By Rob Kiser
Some comments made after Lehman Catholic’s 49-13 win over Lima Perry didn’t sit real well with the Cavaliers team.
So, when the two teams took the field Friday night in Division VII, Regional 28 first round playoff match, it didn’t take long for Lehman to send a message.
On Perry’s second play from scrimmage, Perry quarterback Louis Hoersten was rushed an his pass turned into a lateral.
While the Perry receiver had ideas of picking the ball up on one hop, Lehman linebacker Braiden Sherman had other ideas.
Sherman crushed the receiver, the ball rolled backwards and Lehman defensive lineman Michael Bunker picked it up on the nine-yard line and went into the end zone untouched for the first score of the game, sending Lehman on its way to a 46-6 romp.
The Cavaliers , 10-1, will play Delphos St. John’s, 7-4, at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Allen East High School.
“What a hit by Braiden Sherman,” Bunker said. “The ball was just laying there, it was easy (to score a touchdown).”
Anybody who has watched Sherman knows he doesn’t pass on the opportunity to make a big hit — and that one wasn’t by accident.
“I knew I could hit him,” Sherman said with a grin. “We knew they weren’t respecting us. It was a big pay early in the game.”
Lehman defense never let up.
“I think it is probably the best game we have played on defense all year,” Lehman coach Richard Roll said. “There were so many big plays.”
Along with Bunker’s fumble recovery for a “quick six”, Collin Haller and James Mueller recovered fumbles and Brendan O’Leary had an interception.
But, the biggest impact on defense — along with Bunker, who added a sack by simply throwing Hoersten to the ground like rag doll — was defensive back Kameron Lee.
At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, trying to throw on him usually results in a bad idea.
He had an interception on Perry’s second series, returning it 30 yards across midfield. When Perry completed a pass deep in Lehman territory near the end of the half, he simply took the ball away.
And in the second half, when a Perry receiver got 15 yards behind everyone, it looked like a big play. But, by the time the ball had arrived, Lee was there — with incredible closing speed — and knocked the ball away.
“We just made a lot of big plays tonight,” Roll said.
Bunker added Lehman’s second touchdown in the first quarter from his tight end position on a 10-yard pass from Elliott Gilardi.
“That was a nice play,” Roll said. “I was a little worried because I saw the safety (for Perry) there. And then, we made the pass and it was a touchdown.”
R.J. Bertini had the catch of the night on a 22-yard TD pass from Gilardi in the first half. Bertini made an acrobatic catch — which he said even surprised him — in the right corner of the end zone.
“That was a heck of a catch,” Roll said.
Bye-Bye: Lehman running back Owen Smith erased any doubts on consecutive carries.
Facing a third-and-21 late in the first half on its own 34, Lehman caught Perry off-guard on a perfectly designed draw play. Smith didn’t stop until he got to the end zone 66 yards later.
On his next carry — Lehman’s first play of the second half — he went 44 yards for another score.
Smith went for 102 yards on those two carries alone — and finished with 181 for the game.
“These guys might be the best offensive line in the state,” Smith said. “It was wide open.”
Not Done Yet: Those who thought Lehman’s standout receiver/defensive back Brandon Barhorst’s season and career ended with a torn ACL in the first game with Perry were mistaken. Barhorst got in for a few plays Friday and it is unlikely anything will keep him off the field this Friday.
Safety First: Lehman picked up two points when a Perry snap to the punter was so high “Shaq” couldn’t have caught it and sailed out of the end zone.
Splitting Uprights: Michael Denning had another solid night, making five six PATs and drilling a 30-yard field goal.
Hard-work rewarded: Sherman’s fourth catch of the night was a 24-yard TD pass, his first trip to the end zone this year.
“It felt good,” Sherman, who isn’t concerned with who puts the points on the board, said. “It is a team thing. If it works out that way (with him scoring), that’s great.”
He’s more concerned with teaching opponents about respect — as he did early on Friday night in a big way.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.