By JOE GILROY
Lima Central Catholic (10-1) hosted Dayton Christian (9-2) in a first-round playoff game that the Thunderbirds easily won 45-7. Round two promises to be a taller task from Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field where they will meet Ohio small-school powerhouse, Coldwater (8-3). Like LCC, the Cavaliers routed their first-round opponent as they beat Bethel 42-7.
When LCC has the ball:
The Thunderbirds have a phenomenal one-two punch in the backfield with Logan Schultz and Shaun Thomas. In the T-Birds win over Dayton Christian, Schultz had the hot hand and LCC rode him to the tune of 158 yards and four touchdowns. They will try to get the running game rolling once again against Coldwater’s stalwart defense.
Brendan Stolly is no slouch at QB for LCC and if the running game falters, or the Cavaliers bring the safeties up in run support, coach Scott Palte won’t be afraid to dial up the pass. Stolly threw for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns and is always a threat when dropping back. He has a host of receivers to throw to as both Schultz and Thomas (23 yards and a TD last week) are dangerous in the passing game and Brayden O’Dell is huge play waiting to happen. O’Dell went off against Dayton Christian with 152 yards and a 65-yard touchdown grab.
In what has been a strange year for a Coldwater team, the one thing that has remained constant and consistent has been the Cavalier defense. Nobody jumps out at you from the stat books, but what you get is a disciplined squad who has bought into the culture that that coach Chip Otten is selling.
Brad Giere leads the defense with 91 regular season tackles and three sacks and is joined by Derek Albers who has 68 tackles, three sacks of his own, and a pair of fumbles. They lead what will arguably be the top run defense the T-Birds have played and when they get their opponents in passing situations, they are just as dominant. Creighton Bettinger leads the pass rush with four sacks and Ben Wenning and Jack Muhlenkamp each have two interceptions apiece.
When Coldwater has the ball:
Like most Otten coached teams, these Cavaliers employ a balanced offensive attack. They are slightly down compared to Coldwater teams of the past. These Cavs averaged 92 yards rushing a game during the regular season and were led by Ben Wenning with 489 yards and eight touchdowns.
They have been better in the passing game where Sam Broering threw for 1,773 yards and 13 TD’s. His top target is Jacob Wenning who has 801 yards and 10 TD grabs. When defenses decide to double Wenning, Broering will find Ben Wenning, who has over 400 yards and three touchdowns. All in all, the Cavaliers have averaged just 21.3 on offense, but that number is deceptive as Bethel found out in the first round.
The T-Birds defense is athletic and fast with the ability to turn a defensive play into instant offense on any given down. If they can force the Coldwater offense to be one dimensional, and force Broering to throw on obvious passing downs, the ballhawks in the T-Bird secondary could make the play that turns the game in their favor.
On the surface it may look like a game between two teams heading in opposite directions – and with Coldwater and their great run having a few more losses than their fans are accustomed to and LCC turning their fortunes around after a trying season a year ago it is easy to see why. The truth is that both teams have gotten better as the season has progressed and the Cavaliers are battle tesO ted while the T-Birds are looking to make a statement. This one can go any number of ways – Shootout? Slugfest? LCC blowout? Coldwater blowout? It’s anyone’s guess.