NEW BREMEN — New Bremen’s 2017 football season was much like other recent ones — two blowout nonconference wins to start the season followed by struggles in Midwest Athletic Conference play.
But the Cardinals took what they hope are steps toward returning the program to one of the MAC’s best. New Bremen won its first conference game since 2012 with a 34-20 win over Parkway in Week 5 and also played Anna and Versailles to close losses during a 3-7 campaign.
New Bremen returned 17 letterwinners from 2016 and had 53 players at the start of the season, which coach Chris Schmidt said was the highest in several years.
“Last year we wanted to win our nonconference games and become more competitive versus our league opponents,” Schmidt said before the season. “This year we would like to take the next step of winning our nonconference games and winning games in our league.”
The Cardinals got a quick start to those goals by opening the season with a 48-0 depantsing of Bradford at home. Sophomore quarterback Nolan Bornhorst ran for two touchdowns (one of which for 64 yards) and senior running back Avery Powers ran for three TDs in the first half to help the Cardinals amass a 35-0 lead.
New Bremen racked up 317 total yards of offense, while the Railroaders finished with negative 21 yards. Bornhorst led the squad rushing-wise with 11 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns and completed 4-of-6 passes for 92 yards.
The squad had similar success in Week 2 on the road against Mississinawa Valley. After New Bremen took a 3-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, Bornhorst threw a 26-yard touchdown pass and senior Levi Clem returned an interception 20 yards to boost the lead to 16-0.
Powers ran for a 1-yard score and caught a 6-yard pass from Bornhorst in the third quarter to start the running clock in the victory. The Cardinals had 236 yards of offense in the win while the Blackhawks had 100. Powers lead the team on the ground with 109 yards on 15 carries.
New Bremen started MAC play in Week 3 with St. Henry and saw a reversal of roles. The Redskins won 35-0 and held the Cardinals to 63 yards of offense. New Bremen lost two fumbles and had one interception in the loss.
The Cardinals traveled to Anna in Week 4 and had a strong showing after a slow start. Anna took a 28-7 lead on the first play of the third quarter, but New Bremen rallied.
Powers scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with 2:15 left in the third, then Bornhorst threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Powers with 5:10 left in the fourth to cut the gap to eight points after a missed extra point.
New Bremen threatened to tie the game late after driving into Anna territory but turned the ball over on downs with a little under two minutes left.
Schmidt was pleased to see the team fight back against the Rockets.
“Our kids battled all the way to the end, and that was awesome,” Schmidt said. “In the past when that situation happens, we haven’t always responded in a positive manner. Tonight we just kept playing, made some plays, got momentum turned a little bit. I’m disappointed we came up short, but I’m tremendously proud of the effort and the grittiness our kids displayed tonight against a really good Anna team.”
The Rockets averaged 471 yards and 50 points per game in its first three games but had 292 yards against New Bremen. Bornhorst ran for 133 yards on 37 carries and completed 5-of-19 passes for 56 yards.
The Cardinals followed up their strong finish against Anna with their first MAC win since 2012. New Bremen beat Parkway 34-20 in a home game in Week 5.
The Cardinals scored a touchdown late in the first half to take a 27-12 halftime lead, and Powers scored on a short run early in the third to push the lead to 34-12. Powers ran for over 200 yards while Bornhorst ran for 155 yards. Bornhorst threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, while Powers ran for two TDs and caught a touchdown pass.
New Bremen kept its offense going at Delphos St. John’s in Week 6, but the Blue Jays outgunned them for a 61-28 win.
Bornhorst threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior Caleb Alig in the third quarter to pull the Cardinals within 42-28, but St. John’s scored three more touchdowns before the end of the game. The Blue Jays had 453 yards of offense while New Bremen had 300, 168 of which came through the air.
The Cardinals lost to eventual Division VI state champion Marion Local 44-7 in Week 7 and to eventual Div. VII state champ Minster 42-21 in Week 8. Their final home game was Week 9, and they lost 38-7 to Fort Recovery.
New Bremen closed the season with a trip to Versailles and lost 21-6 in constant rain. The game was scoreless at halftime, but the Tigers scored the first three touchdowns of the second half to take control. Powers returned a kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown to put the Cardinals on the board.
Powers was first team all-MAC as an athlete/utility, while junior defensive end Brandon Heitkamp was second team. Alig, Andrew Bowers and Zach Flaute were honorable mention.
Powers finished the season with 769 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns while Bornhorst rushed for 695 yards and four TDs. Powers was the team’s leading receiver, as he caught 30 passes for 370 yards and six touchdowns.
Powers also was among the MAC’s leaders in punt and kick returns. He returned 27 kickoffs for 593 yards and one touchdown and returned 10 punts for 142 yards.
Heitkamp was tied for first in the MAC with four fumble recoveries and tied for fifth with five sacks.
New Bremen will open the 2018 season on Aug. 24 at Benjamin Logan.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.