Isaac Fruechte won football state championships as a sophomore and junior at Caledonia High School, but lost in the quarterfinals his senior season in 2009.
“Obviously you want to win it you’re senior year no matter what,” he said.
His disappointment only intensified when his father, Carl, announced that winter that he was stepping down as Caledonia’s head coach after posting a 111-31 record with two state titles.
Isaac blamed himself, or more specifically, the failed three-peat by his team.
“It was pretty tough for me,” Isaac said. “Because I felt like it was my senior year’s fault. Of course, he’s saying, ‘Don’t take it like that.’ But you’re a young kid. Of course you’re going to think that.”
That wasn’t the reason at all. His dad had better reasons: His own children.
Carl grew tired of missing his kids’ sports activities and decided to make a change. Isaac’s older sister Alecia was a volleyball player at Minnesota State Mankato at the time. Her dad’s time demands as Caledonia’s football coach made it almost impossible to attend her matches.
“I had missed basically her first two years of college volleyball,” he said. “I just never got to see her. I was feeling very guilty and I’m like, this isn’t right.”
Isaac was set to start his college football career, first at Rochester Community and Technical College and then as a wide receiver for the Gophers. He’s now a member of the Vikings practice squad.
Saturday’s were hectic for Carl at Caledonia with video review of the previous night’s game, weight lifting sessions and obligations with the youth football program.
He figured he wouldn’t get to watch much of Isaac’s college career, either, if he didn’t make a choice.
So he stepped down as head coach, agreeing to stay as an assistant. He was replaced by his defensive coordinator Brent Schroeder.
“We’re not caught up into all that … whatever you want to call it,” Carl said.
“Yeah,” he said.
The situation gave Carl the best of both worlds. He missed only a couple home games during Isaac’s three seasons with the Gophers.
And he remained an integral part of Caledonia’s program, winning three more state titles as an assistant. And now he’s close to another one.
The undefeated Warriors are back in the Prep Bowl for the first time since 2012. They play 13-0 Pipestone Area in the Class 2A championship on Friday.
Fruechte runs the offense, Schroeder the defense.
“So every play that you do not like is my fault,” Fruechte said, laughing.
Fruechte is thankful for what his decision to step down as head coach provided him. He got to spend fall Saturdays watching his son play Big Ten football.
Carl, his wife Becky and Alecia also traveled to a number of road games. They would leave right after Caledonia’s game on Friday and drive through the night.
“I usually don’t sleep on a Friday night so it’s pretty easy for me to drive,” Carl said.
Gophers games became a [large] family affair. Carl is the oldest of 12 siblings. Becky had nine siblings.
“That’s probably something I’ll never forget, having umpteen family members at my games, whether they were in Florida, Texas or wherever,” Isaac said.
Isaac hopes to attend Friday’s Prep Bowl, if his schedule with the Vikings allows it. The Warriors are seeking their sixth state championship since 2007, a powerhouse program that Isaac says is built from the youth level up.
“Kids are starting when they’re real young,” he said. “It’s not about pads, it’s not about hitting. It’s about developing skills and playing multiple positions and just being a skilled athlete.”
Expectations have changed as result of all those championships. Caledonia is expected to compete for the state title every season.
Carl accepts that challenge and says he remains ultra-competitive, but he stresses a larger point with his players. He recalled taking a long walk with Isaac after they fell short his senior season.
“I remember telling him, ‘Isaac, there was a day when we just wanted to make the state tournament,’” Carl said. “Now if we make the state tournament and get beat, people think it’s a failure. I refuse to do that. We’re not going to do that to our kids.”