By Gary R. Rasberry
It's not a home game, but it's a place where wins have come before.
Coldwater travels to Kenton, where the team has played every other season in the lidlifter to the regular season with the Wildcats -- and will again to start the 2006 season -- to face Clear Fork in the Division IV regional semifinals at Robinson Field on Saturday night.
While not the friendly confines like Cavalier Stadium, Robinson Field has been hospitable to the 11-0 Cavaliers in the past. Last year, Coldwater opened the season with a 25-0 shutout win over the Wildcats.
Located to the south of Mansfield, Clear Fork, the smallest school in the Ohio Cardinal Conference (which features Mansfield Senior, Madison and Ashland), won just its third playoff game in school history. Clear Fork was 2-8 without a playoff win since 1989, before the 37-12 blowout win over Milton-Union a week ago.
The Colts (8-3) are the opposite of what Coldwater will bring to the game. While the Cavaliers work out of the shotgun with three- and four-receiver sets, Clear Fork sets up in the double-tight end set and lets its backs grind it out. Leading the way out of the talented backfield is senior Andy Bailey, who led the team with 641 yards rushing in the regular season and added 165 in the win over Milton-Union. Junior back Nate Tackett (533 yards, 8 TD) added 150 yards rushing and a touchdown in the win over M-U.
Senior Chris Bailey leads the teams with 10 touchdowns and added 638 yards rushing during the season.
Both Baileys earned first-team All-OCC honors
The Colts don't pass a lot, going just 2-of-4 in the playoff opener. Senior Nik Weirich has been the more consistent passer between himself and junior Joe Fraley, completing 16-of-33 passes for 273 yards with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions in the regular season. Fraley has 241 yards passing with five interceptions and two touchdowns.
The line provides some solid blocking in the running game. All-conference tackle Adam Gregg steps in at 6-4 and 250 pounds and 11 players tip the scales at 235 pounds or better.
The Cavaliers will likely be concerned with kicker Ryan Jung, who joined the team this season while also playing for the Colts' soccer team. The OCCs' Special Teams Player of the Year -- and first team all-conference in soccer -- has hit for a 50-yard field goal this season and was 5-of-9 in field goals on the year to go along with 32-of-35 extra-point kicks.
Defensively, the linebackers create much of the havoc. Senior Uriah Landoll leads the team with 102 tackles while fellow linebacker Jeb Miller adds 101 tackles.
For the Cavaliers, last week saw the team keep rolling as they have all season.
Steve Borger recovered from just his second interception all season -- in 168 total attempts -- to pass for 198 yards to set up all four Coldwater scores, three of which came from Ross Homan.
With leading receiver Brady Geier double-teamed, Ryan Geier rose to the occasion, making seven catches for 70 yards.