Created on Monday, 12 November 2012 Written by MATT HAMMOND
ABOVE: West Liberty-Salem’s Taylor Cordell tries to get away from Coldwater’s Andrew Schwieterman during Saturday’s Division V regional semifinal at Alexander Stadium in Piqua. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: West Liberty-Salem’s Landon Hormann is grabbed by several Coldwater defenders after making a catch in the second half. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | MATT HAMMOND)
PIQUA — The first half was shaping up about as well as West Liberty-Salem could have hoped until a critical miscue late in the second quarter of Saturday’s Division V regional semifinal.
Trailing number-one ranked Coldwater by just a touchdown at 14-7 with less than three minutes remaining until halftime, the Tigers had a punt blocked at their own 29-yard line.
Coldwater capitalized with a six-play scoring drive, capped by a 5-yard Austin Bruns touchdown pass that put the Cavaliers in control at the half with a two-touchdown advantage.
“The blocked punt was huge,” said WL-Salem head coach Toby Smith. “We told the guys going in that we couldn’t make many mistakes. The margin of error against a team like this is very small.”
The Cavaliers, who have played in three consecutive state championship games, scored two straight touchdowns in the second half to pull away for a 41-22 win at Alexander Stadium.
WL-Salem provided a test few have for the Cavaliers this season. Coldwater had only given up more than seven points once this fall. The 22 points were as many points as the Cavaliers have allowed. They also gave up 22 to Kenton in their season opener.
“It was probably good for us to have a little stress,” said Coldwater head coach Chip Otten, who is in his fourth year after taking over for the late John Reed.
The Tigers gained 310 yards of offense against a stout Coldwater defense.
“We want to get better as a program, and I feel we are getting better,” said Smith.
Coldwater came out firing on all cylinders.
The Cavaliers used a pair of long scoring drives, both finished off by Bruns on short runs, to lead 14-0 with 1:23 left in the opening quarter.
But the Tigers weathered the storm.
After WL-Salem went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the game, senior running back Travis Mayse provided the spark it desperately needed.
Mayse took a pitch from quarterback Riley Sims and raced 82-yards on a perfectly executed play to cut the Coldwater lead in half with 56 seconds left in the first period.
The Tigers’ defense gained some momentum as well.
WL-Salem kept Coldwater out of the end zone in the second quarter until the late score after the punting miscue.
Zach Dickman, the Midwest Athletic Conference defensive player of the year, came off the edge unscathed to block the punt.
“Every once in a while, you have to take a risk,” said Otten. “Zach got in there clean. That was a huge play.”
Executing a short passing game that picked up a handful of yards at a time, the Cavaliers went nine plays for 86 yards and eight plays for 91 yards to tack on a pair of third-quarter touchdowns that accounted for a commanding 35-7 lead.
Bruns, who ran for three scores, threw for 213 yards and another TD on 17-of-23 passing.
“One of the things we wanted to do was make them have to dink and dunk, but we didn’t tackle well,” said Smith.
The Tigers kept fighting. Sims scored on a 12-yard TD run with 5:15 remaining in the fourth quarter.
After both coaches put their reserves in, WL-Salem got on the scoreboard again in the closing minute of the game when Kameron Evans ripped off a 60-yard TD run.
Playing in his final game in a WL-Salem uniform, Sims turned in a gritty outing. He completed 10-of-16 passes for 130 yards.
Senior receiver Landon Hormann made several impressive catches for the Tigers. He finished with six grabs for 80 yards.
Coldwater accumulated 417 yards of offense. In addition to his stellar work through the air, Bruns was the team’s leading rusher with 93 yards on 19 carries.
Caleb Siefring and Brody Hoying were Bruns’ main targets. They combined for 13 catches and 197 yards.
Coldwater’s season continues with a regional final matchup against Covington on Saturday.
For the Tigers, the loss did little to dampen another memorable season.
WL-Salem went undefeated during the regular season for the second straight year. A big part of that success was a result of the play of the Tigers’ 12 departing seniors.
“Our seniors should get a ton of credit for the way they competed tonight,” said Smith. “Our seniors won 40 games. How many players can say they won 40 games during their high school careers? That just doesn’t happen very often.”
COLDWATER 41, WL-SALEM 22
WL-Salem 7 0 7 8 – 22
Coldwater 14 7 14 6 – 41
TEAM STATISTICS C WL-S
First downs 26 13
Total net yards 417 310
Passing 214 130
Comp-att-int 17-26-0 10-16-0
Punts/avg 3/34.6 5/21
Fumbles-lost 3-1 3-2
Penalties-yards 4-38 3-8