Caledonia championship game

Caledonia players celebrate its 57-6 Class AA state championship victory over Pipestone Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. It was the Warriors' third consecutive Class AA state title and eighth in the last 11 years.

Rory O'Driscoll, La Crosse Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Owen King may have been under a little more pressure than he expected Friday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Caledonia High School quarterback didn’t have a lot of clean drop-back-and-pass downs as the top-ranked Warriors battled Pipestone for the MSHSL Class AA state championship.

The Arrows made King think on his feet — and run with them — but that wasn’t nearly enough to stop Caledonia from winning its third consecutive title.

King scrambled, ran and tossed the Warriors to a 57-6 victory — Caledonia’s 41st in a row — that was as dominant as any of the other seven championships the team has won in the last 11 years.

King escaped Pipestone’s pass rush consistently, frustrating the Arrows with completed passes and rushes for big yards. He passed for 246 yards and five touchdowns — three of them went to senior Sam Barthel — and rushed for a sixth to tie a Prep Bowl record for total touchdowns in a game.

“I knew I’d have to beat the guys coming from the outside,” said King, who guided the Warriors (13-0) to a 41-0 record during his tenure as a starter. “They made me move a little bit, but the wide receivers kept moving around, and the offensive line did good job of keeping them at the edges.”

Amid King’s performance, Caledonia’s defense completely shut down Pipestone’s offense as it played without regular starting quarterback and 2,000-yard passer Cody Thompson due to mononucleosis.

The Arrows (12-2), who also lost to Caledonia in the 2015 championship game, used sophomore Jonathan Tinklenberg and mixed in some direct snaps to Tyl Woelber, but no aspect of the offense worked.

Pipestone finished with minus 11 total yards on 38 plays and never picked up a first down.

That gave King plenty of time to pick apart its defense, and he led eight touchdown drives. The longest of those lasted 5 minutes, 34 seconds and came on nine straight handoffs in the fourth quarter.

King, who finished his Caledonia career with 8,621 passing yards, 139 passing touchdowns and 25 rushing touchdowns, directed three touchdown drives that lasted less than a minute. The Warriors struck quickly as King ran around defenders and found receivers on the way to completing 18 of 28 passes within in an offense that finished with 422 yards.

Two of King’s most impressive plays didn’t involve a touchdown.

The first came when he escaped an unblocked Matt Enger right up the middle and turned it into a 9-yard run. The second came when he ran first to the right sideline and then back close to the left before firing to Barthel for a first down at the Pipestone 2.

“I thought our kids did everything we wanted to do,” Pipestone coach Clay Anderson said. “We put pressure on him and wanted to make him move, and my God, is (King) quick.”

The Warriors were already on the board when King started his first touchdown drive after senior Marten Morem intercepted Tinklenberg’s third-and-11 pass on Pipestone’s second drive.

Morem was trying to get the ball to Woelber, and Morem jumped in front of the receiver, caught the underthrown pass and raced 20 yards to the end zone.

The defensive touchdown may have relaxed the Warriors a bit because they scored touchdowns on five of their next six possessions.

The only sign of life from the Arrows came when a Caledonia kickoff was fielded by Woelber at the 17-yard line. He ran 7 yards and looked to his left before firing the ball directly across the field to Carter Nesvold, who ran 76 yards to the end zone.

That cut Caledonia’s lead to 12-6 in the first quarter, but King rallied the Warriors and scored four times before the end of the first half. The focus in the second half turned to the running game, and Mason Staggemeyer led that charge with 83 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

King’s ability to squash promising opportunities for the Pipestone defense, however, was the theme of the victory.

“The answer (against our offense) is always blitz,” Fruechte said. “It’s always blitz.

“We just had to do a good job of picking it up, and we did a good enough job.”

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