Records can be deceiving. Just ask the Barnesville Shamrocks.
Caldwell entered the Land of The Pumpkins Friday night winless in five starts this season. Yet the Redskins have been making great strides, nearly pulling off shockers in their last two starts, dropping one-possession nods to Monroe Central and River, respectively.
Barnesville, meanwhile, brought an eyebrow-raising 4-1 mark into the contest, in what many thought would be a massive rebuilding campaign.
BARNESVILLE WIDE receiver Dylan Burkhart makes a reception during the first half of Friday’s game against Caldwell. The Shamrocks saw their four-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the winless Redskins. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
Caldwell reinforced the notion it is a vastly improved team by delivering a convincing 25-7 triumph over the Shamrocks, dampening the Pumpkin Festival activities.
"We saw on film that Caldwell was a good team. I give their coaches and players credit," said first-year Barnesville boss Matt Johnson, who has done a marvelous job this fall. "They were 0-3 and changed their entire offensive concept. It was a great coaching move and their players bought into it.
"The last two weeks they were on the verge off knocking off two real good teams," Johnson continued. "Caldwell doesn't throw the ball, but tonight they didn't have to."
Despite the setback, the Shamrocks are achieving much more than anyone ever anticipated. The Red & Green lost a superb senior class as well as a highly successful head coach. Johnson's enthusiasm was not dampened in defeat.
"Tonight just wasn't our night. We had a couple of opportunities we didn't take advantage of and it came back to hurt us," said the classy Johnson. "But we will bounce back. I have a lot of faith and confidence in my kids and staff. Give Caldwell credit, they played extremely well."
Barnesville scored on the game's initial possession. The Shamrocks took possession of the opening kickoff and needed six plays to cover 53 yards. Versatile Shamrock quarterback Kyle Yaquinta rolled right and located Brandon Burkhart for a 13-yard scoring connection. David Brown added the PAT.
The Shamrocks could have made life rough on the Noble Countians if it capitalized on Burkhart's fumble recovery at the Caldwell 25 just minutes later.
The Shamrocks advanced to the two but the drive was foiled by two bad snaps, a quarterback sack and an incompletion.
It would prove a harbinger of things to come.
Caldwell subsequently stunned the hosts with a quick-striking 77-yard drive on just four plays, capped by freshman Jack Ridenour's four-yard run. The run for two came up short, keeping the Shamrocks on top, 7-6.
The second half proved all Caldwell.
The Redskins grabbed the lead for good on their second possession after intermission. Starting at the Shamrock 29 following a short punt, five running plays had the visitors again in paydirt, courtesy of a six-yard burst by Caleb VanMeter. The run for the points came up short, keeping the Redskins' edge at 12-7.
Barnesville frittered away another golden scoring chance early in the fourth after Collin Wilson covered a Caldwell bobble at the Redskins' 42. Two runs set up a third and three only to see the Shamrocks jump offside. An incompletion followed, forcing a Barnesville punt.
Caldwell added breathing room three snaps later as VanMeter took it 82 yards for the clincher with 5:48 to play. The 175-pound senior tacked on a final TD run from 15 yards out in the waning moments.
Remarkably, Caldwell did not attempt a pass. The winners did, however, rush for 294 stripes.
"We have set football back 60 years," said an elated Josh Perkins. "We switched things up after our third game and started to play much better. Despite being 0-5, the kids started to believe and develop confidence.
"We play the way we have to. We have tough kids and they pull for one another," Perkins added. "This is a nice win against a well-coached and quality team. But this is just the starting point. We have a lot of goals we still want to attain."
Barnesville was victimized by some shoddy tackling and several dropped passes. Brown, however, was exceptional defensively in defeat.
The Shamrocks will try and rebound next Saturday night against Steubenville Central at Harding Stadium.
Caldwell will bid to make it two straight when it travels to Frontier.