One of my favorite songs of all time is Aerosmith’s version of Train Kept a-Rollin’. Steven Tyler’s vocals are at their manic best, and Joe Perry’s riffs and solos complement Tyler perfectly.
I couldn’t help but think about that song as I circled the track surrounding Burnsville’s football field Friday night as Caledonia was running out the – running time – clock. The Caledonia train just keeps on rolling. The Warriors took control in the first quarter, then pulled away in the second quarter. They spent much of the second half killing the clock while still expanding their lead.
As the frigid night ended, Caledonia had a 41-0 victory over New Richland-H-E-G and a return trip to the 2A state semi-finals.
A thin layer of snow covered the field, but it looked like the Warriors were playing on a perfect field of green grass. Defensive back Tate Meiners took advantage of a wobbly pass and picked off the underthrown ball to give his offense the ball in Panthers’ territory. Caledonia took advantage of the short field. Quarterback Noah King threw a perfect pass down the sidelines to Meiners for a 36-yard touchdown.
“I just tried to keep my hands warm,” King said about dealing with the elements. “I just threw the ball normally. The ball was dry, so that was helpful.”
On New Richland – H-E-G’s next play from scrimmage a Caledonia defender ripped the ball out of the hands of the Panthers’ running back and Caledonia’s Payton Schott scooped the loose ball and returned it 31 yards for the touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
“We got off to a good start,” King said. “We just kept rolling after that. Everyone did their jobs and made their blocks. The defense played like we usually do.”
The defensive line pressured the Panthers’ quarterback into a poor throw on a third and long, resulting in a punt. As a result, Caledonia used a mix of effective running by King and running back Nick McCabe along with accurate passing by King to move the ball into the red zone. Facing a fourth and short at the six-yard line, King called his own number facing a fourth and short at the six-yard line. He got around the corner in part because of a block by Brady Rosendahl to not only pick up the first down but to also extend the lead to 20-0 one play into the 2nd quarter.
Dominating on all three levels of the defense, the Warriors forced another punt, and the offense went back to work. Facing a third and long King found Eli King on a post pattern to give the Warriors a first and goal at the five-yard line. Facing fourth and goal at the one-yard line McCabe had basically a walk in for the touchdown.
The defense turned the Panthers over again. This time via an interception by Meiners off pressure by the defensive line. On third and long, King’s crossing pattern to tight end Evan Denstad gave the Warriors a first down. The catch gave the Warriors the momentum they needed to make the decision to try to put up more points before the half. With the clock under ten seconds, King flipped a pass into the flat for McCabe. He looked like he was boxed in and was going to have to go out of bounds. Instead, he made three defenders miss and got into the end zone with one second left in the half.
With the score 34-0 at the half, Caledonia went into cruise control for the final 24 minutes. The defense continued to hold down the Panthers. Their best drive was against mainly Warriors’ second-team players. The offense would add one more touchdown on a run by Jack Beardmore to make the final score 41-0.
Caledonia will take a 52-game winning streak into U.S. Bank Stadium next week to play in the state semi-finals against Paynesville. Like King and Tyler said – they kept rollin’.