By GARY R. RASBERRY
The warhorse line that coaches like to bring up once in a while
is “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.”
This season, Coldwater’s 4-4 defense has done its part
to take the latter half to fruition.
With the defense giving up more than 16 points just once this
season, the Cavs have made a sixth straight trip to the playoffs.
One group that has put on a clinic at stopping the opponents
this season has been the five linebackers that have contributed
407 tackles and 201/2 sacks this season for the Cavaliers.
If it seems that seniors Trent Gerlach and Kevin Brackman, juniors
Kyle Rutschilling and Matt Howell and sophomore Ross Homan are
the only ones that get to tackle in the defense, it just looks
that way watching the tapes of the game.
The fact that the core of the linebackers have been teaming
up only since the season started goes to show how strong the
group has been this season.
key word is group,” said longtime Coldwater assistant
Jerry Kanney, who with head coach John Reed coordinates the
linebackers. “They all communicate well and understand
what we want them to do. As a group they work well together.”
“It starts in practice. At the beginning of the year,
the linebackers didn’t know much about each other,”
said Gerlach, the senior captain with 72 tackles and five sacks.
“We started getting tighter and tighter and started making
the plays. It started in two-a-days and just carried over. We
learned a lot from those guys last year (Andy Moeder and Donnie
Gillis). Ross is only a sophomore but is one of the leaders.
He’s not very outspoken but the way he plays on the field
leads for everybody.”
Gerlach and Homan were the only returning starters from last
season’s linebackers. After the graduation of Gillis and
Moeder, Brackman moved to an outside linebacker spot and Homan,
who had over 130 tackles as a freshman, moved inside with Gerlach
and has been potent, leading the conference with 156 tackles,
97 solo, and recording eight sacks.
“Over the summer, the coaches moved me inside. I was looking
forward to it. I was working with Trent over the summer, talking
to him. He’s been a linebacker all four years in school.
He did an awesome job last year and is doing a great job this
year,” said Homan. “If I have any questions or doubts,
he’s there. I always like going up against Trent because
he’s going to make me better. He’s a role model
Howell has formed a formidable platoon with Kyle Rutschil-ling
this season, recording 56 tackles. Rutschilling has also shined,
finishing the regular season with 52 tackles.
“Coming into the season, I never played linebacker before,”
said Howell. “Kyle and the coaches took me under their
wing and showed me how to do it. In two-a-days, I worked really
hard. We work hard every day in practice. The seniors show great
leadership out there. It’s like one big unit out there
“Working with Matt is a great experience,” said
Rutschilling. “We’re always helping each other out
there. We’re always talking on the sidelines during the
game, giving each other pointers. We work well together.”
Gerlach was equal in the praise.
“Kyle and Matt played jayvee last year but came on this
year and stepped in just like they’ve been there (all
along),” said Gerlach. “We’ve molded together
this season. We’re all leaders out there.”
Brackman, who also had a strong year on the offensive side of
the ball as a wide receiver, has also hit hard on defense, recording
71 tackles and 71/2 sacks.
“Coach Hoyng (defensive coordinator Tim Hoyng) and the
other coaches coach us so well,” said Brackman. “We
always have a great defensive plan each week. Trent provides
great senior leadership and Ross has the speed and quickness.
We really just mold together as a defense because we’re
well-prepared. Our linebackers read a lot. the inside linebackers
are always reading the traps. We’re built on speed and
quickness. We fly to the ball.”
“They had a lot to learn and we had to go through a phase
where they had to get the confidence,” said Kanney. “Now
they have the confidence. There’s that learning curve
at the beginning. Once they got through that, they just go out
Now the defense gets ready for the second season and Gerlach
believes they are ready for anything.
“It’s another week and a new season. We’re
doing fine,” said Gerlach. “We have to win to keep
going. We’re all focused and know what we have to do.
We’re going into every game arm-in-arm. That’s our
saying this year, “Arm-in-arm.” We’re always
there for each other, even off the field watching films. It’s
going to take all 70 of us and all six coaches to get to where
we want to go. It starts this week in Wellington. We all know
what we have to do, it’s a matter of going out there Saturday
night and doing it.”