Central Catholic stuns Coldwater late

Canton Central Catholic swept away two previous state championship disappointments by stunning Coldwater 16-13 to win the Division V high school football state championship on Saturday night.

The Crusaders drove 95 yards and scored on a 55-yard pass play with 58 seconds remaining for the winning score. Coldwater had beaten Central Catholic in the previous two D-V title games, 35-18 last year and a 62-21 blowout in 2014.

The Crusaders (11-3) had lost three games by a total of 11 points. But none of that likely hurt as much as falling in the previous two title games to the Cavaliers.

“No question about it,” Coldwater coach Chip Otten said. “When you get here you want to win it and you don’t ever know when you’re going to get back. That was a frustrating one. We made some plays and they made one more right there at the end.”

The defeat denied Coldwater its fifth straight state title. The Cavaliers (13-2) could have set an all-time consecutive playoffs win record of 25 straight games (2012-16). They also were bidding to tie Cleveland St. Ignatius (1991-95) for most consecutive state championships with five.

It also dropped the fabled Midwest Athletic Conference to an uncharacteristic 1-2 during championship weekend at Ohio Stadium. Marion Local rallied to defeat Cuyahoga Heights 21-17 and win the D-VI state title on Friday. Minster fell to Warren JFK 24-6 in the D-VII title game to start Saturday’s tripleheader. That reversed a trend in which MAC teams had won five of six state titles in 2014-15.

Central Catholic’s comeback was a classic switch of momentum. The Crusaders led 9-0, but the Cavaliers answered with a 13-0 run. Coldwater senior QB Dylan Thobe scampered four yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 8:31 left in the fourth quarter.

Coldwater gifted Central Catholic its first two scores and both were set up by Thobe interceptions.

A first-team All-Ohioan, Thobe had what looked like a screen pass intercepted toward the end of the half to thwart a potential Cavs scoring drive. That was one of three Coldwater drives inside the Central Catholic red zone that didn’t produce points.

Central Catholic answered by hammering out a couple of first downs in less than 90 seconds and stunned the Cavaliers with a 48-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

That broke a scoreless deadlock.

Thobe again was intercepted on Coldwater’s opening drive of the second half. This time it resulted in a 12-yard TD pass from Jack Murphy to Cameron Ruffin.

Unfazed, Coldwater regrouped behind Thobe, who connected with Neal Muhlenkamp on a 22-yard touchdown strike, then booted the extra point to pull the Cavs within 9-7. Thobe rushed for 112 yards and completed 15 of 29 passes for 157 yards. Zach Klosterman had eight catches for 117 yards.

Coldwater pinned Central Catholic on its own five with a punt midway through the fourth quarter and appeared in good position to celebrate yet another title. Instead, Catholic Central converted some key third downs and benefitted from a pass interference penalty. Murphy connected with Tee Rupp on a short out and Rupp tight-roped the sideline 55 untouched yards for the winning score with 55 ticks left.

A Thobe final Hail Mary pass was intercepted in the end zone as time expired on Coldwater’s date with Ohio high school football history. Instead, the Crusaders are the first Stark County team to win a football state title since they also won in 2000.

“This makes it even better when you can play a team like Coldwater and beat them,” said Central Catholic coach Jeff Lindesmith.

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