Coldwater ends Mechanicsburg’s bid for 2nd straight state semifinal appearance

Mechanicsburg running back Chase Propst looks for running room during the first of Saturday night's Division VI, Region 24 final at Coldwater. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Mechanicsburg running back Chase Propst looks for running room during the first of Saturday night's Division VI, Region 24 final at Coldwater. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

COLDWATER – Aaron Conley walked off the football field Saturday night, carrying his helmet and talking with pride about his Mechanicsburg teammates and their winning program.

But he had regrets.

“We just didn’t execute,” said the Indians' quarterback and strong safety. “That’s it plain and simple. They did everything we prepared for, we just didn’t execute it right. Couldn’t tackle.”

The Indians' bid to earn a second straight trip to the Division VI state semifinals had been stopped cold by Coldwater, 35-14, Saturday night in the Region 24 championship game.

The second-ranked Indians (9-1) played in their second final four last year and lost to Anna. Saturday was another game against the powerful Midwest Athletic Conference, and the top-ranked Cavaliers used a strong passing game and stingy defense to reach the final four for the 16th time.

Unbeaten Coldwater is trying to win its seventh state championship and first since 2015. The Cavaliers will face Sherwood Fairview next Saturday. MAC teams now own a 40-1 record against Ohio Heritage Conference teams. The only win was by West Jefferson over Anna in the first round of this year’s playoffs.

Mechanicsburg started fast with a diving interception by Conley at midfield. A few plays later Conley threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Chandler on fourth-and-3.

Coldwater responded with three scoring drives that mixed the run and the passing of Myles Blasingame to lead 21-7 at halftime. Blasingame scored on runs of 1, 6 and 3 yards and piled up most of his 221 passing yards in the half.

“First half we had some mental errors, some things we didn’t execute the way we should’ve or that we’re capable of doing,” Mechanicsburg coach Kurt Forrest said. “When you make mistakes against a team of this caliber, things aren’t going to go well.”

Conley shook his head about a pass he missed to an open receiver that would have been a big play and might have created only a seven-point deficit at halftime. But that miss and allowing Coldwater to convert too many second-and-long and third-and-long situations hurt the Indians.

“Coach part of me is always going to say that there’s things we could always respond better to,” Forrest said. “But there’s times they responded great, and I love the way they finished the game.”

The Cavaliers also went to an up-tempo offense in the first half to take advantage of their numbers. The Indians play a lot of players both ways and the Cavaliers play about 20 players. Coach Chip Otten prepared for that style more than usual this week, and when his players said Mechanicsburg was getting tired he went to it and touchdowns were the result.

The backbreaker came early in the second half. The Cavaliers faced third down and more than 20 yards to go at their 11. The Indians had plans to force a punt, drive to a score and trail by only a touchdown. But receiver Tyler Schwieterman got the ball on a reverse and sprinted to an 89-yard touchdown for a 28-7 lead.

“We still felt like we had a shot,” Conley said. “We had to come out and play defense the second half. We had them in third and forever and gave up that reverse.”

Otten knew just how big that play was because the Indians had slowed down his team on sweeps and counter-play runs by Blasingame as well as any opponent all season.

“We knew that was a good team,” he said. “We know they’re a bunch of good, tough, wrestling kind of guys.”

And Conley, despite the regrets, knew the Indians had played a good team.

“Without a doubt they’re the best team we’ve played all year,” he said. “They play together as a unit.”

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