Like a story scripted in Hollywood, Archbold drove 72 yards in less than two minutes as time expired, culminating in a 28-yard touchdown to Elijah Zimmerman and earning a 27-21 win over state-power Coldwater in the opening round of the Division VI football playoffs Friday night in Archbold.
“Our guys hung tough,” said Blue Streak coach David Dominique after the game. “That’s a tough football team right there. They are well-coached, a lot of good players. And you know, our guys hung tough. All the way until the end. They never gave in. Every week we prepare for that two-minute drill. It just worked out. Now the play at the end, Zimm, he’s one of those guys, he wanted a second chance at it. He said, ‘Throw me the ball.’ We threw him the ball and he went up and got it.”
The loss was the earliest exit from the playoffs for the Cavaliers since 2006, when they fell in the second round to Oak Harbor.
“I’m very proud for our guys, because they’ve been busting their tails all week,” said Dominique on the significance of the win. “And they know the MAC (Midwest Athletic Conference) is a great conference – some great football teams. It kind of stinks that it’s the end for them, but at the end of the day, very proud of what our guys were able to do. In believing in themselves and believing in their teammates.”
Coldwater knotted it up at 21-21 with 1:51 to go as quarterback Jake Hemmelgarn hit Will Broering over the middle, who then spun off a defender and ran in from 16 yards out.
But, that would end up being enough time for the Blue Streaks. They advanced the ball up to near midfield before a sack of DJ Newman put them back at their own 45-yard line. Following a timeout, they were left with 26 seconds on the clock.
Zimmerman hauled one in at the sideline for a gain of 19 yards on the next play. Two downs later, Noah Gomez took a screen pass to the Coldwater 28-yard line, where he went out of bounds with six seconds left.
Instead of opting for a lengthy field goal, the Streaks went to the air and Zimmerman – left single-covered – boxed out the defender and hauled in the game-winning touchdown to send the Streaks to the second round of the playoffs.
“We knew that in the short time that we had, we had to march down the field,” Zimmerman said of the final play. “They threw the ball to me earlier (that drive), and I dropped it. But I was, like, ‘Coach, if you throw it up to me again I’ll catch it.’ DJ was able to come over there and trust me enough to throw that ball to me again. I told him I’d make the catch if he did it. It was an amazing catch. Obviously, it continues our season, and that’s the biggest thing overall.”
“I’m just really happy right now. Winning like that is great motivation for our next game,” said fellow Archbold senior Antonio Cruz, who led the team in receiving with five catches for 83 yards and a score.
Zimmerman also had an interception for the Streaks, who outgained the Cavaliers 402-354. Coldwater turned it over three times, compared to zero turnovers by Archbold.
“We have the motto, bend don’t break,” said Zimmerman, speaking of the Streaks’ defense. “So whatever we do, we just want to make them snap it again. I’d just say that, overall, we’re all physical and we all trust each other. Even if someone makes a play, we’ll just go down there and make another one the next play. Keep them out of the end zone as much as we can.”
Neither team scored in the opening quarter but the Cavs struck first just past the midway point of the second. A halfback pass from Myles Blasingame to Noah Miller that went for 23 yards help set up the scoring drive.
Miller later snagged one in the end zone on second-and-goal from the four, and Brady Klingshirn’s extra point gave them a 7-0 lead.
However, the Streaks answered 1:38 later when Newman ran one in from three yards away. Devin Witte’s point after knotted the game with 4:13 before halftime.
Archbold then quickly forced a Coldwater punt, getting the ball back with under 2:45 remaining in the half. They would drive 77 yards in just nine plays for the go-ahead score, a one-yard run from Gomez to go up 14-7 at the half.
The key play of the drive was a 37-yard pass from Cruz to Brandon Taylor to get the ball down to the Cavalier 11.
Coldwater had the lone score of the third quarter, an eight-yard connection from Hemmelgarn to Miller with 1:06 left in the period. However, Archbold responded with a 54-yard strike to Cruz, retaking the lead at 21-14 with 10:03 left.
Newman completed 21 of 27 for 276 yards and two TDs, while adding a score on the ground as well. After Cruz, Taylor had three catches for 76 yards, Gomez six for 69 yards, and Zimmerman three for 57.
Hemmelgarn (18 of 30) threw for 188 yards and three scores but also tossed three interceptions. Broering notched six catches for 87 yards and a TD, and Miller caught nine for 84 and a score.
Next up for Archbold (10-1) is Liberty Center (10-1) in the Region 23 semifinal Friday night at Charles Buckenmeyer Stadium in Napoleon. The Streaks will be looking to avenge their only loss of the season, when they fell to the Tigers 39-36 in week six.
“I remember being on this field week five or six, whatever it was, and telling those guys just remember this feeling because hopefully, if we do take care of our business, we can get another shot at them,” stated Dominique of the matchup. “Now, we know they’re a good football team. We’re gonna need a great week of preparation and come back at them next Friday.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010