COLUMBUS GROVE – Back to business.
After Columbus Grove defeated Fairview, 42-21 last Saturday, the Bulldogs hoisted the regional championship trophy, making it to the state semifinals for the first 2014 and there was reason to celebrate.
Columbus Grove head coach Andy Schafer said the team did enjoy the win Saturday and Sunday but by Monday it was time to focus on facing Coldwater at Sidney High School at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“Unfortunately that’s the way it works in this business. You get really high after winning and then you get to enjoy it Sunday and then it is just straight back to work,” Schafer said. ‘I will say it has probably been more busy right now than anything just getting ready for Coldwater and you are at a neutral site and the stakes are a lot difference for this game. We certainly enjoyed it Saturday night.”
Coldwater, a perennial powerhouse, comes into this week’s contest with an 10-0 mark and like in the past loaded with tons of talent.
As if anyone needed any reminders of how good Coldwater is, this marks its 24 straight playoff appearance, its 13th undefeated regular season, and its 18th regional title.
The Cavaliers come into this game averaging 38.4 points an game and giving up 12. 4 points a contest and are beating teams by an average margin of 26 points.
Fort Recovery, in the second round of the playoffs, narrowly pulled off the upset by losing 26-24, but since then the Cavaliers downed West Jefferson 42-7 and then handled Mechanicsburg 35-14 last week.
Coldwater features a well balanced attack on offense led by quarterback Myles Blasingame. The Cavaliers signal caller has passed for 1,272 yards with 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and has rushed for 893 yards and 15 scores.
Second on the team in rushing is Zack McKibben with 536 yards and 8 touchdowns and Jessee Meyer is the team’s top receiver with 35 catches for 364 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Stopping top notch quarterbacks has been one of the keys to winning in the postseason. All three of the Bulldogs opponents have featured talented players behind center and the Bulldogs have controlled them for the most part.
Against Fairview last week, Doug Rakes did pass for more than 300 but was constantly pressured and never really hurt them on the ground.
“Our whole philosophy against Fairview was to make that quarterback stay in the pocket,” Schafer said. “When we watched him on tape he was amazing when he got outside and not only running it just throwing it….I think we did a good job of forcing him in the pocket and I don’t think any one has really done that to him.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs have gone with Colin Metzger who has rushed for more than 100 yards in the previous three playoff games. In the last three games, the burly back has rushed for 446 yards and six touchdowns.
“I have had the opportunity to coach in three state semifinal games, once as a head coach and as an assistant coach before and all three times the success has being able to run the ball in November,” Schafer said. “I am really impressed with our offensive line now and Colin and the tight end AJ (Schafer). They have been opening up some pretty big holes.”
With having success running the ball, the play action pass becomes an even more vital weapon for the Bulldogs who utilized it against Fairview for some big pass plays including a 70-yard bomb to Gabe Clement.
“We are just game planning for both (run or pass) and see what happens,” Schafer said. “We are not really going into the game saying hey we are going to establish the run we are going to do what we see.”
As the Bulldogs continue its on field preparation, off the field. Schafer and his coaching staff are trying to keep the players focus but as the Bulldog head coach adds his players are self motivated and are not about to get caught up in the hype.
Schafer points out that many of these guys have dealt with postseason pressure on the basketball and wrestling teams and these are the leaders on the team who keep the rest of the team from getting overconfident or cocky.
Schafer adds that also helping this year was the Northwest Conference mini tournament to decide the conference crown.
“These guys are battle tested and understand the pressures,” Schafer said. “They understand the tournament style and I have said this before, you can go back to the Northwest Conference athletic directors for setting up like a tournament where every game matters so for us it was like a playoff in the regular season and you certainly don’t have that every year.”
Being Coldwater and a Midwest Athletic Conference team brings its own set of preconceived notions and what that all entails and for good reason as they are considered one of the most elite conference in the state.
But Schafer said his team is prepared for any opponent.
“So many people said Archbold was the greatest thing people of have seen in life and our kids certainly went after them and then they said this is the best offense you are going to see in Fairview and our kids took care of business there .” Schafer said. “It is just another game. Yea, it’s Coldwater but we are not playing the 2018 Coldwater. We are playing the 2020 Coldwater and last time I checked they have not played the 2020 Columbus Bulldogs either.”