By Gary R. Rasberry
DAYTON -- The Lemon-Monroe Hornets, a pretty potent scoring team this season, found out what every other team in the Division IV playoffs knew after playing Coldwater.
The top-ranked Coldwater Cavaliers are pretty darn good.
The Cavaliers pitched their third straight shutout in the playoffs and used the running of Ross Homan to defeat the Hornets, 35-0, at Welcome Stadium in Dayton to advance to the Division IV state championship game Saturday in Canton at 11 a.m.
The 14-0 Cavaliers will play the defending division champs in Youngstown Cardinal Mooney after the Cardinals beat Bellaire, 20-13, in Steubenville to earn a trip to their second straight championship game.
Coldwater sacked Hornet quarterback Tyler Osterman four times for negative 42 yards and Monroe's running game was non-existent, rushing 21 times for minus 30 yards. Only two runners were able to get into positive yardage with Jared Ferguson carrying eight times for 19 yards as the top Hornet ball carrier. When the Hornets passed, Coldwater defenders were hanging with the receivers. Osterman, who quarterbacked the majority of the game after fellow signal caller Tad Kilburn suffered an injury while playing defense, was 15-of-26 for 103 yards with one interception -- Brady Geier's 11th of the season.
"They really took us out of our game plan," said Monroe coach Jason Krause, who took the team from a 2-8 season in 2004 to the state semis. "Tyler did a good job, we didn't do a good job protecting him. They brought the guys off the ends and had Homan inside. It was a pretty good game plan on their part."
Meanwhile, Coldwater went to Homan a lot in the game on offense. In the first series, Homan carried seven times for 23 yards during the 14-play, 52-yard drive, including the one-yard over-the-top dive for the opening score of the game.
The Monroe defense kept the Cavaliers honest, not allowing the big play that the Cavaliers are used to executing. Steve Borger did pass for 187 yards, but finished with a negative 23 yards rushing.
"They just bring so many people," said Reed. "They live by that, but it can also come back and get you too. We were able to spring a couple because they brought people. I think they used their personnel. They're well-coached."
Leading 14-0 at the half, Coldwater turned its game up a notch, as Monroe got past midfield just once in the second half.
"Very fast and athletic," said Krause about the Coldwater defense. "Their speed really surprised me. I didn't think they were that fast on film."
After Geier's interception of Osterman, Borger found Geier for a 43-yard score with five minutes left in the third quarter. Homan then broke off a big play, rumbling 23 yards for his third score just after the start of the fourth quarter to make it 28-0.
With the Cavalier reserves in, Coldwater got one more score as Tyler Kunk scored from 11 yards out to make it 35-0. A final chance to score in the waning moments of the game was stopped as Reed had Sam Slavik take a knee twice inside the 10-yard line to run out the clock.
Homan rushed 24 times for 133 yards in the game and snagged two receptions for 26 yards.
"You never seen him play before?" said Reed to an out-of-area writer, who admitted that he hadn't. "He does it in practice, games, everywhere. He's a great player, no question about it. We have a lot of really outstanding players, but there's no question he's a special, special player."
While the celebration in Coldwater sections started as soon as the final gun sounded, the fact that the Cavaliers are going back to Stark County had not registered with Reed.
"I haven't even thought about that yet," said Reed. "You just get so little time to enjoy these experiences, especially when you play on Saturday night. Tomorrow we exchange films and Monday we'll be right back at it again. That's when we'll pinch ourselves and say 'Guys, we're going to Canton."'
The players felt the same way after the game.
"Really hasn't hit me quite yet," said junior lineman Josh Pax. "It doesn't feel that way yet. Next week when we're there, it will come to us."