West Liberty-Salem High School had rolled through the season undefeated and through the first round of the Division V, Region 20, playoffs. Then came Coldwater.
The Cavaliers are the mightiest team from the mighty Midwest Athletic Conference, a state finalist the last three years and a lock for the playoffs year in and year out, as well as the No. 1 team in the final Division V state poll. Coldwater defeated the Tigers 44-22 on Saturday in the regional semifinal and left West Liberty-Salem wondering what might have been.
Coldwater scored twice in the first quarter off Austin Bruns’ touchdown runs to take a 14-0 lead. Then Travis Mayse of West Liberty-Salem took an option play 82 yards for a touchdown, stealing the momentum. The Tigers made defensive stops and appeared to be making a game of it until a blocked punt late in the second quarter spelled doom.
Coldwater linebacker Zach Dickman snuck through the middle of the line, snuffed the punt out and recovered the ball. The Cavaliers drove and scored on a Mitch Schoenherr touchdown pass from Bruns with 41 seconds left in the half.
“The blocked punt was huge,” West Liberty-Salem coach Toby Smith said. “We made a mistake. We told them going in we couldn’t make mistakes. They are a very, very good football team. We knew we had to play one of our best games of the season.”
The Tigers took away Coldwater’s deep passing game, but the Cavaliers adjusted, using screens and power running by quarterback Bruns to eat up yards and score points. Bruns was 17-of-24 passing for 198 yards and one touchdown. He rushed 19 times for 86 yards and three touchdowns.
Coldwater’s defense shut down the Tigers’ running game and forced them to throw the ball. The Tigers took their shot, but the Cavaliers are still around seeking a state title.
“We keep reminding them, we can’t win it tonight but we can certainly take ourselves out of it,” Coldwater coach Chip Otten said. “You don’t want to look past somebody and not play well. Then you go home. The mindset has to be to keep playing hard. We have 23 seniors who are pretty focused. They do a good job of playing hard and doing what they do.”
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.