This is a showdown both teams — Caledonia and Triton — have eagerly been waiting for. Both believe they have is something to prove.
Tonight’s MSHSL Section 1AA football championship game at Rochester Regional Sports Stadium features undefeated Caledonia High School (9-0) against Triton (9-1) in a rematch of one of the best regular-season games.
The last time Caledonia faced off against the Cobras, the Warriors found themselves in unfamiliar territory. On Sept. 8, Triton built a commanding third-quarter 27-7 lead against the two-defending Class AA state champions. The last time Caledonia trailed by that much was in 1998 against Plainview. To put that in perspective, Brett Favre was in his sixth season as the Green Bay Packers quarterback and Ron Dayne was a junior tailback for Wisconsin.
Oh, none of the current Warriors’ players had been born yet.
When asked about that game, Caledonia coach Carl Fruechte said it came down to guys not listening.
“To be honest, we just talked about listening better. It seems to me that it’s harder and harder for young people to be able to listen. It wasn’t that we weren’t playing hard and that we weren’t doing great things, they were,” said Fruechte whose Warriors have not lost since the 2014 state semifinals nearly 38 months ago. “We just needed to listen better; it’s really about listening and comprehending. I know that sounds really boring, but that was the biggest thing to be honest.
“We just didn’t take it to the field that night. We sort of woke up when they scored in the third quarter to go up on us by 20. It woke us up and it was, ‘OK, here is what our coaching staff is trying to teach us,’ and it just clicked. Again we feel pretty fortunate. Owen (King) did a good job, along with the seniors, with rallying the guys.”
The Warriors woke up in a big-time way toward the end of the third quarter as they rattled off 27 unanswered points to post a dramatic 34-27 victory. King led the comeback as he passed for 275 yards and five touchdowns. It was the only blemish for Triton (9-1), as the Cobras blasted through the rest of their schedule, winning by an average margin of four touchdowns.
It’s a good bet Triton had plenty of unanswered questions on a game it let get away.
“First of all, coach Don Henderson and their staff do a great job,” Fruechte said. “No. 2, more importantly the guys on the field can really run. Their quarterback can really scoot and throw a nice ball to No. 23 (Hunter Jennings). They have two really good halfbacks/slot guys and then they have their big fullback No. 88 (Levi Smith). They are really good athletes and they do a lot of misdirection and a lot of power. We are going to have to be really disciplined on defense.”
That combination can be tough to prepare against or simulate in practice. Not so for Caledonia.
Normally it would be Fruechete who would run the scout team, but this week he has taken a back seat. One of the Warriors’ famous alums has returned, as in Carl’s son, Isaac Fruechete. Isaac Fruechte, who is currently an NFL free agent after spending training camp — along with parts of two seasons — with the Minnesota Vikings, has taken the role of running the scout team.
“Now that Isaac has been working out and waiting for a (NFL) phone call, he’s been helping us. He’s taken it upon himself to relieve me,” Carl Fruechte said. “It’s really nice because he’s just like his old man. He likes to bark and gets on the kids. Isaac is the quarterback and our two fastest sophomores are the running backs. We are trying to replicate their (Triton’s) speed the best we can.”
In addition to having a recent NFL player run your scout team, it also helps to have a quarterback like King. The South Dakota State basketball commit turned in another stellar season, completing 140 of 238 passes for 1,991 yards while tossing 32 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Equally impressive is ability to spread the ball around. Jordan Burg leads the Warriors with 603 yards on 43 receptions, followed by Andrew Goergen (31-513) and Sam Barthel (25-405).
“He’s just a very mature young man,” Fruechte said of King. “He gets the more weapons you have, the better (you are). You can’t just take away Andrew, because if you do that, Jordan and Sam are going to get you. Owen doesn’t care who gets it. That, to me, is what we are really proud of. We try to teach our young men not to be selfish and if you are open Owen is going to get you the ball.”
In the first meeting against Triton, the Cobras double teamed Goergen while relying on one-on-one coverage for Burg and Barthel. That is what Carl Fruechte expects to see this time around as well.
“Last game they doubled Andrew and we had one-on-one and we weren’t hitting them right away,” Carl Fruechte said. “As the game wore on we connected, but honestly I don’t see them doing anything any different. I think they are going to do the same things and say we are just going to do them better.”