By Gary R. Rasberry
KENTON -- Despite a game that was sloppy at times, thanks to missed tackles, penalties and dropped passes, the Cavaliers opened the 2006 season with a 28-7 win over Kenton at Robinson Field on Friday night, extending the team's winning streak to 16 games.
Coldwater coach John Reed was happy that his team was able to shake off some mental mistakes in the game to get the win, but gave a lot of credit to the Wildcats, whose off-field turmoils overshadowed their skills.
"It was a tremendous compliment to the defense for the way they continued to play and just make big plays," said Reed. "Also, Kenton deserves a lot of credit. The way they've been the last few weeks, to come out and give this kind of effort and intensity, it's a compliment to their efforts.
"The question is, can we get better from here? That's the biggest question we have to ask ourselves and be able to answer in a week."
How the night would go appeared to be revealed on the very first play from scrimmage. Dailyn Campbell took the snap out of the shotgun and looked for Corey Manns, who burnt his defender. Sixty-five yards later, Manns was in the end zone as Kenton took a 7-0 lead just 17 seconds into the game. Coldwater battled back as Sam Slavik drove the Cavaliers on an eight-play drive, culminating with a screen pass to Ryan Geier, who scampered 14 yards for the score, but the missed extra point kept the Wildcats in the lead.
After the first Kenton offensive play, Coldwater closed the entrance to the end zone. The Cavalier secondary did its part in containing Campbell with five interceptions from Campbell and six total from the Wildcats in the game.
"We made some plays. It just seems like every time we got momentum, we'd have a mistake of our own," said Kenton coach Mike Mauk. "That was a tribute to the way (Coldwater was) playing. They were very good tonight."
Coldwater went up for good with 2:50 in the first quarter. This time it was the Cavalier receivers who burned coverage as Slavik found Cory Klenke for a 32-yard scoring strike.
The other two Cavalier scores came on the ground thanks to sophomore Tony Harlamert. With time winding down in the first half, the Cavs drove from their 46 to the Kenton 6. Harlamert scooted the final six yards to make it 21-7 at the half.
The Cavaliers had opportunities to score in the second half, but had drives slowed by penalties. After getting flagged just twice for 15 yards in the first half, Coldwater was the victim of the yellow hanky eight times for 75 yards in the second half.
"We're just not used to that," said Reed of the mental breakdowns. "We didn't do it in our scrimmages. We haven't done it in practice. We haven't had the mental breakdowns. That was disappointing. We understand physical breakdowns. ... but the mental mistakes was something I was disappointed in. The kids are, too.
"Films will not be a lot of fun tomorrow morning."
With time winding down in the game, Coldwater started from its own nine after a Kenton turnover. After Harlamert got three yards on the first play, Slavik handed off to Harlamert again. This time, Harlamert broke through and, with Slavik right behind throwing blocks, carried the ball for an 88-yard score with 2:57 to go to take the final air out of Kenton's balloon.
Harlamert was the all-around star, not only carrying the ball 21 times for 205 yards and making three catches for 33 yards, but also breaking up several passes on defense.
"He took a physical beating tonight," said Reed. "Everybody was talking at halftime, 'We have to get you a break.' I asked Tony 'What about that?' and he said he didn't need a break. I told him I would get him an Ironman shirt. I think he needed it tonight."
Slavik's starting debut was solid as he completed 19 of his 34 passes for 254 yards and just one interception. Ryan Geier came up big, making five catches for 75 yards while Klenke added three snags for 65 yards.
Campbell, hounded for most of the night and sacked four times by the Cavaliers defense, was 13-of-33 for 200 yards and five interceptions and added 40 yards rushing on 22 carries. Jesse Howard was his favorite target with five receptions for 61 yards while Dustin Clapsaddle added four catches for 64 yards.
"I thought we competed," said Mauk. "They never gave up and played hard right to the end."
Coldwater opens Midwest Athletic Conference play Friday at Booster Field in Maria Stein against Marion Local while Kenton hits the road for the first time this season, traveling to Ottawa to face the Titans in a Western Buckeye League tilt.