By Ryan Hines
ST. HENRY -- Coldwater used a dominating performance by its offensive and defensive lines on the way to handing St. Henry its first loss of the season in a battle of undefeated and state-ranked football teams on a soggy Friday night.
The Cavaliers rallied from a 7-0 deficit to defeat the Redskins 14-7 at the Wally Post Athletic Complex as sole possession of first place in the Midwest Athletic Conference was up for grabs.
"St. Henry played hard and they have a great football team," said Coldwater head coach John Reed. "To come over here and win a game like this says a lot about our program and the depth with out kids. The bar was set so high and we had a lot of our players from last year in the locker room before the game and I think that it elevated our kids just to see them."
Coldwater stands alone atop the MAC standings at 5-0 overall and 4-0 in league play while St. Henry drops to a second-place tie in the MAC with Delphos St. John's and Versailles with an overall mark of 4-1 and 3-1 in the MAC.
"I was really surprised, I really was," said Reed when he was asked if he was surprised with the way that his team controlled the line of scrimmage. "I was surprised that we won the battle up front as convincingly as we did. Those guys dedicated themselves up front. They knew that we were banged up at some of the other positions and they stepped up and played a great game. Up front is where games like this are won and lost." The men up front took control of the game for the Cavaliers following St. Henry's touchdown in the second quarter.
The Redskins took the lead 7-0 at the 9:40 mark of the second quarter as St. Henry drove 86 yards on 17 plays which was capped when Doug Griesdorn found Ryan Hartke for a 21-yard scoring pass. Hartke caught the ball in the flats and broke loose from a tackle before stretching the ball over the goal line for the score.
From that point on, it was all Coldwater as the Cavs defense limited the St. Henry offense to just 76 yards the rest of the game.
"The play up front was the difference in the game," said St. Henry head coach Jeff Starkey. "They controlled the line of scrimmage and made it difficult for us to run the ball with any consistency and we couldn't protect the passer good enough either. They just handled us."
"The diversification that they bring with their running game and a great passing game that they have, I just can't say enough about how the defense played," said Reed. "The defensive front guys are the guys that really deserve the credit tonight. Adam Homan had an unbelievable amount of tackles but that's because of those front guys. That's as good as we've played all season long."
With the rain falling down harder and harder as the game wore on, the Cavs went to the running game to pick up the game-tying score just before halftime.
Coldwater took possession of the ball with 3:39 to go before half and drove 82 yards on 12 plays using its running game to guide the way. Tony Harlamert had 39 yards on two carries while also snagging a nine-yard pass on four-and-five to push the ball to the one-yard line. From there, Sam Slavik took the handoff and followed the left side of the Cavaliers' offensive line for a one-yard touchdown to knot the game at 7-7 with 48 seconds to go in the first half.
A big defensive play by Cory Klenke gave the Cavaliers great field position for the go-ahead score in the third quarter.
Griesdorn tried to force a ball into the middle of the field in between two Cavalier defenders and Klenke picked off the pass and returned the ball 32 yards to the seven-yard line for a first-and-goal situation for Coldwater.
Harlamert took the first carry and ran for two before hitting paydirt on the second play with a five-yard dash into the end zone. The second PAT kick by Mario de la Rosa gave Coldwater a 14-7 advantage.
Harlamert was the workhorse for Coldwater's running game as the sophomore tailback carried the ball 28 times for 100 yards.
Coldwater's defense sacked Griesdorn on five different occasions and limited the St. Henry offense to just 162 yards of total offense.
"It's hard to say that we dominated the line of scrimmage, but I really think that we made a lot of outstanding plays that kind of go unnoticed," said Reed. "I think that our defensive people got enough penetration and took them out of what they wanted to do."