On Monday, Clinton-Massie head football coach Dan McSurley was named SW District D-IV Coach of the year for the winning efforts of his (11-1) Falcons and their relentless march to the Region 16 final against the Coldwater Cavaliers this weekend.
The winner has a spot reserved for the next weekend in the final four.
On Saturday night, Clinton-Massie beat the second-seeded Milton-Union Bulldogs, 18-14. Meanwhile, Coldwater was knocking off the top-seeded Alter Knights in a spectacular come-from-behind 59-52 triple overtime shootout that we will be talking about over beer and chicken wings for decades to come.
Going into this season, most people believed that 5-5 would have been an acceptable outcome for Clinton-Massie. MVP caught up with MrSurley on Tuesday night and got his impressions of Coldwater, the Falcon’s triumphant reversal of fortunes, and high school football in general.
MVP: “Congratulations on your big win (18-14) over the Milton-Union Bulldogs. Have you had a chance to look at film yet on Coldwater? If so, what is your impression?”
MCSURLEY: “Coldwater is one of those relentless teams that never says die. I’ve watched at least five or six hours of film on them now and they are just a team that has tremendous fight and a lot of heart and it is going to take everything we have to just play with them. You can be up 21 or 28 points against a team like Coldwater and it doesn’t matter. They have incredible tenacity, and we really respect them.
MVP: “You have had an unusual contrast in opponents for back-to-back weeks. Milton-Union, last week, was a lot like you in the sense that they love to line up and hit you hard with the intent of maybe checking things out afterwards to determine who is still standing. Diametrically opposed to that approach, this week, Coldwater is going to try to spread you out and take advantage of you in space. Cory Klenke threw for 431 yards (25-50 passing) and seven touchdowns for them last week against Alter.”
MCSURLEY: “Yeah. It’s a pretty simple game plan for us this week. Obviously, we can’t even be getting into a shootout with Coldwater. We’re just not that type of team. We’re going to have to rely on our offensive line and grind it out (Clinton-Massie runs wishbone with two tight ends most of the time). We don’t have real speedsters, although we do have one game breaker in Logan McCormick. We have to be prepared to generate ten to fifteen play drives and keep their offense off the field. That’s the only way to play this game, and if you see us doing something else it means that things aren’t going well for the Falcons.”
MVP: “Certainly that is how things worked out for you against the Bulldogs in the regional semifinals, in that you must have held the ball for at least ten minutes in the fourth quarter and you ended up winning.”
MCSURLEY: “Well, we had the ball 78 snaps to their 34 snaps, so we more than doubled them on that and hopefully that trend will continue. That has kind of been our recipe for winning games, you know. High school football is a funny thing. If we can play that type of game we can win, but if it gets into a shootout our chances won’t look very good.”
MVP: “It would help you enormously, I would imagine, if you were experienced against spread schemes. Are there any other teams in your league (the South Central Ohio League) that present similar challenges when you play them?”
MCSURLEY: “Everybody seems like they are going to that to some degree these days. Washington Court House plays that style a little bit, and they got us earlier this year by one (35-34 on 10-12, their only loss this year). It is a real trend, so hopefully it will be a very windy evening; rainy, cold.”
MVP: “That brings me to my next topic. Last year I covered the Coldwater-St. Henry game. There must have been an inch of rain in the second half. The playing surface was a joke. Coldwater lined up in what Coach Reed calls the ‘mini-gun,’ which is essentially I-formation football with the quarterback lined up , shotgun, next to the fullback. They ran Tony Harlemert 27 times off tackle out of that setup to win, 14-7. St. Henry turned around and won the state title, so Coldwater is more than capable of lining up, pounding away, and beating championship teams in the process. Have you seen the mini-gun?”
MCSURLEY: “We have film, and we’ve seen them lined up like that. We’re aware of what they can do. Honestly, I think they are testing their opponents when they do that. If you aren’t ready to play physical football and it works they will give you a steady diet of nothing but that. The coaches that are left at this time of year aren’t stupid. They’ll take what they’re given. So far we’ve been really fortunate to be able to stop the run and running teams in general. Maybe we are a little more vulnerable to the pass, but maybe we aren’t. We’ve got to be able to defend against anything we see.”
MVP: “Milton-Union ran on some great teams this year, some of them were D-II and most of them made the playoffs. Yet they couldn’t run against you Saturday night and it ended their season. They only had 34 yards rushing. So, you guys are obviously very good, and that pretty much guarantees that you will get spread out.”
MCSURLEY: “No doubt. Look. The thing that we’ve done all year, and it has really contributed greatly to our success, is that we forced 47 turnovers this season (Clinton-Massie has an incredible +31 turnover margin). We have forced turnovers consistently because we have guys back there that are very opportunistic. They are usually in great position and they usually make plays, but their success can be directly attributed to the strength of our up front guys. We have a very formidable defensive line. They’ve been able to get a lot of pressure on quarterbacks and that is how you beat the spread. Hopefully that recipe will work again for us this week. Maybe we’ll be able to force a few turnovers, put our offense on a short field, and maybe we can get some easy early scores.”
MVP: “Who has stood out for you on the defensive line?”
MCSURLEY: “Andrew Fisher. Greg Miller. Levi Schwab. Spencer Running. They all have good size. They are very athletic, they are fast, and they are very solid kids. And we have a freshman we like to feature that leads our team in many defensive statistics, Gunnar Calhoun. He had four interceptions. Five forced fumbles. Two blocked punts. He’s just a go-getter. He’s going to be a real legitimate player in a couple of years.”
MVP: “Who other than Calhoun stands out in your back seven?”
MCSURLEY: “David Brothers has nine interceptions. He plays back there and of course does a fine job. Logan McCormick has four interceptions, as does Gunnar. We force a lot of turnovers.”
MVP: “They announced the all-SW District teams today, and you were named ‘Coach of the Year.’ Congratulations!”
MCSURLEY: “It’s a great honor, and they have to give it to somebody, so..”
MCSURLEY: “What it is, it’s a compliment to my coaching staff. They’re a great bunch of guys. I have a young staff that works hard and they have really bought into the system. They believe in the program. It is one of the best staffs I have been a part of.”
MVP: “Obviously someone bought into something, here. You were projected in the pre-season to be something around 5-5, and here you are, 11-1. You are left standing and you are still playing for all of the marbles. In that singular loss, what did Washington Court House do to beat you?”
MCSURLEY: “Really, we controlled the game. I mean, we were up by 14. Our kids scored early on some big plays and with special teams. Later, we were up 35-21 and feeling pretty good about the game. But with less than two minutes left we had a couple of blunders. We had a punt snap where we accidentally kneed the ball dead, which was like a blocked punt. We had a penalty and then they scored on a big play. We had another special teams blunder and the next thing we knew they were winning the game. It was just one of those things where the momentum just swung in their favor. But we learned a lot from that game. It educated us on how important the little things are and what happens when you let the momentum get away from you in a high school football game.”