Pipestone is familiar with Caledonia.
They aren’t good memories. The teams met in the 2015 and 2017 Prep Bowl finals. Caledonia won both, doing it by a combined score of 97-6.
Pipestone is about to be reintroduced to the unbeaten (11-0) and No. 1-ranked Warriors, this time in Friday’s 7 p.m. Class AA state quarterfinals at Rochester Mayo High School.
A few have suggested that the Warriors — owners of the longest high school football winning streak in the country, 66 games, and the four-time state defending champions — aren’t quite what they’ve been in recent years.
Pipestone coach Clay Anderson hears that talk and laughs. His team will show up with confidence and be ready to play, but he’s not holding his breath that somehow the Warriors aren’t still the Warriors.
“They are similar to what they’ve been the last two times we played them,” Anderson said. “They’re always quick on defense and they want to take it to you. And what is really impressive about them is the King brothers (senior quarterback/defensive back Noah and sophomore receiver/defensive back Eli). Noah is the real deal, a Mr. Football (candidate) and his brother is the best receiver we’ll have seen all season.”
The statistics bear out Anderson’s sentiments on the Kings. They are different. The 6-feet-2, 202-pound Noah leads his team in rushing with 1,298 yards and 17 touchdowns (7.5 yards per carry), and has passed for 2,084 yards and 34 touchdowns, completing 133 of 217 attempts (61 percent).
Then there is Eli, who may be the best athlete in the uber-athletic King family. The 6-feet-3, 170-pound sophomore has 1,109 yards receiving, with 19 touchdown catches.
Nobody on Caledonia’s team is close to Noah’s rushing or passing marks, just as no one is close to Eli’s receiving yards.
But as always, this Caledonia edition is about way more than two players.
As dazzling as the King-led Caledonia offense can be, it is the Warriors’ defense which really jumps out. Caledonia allows teams an average of 5.5 points per game, the best mark in the state in Class AA.
Caledonia coach Carl Fruechte says that Pipestone (7-3), which averages nearly 30 points per game and has shown that it can run and pass, poses some real challenges for his team.
“They are big and physical and seem to have more of a diverse offense this season,” Fruechte said. “They have two guys who can really run and on defense they have a nose tackle and an inside linebacker who seem like really fast cats. And their defensive backs press up against you and don’t give you any easy stuff.”
Running back Jason Steenstra (6-3, 200 pounds) leads the Arrows in rushing, with nearly 1,100 yards. Pipestone also made it clear that it can throw the ball as quarterback JT Tinklenberg completed 22 of 36 passes for 269 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions last week in his team’s section 26-21 championship upset win over Redwood Valley.
Redwood Valley had beaten Pipestone 34-6 earlier in the year.