FOR THE 9TH TIME IN THE LAST 11 YEARS, CALEDONIA FOOTBALL CRUISES TO STATE RIDING A TIDAL WAVE OF TALENT
For the 9th time in the last 11 years, Caledonia Football cruises to State riding a tidal wave of talent
By Dugan Thomas
CALEDONIA, MN - 10/30/2015
It's been 3 years since Caledonia brought home the Minnesota State Class AA football trophy.
It seams like an eternity doesn't it? Or is it just me?
Levi Schmitz kicked that legendary game winning field goal on November 23rd, 2012 as time expired to give the Warriors a perfect 13-0 season, and their third straight Class AA state title. Their 5th state title in 6 years between 2007-2012.
What happens when Caledonia doesn't make the state title game for two straight years?
They go into beast mode and destroy southeast Minnesota for 11 straight weeks to make a statement in 2015.
A #1 state ranking, a perfect 11-0 record, an average margin of victory of 43 points per game, outscoring opponents 413-0 in the first two quarters of their 11 victories, while only allowing 114 offensive yards and 5.7 points a contest.
Are they on a mission to prove something, or do they just have that much talent?
Maybe a little of both, but let's get started on the talent because the Warriors are loaded.
Has there been a more impressive season for a quarterback in the history of Caledonia Football than the one Owen King is currently displaying? Please tell me if I'm forgetting someone from years past in this storied program, but I can't think of one. 100 completions for 1749 yards and 30 touchdowns, with a 65% completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 141.6 with only 3 interceptions. That's Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers type numbers.
And the kid is only a sophomore, let that sink in for a second.
Last year for a team photo shoot Owen didn't own a pair of blue jeans, only shorts and sweatpants. He had to borrow a pair from his dad. A gym rat who started on the varsity basketball team as an eighth-grader, I can almost guarantee he doesn't own a smartphone like most of his classmates. He probably takes his playbook and a football to bed so he can get to sleep at night.
All kidding aside, Owen King is a master behind center with a football in his hands. In the section title game against Lewiston-Altura, King was 15-20 for 271 yards and 4 touchdowns, all to wide receiver Tanner Gran. The quick slants and the 40-yard bomb to Gran were impressive throws, but the two plays that stuck out to me were roll-outs to get away from inside blitzes. Twice on the same drive Owen had to release from the pocket and sprint to his right to get away from pressure up the middle. He threw across his body to Mitchell Schmitz on the first one to pick up a first down, then found Gran with a laser beam and a pretty tip-toe catch along the sidelines to pick-up yet another first down. #3 made plays like that all night long that made me say "wow" out loud on numerous occasions.
How about that #89, Warrior athlete Tanner Gran? 40 receptions for 800 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year, with 4 punt return touchdowns, and an interception return touchdown. Tanner had 9 catches for 198 yards and 4 touchdowns in the section title win on Saturday night. The Cardinals had no answer.
Gran has been a force all year long, no matter where he lines up. In the slot, out wide, punt returns, kick returns, defensive linebacker. The precision route-running machine that is Tanner Gran can control a game with his spin-moves, and ankle breaking jukes. You better locate #89 on every play, or he'll make you pay. Gran's the best football player in southeast Minnesota in my opinion, but following closely behind is a guy he knows all too well.
Caledonia running back/linebacker Sam Stemper is an animal, plain and simple.
#24 runs the ball on every play like a man possessed. The skill and athleticism of Ryan Pitts, and the heart and determination of Connor McCormick all wrapped-up into one.Stemper's 121 carries for 1025 yards and 20 touchdowns with an 8.5 yard average through 11 games are outstanding. The vision and patience he's developed behind the line of scrimmage keep getting better every game, and he let it all out in the section championship. 25 carries for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns in a star workhorse performance.
He's also a monster on the defensive side of the ball, with 45 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a blocked punt on the year. His big hit on a Lewiston-Altura kick return Saturday night was legal in every way possible, but was so violent the official threw a flag anyway because you don't see hits like that in high school football.
This time last year Sam Stemper was watching from the sidelines with a severely busted-up shoulder in the postseason. The hard work and relentless determination by Stemper has brought him full-circle, and it's paying huge dividends towards Caledonia's football success.
To have that much offensive firepower and statistics, you have to have a driving force behind it. That would be the Caledonia Warrior offensive line. Keeping quarterback Owen King clean, with time to throw monster bombs to Tanner Gran and Colton Lampert, and opening huge holes for Sam Stemper and Mitchell Schmitz. The 5 starting offensive linemen have been exceptional this year and especially lately in the postseason. Led by monster senior captain Hunter Hoscheit, the offensive line has been injury free and one impressive unit this year.
Hoscheit, Blake Mauss, Brandon Robley, Eli Craig, and Joe Schieber don't get the kind of accolades as the position players, but the Warriors offensive success is hinged on the play of these five studs working in unity. I've also noticed a certain trap play with a tackle pulling that's triggered huge runs by Stemper in the postseason. Coach Carl Fruechte has designed some impressive formations and plays, and he has this unit working like a well oiled machine.
The defensive side of the ball is Coach Brent Schroeder's masterpiece. Allowing only 114 offensive yards and 5.7 points a game is what Caledonia Football is known for. Those 5.7 points a game are mostly on the junior varsity when the starters rest in the 3rd and 4th quarter as well. This juggernaut defensive unit has stars sprinkled all over, and they don't give up much.
Junior linebacker Alex Goergen leads the team with 56 tackles, 3 sacks, a fumble recovery, and 2 blocked punts. He's moved down to defensive end to replace the injured Zeke Ott, and has played incredible. He had 7 tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery in the section championship Saturday night, #21 was definitely all over the field making plays.
Right behind him in the stat line is senior defensive captain Mitchell Schmitz. 49 tackles, with 2 sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble through 11 games. Schmitz had 10 tackles and a forced fumble in the section title game, and his leadership is invaluable, a true stalwart for this defensive unit.
Colton Lampert has replaced the injured Jacob Winjum in the secondary and is a ball hawk with 4 interceptions on the year, with a critical one coming in Saturday nights section championship. Nobody is getting behind the speedy Lampert in the secondary. Ben McCabe and Sean McGonigle also had interceptions Saturday night and this secondary unit can run, they can tackle, and they have no fear of opposing quarterbacks and receivers.
Is that enough talent for you? Caledonia is stacked, and they're on a mission in 2015 no doubt. They have to keep playing their style of football and don't buy into the hype. Come out strong, and come out fast just like they've been doing. All games are tough at the state level, and nobody will be laying down for the Warriors and their #1 state ranking.
Caledonia's first round opponent Friday night is (7-4) Blue Earth Area. The Bucs were a Class AAA state champion in 2012, but have slipped down to Class AA in 2015 because of declining enrollment. The quarterfinal game is at RCTC in Rochester, game time .
Buckle your seat belts Caledonia fans, it's state tournament time.