No. 1 Chatfield makes big statement with physical win over No. 3 Caledonia
Chatfield stayed unbeaten as it slipped past Caledonia 19-6 in a contest matching two of the top teams in the state.
CHATFIELD — There is now an unquestioned front runner for the Section 1AA football crown.
Through five games, No. 3 Caledonia had been averaging more than 40 points a game. Top-ranked Chatfield had been averaging over 50.
Friday at Bernatz Field, both sides combined for just 25.
And as the Gophers have now done in 19 consecutive games, they came away with a lion’s share of the points yet again in a 19-6 victory over the Warriors.
“Our defense is tough,” Chatfield coach Jeff Johnson said. “We’ve got the guys up front that really win in the trenches, and then we’ve got some pretty good skill guys in the secondary. It’s a talented bunch.”
As is Caledonia’s.
Chatfield senior Sam Backer powered his way to a relatively quiet performance by his standards. He entered the game putting up an average of 241 rushing yards per game. He finished Friday with 201, the final 76 of which came on his final carry to put the game on ice late in the fourth quarter.
Prior to that carry, Backer had been held to 125 yards on 24 carries, good for a 5.2 per-carry average. Again, solid numbers there, but admittedly under tier or two beneath his previous season average of 18.3.
“Every time we play them, they load the box,” said Backer, who also recovered a fumble on defense in the first half. “They know what we like to do, and we know what they like to do, and they’re a very physical team. That’s all I can say. They load the box pretty well, and they know how to tackle.”
Both defenses were stingy.
The only touchdown of the first half was scored on the opening drive, with senior Luke Carrier capping an eight-play scoring drive with an 8-yard touchdown for the Gophers (6-0).
After that, both offenses had their promising moments. They were also careless with the football.
Backer threw a first-quarter interception that halted an otherwise promising drive, which ended at the Caledonia 1-yard line. A few minutes later, the Warriors stretched a 13-play drive across more than 7 minutes of the second quarter, but came away with nothing, turning the ball over on downs at the Chatfield 17 with 1:42 remaining in the first half. Five plays later, Chatfield junior quarterback Parker Delaney misfired a shovel pass directly into the waiting arms of Caledonia defensive tackle Tanner Ginther.
It was 6-0 at the break.
“That first half, we left points off the board. And we let them back into that ballgame,” Johnson said. “Now, they’re a heck of a football team, but we were in position a lot of times. We can’t do that at the end of the year. We have to score when we get the ball down there.”
The Gophers doubled their lead midway through the third quarter, and they did so through the air.
Facing third-and-12 — and just two plays removed from Backer having had a 58-yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty — Backer took a direct snap, bought himself some time in the pocket and heaved a long pass up to senior wide receiver Cole Johnson facing single coverage on the home side of the field. Johnson hauled it in for a 70-yard score, splitting a pair of Caledonia defensive backs in the process.
“I’m always confident in our offense,” Backer said. “We can put up a lot of points, so I was confident going in. But at the same time, I knew they were going to put up a good fight.”
The Warriors (5-1) waited until late in the fourth quarter to punch in their first and only touchdown. Senior running back Eric Mauss, who led the Warriors with 59 yards on 14 attempts, did the honors from a yard out to make things interesting with 4:13 to play in regulation and the score suddenly 12-6.
Chatfield’s subsequent possession started poorly, a promising sign for the Warriors, as a second-down play saw a high snap sail over the head and through the hands of Backer, who eventually fell on the loose ball to set up third-and-20 deep in Gopher territory. Chatfield was then aided by a momentous penalty call, as another deep pass attempt to Cole Johnson, which fell incomplete, was flagged for defensive pass interference against Caledonia’s Kyle Bechtel. It was tight coverage from Bechtel on the play, but the call was close. The Warriors were not happy.
Still, the flag set up a replay of third down, with the Gophers needing just 5 yards to convert this time. Backer got 4 1/2 of those yards on his next carry, setting up fourth-and-inches for the Gophers from their own 24-yard line with just under 3 minutes remaining.
Then after a string of three consecutive timeouts — Caledonia took the first one, followed by a string of two straight from Chatfield before the fourth-down snap was even taken — Backer took center stage, as he often does.
Needing a yard, he torched the Warriors for 76. Practically untouched. Touchdown. Ballgame.
“Right now, they’re the king of the hill and we have to catch them,” Caledonia coach Carl Fruechte said. “But we still have to get there first. There are some good teams in this section, and we better make sure that we’re serious in every game.”
“We might be better than we were last year. We might be,” Jeff Johnson said. “There are things going on right now on the field, where the kids are adjusting to things on their own that we typically have to coach up. They’re making some senior moves right now on the field that otherwise might have cost us timeouts or we’d have to talk about the next week. That’s huge, that experience.
“So yeah, we just might be, but Caledonia’s better, too. And we’re going to see these guys again. Oh yeah. I think they’re the most physical team in the section, and I think we’re going to see them again. It should be a fun match.”
Chatfield 19, Caledonia 6
Caledonia 0-0-0-6 — 6
Chatfield 6-0-6-7 — 19
CHAT — Luke Carrier 8 run (run failed), 8:03.
CHAT — Cole Johnson 70 pass from Sam Backer (run failed), 7:29.
CAL — Eric Mauss 1 run (kick failed), 4:13.
CHAT — Backer 76 run (Jacob Erickson kick), 0:52.
CAL — CHAT
First downs 12 — 20
Total net yards 205 — 432
Rushes-yards 32-72 — 37-208
Passing yards 133 — 124
Comp.-att.-int. 4-10-2 — 14-26-2
Fumbles-lost 2-1 — 3-1
Penalties-yds. 5-45 — 8-42
Punts-avg. 0-0 — 4-41
Chatfield — Backer 25-204, Carrier 2-48, Parker Delaney 7-42, Jackson Schild 3-14. Caledonia — Mauss 14-59, Ayden Goetzinger 8-17, Lewis Doyle 1-4, Ethan Stendel 2-minus 7.
Chatfield — Delaney 3-5-1-27, Backer 1-5-1-70. Caledonia — Doyle 14-25-2-133, Stendel 0-1-0-0.
Chatfield — Johnson 2-71, Carrier 1-15, Drew O’Connor 1-11. Caledonia — Caleb Conniff 5-77, Goetzinger 3-27, Kyle Bechtel 3-18, Josh Beardmore 1-10.