on 65 carries for a 7.6 yard average and 11 touchdowns. Stemper is ranked third in the division in rushing, and second in scoring, but with less than half the carries compared to his competition. His 7.6 yard rushing average is leading the division, and his production is vital for the Warriors offense. Sam dedicated this last off-season to getting stronger and faster, and it's showing in a big way in 2015.
Senior Mitchell Schmitz is the Caledonia athlete I call Superman. The kid is so big and strong and never gets injured, it's like he's indestructible. The picture above says it all. He took the handoff, cut to the outside, and gave such a violent stiff-arm to the Pine Island defender, the poor kid was making divots in the grass with his facemask. He didn't know whether he was on a football field or a golf course when he climbed to his feet and took the grass out of his helmet. Schmitz and Stemper rotate in the Warriors backfield in the halfback position, with Mitchell netting 296 yards on 30 carries for a 9.9 yard average and 6 touchdowns on the ground, with another coming through the air. If you want to try and tackle this Warrior combo of muscle and speed, you better bring it, otherwise they can easily go through or around you.
Ben McCabe is a junior track star looking for any carries he can get out of that backfield, and when he does, he makes the most of them. His 99 yards on 15 attempts net him a 6.6 yard average with 2 touchdowns through 6 games. He's always at the ready on the Caledonia sideline, and when Coach Fruechte yells "Ben...Go!!", it's like he's shot out of a cannon. Both of his touchdown runs this year were of the speed demon variety, slashing through defenders like butter. The kid has talent galore and Fruechte blood in his veins, he's definitely ready to break-out and make his mark in 2015.
Senior wide receiver/return specialist Jacob Winjum is part of the Warriors triple threat receivers group. He has 18 catches for 227 yards and 5 touchdowns, with a 39-yard punt return thrown in. He had a two touchdown game versus Triton which showed off his speed and route running. Winjum blasted past his defender down the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown to open the game, then chipped in a 7-yard touchdown on a perfectly run out route that left the defender grasping for air. A lockdown corner on defense as well, Winjum can do it all.
Senior wide receiver Colton Lampert has come back from a few minor injuries earlier in the season, and is starting to turn it on. His 9 catches for 196 yards and 4 touchdowns give him an incredible 21.8 yard average. He had 97 yards and a touchdown against Triton, and just last week against Cotter he blew past his defender for a 35-yard touchdown reception. One of the fastest players on the team, his long legs and strides remind me of Randy Moss, and his basketball skills translate to jump balls in the end zone. Don't even try pressing Lampert on the line with no deep help, the kid will be gone with 6 points in his hip pocket.
Last but surely not least is the star of this skill position group. Tanner Gran is not just a good football player...Tanner Gran is an incredible football player. Some people were just made to play football, and Tanner Gran is one of those people. He began to open eyes last year at running back and wide receiver, and continued doing so in the off-season wowing scouts on the 7-on-7 tournament trail. In his first game of the year at St. Charles, his first touch went for a 70-yard punt return touchdown. His second touch, a receiving touchdown and a two point conversion. The next game against Pine Island, 6-9 for 113 yards and a touchdown. Two games later against Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Gran really went off. 2 receptions for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air, with another 2 touchdowns and 184 total punt return yards on special teams. Gran leads the district in receiving with 17 receptions for 356 yards, and his 8 total touchdowns are fourth in the district in scoring. You can't hide the tape on Tanner Gran, everyone from this point knows what he can do, and you can't allow your team to give him clean touches, or he's gone.
The Caledonia football team might be still known for it's defense going forward, but football fans love big plays, and the media definitely loves big plays, and the Warriors have it going on right now. The 2015 Warriors skill position stars are making highlight plays all over the field, and they're loving every minute of it. As the season goes along and the competition gets tougher, will they still be making it look easy? Time will tell, but if you want to check out a show, look up Caledonia football on the next Friday night billing. It's worth the price of admission all night long, I guarantee it.