Brookville braces for Coldwater in unbeaten showdown

It’s been a great ride for Brookville’s football team. The Blue Devils (12-0) have delivered magnificently in what promised to be a special season. Their closest margin of victory is 21 points, which they accomplished an astonishing seven times in the regular season.

But all that moxie is matched by its next opponent, mighty Coldwater (12-0). The teams will meet in Friday’s Division V, Region 18 final at Piqua’s Alexander Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

“We knew if we keep winning it’s going to get to this point,” Brookville coach Mike Hetrick said. “It’s a challenge and a special opportunity. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. That’s what we’re up against.”

Brookville’s playoff run is the deepest into the postseason a Southwestern Buckeye League team has made since Milton-Union dropped a D-IV regional final 35-7 to Clinton-Massie in 2012. That was the first of two straight D-IV state titles by Massie and also marked the end of Bret Pearce’s run as Milton’s head coach.

Brookville also was 10-0 in the 2008 season but was a No. 3 seed behind Coldwater and Massie, both of which also were 10-0. Brookville also had the misfortune of drawing Alter in the first round, only because the Knights had forfeited two games because of an ineligible player and could do no better than a No. 6 seed.

Alter defeated Brookville 35-7 and won consecutive 2008-09 D-IV state championships.

Brookville was the Class AA state runner-up in 1976, but that era was the infancy of Ohio’s playoffs. The Blue Devils played in just two postseason games, finishing 11-1 and falling 34-10 to Elyria Catholic in the title game at the Akron Rubber Bowl. Teams now play a maximum of five playoff games to determine a state champion.

That’s just what Coldwater has done the last six years. The Cavaliers played 90 games from 2009-14, finishing as the D-V state runner-up from 2009-11 and sweeping the last three state titles.

The teams have one common opponent. Brookville beat visiting Anna 21-0 in Week 2; Coldwater beat visiting Anna 40-7 in Week 5.

Both teams are loaded with talented seniors, just the kind of nucleus to build championship teams around. Brookville leans more to its running game with a backfield of Harry Hall (1,229 yards rushing; 20 touchdowns), Bailey Wallen (1,307 yards; 21 TDs) and quarterback Justin Heck (815 yards rushing; 10 total TDs).

Coldwater counters with QB Jack Hemmelgarn (2,404 yards passing; 27 TDs), receiver Aaron Harlamert (45 catches; 825 yards, 8 TDs), running back Chris Post (865 yards; 16 TDs) and, like Brookville, a supporting cast of many.

“We’ve just got to be mentally prepared and then you figure out on the field how low you have to be and how square you have to be,” Coldwater coach Chip Otten said. “It’s all those things that we’re going to coach them up on and they already know because of the way Brookville gets off the ball and comes after you.”

The top seed, Brookville has rolled over Carlisle and Greeneview by a combined margin of 90-7 in its two playoff games. Coldwater has done the same to Bethel-Tate and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in first- and second-round mismatches, 86-14. Last week’s defeat of CHCA was only the second game the Coldwater defense has allowed double digits, winning 44-14.

“They have athletes at every position,” Hetrick said. “All of them are very athletic and play hard and you can tell they’re well coached. That’s what you run up against when you play Coldwater. Obviously, Coldwater has that great tradition. We’re just real excited about the opportunity we have.”

It’s one of three games this week that feature unbeaten showdowns. The winner advances to next week’s state semifinals in Divisions II-VII. The Ohio High School Athletic Association will announce state semifinal pairings and neutral sites on Sunday. Typically, the OHSAA matches up final four teams by the closest proximity.

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