For the first time in almost 30 years, Coldwater can be considered a champion while standing on the football field.
No. 8-ranked Coldwater defeated Harper Creek, 40-14, to clinch a share of the Interstate 8 Conference and go to 6-0 in the league and 7-0 overall. Harper Creek falls to 3-4 on the year.
It is the first league championship of any kind for Coldwater in football since 1986 and that deserved a Gatorade shower for the Cardinals’ head coach Jeff Schorfhaar, who also happened to be the quarterback of the last Coldwater team to win a conference title.
“This win tonight was huge. It has been close to 30 years since we have been conference champs. Now we have at least a piece of it and now we want to finish it off next week,” Schorfhaar said, dripping wet after celebrating with his team following the game.
Putting Coldwater in a position to win the Interstate 8 was a win over perennial power Jackson Lumen Christi last week. It was the first time the Cardinals had ever beaten Lumen Christi and put Coldwater in first place alone, a game ahead of Marshall – a team it had beaten earlier in the season. Coldwater can win the I-8 outright in the final league game next week against Charlotte.
“Coming off that win over Lumen, you never know what to expect from teenagers, you don’t know if they will be focused in that next game or not,” Schorfhaar said. “But our kids worked all week and we played pretty well tonight and this was a huge win for our program.
“But we have bigger goals than sharing the title. We are just taking it one game at a time and next week is Charlotte with a chance to win this thing outright.”
On Homecoming for Harper Creek, Coldwater wanted to start fast and take the crowd out of the game. The Cardinals did just that. After stopping the Beavers on their first drive on a three-and-out, Coldwater took over the ball on their own 40. One play later, Coldwater’s Sam DeMeester scored on a 60-yard touchdown on a fullback trap to make it 7-0 with 9:49 still left in the first quarter.
“We practice all week, stopping that fullback trap, and then they spring it on the first play. That’s a tough blow right off the start,” Harper Creek coach Mike Seedorff said.
On the Beavers’ next possession, Harper Creek drove the ball down field, but then had its drive stopped after a fumble. Coldwater scored five plays later on a 26-yard touchdown run by Spencer Burns to make it 14-0 with 1:57 left in the quarter.
The two early scores seemed to set the tone for the undefeated Cardinals.
“We wanted to start off fast. It was their Homecoming, we knew they’d be pumped up to play us. But scoring early kind of stuns you if you are the other team and that set the tone for the rest of the game,” Schorfhaar said.
Burns added two more touchdown runs in the first half to help Coldwater lead 27-0 at halftime.
Then the Cardinals opened the second half with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Luke Beckhusen to Burns to make it 33-0. Coldwater’s final score came on a 10-yard run by backup running back Collin Torrey.
Burns led Coldwater with 118 yards rushing on nine carries with DeMeester adding 86 yards rushing and Torrey getting 76. Brandon Lewis had five tackles to lead the Cardinals defense.
Harper Creek add two late touchdowns on a quarterback sneak from a yard out by backup signal caller A.J. Mitchell and a scoring plunge from a yard out by Zack Wilson.
Wilson led the Beavers with 111 yards rushing on 12 carries. Harper Creek quarterback David Thompson was 10-of-16 throwing for 71 yards. Zac Smith had five tackles to lead the Beavers defense.
“That’s a great football team, on both sides of the ball. Their backs run really hard, their line comes off the ball hard. They are a physical football team. You can see they are going to make a nice run,” Seedorff said. “That’s good for Coldwater. That community deserves to have something good happen to their football program.”
Last season, Coldwater beat Harper Creek for the first time in 20 seasons. With this win, it was the first time the Cardinals beat the Beavers twice in a row since 1992.
“It feels great to be on this side of a score like. Harper Creek has dominated us pretty much every year for the last 20 years, so to beat them back-to-back feels pretty good,” Schorfhaar said.
Bill Broderick can be reached at email@example.com or 269-966-0678. Follow him on Twitter:@billbroderick