Back to The Bank: Caledonia routs Pipestone Area to reach state football semifinals
Win No. 66 in a row was a lot like many of the first 65.
Score touchdowns in bunches.
Allow the opponent to score very little.
Shake hands. Move on to the next week.
To say the 2019 Caledonia football team is business-like would be an understatement. It's more like a machine, a robot with 22 parts working together to form a whole unit that has outscored its 12 opponents by an average of 39.7-6.2 this season.
That machine plowed through another overmatched opponent Friday night at Mayo High School Stadium in the quarterfinals of the Class AA state tournament. The top-ranked and four-time defending state champion Warriors improved to 12-0 with a 56-14 victory against unranked Pipestone Area that was as dominant as the score indicates.
The victory is the 66th in a row for Caledonia, which hasn't lost since Nov. 15, 2014, a 21-0 setback against BOLD in the Class AA state semifinals.
Caledonia's winning streak is the longest active streak among high school football teams in the United States. It's a bit mind-boggling to think that this year's seniors were seventh-graders watching from the bleachers the last time the Warriors lost a football game.
They'll go for win No. 67 in a row at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Warriors' home away from home, U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Caledonia will face the winner of Saturday's game between Osakis and Barnesville in the state semifinals.
"It means a lot, there’s a lot of pressure put on the kids by people outside the program," Caledonia coach Carl Fruechte said of getting another opportunity to play at U.S. Bank Stadium. "But we talk about playing hard, working hard, doing the right things every day. There are other outside influences that can make it difficult.
"But it’s huge for us. We’re excited to play there. We’ll have our hands full. It's all about making memories, that’s what we’re trying to do with these kids. It’s just fun to coach and you want to squeeze out every week you can."
Warriors quarterback Noah King looked like he was playing a video game Friday.
The senior completed 13 of 19 passes for 339 yards and six touchdowns in two-and-a-half quarters of play. He did nearly all his damage prior to halftime, throwing for 325 yards and all six of his TDs in the first 24 minutes, when the Warriors built a 49-6 lead.
"Noah’s just a great kid," Fruechte said. "He’s getting better and better, not forcing stuff, making great decisions, he’s running the ball well. If a play’s not there he’s throwing it away.
"We’ve allowed, since I took over in ‘97, our QBs to audible and get out of the play call if they don't like what they see, and Noah’s just doing a nice job with all those things."
King spread the ball around nicely. Senior receiver Cole Kronebusch led the way with five catches for 129 yards and touchdown receptions of 24, 14 and 67 yards. Eli King caught three passes for 90 yards and two TDs, and Donnie Lakey had two receptions for 68 yards, including a 51-yard TD.
"Noah’s just really good, it’s impressive to watch," Kronebusch said. "We always have to be watching for the ball because he’s on target all the time. When we spread the ball around, that's when we're at our best."
Pipestone Area scored on the first drive of the game, but the Warriors came storming back and controlled the final three-and-a-half quarters.
"We were pretty ticked off after that," Kronebusch said, "but we all kept saying 'We're fine, we're fine' and we came right back and brought it to them."
Noah King threw TD passes to Kronebusch, Lakey and Eli King in the first quarter, then he ran for one and threw two more to Kronebusch and one more to Eli King in the second quarter. Six Caledonia receivers caught at least one pass.
"It's what we expect out of Cole, Donnie, Austin Heaney, and Eli," Fruechte said. "All the guys, Austin Klug, Jacob Staggemeyer, we expect them all to do those things, catch the ball, make big gains when they can and if they can get deep, we want them to get deep and catch it."
A deeper dive into the Warriors' numbers during their 66-game winning streak is eye-popping. Since the start of the 2015 season they are 66-0 with four state championships. They have outscored their opponents by an average of 42.1-7.2 in those 66 games. Twice in that stretch (2015 and 2018), Caledonia's defense has held its opponents to less than 70 points in an entire season.
Now the Warriors will attempt to improve to 7-0 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"It’s just an amazing building," Kronebusch said, "and to make it there, we put in so much hard work throughout the season just to get there, it’s a big accomplishment."
CALEDONIA 56, PIPESTONE AREA 14
Pipestone Area 6 0 8 0 — 14
Caledonia 21 28 7 0 — 56
PA— Dawson Schelhaas 25 pass from JT Tinklenberg (pass failed) 6:24.
CAL— Cole Kronebusch 24 pass from Noah King (Brody Johnson kick) 4:07.
CAL— Donnie Lakey 51 pass from N. King (Johnson kick) 1:08.
CAL— Eli King 58 pass from N. King (Johnson kick) :29.
CAL— N. King 18 run (Johnson kick) 10:35.
CAL— Kronebusch 14 pass from N. King (Johnson kick) 6:50.
CAL— Kronebusch 67 pass from N. King (Johnson kick) 4:13.
CAL— E. King 20 pass from N. King (Johnson kick) :24.
CAL— Jed Kasten 2 run (Johnson kick) 4:28.
PA— Tyson Wacker 61 pass from Tinklenberg (Hunter McKinney pass from Tinklenberg) :17.
Total net yards#149#546
Time of poss.#25:23#22:37
PA— Eric Lange 11-47; Jason Steenstra 15-24; JT Tinklenberg 2-0; Joe Koolman 1-3; Nicholas Colvin 2-7; Luke Ploeger 1-1; Wyatt Stueven 3-(minus-18). CAL— Noah King 8-99, 1 TD; Jed Kasten 4-42, 1 TD; Dalen Lemke 5-29; Cole Kronebusch 1-(minus-2); Isiah Reinhart 3-(minus-1); Reed Gordon 4-25; Thane Meiners 4-11; Derek Willsey 1-4.
PA— JT Tinklenberg 3 comp.-10 att.-0 int., 82 yards, 2 TDs; Terry Price 1-1-0, 3 yards. CAL— Noah King 13-19-0, 339 yards, 6 TD; Isiah Reinhart 0-1-0, 0.
PA— Tyson Wacker 1-61, 1 TD; Dawson Schelhaas 1-25, 1 TD; Terry Price 1-(minus-4); JT Tinklenberg 1-3. CAL— Cole Kronebusch 5-129, 3 TD; Eli King 3-90, 2 TD; Donnie Lakey 2-68, 1 TD; Jack Strub 1-40; Austin Heaney 1-6; Andrew Kunelius 1-6.