Keep poundin’. Don’t blink. Keep swingin’. And fight ‘til the bell.
Sounds like words of motivational encouragement from members of a heavyweight boxer’s corner team — the trainer, cut man, and the guy sometimes referred to as the “chief second,” who is responsible for making sure that his “team” behaves within the rules.
Makes sense, right? Such “coaching” can make a difference in a heavyweight’s drive to the sound of the victory bell at the finish line.
However, what may seem far-fetched is that such a heavyweight match between two local state-title contenders — the slight favorite and the fierce challenger — is set for right here in town at Sidney Memorial Stadium on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
In fact, the “buzz” words described above were shared this week for the media by the two men in charge of their corners inside the ring, or what we should say are the sidelines on the edges of 30 and 0 Field.
Spencer Wells and Chris Schmidt, the mentors for the Fort Loramie and New Bremen football teams, respectively, have benefited from such “coaching” the last few weeks.
Trailing three times versus Ansonia, heavyweight New Bremen rallied from behind repeatedly and delivered the knockout game-winner with under a minute left last Saturday to nip upstart Ansonia, 26-22.
Down 7-0 in the first two minutes and then giving up another touchdown on virtually the final play of the first half, heavyweight Fort Loramie showed its resiliency, too, responding to quickly counter-punch Minster with TD’s on both occasions, leading to a 35-19 triumph.
We say “”heavyweights’ because that is exactly what they are. Heading into the round of 16, Fort Loramie — now 11-2 and winners of nine straight — looked around the state and saw that half of the schools on its 10-game regular season slate were still playing playoff football. By eight touchdowns, the Redskins thumped three foes that edged them in 2021.
New Bremen, 10-3, and a third-place finisher behind Marion Local and Coldwater in the rugged Midwest Athletic Conference, played a stout season schedule which included four MAC “sweet 16” clubs. In mid-September, the Cardinals scored two touchdowns against juggernaut Division VI Marion, which has blanked nine opponents in route to a fabulous 13-0 campaign.
If the Ohio High School Athletic Association “re-seeded” the final eight schools remaining in the D-VII tournament, New Bremen and Fort Loramie might very well be ranked third and fourth behind Warren John F. Kennedy and Newark Catholic. Then, the two local programs’ paths could cross in Canton.
Instead, this pair of local heavyweights will duke it out on a bitterly cold Saturday night in Sidney for a “regional” championship. Each might waver a little. Then each will take turns regaining its balance and standing tall with confidence, while landing blow after blow — and never backing down.
This contest has the potential to be a full ten-rounder with little or no chance for a technical knock-out by halftime, or round five, like so many over-hyped heavyweight bouts.
ScoresBroadcast.com and Hits 105.5 will be on the scene on Saturday to cover the game starting at 6:25 p.m. Kickoff is at 7. The winner likely meets the Antwerp-Lima Central Catholic winner at Wapakoneta’s Mercy Health/Wapak Ford Field in a state semifinal next Saturday.
Versailles, Minster and St. Henry are common opponents for New Bremen and Fort Loramie. Versailles slipped past the Redskins, 26-21, way back in August. New Bremen trimmed the Tigers 14-7. The Cardinals shut out Minster; the Redskins beat the Cats twice, by 12 and 16. New Bremen ran up 62 on St. Henry; Fort Loramie topped SH, 43-20, to begin the playoffs.
Drew Pasteur on his “Fantastic 50” website has installed New Bremen as a 10-point favorite Saturday night. Two other online forecasters around the state have the Cardinals winning by seven and 12.
“New Bremen is not a big team, but the Cardinals are athletic, play with very good leverage and technique, and are especially sound blockers and tacklers. Plus, they run the ball so well.” said Wells of Fort Loramie. “They put some real heat on Marion Local in that MAC contest.”
Wells added, “But we have sharpened our game in so many ways since midseason. We have taken care of the little things in practice and carried them over to the seven o’clock kick-off. I love the way we continue to bounce back within each contest from one series to the next.”
Still, both teams have important questions.
Can New Bremen contain Fort Loramie quarterback Caleb Maurer and his club’s excellent passing attack? Can Fort Loramie slow down New Bremen’s quarterback David Homan and his squad’s major advances on the ground?
The Redskins and Cardinals will be wary for additional reasons.
In a regional semifinal, Homan threw a very late, clutch TD strike to tight end Ben Sailer to tame the Ansonia Tigers. Homan, like Maurer, can fire the football on time and on the money.
And like Homan, Maurer can beat you with his legs. He rambled for 120 yards on the ground to quiet the Wildcats of Minster last Saturday and tossed the football only 16 times. He even snared a short touchdown heave from Christian McGee.
Both clubs are extremely versatile. But, for sure, the strategists on the coaching sidelines will try to take away some of the other team’s strengths.
Does Fort Loramie stack the box and clog the running lanes for Homan and rock-solid running back Hunter Schaefer? Does New Bremen pressure Maurer with five or more on the defensive line and a couple sneaky blitzers who try to quickly break down pass protection?
In the only recent meeting between the two programs, New Bremen won a 2020 D-VII regional semi-final, 16-8, and then went on to take the state title. That victory and the Cards’ 24-17 triumph over Marion Local the next week were, by far, New Bremen’s toughest tilts during that great post-season run.
One of the more memorable quotes following this game came from Coach Schmidt of New Bremen.
“We knew we couldn’t let him sit back and have a lot of time,” said Schmidt of Collin Moore, Fort Loramie’s outstanding quarterback. “He throws a great ball when he is more comfortable. We wanted to make it as hard as we could on him and his offense.”
By the way, the Redskins punted the football on their first six possessions of the night and mustered just over 200 yards. Eleven plays from scrimmage lost yardage.
This evening, the “escapability” of Maurer will come into play.
Fort Loramie did spring a big bomb in that playoff scrap two years ago. Logan Eilerman, then a sophomore, shook loose for a 60 yard catch and run. But it was FL’s only score.
The Redskins may need a few more big chunk plays versus the Cardinals in this rematch. Eilerman is one short of 100 receptions on the campaign for nearly a full mile in yards gained. Maurer has thrown for 3200-plus yards, or nearly two miles.
The 6-foot-2 Homan and Schaefer, who is 5-11 and 195 pounds, have each crossed the goal line 21 times for New Bremen. They rack up close to seven yards per carry. And they are very difficult to haul to the turf.
The defenses of both teams are much improved since August. Homan, who doubles at safety, and talented linebackers Dylan Bambauer and Evan Eyink have totaled nearly 200 tackles. For Fort Loramie, Calvin Hoying, Nate Boerger and McGee are right at 200, as well.
If this were a match in kick boxing, the bout would end in a draw. McGee is averaging an amazing 30 yards per kick-off return. Aden Bolin has been Mr. Consistent stroking extra points with that right leg. Place-kicker Hunter Schaefer and punter Hayden Zeller were first team All-MAC performers for New Bremen.
And then there are those hard-to-predict intangibles like turnovers and field position, which will ultimately go a long way to deciding the outcome.
Each club fields a star-studded cast. Eight Redskins, four on offense and four on defense, were named this week to the all-Southwest District first unit. Logan Eilerman and Calvin Hoying were players of the year on offense and defense. At the end of October, four Cardinals earned six spots on the MAC’s number one offense, defense and special teams.
Saturday night’s temperatures may dip into the 20’s. The players on these two terrific teams will don some gloves. They will jab at first and then swing some hooks and haymakers back and forth.
But these two exceptionally well-coached programs will not show a sign of weakness.
Neither heavyweight will flinch.