Chatfield wants revenge - Caledonia wants to keep the streak alive
By Dugan Thomas
CALEDONIA, MN - 08/21/2013
The Chatfield football team has to be sick of traveling to Caledonia.
This is the third straight year the Gophers travel to Caledonia for a regular season game.
You add in the 29-0 beat-down the Warriors put on them in last year's section title game in Caledonia, (see photo above) and you have a Gophers team that's fed up with traveling to the center of Houston County.
Plus, they haven't beat the Warriors since 2006, a close 12-7 contest they squeaked out on their home turf.
If my calculations are correct, that was 62 games ago.
I can guarantee you, Chatfield is salivating over the opportunity to stop Caledonia's 26-game winning streak, and make a statement with this first game of 2013.
The Gophers are extremely confident this year, and they should be. They return three all-conference skill position players - quarterback Nate Skare, running back Jake Neis, and tight end Jayme LaPlante.
Skare was a do-it-all multi-purpose quarterback for the Gophers last year, and he definitely has the arm and athleticism to lead his team to glory this year.
Neis was the conference co-offensive player of the year in 2012, with over 1,300 total yards and 16 TD's, he was one of the best athletes in southeast Minnesota.
LaPlante is 6'3 and 215 pounds of muscle, and took second in the discus at the state meet this spring. If Skare can get the ball anywhere near LaPlante, he’s going to be one tough guy to defend and bring to the ground.
They have experienced offensive linemen Michael Mabe, Branden Adler, and Tommy Jech coming back, and they only lost five players to graduation last year.
Caledonia lost ten outstanding senior starters from last year's Class AA state championship team.
Most teams would look to rebuild. Not the Warriors - they don't ever rebuild, they reload.
They only have six starters returning from last years team, but that doesn't mean they don't have plenty of experience.
New quarterback Mason DeMorett saw plenty of action last year working in with the first-team offense. Offensive Coach Carl Fruechte always keeps a back-up quarterback at the ready, and it helps with his confidence going into the new year.
Ryan Pitts and Adam Buttell are entering their third year as starters, and they absolutely need to be the emotional and physical team leaders this year.
Pitts is one of the best running backs in Minnesota, and with his speed and strength, he can be used anywhere on the defensive side of the ball as well.
Buttell can use his speed and elusiveness on the edge to take the top off any defense, and he was a lock down corner in the secondary last year.
Alex Goetzinger had a great year at tight end and linebacker last year, and Shay Rohrer was a pleasant surprise filling in on the offensive line.
West Spier terrorized quarterbacks all year long at defensive end, and Sam Schulte flashed at cornerback with some great game changing plays.
Also, my sources tell me Sean Connor, Jacob Cuda, and Austin Bauer are names to watch this year, all great athletes who are ready to make their mark.
Head Coach Brent Schroeder does an incredible job of getting kids experience on special teams too, and getting their second-team on the field at the end of games. I think this is another reason Caledonia excels from year to year, their kids are always ready to be the next man up.
Caledonia Football has high expectations every year, and this year is no different. When you win three straight Class AA state titles and five of the last six, you are always going to be put on that pedestal.
Chatfield knows they have a winner this year - they just want to find out exactly how good they can be, and if they can go toe-to-toe with the defending state champs.
The new Minnesota zero week scheduling puts only 11 games on the map this Friday night, and all eyes will be on the southeast corner of the state. Everybody wants to know who these team are, and what they're going to be.
This Friday night Chatfield is looking to take down goliath, and Caledonia is looking to keep the train a rollin’.
Keys to the game:
Ryan Pitts and Jake Neis were Co-Offensive Players of the Year in the Three Rivers Conference last year. Each guy stood out in the backfield for their respected teams. Their first match-up last year was a toss-up, Neis had 72 yards rushing, and Pitts rushed for 80. In the section title game, Pitts rolled over the Gophers for 139 yards, and Neis netted only 22.
I'll bet the winner of this year's rushing battle, will also be the winner of the game.
Does Caledonia still have that smothering shut-down defense? The one that gave up only one-yard of offense to Chatfield in the first-half of the title game last year - and only 74 yards of total offense the whole game?
If they do, Chatfield is in trouble.
Will Chatfield's experienced quarterback Nate Skare have the upper hand on Caledonia's newcomer Mason DeMorett?
Quarterback play is always a huge factor, and it'll be evident by the end of the first quarter for sure.
Last year Caledonia totally dominated special teams play. Will it be more of the same?
Blocked field goals and punts can turn the momentum of a game in a flash, and Chatfield definitely found out last year the hard way.
Pitts or Neis on kick returns?
Watch out for the speed of Ryan Pitts on kick returns. The MSHSL track meet solidified his status as the fifth fastest athlete in the state. You better not give him a crease....or he's gone.
Last year Caledonia's speed, heart, and determination won both contests. This year I think the heart and determination will be equal, but the Warriors will have just enough speed to get it done.
Caledonia - 21 Chatfield - 13