51 points, 49 points, 40 points; those were the margins of Caledonia’s previous three championship game victories.
This year, though, it was Caledonia’s defense keying another state championship. The Warriors defeated a feisty Barnesville squad 21-0 for their 54th-consecutive victory to maintain control of Class AA.
The Warriors (13-0) spent practically the entire first quarter in the Barnesville (11-3) end, but the Trojans defense was up to the task. Barnesville’s Jackson Poepping stuffed a quarterback sneak attempt to give the ball to his offense after Caledonia had moved inside the 10-yards line.
After the defense forced a three and out, Caledonia took over inside Barnesville 30-yard line, but Barnesville’s defense stepped up again and stopped Caledonia on fourth down – again inside the 10-yard line.
Barnesville flipped field position on the ensuing drive, but it took Caledonia only a couple plays to flip it back.
Noah King hit Tate Meiners on a seam route got the Warriors on the Trojans’ side of the field. The Barnesville defense came up big again, though, when Preston Snobl picked off a crossing pattern to stop the drive.
With the offense moving the ball but not able to punch it in; the Caledonia defense set up the Warriors’ first touchdown. Ryan Wagner recovered a fumble from a botched handoff and Mr. Football finalist Nick McCabe provided the game’s first points. His 22-yard sweep around the left side gave the defending champions a 7-0 lead.
The Warriors defense set up the offense deep in Trojans’ territory again. Caledonia’s Evan Denstad recovered another Trojans’ muffed, and the Warriors took over at the Barnesville 22-yard line. Noah King’s run around the end set them up with a first and goal inside the five, but a bad snap and a fumble recovery by Hunter Zenzen for Barnesville ended another Caledonia threat.
With the Barnesville defense holding up time and time again into the second half, the Trojans’ offense finally put together its best drive of the game.
Runs by Detloff, and Kellen Hinsz along with two runs by Tonsfeldt ended the quarter with the Trojans at the Warriors’ 30-yard line. Two plays later, the Warriors stuffed a run off tackle to set up a 4th and long.
Detloff was open on a wheel route and was able to tip the slightly under-thrown ball up in the air but could not reel it in. The Caledonia defense – as it would all game – held up yet again.
One play after the turnover on downs, Caledonia’s McCabe finally got loose up the middle and Caledonia was in Barnesville territory. A huge facemask penalty against Barnesville gave Caledonia a third and goal at the two-yard line with under six minutes to go.
After getting stuffed on 3rd and goal, Meiners converted on 4th down to give the Warriors a two-score lead. The clutch ten play, 71-yard drive, gave Caledonia some breathing room and a 14-0 lead late in the game.
Warriors’ defensive back Payton Schott capped the scoring and blew open a close game with an interception and touchdown. Tracking a pass down the sidelines, Schott got up into the air and batted the ball to himself. His 44-yard touchdown return with the Warriors’ subsequent extra point made the score 21-0 with three minutes to play in the game.
The pick-six capped off a stellar defensive effort by the Warriors. It was their sixth shutout of the season and second of the state tournament. They held the potent Trojans’ running game to 126 yards of total offense in the win.