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Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 11/10/2012 10:03:26 AM

By Brian Jerzak
John’s Journal correspondent

One of the most dominating football programs in the state of Minnesota the past six years has been the Caledonia Warriors. The Warriors came into Friday night’s Class 2A state quarterfinal at Burnsville High School against Sibley East riding a 23-game winning streak. They have won the last two state championships and four of the last five. What has been the Warriors’ secrete? If you believe former and current players, the reasons are simple -- great coaching and the power of the blond mohawk.

The Warriors got on the scoreboard early behind the running of junior Ryan Pitts. A trio of nice runs gave his team the ball inside the 10. From there senior quarterback Alex Varney took over, scoring from four yards to take a 7-0 lead. Sibley East would come right back to score, but a missed extra point allowed the defending champs to keep the lead.

The rest of the night, the Warrior defense would bend but would not allow another point.

“(Head) coach (Brent) Schroeder does a great job of putting us in our gaps,” said linebacker and running back Pitts. “Once we get in our gaps we do what we do. We trust our brothers right next to us and just do what we do.”

The defense was helped out all night by the kicking game. Sibley East was consistently pinned deep in its own territory, but the mohawked ones had plenty of playmakers on defense. Junior West Spier and senior Jeremy Dewall made a number of solid plays – especially in the second quarter.

It looked like it would stay a one-point game into the half, but with two minutes left the Warriors were at the 20 and faced with fourth and three. Varney threw a fade into the corner. The ball was under thrown, but senior Levi Schmitz was able to adjust to the ball and haul it in for a touchdown.

Leading 14-6 at the half the Warrior defense came out of the locker room even stronger, while Varney, Pitts and the offensive line wore down the Wolverines.

“I started the game pretty good and then I started hesitating,” said Pitts. “I don’t know what that was about. I was just hitting the hole a little slower and then we had a nice talk at halftime and the line and my fullback, Jacob Swindell, was doing a great job tonight. When they were opening up holes it was easy to run.”

With the defense dominating most of the game and bearing down the few times its back was against the wall, Pitts and the running game put the game away late.

“We knew the second half was ours. We knew we could wear them down. In the second half we knew we just had to keep pushing and pushing and it worked well in the second half.”

The Warriors capped off an impressive win with a punishing ground game and a tough defense and walked out of Burnsville with a 27-6 victory and a trip to the semifinals, proving for at least one more week that the power of the mohawk is real.

“2007 it started,” said Troy Frank, a defensive end, tight end and kicker on two of the Warriors’ championship teams. “The seniors just decided to do it when they made it to state. Then we bleached them the next year. In 2009 we didn’t do it and we lost in the first round. So now we’ve got to do it.”

It has become a tradition practically the whole town takes part in.

“We go as a team to one of the salons in Caledonia,” Pitts said. “They do a great job donating everything. They have volunteers come in and we come in as a team.”

The mohawks would not have meant much without the coaching staff and great teams.
Former head coach and current assistant “Carl (Fruechte) and Brent (Schroeder) got something going and it has gotten bigger ever since,” said Connor McCormick, who was a running back on the last two championship teams and graduated last year.

“Our coaches taught us how to work hard and play together. It is just the way they coach, we believed in them and we believed in each other,” continued McCormick. “We all worked hard and played together. We had the best coaching staff in the state. That what makes us a great team, our coaching.”

A bigger-picture view that past and current players take also has had a part in building a small-school football powerhouse.

“It started with Karl and Brett a long time ago and we just got things rolling,” said the tough-running Pitts. “When I was young we always had the seniors and juniors helping us out. It prepared us for seventh- and eighth-grade ball and we just keep moving up through the levels. We are able to get into games when we are up as freshmen and sophomores. That gave us a lot of experience so when we get to be juniors and seniors we know what it is like. Then when we are juniors and seniors we help the younger kids. We are not thinking about ourselves, we are thinking about the years to come too.”

Caledonia has built a program that is set up to be good for years to come, but whatever you do, make sure you don’t tell them to stop getting those state tournament mohawks.


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