Barnesville’s season ended at the hands of Caledonia inside U.S. Bank Stadium for the second year in a row, as the Trojans fell 43-12 in the Minnesota Class 2A state football semifinals on Friday.
The Trojans are the latest victim of the Caledonia football machine which owns the nation’s longest active high school football winning streak at 67 straight games. The Warriors have won the last four state championships, including a 21-0 victory over Barnesville in last year’s state title game.
Caledonia just brings a level of athleticism and offensive sophistication that the Trojans don’t get to see from anybody else during the season.
“It’s incredibly tough and what makes it even harder is that we don’t see it throughout the year,” Barnesville junior quarterback and defensive back Adam Tonsfeldt said. “We didn’t see any passing throughout the entire year. Most teams we play run the ball 75 to 80 percent of the time. Then you come in here and face a team with incredible athletes and it makes it that much harder.”
The Trojans brought in a few former Minnesota State Moorhead football players, including head coach Bryan Strand’s son Michael, to simulate Caledonia’s speed in practice this week. But it still wasn’t enough.
Caledonia senior quarterback Noah King completed 13 of 25 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns, and added 34 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. King’s younger brother Eli King caught five passes for 94 yards and two scores, adding a TD on the ground. Cole Kronebusch caught five passes for 164 yards and score.
“That is a college style offense,” Strand said. “They spread it around. (Caledonia receiver Eli King) is a pure athlete, plain and simple and they’ve got two or three other guys. If you double (King), you leave two other guys open. It’s a tough feat.”
Barnesville’s defense seemed up to the task early on. It forced three straight three-and-outs as Noah King opened the game 0-for-7. But once The Warriors’ offense clicked, it became just about unstoppable, scoring touchdowns on their next six drives. After the slow start, King completed 9 of 12 passes for 197 yards and 2 touchdowns in the second quarter.
“I knew we could play with them to begin with,” Trojans senior defensive lineman Hunter Zenzen said. “The second half still had to be written. I thought we would match up really well — which we did — up front, just our secondary was so young, they’re not as experienced and they’ve never been tested by any team. I thought they did a phenomenal job tonight and I couldn’t be any prouder.”
“We handled the pass pretty well in the first half, but as the game wore on and they wore us down, we just tuckered out,” Strand said.
Barnesville’s offense had some success, but its option rushing attack isn’t built to play from behind, and just couldn’t keep up with Caledonia. All 234 of the Trojans’ yards came on the ground, with Tonsfeldt gaining the lion’s share. He had 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 78-yarder, on 26 carries.
After Caledonia scored its first touchdown — a 3-yard run by Noah King — Tonsfeldt answered with his long touchdown run. He kept the ball to the right, blasted through a hole up the middle, shrugged off a tackler at the second level, cut to his right and ran away from the defense to make it 8-6.
But the Warriors came right back with a five-play, 71-yard drive that was jump started by a 57-yard reception by Kronebusch, and was capped by a 4-yard touchdown catch by Eli King.
“Offensively, we are a run-oriented team,” Strand said. “That’s what we do. And we do it pretty well. And they stop the run very, very well.”
Tonsfeldt added his second rushing touchdown — a 6-yarder to the right — in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach at 43-12.
“They never quit,” Strand said. “They fought hard. They worked hard to get here. This loss hurts, but it does not define them.”
Barnesville’s season comes to an end with a 12-1 record and its fourth consecutive Class 2A, Section 8 title appearance. Caledonia will look for its 68th straight win and its fifth straight state championship next Friday at 11:30 a.m. as the Warriors take on Minneapolis North in the title game.