Football | Class AA state finals: Caledonia looks to ‘leave it all on the field’
There was a time when Caledonia football coach Carl Freuchte may have had some doubts about the current class of senior players on the team.
Those doubts are long gone.
Led by that senior class, the Warriors are now just one victory away from a fourth straight Class AA state championship.
Caledonia (12-0), ranked No. 1 in the state in Class AA, will put its national-best 53-game winning streak on the line when it faces unranked Barnesville (11-2) in the Prep Bowl at 1 p.m. Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“More than anything we just want to do it the right way for the seniors,” Fruechte said. “They’ve grown up a lot since their younger days and matured a lot.”
Freuchte said he had a long talk with the team in June about “being a brotherhood” and what the expectations should be this season.
“These guys bought in and really came together,” Fruechte said.
Fruechte said the Warriors never talk about their long winning streak and he just wants the team to keep improving and play to the best of its ability.
“We just hope to finish strong and leave it all on the field,” the coach said. “The guys are focused and they know it will be another big challenge for them.”
The Caledonia players are once again enjoying the ride as they embark on a fourth straight unbeaten season.
“We don’t get nervous, we just get more excited,” senior running back/linebacker Nick McCabe said. “It makes it more fun to play.”
In Friday’s title game, the Warriors will take on a Barnesville team that relies almost entirely on the run. The Trojans use a Wing-T or a Straight-T with a quarterback and usually three running backs in the backfield. Barnesville has been successful using a lot of misdirection.
It is an offense that Caledonia faced this season when playing Cannon Falls.
“We hope that helps in some regard,” Fruechte said. “I guess I’d say they (the Trojans) are very good at it. We have to make sure we stay at home and attack our gaps.”
Caledonia might have a slight size disadvantage, but the Warriors are physical and use great team speed to allow foes an average of just 5.0 points per game.
“I’d like to think so,” Fruechte said of having the speed advantage, “but we’re hoping we don’t overrun our gaps.”
Despite Barnesville’s running attack, the Trojans don’t have one dominating ground gainer. They do feature balance with four or five solid rushers. Coming into the state tournament, Nick Detloff had rushed for 1,084 yards, Chase Breener for 566 and Adam Tonsfeldt for 442. The team’s two quarterbacks, Tonsfelt and Preston Snobl, had combined to throw just 42 passes coming into the state tourney.
“You have to have eight in the box and have a good pass-run read,” Fruechte said.
Barnesville, the Section Eight champion, averages 36.9 points and allows 10.2 per game. Fruechte expects the Trojans to play both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts on defense.
While Barnesville’s offense is one dimensional, Caledonia has a very balanced attack. McCabe has rushed for 1,384 yards and 14 TDs, and senior Jack Beardmore has run for 832 yards and seven scores. Even junior QB Noah King has 418 yards and 13 TDs.
King has completed 134 of 238 passes for 1,825 yards and 17 touchdowns while leading an offense that averages 37.0 points per game. Senior receivers Tate Meiners (44 catches, 761 yards, 7 TDs) and Kyle Cavanaugh (31 catches, 242 yards, 1 TD) have been his top targets, while senior tight end Evan Denstad (19 catches, 248 yards, 1 TD) and freshman Eli King (eight catches, 253 yards, 1 TD) both have more than 200 yards receiving.
“We have to protect up front and give Noah time to throw the ball,” Fruechte said. “And we have to open holes so we can run the ball. We have to communicate up front.”
Caledonia was ranked No. 2 in the state in Class AA in the QRF ratings behind Minneapolis North. Barnesville, No. 9 in the QRF, defeated North 34-20 in the state semifinals.
“Barnesville is good. They were able to shut down North for the most part,” Fruechte said. “They have good speed and quickness, too.”