Caledonia tops Barnesville for fourth straight state football title
Barnesville was exactly where it wanted to be Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium. It was within one score in the fourth quarter of the Minnesota Class 2A state championship against top-ranked Caledonia.
The Trojans cared not about the 53 straight wins or three straight state titles the Warriors brought with them. They had their eyes set on their first ever state title.
On fourth-and-9, from the Caledonia 29-yard line, Barnesville quarterback Adam Tonsfeldt was asked to do something he had only done 25 times all season. Tonsfeldt had to pass. He shook off a tackle and floated a ball to senior Nick Detloff, who had nothing but the end zone in front of him.
Caledonia's Nick McCabe somehow got a fingertip on the ball to tip it in the air and Detloff couldn't haul in the deflection, smashing the turf with his fists.
The Warriors would put the game away on the ensuing drive, topping Barnesville 21-0 for the state title.
"This is a great group of kids," Barnesville coach Bryan Strand said. "They listen, they don't bicker, they don't fight and they take the coaching as well as any team I've ever had. The end result isn't what we wanted, but the journey is what I think is the most important part here."
The lone score of the first half came off a Barnesville turnover. The Trojans fumbled the ball and Ryan Wagner pounced on it at the Barnesville 23-yard line.
Two plays later, McCabe laid a stiff arm en route to a 22-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 Caledonia lead with 4 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the first half.
"We couldn't have asked for a better, more exciting game than this," Caledonia senior Ryan Wagner said. "This was just what we wanted."
The Warriors had their opportunities to put the game away in the first half, but the Barnesville (11-3) defense would not break. Hunter Anderson blew up a play in the backfield on a fourth-and-1 run from the Barnesville 8 to end Caledonia's opening drive. Chase Brenner broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-6, from the Barnesville 21, on the ensuing Caledonia drive to keep the Warriors off the scoreboard. Preston Snobl picked off a Noah King pass at the Barnesville 13 on Caledonia's first drive of the second quarter.
A Barnesville fumble put Caledonia at the Barnesville 22 with 1:17 remaining in the first half. A King 18-yard run set up the Warriors with a first down at the Barnesville 4. A bad snap and Hunter Zenzen chasing down the ball kept Caledonia out of the end zone again.
"Barnesville deserves a ton of respect," Caledonia coach Carl Fruechte said. "Their defense was awesome, really gave us a lot of fits."
The Trojans had 32 total yards of offense and two turnovers on 21 offensive plays in the first half, but Caledonia only had a 7-0 lead at the break.
"In the first half, they came out with a different defense than we thought they were going to play, so we had to make some adjustments at halftime," Tonsfeldt said. "We had just guys going to the wrong linebackers and different things like that."
There was still 9:45 remaining in the game after McCabe knocked Tonsfeldt's pass away from Detloff. On the ensuing drive, he knocked Barnesville defenders to the turf, plowing through Trojans for runs of 24, 9, 19, 6 and 4 yards on the first five plays of the drive. McCabe set up a first-and-goal from the 9 for Caledonia.
"We got the energy up a lot once we started getting some holes and we just kept hitting them," said McCabe, who finished with a game-high 115 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Barnesville made a stop that would've brought up fourth-and-goal from the 7, but a facemask penalty gave Caledonia a third-and-goal from the 2. The Trojans stuffed the first attempt, but Tate Meiners punched it in on fourth down to make it a 14-0 game with 5:16 remaining. It was his only carry of the game.
"Winning all the time, you know what it takes to be successful like that," Meiners said. "Being here, I can't talk enough about the role models that we have with our coaching staff and the guys that came before us. They've been awesome. We just try to be like them pretty much."
Trailing by two touchdowns, Barnesville was forced to throw. Caledonia (13-0) put the finishing touches on its fourth straight state title with a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown by Payton Schott on Barnesville's third play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive.
"Everything was set up for how I saw the game turning out," Strand said. "I thought our kids had a ton of grit today. They didn't let up. We made some mistakes. They're kids, they're going to make mistakes, but they made this coach pretty dang proud."
B 0 0 0 0--0
C 0 7 0 14--21
C--McCabe 22 run (Wagner kick)
C--Meiners 1 run (Wagner kick)
C--Schott 43 interception return (Wagner kick)