CALEDONIA — Owen King said he was comfortable taking over as the starting quarterback for the Caledonia High School football team as a sophomore.
The feeling grew as a junior while he worked with a new crop of wide receivers while guiding the Warriors to a second straight Class AA state championship.
Now consider this:
King is back for his third season as a starter and surrounded by receivers with loads of experience as Caledonia embarks on continuing a 28-game winning streak that began with King’s first start on Aug. 22, 2015.
Think about how in tune King will be with Jordan Burg, Andrew Goergen, Sam Barthel and Martin Morem each time he drops back to pass. Think about how familiar they are with him; how they know when to stick to the route and when to improvise.
“We are real comfortable out there,” King said. “I’ve been throwing to these guys my whole life.
“Two years ago, we had some great senior receivers. We had fun last year, too, and it’s great to have most of those guys back again after what we did together.”
Take the two most important games of the season — the Class AA state semifinal and championship — as an example of what this group can do.
The Warriors beat Barnesville 55-20, then Eden Valley-Watkins 61-12. King completed 34 of 51 passes for 554 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions in those two games.
Thirty of those passes were caught players on this year’s team. They covered 511 yards and produced eight of the nine passing touchdowns.
It’s no wonder that King, who will play basketball at NCAA Division I South Dakota State after graduating, can’t stop smiling when discussing the weapons that surround him in his final football season.
“Maybe we’ll pass a little more than we have earlier in games because of (the confidence level),” he said. “But we’re still going to run the ball and have the kind of balance we’ve always had.”
The experienced backs are there to keep things balanced. While Ben McCabe was the workhorse last season, the Warriors have plenty of players — Mason Staggemeyer, Nick McCabe, Jack Beardmore among them — who have received consistent opportunities to run with the ball as underclassmen.
Staggemeyer is a senior and McCabe and Beardmore juniors, and it isn’t a stretch to say that they will be successful with the continued development of an offensive line led by returning starters Spencer Stemper and Brent Robley.
But King will be the focus of any defense lining up across from him, and there is good reason.
King completed 186 of 293 passes for 2,892 yards and 48 touchdowns while being intercepted four times as a junior. He is 329-for-515 (63.9 percent) for 5,295 yards, 92 touchdowns and eight interceptions since taking over as the team’s starting quarterback.
Think about two of those numbers for a moment. Eight interceptions in 515 pass attempts. That’s less than 1 percent — 0.02 in fact — of his passes resulting in a turnover.
“We all know what each other is thinking,” said Goergen, who caught 95 passes for 1,445 yards and scored 26 touchdowns last season. “Communication is so important, and we know that.”
King spent the significant part of his summer preparing to play college basketball because that’s what happens when you accept a scholarship to a Division I program. But football is important to King, and he made time for it, too.
Caledonia coach Carl Fruechte made no demands of his quarterback over the summer and understood the priorities.
“He did everything he could with us,” Fruechte said. “We, as coaches, don’t get wrapped up in everybody having to make their summer all about football.
“We want them to be active in whatever that may be.”
That gave some additional opportunities to sophomore Noah King — Owen’s brother and a starting linebacker for Caledonia — and freshman Isiah Reinhart to handle the position over the last couple of months. Noah has been his brother’s backup the last two years and even got on the field to take snaps during a playoff game as an eighth-grader.
The team’s ability to get off to quick starts gets Noah King more snaps in games, and he’s hoping for that to be the case again this fall.
“That’s what we try to do,” Noah King said. “We want to build leads early and give younger kids the chance to play. That’s why we are where we are.
“Younger kids always get experience, and that pays off when they get to start and play more and more in games.”