COLUMBUS — For the first time, the Freddies didn’t have the answers.
Throughout Saturday’s state semifinal, Fredericktown was battered, slammed, and beaten to the punch by a Coldwater team that’s been there before. Eventually, the season ended for the Freddies in a 26-6 defeat that was worse than the score would indicate.
Fredericktown had to prepare for two different offenses. There had been ideas floating around that Austin Bruns, the Coldwater starting quarterback for most of the season, would start. He runs a run-based offense, but he had been injured in the region final against Hamilton Badin. But that rumor was not true, and the Cavaliers started Ethan Bettinger, who runs a spread offense.
Fredericktown had encountered a spread offense before, but never with such fast receivers. Reese Kleine and Kurt Schoenherr form a powerful one-two combo that almost always are covered man-for-man, since defenses also have to honor the run. But early on, it was obvious that Coldwater’s speed surprised the Freddies.
“We knew (Kleine) would beat us. You talk about (Kleine’s) size, speed and strength. That may have been one big surprise for our defensive backs,” Fredericktown head coach Brian Baum said.
Fredericktown’s success this season could be credited, in part, to forcing turnovers. In three previous playoff games, the Freddies had forced 11 turnovers and had given up none. On Saturday night, they gave up the ball four times, including a muff on a punt return, and another on a fumbled kickoff return in the fourth quarter.
Penalties, which have hurt but not broken the Freddies this season, came at the wrong times Saturday. A personal foul call in the first quarter extended a drive that ended in a Coldwater touchdown. And a holding call took a touchdown off the board late in the game.
“We got careless. We have to hold on to that football. Turnovers and penalties lose football games, and that’s what happened,” Baum said.
The domination actually began on the game’s third play, when Bettinger found Kleine on a 59-yard post pattern for a quick touchdown.
Coldwater’s second drive was much like the first, with passes to Kleine netting two first downs. A fade away pass to Kleine in the back of the end zone made the score 13-0 midway through the first.
But the Cavaliers were more impressive on the other side of the ball. They zeroed in on star running back Matt Smith and would not let him get through the line. They swarmed the line on every play with eight, nine or 10 defenders. The holes, which the offensive line opened up so often and Smith could be counted on to exploit, simply weren’t there.
By halftime, the team had totaled just 22 yards on the ground.
“They took Matt away. They forced us to do other things,” Baum said.
Meantime, Coldwater continued their air assault, with a little trickery thrown in. Midway through the second quarter, Bettinger flipped the ball back to Drew Klosterman, who threw the ball downfield to a wide open Schoenherr for a 52-yard touchdown.
A Bettinger sneak on a fake extra point try yielded a two-point conversion, and Coldwater led, 21-0.
At that point, Baum called a timeout and addressed his team directly in the middle of the field.