While many were enjoying turkey and watching football on television, Coldwater (13-0) and Liberty-Benton Eagles (12-1) were preparing for a football game.
The champions of the Midwest Athletic Conference will face the Blanchard Valley Conference runner-up in the Division V state semifinal at 7 p.m. Saturday at Lima Stadium.
The winner will travel to Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium on Dec. 1 to face either defending state champion Kirtland or Baltimore Liberty Union.
For the Eagles, the trip to their third state semifinal has been challenging. They defeated Liberty Center 16-7 in round one, knocked off top-seeded Lima Central Catholic in overtime 24-17 and last week defeated Patrick Henry 22-21 despite rushing for negative yards.
The Cavaliers are in the state semifinals for the 10th time and seventh time in nine years. Their road to Lima Stadium included three blowout wins. In the first round the Cavaliers knocked off Casstown Miami East 42-7. Coldwater breezed past West Liberty Salem in the second round 41-22 and shutout Covington last week 22-0.
“Our concern is that they’ve been in a lot of close games and we haven’t,” Coldwater coach Chip Otten said. “They found a way against LCC and Patrick Henry. There’s something to be said for being in close games and winning them.”
The Eagles offense is led by quarterback Mitch Linhart, who has completed 122 of 214 passes for 1,852 yards and 19 touchdowns. On the ground the signal-caller has 112 rushes for 898 yards and 15 scores.
Through the air the Eagles top target is Chase Cook, who has 54 receptions for 1,120 yards and 14 touchdowns while running back Austin Combs has carried the ball 121 times for 798 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Offensively, they look a lot like us,” Otten said. “They spread you out and they will run a lot more. They are pretty stout on both sides of the ball. They seem solid all the way around. The offensive and defensive lines are intriguing.”
The AP’s top ranked Cavaliers are led by the Midwest Athletic Conference and All-Northwest District Offensive Player of the Year Austin Bruns. The senior quarterback has completed 183 of 251 passes for 2,682 yards and 31 touchdowns. He has thrown just three interceptions. Bruns has also rushed the ball for 565 yards.
Bruns top receiver is senior Caleb Siefring, who has 43 receptions for 783 yards and 14 touchdowns. Josh Huber has 40 catches for 586 yards and five touchdowns while Jordan Chapin is a talented player out of the backfield.
“Defensively, they play a basic 4-3 and they make you beat them,” Otten said. “They don’t do a whole lot of things, but they are good at what they do. They are physical at the point of attack. They line up and play. For us it comes down to matchups and how they handle our skill guys. How we get the ball in space and have them make plays.”