MAC football: Coldwater hands Minster first loss in battle of No. 1’s

Jake Hemmelgarn faced a tough task. Having won a high-profile position as the Coldwater High School quarterback, it was his job to offensively kick-start a program that skipped a gear last season by not playing for a state championship.

As if that weren’t daunting enough, he also would have to follow his brother, celebrated Cavaliers QB and state football player of the year Jack Hemmelgarn.

“I looked forward to it,” said Jake, who was money in a 31-20 Week 4 defeat of visiting Minster on Friday night. “(Jack) helped me out a lot and gave me a lot of advice to come out and play good. We’re just trying to pick up where we left off last year and keep getting better as a program and keep winning.”

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Jake, whose father is Coldwater principal and assistant football coach Jason Hemmelgarn, was at his best against the Wildcats. He had four touchdown passes by halftime, completed 22 of 28 passes for 244 yards and ran for a game-high 138 yards.

Minster (3-1), the defending Division VII state champ, had no answer for Hemmelgarn and neither did Cavs coach Chip Otten.

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“We call it the eye test,” Otten said. “When you see him in practice, you think, how can he throw the ball like that? When you physically see him, you think, no, he can’t run against Minster. You throw in the mental part of it and that’s what he does.”

It was a celebrated matchup of top-ranked Midwest Athletic Conference powers. Coldwater (4-0) was a surprise No. 1 choice in D-VI in the first Associated Press state poll. Minster was top-rated in D-VII.

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This kind of MAC No. 1 vs. No. 1 showdown is usually reserved for Coldwater and Marion Local, but not this season, again. Both Coldwater and Marion Local are lumped in D-VI, the unforeseen fallout from the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s competitive balance initiative.

None of that mattered to Minster coach Geron Stokes, not after the Wildcats gave up 28 unanswered first-half points.

“We’ve had really good leaders the last couple years,” he said. “We’re going to find out if we have really good leaders this year.”

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Cole Frilling and Mitch Niekamp each caught two scoring passes from Hemmelgarn in the first half. Frilling, a senior, had TD catches of 35 and 16 yards. Niekamp, also a senior, had scoring catches that covered 42 and 11 yards.

Minster finished its initial drive with junior Alex Schmitmeyer’s first of two touchdown runs. That lit the Minster side of Cavalier Stadium and appeared to be a preview to an offensive shootout. Coldwater and Hemmelgarn answered with 28 consecutive points.

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It was hard to tell one team’s fans from another. Besides the orange and black for both school’s colors, many spectators and all band and cheerleader members from each school wore “Shane Strong” T-shirts. That has become a rallying cry throughout MAC country and elsewhere.

That’s a popular Twitter hashtag in reference to Coldwater junior Shane Homan, who remains at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton following surgery to fuse four vertebrae. He was injured in a Week 2 Coldwater JV game.

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“Shane Strong” banners were everywhere throughout the packed stadium and elsewhere. Otten was especially touched by a blue and yellow banner he said was anchored by Marion Local students.

“That’s from Marion,” said Otten, nodding in approval. “They snuck in the stadium. There’s been stuff from all the MAC schools plus St. Marys and Wapak has sent things. The outpouring of support has been incredible.”

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