There were some who said it couldn’t be done, given the attrition of graduation losses from back-to-back-to-back previous champions. But Coldwater is now on the brink of proving them wrong…something they’ve vowed to do all along.
Columbus – Someone call Bill Murray. Or, reserve a room in Punxsutawney. Coldwater’s going back to the state tournament next Saturday night to contend for their fifth consecutive state football title in Division V.
In a scenario that can only be compared to Murray’s 1993 movie (Groundhog Day) in which the daily events of his life kept repeating themselves, surely Coldwater’s eighth consecutive trip to the finals – seeking their fifth straight title – is the equivalent story line in Ohio high school football. It MUST be!
They got there by defeating Coshocton Saturday night, thanks to a big night by quarterback Dylan Thobe. No fireworks, mind you, just a pedestrian 33-14 win over the previously 12-1 Redskins in about as workman-like fashion as you like…176 rushing yards – 206 passing yards…a pair of touchdowns for Thobe on the ground, and a pair through the air. It wasn’t fancy, or even that impressive. In fact, it wasn’t even as easy as the score might indicate.
Coldwater scored first on a 19-yard touchdown pass to receiver Neal Muhlenkamp; then took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter on a three-yard run by Brad Giere.
Coshocton is a big, bruising running team that does it out of the Wing-T offense, very one-dimensional, and very determined to make opposing defenses stop what they do best. They answered midway through the second on a two-yard run by Jordan Carkin…14-7.
But the Cavaliers came right back with one of those grinding, clock-killing drives before the half to score on a three yard run by Thobe and hold what seemed a commanding 21-7 lead at the break.
They iced things when Thobe opened the third quarter with a 56-yard bolt through the secondary to score his second touchdown of the game and open a 27-7 margin.
Still fighting, Coshocton came back to score on a 21-yard run by Dallas Griffiths at the outset of the fourth quarter…27-14.
At that point it got a little chippy, maybe something less than the ads proclaim about sportsmanship, as Coshocton may have become frustrated over several big hits delivered throughout the first three quarters by Coldwater on quarterback Andrew Mason, Griffiths, and Carkin.
But Coldwater kept its foot on the gas with a final drive that culminated with a one-yard pass from Thobe to Zach Klosterman for the final score of the game…33-14.
Thobe’s night was impressive, statistically, if not the most efficient. He passed for 206 yards, ran for 115 more, threw a pair of touchdowns…and a pair of interceptions. With so much at stake afterwards he was focused more on the journey of the season (and the nay-sayers) than the destination.
“It’s just been nice to prove to people that doubted us that we could still do it, that we’re not the class that’s going to screw it up. That’s pretty nice,” he said with a broad smile.
“We came out kinda’ slow tonight, but our line got us going. We started moving the ball on the ground and we hit some balls through the air. I give them (the offensive line) all the props in the world and hopefully we can do it like this for one more game.”
Chip Otten’s theme since Week 5 of proving the doubters wrong has found a willing ear, the rallying cry of a class of Coldwater parts determined, in Dylan Thobe’s words, not to be the ones to screw up the consecutive appearance string, and with a little luck, the consecutive title bid, as well. Twice vanquished Canton Central Catholic will have something to say about that, of course, as they swept by Milan Edison to qualify for a shot at Coldwater for a third straight year.
“This is a great feeling,” added fellow senior Nate Rindler. “I know there were a lot of people at the beginning who said we couldn’t get there, but it was neat to stick together and just do the best that we could do. We’re going to go to state now, even though they (Canton) know a lot about us. But we know a lot about them, too, so I think we can do it.”
They would do well if they were going to the Super Bowl instead, for the extra week between games that would allow the Cavaliers to heal a bit.
Neal Muhlenkamp left the game in the second half Saturday with an apparent ankle injury. Lineman Cody Hart left the game briefly after being kicked in the shin. Brad Giere was the recipient of some malice on the bottom of the pile late in the game and came off the field slowly. And defensive back Louis Barry was hobbling some…all of which concerned coach Chip Otten.
“As a team they had that style of having four or five thumpers, very physical, and they were hard to stop,” said Otten. “This was a game like Delphos Jefferson, or St. Marys, where they had the big fullback coming up in there that outweighed our linebackers. Games like that the hits tend to add up on you, and hopefully at this stage it’s a mental thing and we can still get ’em ready for next week.”
Nate Rindler, a story in and of himself for his contribution thus far in his one and only opportunity to help sustain the legacy, calls what’s transpired…a dream come true. He may never have heard of Groundhog Day, if even Bill Murray. And you can forget about Andi MacDowell (the best part), Murray’s co-star.
And then to add more intrigue to the story, consider that Canton Central Catholic left Columbus the last two years vowing to get one more shot at beating Coldwater. Respectful, mind you, but determined nonetheless.
“That’s the way it should be,” said Otten Saturday. “You’re always concerned about opponents when you get this far. I know they lost a lot on offense last year, but they have a lot back on defense, too. We’ll have to see. But you never get tired of this because each year you do it with a different group of kids.”
He left for Coldwater Saturday night concerned, of course, but smiling. This was no story line, but something as real, and as good, as you can hope for in high school football – to maintain the expectation and reputation of being a perpetual state champion. And who, beside St. Ignatius a quarter century ago, can claim to have won five in a row? Coldwater now has that chance, come next Saturday.
Something way better…than a movie!