PIQUA — It was a game that featured 981 yards in total offense, 15 touchdowns (six from 30 yards or longer), 43 first downs and three overtimes. And after all that, it was decided by one yard.
Kettering Alter’s fourth-down pass came up one yard short of a first down, giving Coldwater a stunning — if not improbable — 59-52 victory in a Division IV, Region 16 semifinal on Saturday. The Cavaliers twice trailed by three touchdowns. They trailed by two TDs five other times. And the only time Coldwater (11-1) led was the final score.
“That’s what we try to build our program on, never giving up,” said Coldwater coach John Reed. “We’re trying to learn lessons in life. Sometimes you’re down 21-0 in life. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to bag it and give up? No, you’re going to battle away.”
Coldwater certainly fought back. Again. And again. And again. But it seemed like every time the Cavaliers got close, the Knights (11-1) answered with a score of their own. That lasted until the fourth quarter and eventually in the third overtime at a rocking Alexander Stadium at Piqua High School.
Behind a versatile running game that saw success straight up the middle against the Cavaliers, the Knights built a 42-21 lead with 7:08 left in the third quarter. That also left plenty of time for Coldwater’s quick-strike spread offense to work. Quarterback Cory Klenke guided the Cavs to TDs on their final four drives in regulation. At defensive back, Klenke’s fourth-quarter interception set up the Cavs’ final TD, an 11-yard pass to Tony Harlamert that forced overtime with 5:55 remaining.
Alter did drive into Coldwater territory with under a minute to go, but punted with 39 seconds left when the drive stalled at Coldwater’s 42 yard line.
In the first overtime (which starts on the opponent’s 20-yard line), Coldwater threw into the endzone on three of four passes. The Cavs’ fourth-down pass from the 17-yard line was on target for Ryan Geier, but an Alter defender knocked the ball away. Alter, needing just a field goal to win, was pushed back by a sack and a tackle for a loss. The Knights’ own fourth-down pass from the 36 fell incomplete.
In the second overtime, Alter settled for a 34-yard field goal by Scott Vannatta after two runs and a pass netted three yards. Coldwater was ready to celebrate when Klenke’s pass to Harlamert gave the Cavs first-and-goal at the one. But Alter’s defense stopped a run by Harlamert, a Klenke sneak, then dropped Harlamert in the backfield. Cavs’ kicker Mario de la Rosa booted a 19-yard field goal tie it at 52-52.
In the third overtime, Coldwater converted another first down. On fourth-and-7 from the 17, Klenke — under pressure and with a defender grabbing at his ankles — hit Zach Kaup for 11 yards. Two plays later Klenke threw an over-the-shoulder pass to Harlamert in the corner of the endzone for the 59-52 lead. Alter faced fourth-and-8 on the 18 after a run for two yards and a pair of incompletions. Alter QB Austin Boucher hit Nate Wolfe in the flat, but he was tackled at the 11-yard line to end it.
“There’s not a whole lot to tell them other than I was proud of the way they played football, not just tonight but all year,” said Alter coach Ed Domsitz, whose team lost to Steubenville 34-33 in the D-III title game last season. “I’m sure everybody is disappointed. (The state championship game) was a goal from the beginning of the year. It was a sad ending tonight.”
Alter pounded out 360 yards rushing and 495 yards overall. Roark led the way with 193 yards and 5 TDs on 25 carries. His TDs covered 30, 3, 30, 39 and 10 yards. Chris Borland added 111 yards on 17 carries.
Coldwater, though, slowed down Alter’s running game in the second half. The Knights, who scored on their first three possessions, had just one TD over its final four drives. And the Cavs’ offense, built to come from behind if needed, did exactly that.
Klenke completed 25-of-50 passes for 431 yards and 7 TDs to a receiving corp that consistently outleaped, outran and did what it had to get the ball. That included Kaup (10 passes for 190 yards; 3 TDs), Geier (6-97 yards; 2 TDs), Harlamert (6-82 yards; 2 TDs) and Zach Siefring (3-62).
Coldwater ran just 12 times for 55 yards as the passing game accounted for almost all of the Cavs’ 486 yards in total offense.
“Our offensive line deserves so much credit. There’s no question the guts of No. 11 (Klenke) and our fullback (Harlamert) always blocking and protecting,” Reed said. “We played with such tremendous heart tonight. That was one of the greatest games I’ve been associated with.”
Domsitz, though, won’t look back on this game in a few years and smile at the thought of playing in a game that many will consider the greatest they ever saw.
“It makes it more difficult to take. You see all the great things we did and it makes it more difficult to accept the fact we didn’t win,” he said. “I know some people will say this was the greatest game they’ve ever seen. A great game to me is a game we win, whatever the score.”
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