CALEDONIA, MINN. – Karl Klug and his twin, Kevin, were two-way football standouts and seniors for Caledonia in the fall of 2005. The Warriors made it to the Class 2A title game in the Metrodome, losing to perennial power Eden Valley-Watkins 21-16.
“That was the first year we dyed our hair blond for a state tournament,” Karl said. “I remember a group of players coming over to our house and Mom dyed everyone’s hair.”
The Warriors failed to make it through Section 1 in 2006. Triton, representing Dodge Center, West Concord and Claremont, came out of Section 2 and won the Class 2A title with a 70-21 annihilation of Luverne. Triton is now Caledonia’s Section 1 rival.
Caledonia returned to the state tournament in 2007 and the players decided on a more dramatic display of hairstyle unity. The hair on top was dyed blond, but not before it was shaved mohawk-style.
It’s now tradition: When the Warriors qualify for the state tournament, the entire roster — 60 this season — heads for Tamiko’s Salon on a specified night.
“We have four stylists working here, but we recruit a couple of others to help out,” salon owner Tamiko Hubka-Steele said. “It’s an assembly line. First, the boys get shaved, then what’s left gets dyed blond.”
Ethan Jacobson, a standout senior lineman, has a longer look with the shaved sides. He will play his last Caledonia football game Friday in the Prep Bowl, against an explosive Minneapolis North team, and with the nation’s longest high school winning streak of 67 games on the line.
“We don’t talk about the streak,” Jacobson said. “You learn quickly with our coach not to look past people, to concentrate on the next game, not what came before.”
Jacobson paused, smiled slightly and said: “It’s not that way when you meet people in town. What we hear then is, ‘Be sure to keep that streak going, boys.’ ”
The coach mentioned is Carl Fruechte, and somehow, he comes off as a combination of P.J. Fleck, with his belief in improving lives, and Mike Zimmer, a coach who can only suffer so much happiness.
Fruechte graduated from Caledonia in 1984, went to Winona State and was gone in a few weeks. “College wasn’t for me,” he said.
What he became without a degree was a self-made football coach. He was a Caledonia assistant and took over as head coach in 1997.
Officially, he’s a teacher’s assistant, head football coach and also coaches track and field. He’s a constant presence at the school that houses both Caledonia’s middle and high schools, starting at 6:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, basically year-round.
“We have optional weightlifting every day at 6:30, for all of our athletes, girls and boys,” Fruechte said. “We’re there to open the door every morning. To me, there’s nothing more important for a high school coach than to be present, to be committed.”
Fruechte has a coaching staff that numbers 13, mostly volunteers. They don’t coach the top 25 players; they coach all 60. He tells visitors all players, not just stars, must be coached to the maximum “because that’s somebody’s kid.”
The importance of that idea hit home with Fruechte a decade into his head coaching tenure.
Oldest daughter Alecia played college volleyball and Dad missed her matches. And then son Isaac was starting college football, first at Rochester Community College, then three seasons (2012-14) for the Gophers. And Maria soon would be heading to Winona State to play volleyball.
Fruechte’s longtime defensive coach, Brent Schroeder, became the official head coach from 2011 to 2015. Everything functioned the same during the week, with Fruechte running practices, but Schroeder was the coach on Friday nights as Fruechte traveled to watch his kids.
Caledonia won back-to-back state titles in 2007-08, then three in a row from 2010-12. In 2013, the Warriors lost the Section 1 title game to Chatfield, which won the state title.
A year later, on Nov. 15, 2014, in a Class 2A semifinal at Eden Prairie, the Warriors lost 21-0 to BOLD. Caledonia has not lost since. Four consecutive Class 2A titles. Sixty-seven wins in a row. With a King at quarterback.
First, it was Owen King for three seasons (2015-17) and now it is Noah King for the past two. Next year, it could be Eli King, now an excellent sophomore wide receiver, or junior Isiah Reinhart, Noah’s current backup and also a wide receiver.
The King family has a strong basketball pedigree. Owen is playing at South Dakota State. Noah has signed there. And Eli — “6-3 and he can jump out of the gym,” Fruechte said — has the highest recruiting profile of the Kings.
Their father, Brad King, is on the football coaching staff. There’s another connection: Sue, their mom, is one of Fruechte’s 11 siblings.
Considering the results, it’s fair to say no one in town is complaining that Carl has favored his nephews.
Way back, Carl decided speed and quick movement were easier to increase with an athlete than strength. He went to California to visit with Dale Baskett, a pioneer of speed training for football players. Baskett has made visits to Caledonia.
The Warriors have gone from a power game to an offense that often features four wide receivers. They coach hard practices but without full-speed hitting, hoping to avoid injuries.
Fruechte frets about turning the athletes into successful adults. His coaching staff includes a drug counselor by occupation. Carl also frets that as technology provides so many options, sports and football are facing competition for youthful minds as never before.
Karl Klug went from Caledonia to standout line play for the Iowa Hawkeyes, and then seven seasons in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. He lives near Nashville with his bride and four kids, and remains effusive in talking about what Fruechte meant to him as a coach.
“You can get into coaching and go through the motions,” Klug said. “Not Carl. He’s pushing them; in football and track, but also how they are doing in school, in their lives.
“I was hardheaded. I was going to do it my way. He changed me. He’s still changing kids, in a good way.”