MASSILLON — The white screen-printed 34 on Christian Hauber’s Kirtland Hornets jersey is cracked and faded like a distressed t-shirt. Everyone else’s numbers are crisp and intact.
It’s no fashion statement, though. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound fullback earns every bit of the jersey’s degradation with a tough running style that has his team celebrating its first-ever state championship.
Kirtland captured the Division V state crown with a 28-7 win over Coldwater on Friday to cap a perfect 15-0 season.
Hauber, who will play football at Air Force, carried the ball 30 times for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was too much No. 34 for us today, I guess,” Coldwater head coach Chip Otten said.
“We talked to our kids about this game saying you’re going to have to like getting your nose bloodied,” Otten added. “He did that to us. We tried to do that, too, but they were just a little bit too much for us today.”
Hauber did all that while fighting the pain of a left ankle injury suffered in the closing minutes of the first half. Hauber, who plays both linebacker and fullback in the Hornets' triple option attack, limped noticeably throughout the game but didn't leave the game in the second half. He even played on the punt team.
“It was painful but it wasn’t bad,” Hauber said. “I got it taped up and I knew I’d be ready to go.”
Kirtland rolled up 410 yards rushing and sent the Cavaliers to yet another state title game disappointment.
“They did what they do,” Otten said. “That was the difference. They were able to control the clock and the ball.”
Coldwater’s season ended with a loss in the state championship game for the third straight season. It wasn’t a private school all-star collection of talent that did in the Cavs this time around, though. A public school on the state’s biggest stage played like it had been there before.
“It’s a privilege to get to play here three times,” Coldwater senior lineman Mark Brunet said. “It’s something special to be able to make it here for a third time. Still it’s kind of frustrating to not win one at all out of those three. Every time I felt like we had a good chance of winning. We played hard. The outcome just didn’t go our way.”
Kirtland tailback Damon Washingon rushed the ball 18 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns, including an electrifying 81-yard score in the fourth quarter to put the game away and one half of the 6,662 fans at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium into celebration.
“I’ve got this big guy over here pounding the middle and the speed guy on the outside,” Kirtland quarterback Scott Eilerman said. “There’s nothing better.”
Kirtland’s defense came into the game billed as the best in school history. It lived up to that hype.
“Our gameplan was to come in play great defense like we have all playoffs and run the football,” Kirtland head coach Tiger LaVerde said. “We didn’t vary from that plan.”
After Friday's game the Hornets had given up 98 points all season as the school coasted through its first 15 games without a challenge.
Coldwater put up a fight, but in the end the Hornets were running away from their competition once again.
The Cavaliers scored on an Austin Bruns six-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds left in the third quarter to bring the game to within 14-7, and the momentum in Tiger Stadium seemed to be turning.
Kirtland sapped any momentum away from the Cavaliers with a methodical 80-yard answer keyed by Hauber gashing the tired Coldwater run defense over and over. He finished it off with a five-yard dive into the end zone to put the Hornets up 21-7.
Kirtland took the opening kick-off and drove the ball down the field for a Hauber six-yard touchdown.
Washington added a seven-yard score with 10 seconds left in the first half to put the Hornets up 14-0 at the half.
Coldwater quarterback Austin Bruns went 18-of-34 for 249 yards passing and rushed for 75 yards and a score on 14 carries.
Coldwater ended the season, 11-4.
Coldwater ended the game with 322 yards of total offense.