MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Senior Connor McCormick was hurt during the early part of the season for the Caledonia Warriors.
Combined with his time on the defensive side of the ball, McCormick took some time to get into a rhythm for Caledonia’s three-headed rushing attack.
There was never any doubt he would be ready when it mattered most though. He’d done it before.
McCormick ran for 189 yards and three touchdowns and the Warriors beat the Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels 27-0 to win their second straight Class 2A state title.
“That kid is a warrior through and through,” Caledonia coach Brent Schroeder said. “He has heart and desire. He works hard on and off the field with the extra things he’s done. He’s unbelievable.”
Warriors quarterback Kennan Bruening added 111 yards rushing and 75 passing, connecting with Adam Drenckhahn for a 11-yard touchdown pass as the Warriors (13-1) won their fourth championship in five seasons.
This season McCormick was only third on Caledonia with 129 rushing attempts as Bruening and running back Matt Peterson had 146 and 145, respectively, but McCormick still had a team-high 714 yards entering the state tournament. McCormick also had 153 yards and two touchdowns as the Warriors beat Triton 28-7 in last year’s Class 2A Prep Bowl.
“As a team we played as a unit and the guys that played in front of me are the same as last year as this year,” McCormick said. “They go all out. They hit as hard as they can. I don’t want to talk the credit. The whole offensive line last year and this year, they’re just unbelievable.”
The defense isn’t too shabby either. Caledonia intercepted two passes and had two sacks, while posting the first shutout in a Prep Bowl game since 2005 when Becker shut out Albany in Class 3A.
Moose Lake/Willow River (13-1) was vying for its first state title and entered the state tournament averaging 53.0 points per game.
“It’s about gap-control defense and 11 kids out there believing that they can stop anybody,” Schroeder said. “(The Rebels) have some great talent and great coaching. My kids just believe they can stop anything and that’s what they did today I guess.”
Moose Lake/Willow River junior running back Jake Disterhaupt had rushed for over 2,000 yards this season and had 252 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the Rebels’ 35-14 state semifinal win last week against Waterville-Elysian-Morristown. Caledonia held Disterhaupt to 49 yards on 15 carries.
“They were able to control the line of scrimmage,” Moose Lake/Willow River coach Dave Louzek said. “Their defensive line just smothered our offensive line and then their linebackers are just so quick to the ball that they have a great defense, a great team obviously, and they were able to out-physical us.”
The Warriors outscored their opponents 111-12, including two shutouts in the three state tournament games.
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