The Caledonia Fighting Scots pulled off their first win in the 2020 division 2 playoffs against Jenison 21-14. The Scots fell to the Jenison Wildcats earlier in the season 28-14. The following week, Caledonia traveled to Lowell and kicked them out of the playoff bracket with an exciting 55-38 victory.
The only thing separating them from a district title was the Mona Shores Sailors, who are the defending state champions and currently hold a 9-0 record. The teams battled it out closely, only being one score away from each other for most of Friday night. As time ran out and Mona Shores held possession, the game had been decided. The scots lost 43-35 and Mona Shores slipped away with the district title.
Though their playoff run came to an end, this season was nothing short of accomplishing. Caledonia came into the playoffs with a 2-4 record on the season and beat higher-ranked teams with winning records. This was the first year the Fighting Scots had won a playoff football game since 2012, and the first time since 2005 they competed for the district title. Meanwhile, the effects of the recent pandemic had taken many players out of games throughout the season. Very rarely did coach Tom Burrill have all of his starting players padded up and ready to play. How was this team so successful, even through the adversity of an unprecedented and unique situation?
Senior safety and halfback, Griffin Poll, describes the team as having a “next man up mentality.” “Everybody was ready to go at any position, whenever necessary,” he explains. This was key, because many positions needed to be filled as more players were quarantining as a result of contact tracing from positive COVID-19 tests.
Griffin also credits coach Tom Burrill’s retirement announcement at the end of the regular season as motivation for the team. “It brought us back to life and gave us something to play for.”
There is a lot to be said about the difference in how the Scots played in the regular season versus the postseason. Caledonia held a 1-4 record in their conference. “The OK Red (the current division Caledonia is placed in) is the best division in the state,” Griffin acknowledges. “Having a winning record [In the OK Red] is really difficult, but we really banded together as a team towards the end of the season.” Junior Linebacker, Luke Mandsager, believes their success in the playoffs “really shows how tough the OK Red division is.” Luke views their playoff run as a “sweet experience” in which they “were able to showcase what [they] were made of.”
Win or lose, the Caledonia Fighting Scots proved themselves this season. They showed up, worked hard, and ultimately formed an incredible bond. “This is the most chemistry I’ve had on a team before”, Luke expresses. Griffin adds, “These boys are my brothers. The way everyone fought the whole year and never gave up on our goals speaks volumes about the amazing people on our team.”