Caledonia senior Levi Schmitz has been kicking field goals since he was in elementary school. Until Friday, he had never kicked a game-winner. When I asked Warriors coach Brent Schroeder about the last time his team won a game on a field goal as time ran off the clock, he thought … and hesitated … and thought some more.
“I believe it was maybe against … It was a Three Rivers (Conference) game, I think … it would have been a good eight … oh man, it’s probably the late 90s.”
Two things about Caledonia’s football dominance: 1) They rarely win with such tick-tock heroics, because they generally win big. 2) They have now won three state championships in a row, capped by Friday’s 25-22 Class 2A Prep Bowl victory over Moose Lake/Willow River.
Schroeder called timeout with one second left in regulation so Schmitz could line up for a 24-yard kick. As the Warriors got set, Moose Lake/Willow River coach Dave Louzek used his final timeout to ice Schmitz. Didn’t work. His kick was through the middle and mayhem ensued.
“My nerves were pumping, my heart was going,” he said. “I’ve been kicking field goals since sixth or seventh grade and I know how it’s supposed to feel coming off my foot. And that’s exactly how it felt.”
It was the first winning kick of his life, too.
“That was my first one,” he said. “I’ve been thinking of all the scenarios that can happen. If we need a game-winning drive, if we need one huge Hail Mary pass, if we need a field goal kick, I’ve gone through it all in my head numerous times. It happened like I hoped it would.”
The game was a rematch of last year’s Prep Bowl, when Caledonia defeated Moose Lake/Willow Rover 27-0.
While the Warriors were moving their celebration into the locker room, a heart-tugging scene took place on the Moose Lake/Willow River sideline. Louzek was locked in a lengthy, tearful embrace with the star of his team, senior Jake Disterhaupt. One of 10 finalists for the Minnesota Mr. Football award, Disterhaupt has been a fixture for the Rebels for years.
ALL THE HARD WORK PAYS OFF
Brian Dahl and Steve Jipson have been the co-head football coaches at Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley for nine years. There were some lean early seasons, when finishing with a .500 record was an accomplishment.
Looking back, however, after the Wolverines defeated Grand Meadow 40-22 in the nine-man Prep Bowl game to win their first state football championship, you could see this coming. Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley’s record from the start of the 2008 season to the end of the 2011 campaign was 42-5, and that kind of success breeds, well, success.
One key came in 2008, when the Wolverines lost to Houston in the Prep Bowl. Another key came in 2009, when the Wolverines played in the Metrodome again, losing in the semifinals to Stephen-Argyle. The current players remember watching those contests in the Metrodome. And this season they were a perfect 13-0.
“These kids were here for those games and they saw what this is like,” Dahl said. “They have worked hard to get here.”
This year’s team will lose some talented seniors, but look for the Wolverines to begin the 2013 season with high expectations. Running back Jason Montonye scored three touchdowns Friday, running back Austin Maanum scored two and quarterback Damon Gibson had one score. All three are juniors.
--Grand Meadow and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley combined to score 99 points in last week’s semifinals, but that kind of firepower was not to be seen early in Friday’s game. The game was scoreless after one quarter, with Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley holding a 20-0 lead at halftime.
Maanum rushed 20 times for 185 yards and two touchdowns, and Montonye carried 13 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns. The Wolverines totaled 393 rushing yards.
Grand Meadow’s Trenton Bleifus completed 18 of 28 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Mike Ojulu caught a pair of touchdown passes and Landon Jacobson caught seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.
--With Hutchinson’s 67-7 win over Holy Family in the Class 4A Prep Bowl, the Tigers are believed to be the first school to win football titles under father and son coaches. Grady Rostberg did so in 1983, 1984 and 1998 and son Andy is the current coach.
--Weather Thoughts: Take a look at the current weather and imagine if this weekend’s Prep Bowl games were being played outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium. Well, in a couple of years these games will be played outdoors after the Metrodome is torn down and before the new stadium is built. That’s reason enough to see why the high school football season should end a week or two before Thanksgiving weekend as long as the Prep Bowl is an outdoor event.
--Final Whistle: Bryce Pack was the referee during the nine-man championship game, ending a 34-year career as a football official. Pack, the athletic director at Red Rock Central in Lamberton, will remain certified as an official in case the need to fill in comes up in future years, but the Prep Bowl was his final official game. Bryce’s son Colby was on his crew Friday and another son, Casey, worked a semifinal game last week. In the 6A game between Eden Prairie and Lakeville North, officials Pat Whalen and Bill Merritt worked their final games before retiring. It was Whalen’s fourth Prep Bowl and Merritt's fifth.
--Total Class: One officiating crew had the distinction of working at least one game involving teams in every class, from nine-man to 6A, this season. The Fergus Falls-based crew of John Klinnert, Derrick Nelson, Timothy Rogelstad, Eric Guler and Isaiah Godding ended their season with a Class 4A state quarterfinal game between Holy Family and Hill-Muray at Macalester College.
--Quotable: After Caledonia held off BOLD 26-24 in last week’s Class 2A semifinals, Caledonia’s Schroeder was asked by the LaCrosse Tribune’s David Griswold about battling against the larger BOLD linemen: “Those guys were huge. Their Xs were bigger than our Os.”
--Big Sendoff: With the Thanksgiving holiday, the fans in Grand Meadow were unable to hold a send-off for the football team at the school, so they did something that was extra neat. A stretch of highway coming out of town was blocked off from cross traffic Thursday and everybody parked alongside the road and serenaded the team as it rolled past on a school bus, headed toward the Twin Cities.
--First Cheer: The Metrodome doors opened to fans at 9 a.m., and a couple minutes later folks from Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley shouted “Go big blue!” There was a pretty good echo in the mostly empty dome.
PREP BOWL XXXI
Nine-man: Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 40, Grand Meadow 22
Class 2A: Caledonia 25, Moose Lake/Willow River 22
Class 4A: Hutchinson 67, Holy Family Catholic 7
Class 6A: Eden Prairie 28, Lakeville North 7
10 a.m./Class 1A: Bethlehem Academy (11-2) vs. Mahnomen (13-0)
1 p.m./Class 3A: Rochester Lourdes (13-0) vs. Blue Earth Area (12-0)
4 p.m./Class 5A: Owatonna (12-0) vs. Totino-Grace (12-0)
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 344
*Miles John has driven: 4,675
*Diet soft drink count: 5
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
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