They caught the Division VII champs at an opportunistic time, but Division V champ Coldwater is playing again like a team intent on repeating, rather than rebuilding.
Coldwater – Ninety minutes before the kickoff between Division V champ Coldwater and Division VII champ Ft. Recovery Friday night the skies opened and baby, it literally poured.
In truth, it probably dampened the spirits of a few who braved the elements to see the Cavaliers’ home opener after three consecutive road games.
But for the sake of a more poignant truth, fate had rained on Recovery coach Brent Niekamp’s parade earlier in the week when he learned that he would be without all-state and Toledo recruit quarterback Caleb Martin…due to appendicitis.
Add that to the loss in week two of linebacker Tyler Atcheson to an ACL injury.
And for good measure, star running back Will Homan was nursing a sore hamstring Friday. He was anything but 100%.
Yet, Recovery made a good account for itself in a 30-12 loss to Coldwater Friday…by just playing, and playing hard. Making the best of a bad situation while they recover to play to their potential on a better day. Sometimes that’s all you can do.
“Hey, I was proud of my guys,” said Niekamp after the fact. “We talk a lot about just handling things as they come, dealing with things like this and responding the right way, and I thought we responded pretty well tonight.”
And right from the get-go…..
Will Homan took the opening kickoff and ran it back to midfield. Six plays later the Fort cashed in on an old-fashioned ‘flea-flicker’ play, a backward pass from sub quarterback Jason Roessner to Payton Jutte who threw it to Davis Will to take a 6-0 lead, barely four minutes into the game.
Coldwater, as Coldwater is want to do…responded. Seven plays later quarterback Dylan Thobe threaded his way through tacklers an into the end zone for 7-6 lead, Neal Muhlenkamp kicking the extra point.
Two minutes and nine seconds into the second the Fort struck again, Roessner to running back Andrew Stocker on a 14-yard pass. Another missed extra point attempt, but Recovery had retaken the lead, 12-7.
The teams traded possessions and Recovery stalled near its own 30 yard line with 9:51 in the second when the Indians punted. Nate Rindler, a diminutive senior playing his first significant minutes in four years, collected the kick at his own 36 yard line and set sail for the sideline. He caught a lane, tip-toeing through traffic and then cut it back across the field. 64 yards later he crossed the goal line to retake the lead, and for all intents…the momentum and the game.
Coldwater never trailed again, Dylan Thobe added another 5-yard touchdown run to gain a 20-12 halftime lead. Rindler and Thobe hooked up in the third quarter on a 53-yard touchdown connection for his second score of the night…and Muhlenkamp closed the scoring late in the third quarter with a 20-yard field goal.
It marked a break-through night for Rindler, all 5’8” and 150 pounds of him, and signaled to any who might have doubted that losing 27 seniors from last year’s fourth consecutive title team has hardly dampened the collective resources of a Coldwater team that’s suddenly playing like repeating, rather than rebuilding.
“I’ve waited three years for the opportunity to just play,” said Rindler, post-game. “That’s the way it is at Coldwater and once you get up here you have to do the best you can and that’s what I thought I did tonight.
“The punt return…they like me back there on punts and I just caught it, ran to the spot I was supposed to run to, saw an open lane and I took it. That’s how it went.”
Yep, that’s how it went, and that’s how it appears it’s going to go for a team that seems to get a different contribution from a different player every week. Vintage Coldwater!
Dylan Thobe ran for 47 yards, scored twice, and threw for 196 yards and a touchdown.
Rindler scored twice, on the punt return and the TD pass from Thobe.
Zach Klosterman and Neal Muhlenkamp combined for five catches and 108 yards. Muhlenkamp also claimed an interception.
Rindler, Louis Barry, and Brad Giere handled the kick return duties, giving the Cavaliers good field position throughout the game.
You get the idea, don’t you?
“Well, if you have told me that we’d be 4-0 now I would have said, ‘Gee, I hope so,’”, said coach Chip Otten. “Now that it’s reality you look at last week’s game with Marion and we’re pleased. Tonight Recovery matched up with us because they have a big strong offensive line and a good tailback. That was tough for our defensive line. So yes, I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made. Everyone’s healthy. Every player is still playing. So if we can keep getting better and stay healthy we got a shot.”
They’re perhaps not the thunder and lightning team of years past, but players like Rindler and the continuing development of quarterback Dylan Thobe in his one and only starting season has made it another different, satisfying experience.
“Nate Rindler is playing well,” smiled Otten. “His punt return tonight was awesome and he kinda’ reminds me of my son Drew who played here a couple of years ago. Similar size and you watch him and wonder how he can make the two plays he made tonight.
“Dylan compares favorably to some of the quarterbacks we’ve had in the past. He’s similar in body size to Austin Bruns, probably runs a little better, and sometimes you look out there and wonder what he’s doing. But then he makes the deep throws like he did tonight and he was right on the money. The thing is we’ve been able to put good guys around our quarterbacks. And we like to compare them because we’ve had so many good ones…this one’s more like this guy, another one’s more like another guy, and things like that.”
Still, hats off to a Recovery team that once it gets healthier will contend, and will be a threat in Division VII to make another extended run. Friday was frustrating, but it also provided a glimpse of the character and attributes necessary to compete, and repeat!
“They (Coldwater) do a great job with their matchups,” added Niekamp. “They spread the field well and they find the look that they like and exploit it. We have some ways to combat that but tonight we could only do so much. But I think we improved over last week and I think we’ll continue to improve.”
Coldwater finished with 308 total yards.
Recovery was not far behind, with 298. Forced to run the ball, they rushed for 172 yards. Consider the impact of the return of Martin in two weeks, and his ability to stretch the field through the air and with his own running ability, and it’s easy to be patient…to like their prospects.
“This has been a shock to me, and unexpected,” said Martin of his bad appendix. “It’s frustrating not to be able to play, but our guys have handled it well. They practiced well this week and we had an exciting start tonight. I thought we were awesome!”
3-1 now, and at home with Minster next week, the operative words must be…while the Fort recovers. And they will. Good teams do, regardless of circumstance. “Baby, the rain must fall”, singer Glenn Yarbrough once lyricized.
Coldwater lost all those seniors and they’re 4-0, again. Need anyone say more?