CALEDONIA — There’s a perception that Carl Fruechte is certain is out there.
It’s that everything is going without a hitch for his Caledonia football program — now, last year, the year before that, and really ever since he took over in 1997.
"We've got issues, just like everyone else," Fruechte said. "And I don't want to come across like I have all the answers, because I don't."
Certainly, the Warriors’ 67-game win streak, four straight state titles and nine in the last 12 years has a way of steering public perception. So does Caledonia being favored to win on Nov. 29 at U.S. Bank Stadium against Minneapolis North, which would give it its fifth straight Class AA state crown. And so does a roster that is bursting with 60 players, so many of them displaying the hunger that Fruechte preaches, with more than half of them showing up daily for 6:30 a.m. workouts during the football off-season, Fruechte always waiting at the weight room door to greet them.
But the 53-year-old Fruechte wants to serve up a reminder. It’s that there’s been nothing easy about the quest he’s forever been on, which has as much to do with creating winning young men as winning teams.
Sixty-seven straight football wins by the Warriors is the longest streak in the nation.
Winning on the field and off it, that’s a constant battle for any coach. And the way Fruechte does it, it's massively time consuming. Despite all of his time and energy, Fruechte has absorbed plenty of “losses” along the way, some of them startling.
“Every day that I come home from practice, I have a headache,” Fruechte said. “We’ve got some kids who have grown up never having been listened to. And now, we are expecting them to listen to us. It’s hard."
Sometimes it’s a whole lot harder than that for Fruechte, who so many of his players refer to as a father figure.
Consider this: Two of Fruechte’s ex-players are serving jail time, a crushing development for the Hall of Fame coach. Fruechte has visited both of them as they've been incarcerated.
He also spent nearly four hours recently trying to redirect another ex-player, the young man coming to his former coach for help.
GRATEFUL TO HAVE HIM
This coaching thing is no cinch. That's why Caledonia athletic director Scott Sorenson is so grateful that it’s Fruechte who's in charge of this nationally renowned football program.
Sorenson can't imagine having anyone more equipped and more passionate about handling it all than Fruechte.
“Carl builds relationships with these kids,” Sorenson said. “I know that Carl has very good contact with a lot of his (ex-players). You should see how many weddings he's invited to each year.
"There are a few kids who make poor decisions. But Carl has never been one to judge you. Instead he’s telling them, ‘How can we turn you back into the man you want to be?' "
Fruechte’s wife of 31 years, Becky, says those trips to visit his two jailed ex-players say it all about her husband’s intentions. She knows where his heart is.
“That shows that he cares about these kids for more than just football,” Becky said. “He wants them all to have a better life.”
It was Fruechte's father, Al Fruechte, who went the furthest in shaping Carl into the man he is today. The oldest of 12 kids, Carl watched his dad work and then work some more as they were raised in rural Caledonia, 6 miles from town.
His father did factory work during the day, then came home and worked on his family's small farm in the evenings.
HARD WORK, LIFE LESSONS
It is Al, with all of his work ethic and toughness, who Caledonia football players can thank for the team's rugged practices.
He was Carl's most influential teacher.
"My dad always told me that athletics should be an extension of getting you ready for life," said Carl, a standout athlete himself at Caledonia where he was a 1984 graduate. "So I want our practices to be tough and intense. I want our kids to be mentally tough, and I want our practices to be right on the border physically to where they are hard but our kids are still ready to play in their next game."
Those rugged and demanding sessions, the almost year-round morning workouts, the endless hours of football film watching, and all of the direction that Caledonia players get from Fruechte and his longtime and loyal assistants have put Caledonia football in a special place. So has the support these players get from their town, with attendance heavy at all their games and financial and moral support constant from this football-loving community.
Caledonia's 67 straight victories comprise the longest current high school football winning streak in the nation.
For Noah King, the Warriors' standout quarterback of the last two years, it's been a profound experience wearing a Caledonia football uniform. It's one he doesn't take for granted.
"I understand the uniqueness of it," King said. "Not every kid gets to grow up in a town where you put a lot of work in, but because of it you get to do some pretty special things, like always playing late in the season and playing at places like U.S. Bank Stadium. If you have coaches and kids who are both willing to put in a lot of time, that is what is going to make your program so good."
Caledonia players can also thank Fruechte that this program is about far more than just chasing wins. What Fruechte is chasing is the hearts and minds of kids, and not just those who can bench press 250 pounds or run a 4.7 40-yard dash.
He wants them all.
"You have to care about all the kids and you have to coach them all up, all the time," Fruechte said. "You can't just coach the superstars. The second and third-string guys, those are someone's kid. Being able to work with them, that is why I sill have a great passion for this."
And all the winning? Well, that's sure fun, too.
"Carl tells us he cares way more about us than he does about the (winning streak)," Caledonia senior linebacker Jed Kasten said.
Then Kasten smiled and said, "But he does like winning, too."