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KIng leads Warriors to AA crown over Pipestone Area

Carter Nesvold (1) of Pipestone Area sprints for the touchdown in the first quarter of play at the Class AA football championship against Caledonia. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)1 / 5
Pipestone Area quarterback Jonathan Tinklenberg (9) feels the pressure from Caledonia's Nick McCabe (33) as Jamison Vander Wal (64) holds off pursuit from behind. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)2 / 5
Pipestone Area High School fans chear on the team at the Pipestone Area High School fans cheer on the team at the Minnesota state Class AA football championship against Caledonia. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)3 / 5
Pipestone Area High School's Matt Enger (50) catches his breath after coming off the field. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)4 / 5
The Pipestone Area Arrows are shown with their second-place trophy at U.S. Bank Stadium following the Minnesota state Class AA football championship game against Caledonia. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)5 / 5

MINNEAPOLIS — Owen King tied a Prep Bowl record with six touchdowns and the Caledonia defense throttled Pipestone Area through four quarters in a 57-6 victory Friday afternoon in the Minnesota Class AA football championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

In the home of the Minnesota Vikings, not even the Vikings on their best defensive day could have matched the Warriors in their domination of the Arrows.

King, already considered one of the best quarterbacks in Minnesota high school football, completed 18 of 28 passes for 246 yards and five scores while also running one in. But the Warriors were even more impressive on the other side of the football.

Pipestone Area didn’t record a single first down for the entire game, so dominant was the CHS defensive line and so focused were its linebackers and defensive backs. The Section 3AA champion Arrows finished the game with a net minus-11 total yards. They gained zero net yards passing and were minus-11 rushing on 26 carries.

“They weren’t overly big. They were just strong. You could tell they put a lot of time in the weight room,” said Pipestone Area junior wide receiver Braeden Rieck.

The victory gave Caledonia its third consecutive state Class AA championship and a 13-0 finish to its season. Pipestone Area ended at 12-2.

Two years ago, the Arrows lost to Caledonia 40-0 in the state championship contest. The Arrows might have fared a little better in this one had their talented starting quarterback, junior Cody Thompson, been able to play.

Thompson, who threw for more than 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, was unable to play due to a bout of mononucleosis. In his place, sophomore signal caller Jonathan Tinklenberg played gamely, but his passes didn’t have the zing nor the accuracy that Thompson demonstrated all year.

“We found out on Sunday Cody had mono. It was like getting slugged in the gut,” said PA head coach Clay Anderson. “I told my coaches it was like starting over from the beginning of the season. … As much as you can, you try to keep it simple. But against Caledonia, they just come at you with every single play.”

Caledonia scored its first touchdown with 7:39 remaining in the first quarter on a 20-yard interception return by Marten Morem. Tinklenberg tried to connect with his receiver who was covered 1-on-1 by Morem, but the pass hung in their air a tad too long.

Still in the first quarter, King found Sam Barthel for his first touchdown, a 32-yard hookup on the right side of the field.

A ray of hope

CHS led 12-0 when Pipestone Area achieved its lone highlight of the game — its only score of the game. Twice earlier the Warriors made it a point to kick away from game-breaking PAHS wide receiver/kick returner Tyl Woelber, but after their second TD they booted close enough to allow him to receive the ball.

Woelber, starting on the left side of the field, took five steps forward and threw left-handed across to the other side of the field where teammate Carter Nesvold stood waiting. Nesvold, a 6-0, 155-pound senior, gathered it in and raced 76 yards untouched to the end zone. It was a rare moment when the Warriors were surprised. And it gave the Arrows some hope.

“We practiced a lot of trick plays. We’ve been practicing all year long,” said Anderson.

“At that time I felt that the momentum was on our side. That was a good play, we’ve been working on that all year,” said senior running back Garrett Ploeger.

Return to form

Caledonia was stunned, but only momentarily. In the second quarter the Warriors scored 24 more points to go to halftime leading 36-6. King’s second touchdown pass came on a third-and-six play at the 12-yard-line as the star quarterback — ala Fran Tarkenton in another era — started left and rolled right under pressure, doubled back and threw into the end zone to Barthel, who outleaped two Pipestone Area defenders for the ball.

Five minutes later, on a fourth-and-nine play, King passed over the middle to Evan Denstad as Arrows linebacker Matt Enger left a hole in the defense while blitzing.

Still before halftime, with 3:07 to go, King found Barthel for a third score on a perfectly lofted 27-yard strike. Pipestone Area threw another interception on its next possession, and with 1:39 remaining King ran up the middle for a TD.

“I thought we played pretty good in the first half,” Anderson said, “and then to be down 36-6, that’s just a testament to how good Caledonia is.”

Caledonia’s pressure up front was relentless. Often, Warrior defenders were in the Pipestone Area backfield before the Arrows’ running backs could get their feet under them. Occasionally, the Arrows attempted plays designed to get Woelber into space, or they used Woelber to attempt a pass. But almost without fail, the Warriors were there to plug up the running lanes immediately, or their defenders were hanging on Woelber before he could set his feet under him to throw.

In the third quarter, Caledonia scored twice more on an 11-yard TD pass from King to Andrew Goergen on a fourth-and-10 play, and then on a 36-yard run by Mason Staggemeyer through at least two missed Arrows tackles.

The fourth quarter was played under running time. With 5:38 to go, Caledonia capped the scoring with a 1-yard Mitchel Welsh carry.

If there’s a silver lining to Friday’s game, it’s that Pipestone Area made it to the state championship game with a lineup filled with several contributing juniors. Those juniors will be back next year to try and make a return trip to U.S. Bank Stadium.

“We had a tremendous year, and we won some close games this year,” said Anderson. “We’ll miss our five seniors, but we’ve got a lot of good juniors coming back.”

The improvement PA made from its first game to the last was impressive, said the coach.

Ploeger agreed. “We just came together. We’re a real close group. We won a lot of close games. I look at us as a family. We just never give up on each other.”

Said Rieck: “No one really expected us to go this far. We played as a team. We got a lot of good athletes. And everybody did their part. Just a fun year.”

Caledonia 12 24 14 7 -- 57Pipestone Area 6 0 0 0 -- 6
Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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