By Gary R. Rasberry
DELPHOS -- Ross Homan would be the first one to say that he's just part of the success of the Coldwater team.
But sometimes, he does some things that just forces the spotlight to direct its beam on that #25 jersey.
In a span of nine minutes and 20 seconds, Homan rushed for 159 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Cavaliers pull away and post a 35-21 win over St. John's in the regular-season finale at Stadium Park in Delphos.
The Cavaliers, the top team in Division IV according to the Associated Press state poll, completed a second straight 10-0 regular season and a second straight Midwest Athletic Conference title at 8-0 -- the third in four seasons for both accomplishments -- and the chance to host a first-round playoff game.
The Cavaliers will open the postseason on Saturday against Elyria Catholic starting at 7 p.m. at Cavalier Stadium. The Blue Jays, looking to beat the Cavaliers for a share of the MAC title, end the season at 8-2 overall and 6-2 in the MAC and will travel to Covington on Saturday to face the Buccs in a Division VI regional quarterfinal.
Homan's play in the game, both on offense and on defense, was the spark Coldwater needed to get past St. John's.
Coldwater coach John Reed had praise for his two-time All-Ohio standout, but was quick to note that Homan is just a part of the team.
"He's an amazing young man more than he is a player," said Reed. "But if you were to ask him, he would tell you that he's a part of a team. He has great skill, no question about that, but his teammates allow him to do the things that he does.
"If our offensive line wasn't playing the way they were playing. If Steve Borger wasn't as diversified throwing the ball. If we didn't have the great receivers. We're constantly selling a team game and Ross Homan believes in what we're selling."
St. John's coach Todd Schulte' comment about Homan was short and to the point.
"He's all over the field," said Schulte of Homan. "He's a man. All the recognition he gets, he deserves."
The Blue Jays kept the Cavaliers defense off-balance in the first half with a wicked option attack. St. John's quarterback Nick Johnson had 105 of his 139 yards in the first half, scoring both first-half touchdowns from 42 and 28 yards out. Andrew DeWitt, the MAC's top rusher, finished with 65 yards.
"When you don't see it all year, it took them a little by surprise, I think," said Schulte. "I'm sure they worked very hard at it. ... We executed very well in the first half."
The two teams played even through the first half. St. John's would score to go up, only to have the Cavaliers come back to tie the game.
Coldwater took the kickoff to start the second half. Homan dashed 59 yards on the return to give the Cavaliers first down at the Blue Jay 21. After backup runner Tony Harlamert ran for four yards while Homan took a rest on the sidelines, Steve Borger found Homan for two passes for eight yards to get to the nine. Homan then took the draw and barreled up the middle for the final nine yards to put Coldwater up 21-14 after Trevor Stromblad's PAT kick.
"The big kickoff return to start the second half took the wind out of our sails," said Schulte. "They've got a lot of athletes and they made a lot of plays tonight. They deserve to be the MAC champions.
"You watch them on tape and you see big play after big play. That's why they're 10-0 in our league, and that's hard to do," pointed out Schulte.
After the Blue Jays' next drive faltered at the Coldwater 40 and the punt by Mike Grubenhoff went just 12 yards, Coldwater struck again. Homan's first two carries went 31 yards and Harlamert ran the next play before Borger found Brady Geier for two straight passes. Homan came back to rush for 12 yards to get to the 16, then ran in the final 16 to make it 28-14 with 3:53.
St. John's went three-and-out and caught a break when an illegal block to the back was called on Coldwater, putting the Cavs at their own nine.
Homan promptly went to the right, caught a few blocks and cranked up the afterburners to make the 91 yards in just 14 seconds for the final Coldwater score.
Homan finished with 204 yards rushing -- putting him over the 1,000-yard mark on the season -- and four touchdowns. Of the 227 rushing yards the Cavaliers had in the game, 195 came in the second half.
"I really thought our offensive line was the difference in the second half," said Reed. "I don't know when we scored those points (third quarter), but the line deserves the credit. We came out and wanted to see if we could run the ball on them."
Borger continued to be the most efficient quarterback in the area, going 12-of-16 for 143 yards. With Brady Geier doubled-teamed most of the night, Borger shared the wealth by throwing to seven different receivers. Tight end Gaston Pleiman had three catches for 47 yards and Ryan Geier added two catches for 37 yards.
"When they doubled Brady, that means somebody else is going to be open," said Reed. "Steve's good enough to be able to do that."