It was a great season for the Wheelersburg Pirates. A great season that came to an end Friday night in Xenia, Ohio as the Pirates fell to the Coldwater Cavaliers 36-6 in the OHSAA Division V State Semifinal game.
Wheelersburg (13-1) suffered their only loss to a Coldwater team that has built a dynasty in Ohio high school football. The Cavaliers will now be making their seventh straight trip to the state finals, winning it all the last three years.
Although they fell short of their ultimate goal, the Pirates have had a season worth celebrating. The 2015 Wheelersburg Pirates won their first Regional Championship since 1998, and finished the regular season undefeated for the first time since Ed Miller led his 1989 Pirates team to a state championship.
After the game, Pirates coach Rob Woodward thanked the team’s seniors for all their hard work in their high school career and for leading this team on the field.
“What a great season, and what a great job from all of our seniors, all 16 of our seniors,” Woodward said. “Whether they were contributing on the field, or contributing at practice, and in the locker room, they showed how to play football Wheelersburg style. They taught the younger kids how to prepare Wheelersburg style. That’s what propelled us to this point, to be playing in a state semifinal as we did.”
Making it as one of the final four teams left in Division V football, Woodward knew his team would be facing a strong, quality opponent.
“You’re going to run up against great opponents when you do get to this level,” Woodward said. “That’s a great one we played tonight.”
At first, things looked good for Wheelersburg, giving up a quick first down, but then forcing a fourth down on Coldwater. However, Coldwater would opt to go for the first down instead of punting, which proved to be a good call for the Cavaliers as they picked up the first down. From there, lined up on Wheelersburg’s 29 yard line, Cavaliers quarterback Jack Hemmelgarn picked up another first down after a 12-yard run, and then found Aaron Harlamert in the end zone three plays later. With 8:24 remaining in the first quarter, Coldwater led Wheelersburg 7-0.
After each team would end up punting the ball away, Coldwater forced Wheelersburg to punt again, however after a bad snap, the Pirates punter Jordan Howard attempted a quick punt but was blocked by the Cavaliers. Howard was able to pick up the blocked kick but was then tackled on Wheelersburg’s 24 yard line.
Six plays later, Coldwater would score again after Hemmelgarn would connect with Zach Homan for a six yard score. With less than two minutes left in the first half, the Cavaliers led the Pirates 14-0
Wheelrsburg would respond to the score, by getting their only score of the half, and the game. Facing third down and needing two yards for the first and lined up on the Coldwater 30 yard line, Kyle Davis found Jake Darnell for a 21-yard gain. After a Howard run, Tanner Bivens would score on a seven yard run giving the Pirates six points. The point after attempt was no good, so the Pirates still trailed by eight.
The Cavaliers responded to the Pirates score with one of their own when Hemmelgarn connect with Harlamert for the second time in the end zone. Coldwater increased its lead over Wheelersburg after a successful point after, 21-6.
Coldwater struck again on their next possession late in the second quarter. Hemmelgarn squeezed in a pass to Kraig Schoenherr by a Pirate defender. The 40-yard scoring pass gave Coldwater a 28-6 lead over Wheelersburg.
The Pirates had a chance to score late in the second quarter, but time would run out on Wheelersburg after several passes would fall incomplete.
In the second half, Coldwater’s defense continued to give Wheelersburg trouble. The Pirates opened the third quarter only gaining eight yards and were forced to punt, after getting called for two consecutive false starts on fourth down.
The last score of the game came with 8:35 remaining in the third quarter, when Schoenherr broke through the Pirate defensive line, scoring on a 42-yd run. The Cavaliers opted to go for the two-point conversion, which succeeded. As a result, the Cavaliers led the Pirates 36-6.
Following OHSAA guidelines, the running clock was put into effect since there was a 30 or more point differential.
The Pirates did not quit though, as they continued to battle for yards against a very stingy Cavaliers defense.
Dominic Reyes would come up with a fourth quarter fumble, the only Coldwater turnover on the night.
In the end, the running clock quickly struck zero, and the Wheelersburg Pirate season had ended.
It was a solemn moment for the Pirates shortly after the game. An end to a fantastic season, which the Pirates had hoped would continue on to next week.
“I thanked them,” Woodward said.
Woodward would then send a message to the younger members of his team.
“I told them to take hold of the leadership that they (seniors) have instilled, and work to get to that type of work ethic.”
The Pirates will continue to be a threat, as next season will soon approach.
“When January rolls around, we’ll get ourselves into the weight room and look to build our guys to be the biggest and fastest players they can.”
Woodward said his goal is to get to the same level Coldwater has reached in the last several years.
“We want to get to this level each and every season,” Woodward said. “We want to practice on Thanksgiving. We want that to become a tradition.”
Coldwater – J. Hemmelgarn 13-yd pass to A. Harlamert (PAT good) (8:24)
Coldwater – J. Hemmelgarn 6-yd pass to Z. Homan (PAT good) (1:55)
Burg – T. Bivens 7-yd run (PAT no good) (7:18)
Coldwater – J. Hemmelgarn 7-yd pass to A. Harlamert (PAT god) (3:22)
Coldwater – J. Hemmelgarn 40-yd pass to K. Schoenherr (PAT good) (1:18)
Coldwater – K. Schoenherr 42-yd run (2-pt conversion good) (8:13)