This is Caledonia's time of year. The Warriors, winners of three consecutive Class 2A state championships, put themselves in position to make it four by thumping Paynesville 40-6.
"We talk about being in the moment," said Caledonia coach Carl Fruechte, whose team has won 53 consecutive games. "Before you go on the field, we want you to smile and enjoy it. There shouldn't be any stress. Play hard, fast and physical and we'll be happy."
The Warriors certainly listened. They outran and outhit Paynesville, taking a 27-0 halftime lead. Nick McCabe caught an 8-yard touchdown pass, Jack Beardmore scored from 58 yards out, and quarterback Noah King added two short touchdown runs to give the Warriors control.
The defense also shut down Paynesville's potent offense, holding it to 58 yards in the first half. Paynesville, which had scored 50 or more points seven times, was held to just 133 total yards in the game.
Paynesville played without its starting quarterback, Max Weidner, who suffered a broken leg in the quarterfinals.
"We didn't feel Caledonia would feel too sorry for us, so we probably shouldn't feel too sorry for ourselves," Paynesville coach Max Meagher said.
Paynesville had a spurt of hope to start the second half. The Bulldogs drove 78 yards in 12 plays and scored a touchdown on a 13-yard pass from backup quarterback Grady Fuchs to Sam Oehrlein. The Bulldogs recovered the ensuing onside kick and appeared to gather momentum. That ended quickly when a Paynesville fumble was knocked 30 yards backward and Caledonia fell on it at the Paynesville 35.
Three plays later, the Warriors were in the end zone, having regained their margin and their edge.
McCabe, a Mr. Football finalist, said he relishes the expectations that go along with playing for Caledonia.
"We don't get nervous,'' he said. "We just get more excited. It makes it more fun to play."