Cavaliers’ bid for a fifth straight state championship gets a helping hand from junior lineman as Coldwater overcomes a 17-0 deficit to scrappy Greeneview team.
Sidney – Thomas Schwieterman can’t say for sure how high he jumped to block Greeneview’s game-tying, field-goal attempt on Saturday night. But he does know how far he leaped … all the way to next week’s regional final.
When Schwieterman’s feet left the turf at Sidney Memorial Stadium, the Coldwater Cavaliers assumed their 27-24 lead was about to disappear through the uprights with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter.
Instead, when Schwieterman landed – and after he batted down Greeneview’s 21-yard field goal attempt for his first-ever blocked kick – the Cavaliers had secured their spot in the Division V, Region 20 title game. It’s the 10th straight regional championship appearance for Coldwater.
“I jumped up and it hit the palm of my hand. I was just so excited,” said Schwieterman, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound lineman. “It was like, ‘Yes!’”
Coldwater’s dramatic 27-24 victory in the D-V, Region 20 semifinals kept alive the Cavaliers’ bid for a fifth straight state championship. Coldwater – winners of 22 straight playoff victories – takes on top-seeded Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy next Saturday. The Ohio High School Athletic Association will announce the neutral site location Sunday afternoon.
“We all knew we had the capability to do it, we just had to put it together,” Schwieterman said. “We all want to do this for our seniors. The seniors came in at halftime and said this might be our last chance. We wanted to play for them.”
Greeneview (9-3) stunned Coldwater (11-1) by taking a 17-0 lead with 3:32 left before halftime, aided by an interception and fumbled high snap on a punt attempt. But Coldwater rallied with two scores in the final 1:39 of the first half.
After Greeneview went up 17-0 on Griffin Mangan’s second 1-yard score, the Cavaliers responded with a five-play, 76-yard drive in 1:51. Senior quarterback Dylan Thobe capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown run with 1:39 before the half.
Coldwater then forced Greeneview to go three-and out, setting the Cavaliers up on their own 43. Four plays later, Neal Muhlenkamp hauled in Thobe’s 27-yard touchdown pass. Muhlenkamp battled the Rams’ defensive back – who had excellent coverage – for the ball and wrestled it away as they tumbled to the ground with 20 seconds to play in the quarter.
That quick turnaround sent the Cavaliers into halftime with a new outlook. Not that the Cavs were panicked. Not from a team that has qualified for the playoffs 20 straight years (the second longest streak behind St. Ignatius’ 22) and whose 22 playoff victories trail only Marion Local (25) and St. Ignatius (24) for consecutive victories.
“You just have to keep the doubt out of the back of your head,” said Muhlenkamp, who rushed for 74 yards on six carries and caught five passes for 82 yards. “We’re Coldwater. We have a chance to come back. Great offensive line, great job by quarterback Dylan Thobe and great defensive line play.”
Greeneview took advantage of Coldwater’s second turnover to start the second half when the Cavs’ fumbled away a hand off exchange on fourth-and-1 from the Rams’ 43. Three plays later Greeneview quarterback Collin Matt sprinted up the middle for a 49-yard touchdown and 24-14 lead.
Coldwater pulled to 24-21 on its next drive, a 16-yard touchdown run by Muhlenkamp.
Coldwater appeared ready to take the lead on its next drive. But the Cavaliers turned it over with another interception from the Rams’ 18. After forcing a punt, Muhlenkamp put the Cavs up for good with another 16-yard run with 7:52 left in the game.
“I think Neal is one of the best players in the state,” Coldwater coach Chip Otten said. “When we needed a play, he made a play.”
Greeneview’s final drive, the one ending in Schwieterman’s blocked kick, started with the Cavaliers’ third turnover off a fumbled punt return. The Rams took over on the Cavaliers’ 35 with 5:05 left and drove to the Cavs’ 6-yard line. A run for two yards, a run for no gain and an incomplete pass set up the Rams’ 21-yard field goal attempt.
“(Coldwater) made some mistakes and gave us some opportunities,” Greeneview coach Neal Kasner said. “But they found a way and stiffened when they had to. … You have to give them a lot of credit. We got on them 17-0 early in the game. If you would have told me in June we were up 17-14 on Coldwater in Week 12 we all would have took it. You can’t expect a champion to get hit in the mouth and not hit back. They came out and made enough plays to win the football game.”
Thobe completed 12-of-17 passes for 204 yards and rushed for 100 more on 17 carries to pace Coldwater, which outgained the Rams 357-241 in total offense.
“They just exchanged punches, so to speak, with the longest postseason winning streak in the state and the four-time state champions,” Kasner said of his Rams’ moral victory. “If that doesn’t build confidence and it doesn’t motivate, I don’t know what would. … High school sports is not supposed to be about winning or losing. It’s about showing courage and competing, and our kids really did that. I call them winners.”
Greeneview was making its third postseason playoff appearance and are 3-3 following Saturday’s game.
As for Coldwater, the Cavaliers are 67-15 in the postseason with six state championships overall. That experience and tradition makes a difference.
“We’ve been down before so we had to be confident,” Muhlenkamp said. “We said guys this is our senior year. Let’s play with heart and we got back in the game. … Great all-around play by everyone on this team.”
“At halftime we came in pretty excited because we scored those two touchdowns,” added Schwieterman. “We weren’t ready at the start but we responded. Our coaching staff got us in good position to win this game.”
With a helping hand from Schwieterman.