By Gary R. Rasberry
COLDWATER -- Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships.
That's the old saying that coaches will say several times a season.
But for the Coldwater Cavaliers, it's nowhere near a cliche, it's a mantra.
The Cavalier defense held a vaunted St. John's running game to 10 yards and closed the team down after an early score to pick up the 14-7 win over the Blue Jays at Cavalier Stadium.
Coldwater goes into week 11 with a 10-0 record -- the seventh time in school history the team went through the regular season without a loss -- and sole possession of their 13th Midwest Athletic Conference title at 8-0. The Blue Jays end the regular season at 6-4 and 4-4. To say that Friday's game was a defensive battle would not be saying enough. The Blue Jays kept the Cavaliers' offense from getting a good rhythm during the evening.
"I didn't help them," said Coldwater coach John Reed, who picked up his 100th win as the Cavalier coach. "Fortunately, the defensive players stood up to the task time after time and allowed us to win this football game. Tremendous credit to (St. John's) coaching staff, they gave us so many different looks. It provided a lot of confusion for us. I know they were frustrated offensively too."
The Blue Jays were knocked for a loop on several occasions. The Cavalier defense blitzed its way into six sacks of quarterback Spencer Wells. Matt Shumaker, who continued to suffer the effect of an ankle injury, was only limited to 29 yards rushing.
"We had opportunities offensively, we just couldn't make the plays when we needed to," said St. John's coach Todd Schulte. "I think our defense did a tremendous job against their defense."
It was the Blue Jay defense that led to the first score of the game. Coldwater was deep in its own territory when Steve Borger lost the ball in an errant pass attempt. The ball dropped back to the 12-yard line where Paul Metzner picked it up. Three players later, Andrew Dewitt scored from three yards out to give the Blue Jays the early lead.
Coldwater responded with a drive that split the first two quarters. After having trouble passing early, Coldwater went to Ross Homan on the ground. The junior had five carries for 35 yards on the drive, with the last two yards leading to the end zone to tie the game after Trevor Stromblad's kick.
Coldwater got the ball to start the second half and needed just three plays to take the lead. A two-yard run from Steve Borger and an incomplete pass set up a third-and-eight from the Cavs' 26. Borger scrambled a bit and slipped out of several tackles before looking down and seeing Homan, who was behind all the coverage. Borger fired a pass to Homan at the 35 of St. John's and watched his receiver sprint away from the St. John's defense for paydirt and a 14-7 lead after the kick.
St. John's tried to rally with a 12-play drive lasting over five minutes. The run stalled at the Cav 39 when Wells tried to go deep and instead found Cavalier Brady Geier for the interception.
Coldwater went to running the ball for the remainder of the game to take time off the clock. The Cavaliers also got help when Nick Rengers planted a punt down at the Blue Jay nine with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Blue Jays managed just one yard before giving the ball back to the Cavaliers. Coldwater took another four minutes off the clock before giving St. John's the ball back with 66 seconds left on their down 10. The Blue Jays managed to get to the 35 before Wells was sacked for a 24-yard loss with time winding down to win the game.
"We played a pretty darn good football team," said Schulte of the Cavaliers. "If you go through our league undefeated, that says a whole lot. One coach, a long time ago, when I came in said it was easier to win a state title than a MAC title. I'm a firm believer in that."
Homan finished with 96 yards rushing and three sacks defensively on the night. Borger was just 9-of-20 passing, but threw for 165 yards to five different receivers.
"He really made some big plays," Reed said of his junior quarterback. "We ask our kids on the offense all the time to be patient, because the big play will come. Tonight, we wondered if that big play would come or not, but it did."
The night was the combination of wonderful things for Reed. In addition to his 100th in 10 seasons at Coldwater -- second behind Paul Ponzuric's 109 on the career list, it was his sixth MAC title as a coach, taking over sole possession of second behind St. Henry's Tim Boeckman, who coached seven title winners. Reed's three titles at Coldwater -- he won the first three MAC titles at Parkway -- puts him second for most titles won at Coldwater. The late Bob Sielski won five from 1980 to 1985.
Coldwater now awaits who it will host Friday in the first round of the Division IV state playoffs. Official pairings will be announced on Sunday.