Football | State Class AA: Caledonia will play for fourth straight state title
Warriors romp past Paynesville Area to advance to Prep Bowl
MINNEAPOLIS — Football players at Caledonia have certain expectations placed upon them.
Not necessarily pressure, but expectations to train and then play the game the right way.
The Warriors put their current brand of excellence on display Thursday in the Class AA state semifinals against Paynesville Area at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Warriors, in a rematch of one of last year’s semifinals, toppled Paynesville 40-6 to reach the state championship game for the fourth straight season. In the process, Caledonia extended its winning streak to 53 straight games.
"We’re always held to a high standard," Caledonia senior running back/linebacker Nick McCabe said. "We just have to live up to the expectation. That’s why we put so much work into the offseason."
Warriors coach Carl Freuchte says he’s not worried about the team’s winning streak, and never brings the subject up.
"We’re not judging them on wins and losses, we’re judging them on how hard they play," Fruechte said.
Caledonia (12-0) has won the past three Class AA state titles and has romped to those in dominant fashion. It bested Paynesville 49-16 in the semifinals a year ago.
"We don’t talk about it all," Fruechte said of the winning streak. "We’re just trying to be 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 and just trying to get better. I think that’s our job as coaches, too, as educators. We think the kids should always be getting better. That’s our job as a coach, not to worry about wins and losses, but about getting better."
The Caledonia players seem unfazed by any pressure of trying to win a fourth straight championship.
"We don’t get nervous, we just get more excited," McCabe said. "It makes it more fun to play."
McCabe rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown against Paynesville and also caught a touchdown pass.
Junior Noah King has mostly watched Caledonia play the last three years as his older brother, Owen, quarterbacked the Warriors to state titles. Noah King is now in the spotlight as the team’s QB. He bounced back from a slow start Thursday to complete 10 of 21 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 74 yards and three short touchdowns.
"It was a lot of fun," King said. "I think that anytime you get to play a sport that you really enjoy on the biggest stage like today with your teammates, it’s a lot of fun.
"I don’t think there was a lot of jitters. We were just amped up."
Paynesville (9-3 and ranked No. 10 in the state) not only was going up against a stout Caledonia defense that was allowing less than 5.0 points per game, but the Bulldogs were also without starting quarterback Max Weidner, who suffered an ankle injury in the state quarterfinals.
"We hate to see it when kids can’t play big games," Fruechte said. "We have a lot of respect (for them)."
Paynesville had to turn to junior Grady Fuchs at QB. Caledonia held the Bulldogs without a first down until just 6:20 was left in the half.
Paynesville had just 25 yards of offense in the first half and a mere 118 for the game.
"Caledonia is fast, but most of the time they were destroying blocks," Paynesville coach Max Meagher said.
Fuchs was tackled a number of times behind the line of scrimmage and had minus-47 yards rushing.
He was also just 9-for-29 passing for 77 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
"I thought we played very physical today," Freuchte said. "It’s one of our hallmarks. We talk about playing physical and playing fast."
Tate Meiners and Payton Schott both had interceptions for Caledonia. McCabe led the way with eight tackles and recovered a fumble.
"We practice using our hands every day," McCabe said. "And we just make sure we get off the blocks and fill the holes faster. Just get off the ball quick."
Caledonia finished with 432 yards of offense, including 294 rushing.
"I think a lot of it is timing and they’ve just been firing off the ball," McCabe said of the offensive line clicking. "And being more aggressive."
The Warriors held a slim 7-0 lead after the first quarter. Jack Beardmore then broke a 58-yard TD run in the second quarter to make the score 14-0. King added scoring runs of 1 and 3 yards before the half ended to build a commanding 27-0 lead.
"We try to run a balanced offense," said Beardmore, who rushed for 121 yards on just 10 carries. "When we run the ball and pass the ball effectively, that really opens up the holes. Our O-line did a great job."
The Warriors will now play in the Class AA state title game against Barnesville or Minneapolis North at 1 p.m. on Nov. 23 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"There shouldn’t be any stress." Fruechte said. "The big thing that we talk about is playing hard. Play hard, past and physical and we’ll be happy."
CALEDONIA 40, PAYNESVILLE 6
Paynesville 0 0 6 0 — 6
Caledonia 7 20 7 6 — 40
Cal — Nick McCabe 8 pass from Noah King (Ryan Wagner kick), 4:17.
Cal — Jack Beardmore 58 run (Wagner kick), 10:36.
Cal — N.King 1 run (kick failed), 7:25.
Cal — N.King 3 run (Wagner run), 0:58.
Pay — Sam Oehrlein 13 pass from Grady Fuchs (pass failed), 8:30.
Cal — N.King 2 run (Wagner kick), 5:59.
Cal — McCabe 8 run (kick failed), 11:01.
First downs 13 21
Total net yards 133 432
Rushes-yards 35-56 45-294
Passing yards 77 138
Comp.-att.-int. 9-27-2 10-21-1
Punts-ave. 7-32.3 2-30.0
Penalties-yds. 2-10 9-80
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-0
Paynesville — Daltin Christinsen 12-51, Zach Schroeder 10-50, Drew Tagngen 1-3, Josh Kranz 2-(-1), Grady Fuchs 10-(-47). Caledonia — Jack Beardmore 10-121, Nick McCabe 14-83, Noah King 15-74, Jack Strug 6-16.
Paynesville — Grady Fuchs 9 completions, 27 attempts, 77 yards, 2 interceptions, 1 touchdowns. Caledonia — Noah King 10-21-138-1-1.
Paynesville — Sam Oehrlein 4-38, Mit Schlangen 2-18, Levi Bast 2-16, Caden Spainer 1-5. Caledonia — Tate Meiners 5-77, Evan Denstad 2-32, Donnie Lakey 1-14, Nick McCabe 1-8, Eli King 1-7.