Rebels remain state’s second-bestCaledonia senior kicker Levi Schmitz sealed the state championship for the Warriors when he split the uprights on a 24-yard field goal as time expired in Caledonia’s 25-22 win over Moose Lake-Willow River in the Class AA Prep Bowl XXXI last Friday afternoon at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
MINNEAPOLIS – Caledonia senior kicker Levi Schmitz put an end to the Rebels state championship hopes in just one second.
Schmitz sealed the state championship for the Warriors when he split the uprights on a 24-yard field goal as time expired in Caledonia’s 25-22 win over Moose Lake-Willow River in the Class AA Prep Bowl XXXI last Friday afternoon at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Schmitz finished with a victory sprint into a mob of teammates, as the top-ranked Warriors (13-0) became just the seventh team in state history to win their third straight Prep Bowl.
“We put so many hours in on special teams; I was confident I was going to be able to put it through,” Schmitz said afterward, teammates calling him “Magic Man” in the background. “I’ve been kicking for so long, I know exactly how it’s supposed to feel.
“I didn’t even look up,” Schmitz continued, “I knew coming off my foot that it was going in – and I just turned and ran.”
“Everybody just did their job and executed at the right time,” added Caledonia Coach Brent Schroeder, who now has an eye-popping 40-1 record in his three years with the Warriors.
Caledonia rushed seven times during its final 9-play, 40-yard drive to set up Schmitz with one second remaining. ML-WR never touched the ball in the final 3:11, again falling short in a rematch of last year’s final, also their third Prep Bowl loss in four years.
“Until somebody beats them, they’re still the best of the best,” Rebels Coach Dave Louzek said of Caledonia, a small school in the southeastern portion of Minnesota which has won five of the previous six state titles. “They showed why they are champions. That kicker did a great job under the pressure. Their kids expect to be in the position – and when they are, they handle it.”
Caledonia started strong last week, leading 15-7 at the break on a pair of rushing and receiving touchdowns from Brad Strub, and a 36-yard field goal from Schmitz late in a second quarter in which the Warriors outscored the Rebels 9-0.
Second-ranked ML-WR responded with two big plays in the third quarter, starting with a 71-yard run by superstar running back Jake Disterhaupt for his second score of the game. On the next possession, Tony Adamczak completed his only pass of the day, faking first, and then hitting Isaac Coil on a lob down the left sideline, before Coil raced 84 yards for the go-ahead score.
Trailing 22-15, Caledonia then charged 63 yards on 17 plays only to watch Alex Varney’s fourth-and-goal keeper get stuffed by the Rebels’ Jake Christopherson two yards shy of the end zone.
Three plays later, Adamczak’s pass from near the goal line went over the reach of Disterhaupt and into Varney, who sprinted 14 yards for the interception return to tie things 22-22 with 5:45 left.
“That one was on me,” said Disterhaupt about the interception. “Tony threw it in a well-placed spot, and I just missed it. I catch that ball nine times out of 10. I never drop those ones in practice.”
A Rebels’ punt on their next drive gave the Warriors the ball back for good. Methodically moving down field during crunch time, Caledonia called its final timeout with one second remaining.
Louzek called his last timeout directly afterward, trying to ice Schmitz. Disterhaupt said strategy was involved on the final play.
“The plan was to have the corners come from the outside and just push up the middle to get a hand or finger on it,” said the Division I talent Disterhaupt, who finished his four-year varsity career with more than 4,600 yards. “Seeing it go through the uprights was emotional for all of us. The emotions didn’t come so much as from losing the game, but from losing each other.”
Senior teammate Jake Christopherson agreed. A four-year lineman, he remembered glancing up at the time left before the kick.
“It was hard looking at the clock with one second left – knowing all the time lifting weights, watching tape and reading scouting reports came down to one second,” he said. “I knew it was either going to be we block it, or our season was over.”
On the sidelines when the game ended, Adamczak thought of that instantly, shedding tears shortly after the kick sailed through.
“Sure, it’s tough losing the state championship two years in a row,” said Adamczak, a four-year player, “but it’s losing Rebel football – something that’s been a part of our lives for so long – that hurts most. That’s what got me emotional.”
Louzek remained on the field to embrace his distraught players.
“It definitely stings,” Louzek said. “But there are 60-some teams across the state of Minnesota that would like to be in our position. We’ve closed the gap [with Caledonia] and took another step today. The kids coming back again are already talking about next year.”
“I hope to see them as good, if not better, than I was,” Christopherson said, adding he will be back to watch the Rebels play football again next fall season. “It’s been a great four years.”