New Bremen started the 2018 season with hopes of ending a streak over a decade long of losing seasons — and largely being a punching bag for other Midwest Athletic Conference teams.
The Cardinals changed course and were usually the ones throwing punches last year.
New Bremen finished above .500 for the first time since 2004 with a 6-4 overall record and finished an even .500 in MAC play at 4-4. Though the Cardinals just missed out on a playoff berth in Division VII, it was the breakout season coach Chris Schmidt had hoped for going into the year.
The Cardinals finished 3-7 in 2017 and followed a pattern largely similar to other recent seasons by winning their two nonconference games and struggling the rest of the way. New Bremen did earn its first MAC victory since 2012, though, and Schmidt was optimistic before the 2018 season started with 12 returning letterwinners and 57 total players on the roster.
“We feel good about the strides we have made the last few years in terms of the direction of our football program,” Schmidt said. “We will lean on a group of 16 seniors to continue that upward trend in 2018.”
And while that senior class certainly helped, junior returning starting quarterback Nolan Bornhorst led the success and piled up rushing and passing yards through much of the year.
Bornhorst completed 10-of-17 passes for 122 yards and ran for two touchdowns to lead the squad to a 27-12 win over Benjamin Logan on the road in Week 1.
The Cardinals earned a blowout win in Week 2 in their home opener by dismantling Mississinawa Valley 48-8. New Bremen scored four touchdowns in the first quarter to set the tone and finished with 404 yards of offense. Bornhorst threw for 167 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 32 yards. Justin Tenkman led the squad on the ground with 79 yards and one TD on nine carries and Grant Selby caught two touchdown passes.
Things didn’t go well to start MAC play, though. Anna — which went on to earn a share of its first conference title in school history — beat New Bremen on its home field 42-7 in Week 3. The Cardinals managed just under 200 yards of offense in the game while Anna racked up 322 in the first half.
The Cardinals showed in Week 4 that the season was going to be different, though. They earned a 19-15 victory at Fort Recovery thanks to Bornhorst throwing a late touchdown pass to Bryce Blickle. After the Indians took a 15-12 lead with five minutes left, Bornhorst and Blickle connected on a 30-yard scoring play with 1:49 left to put the Cardinals ahead for good.
Bornhorst completed 11-of-18 passes against Fort Recovery for 177 yards and also ran for 109 yards on 19 carries. He — and the rest of New Bremen — didn’t have much offensive success the next two weeks.
St. Henry beat the Cardinals 36-0 in Week 5 in New Bremen, then Coldwater followed with a 28-0 victory on its home field in Week 6. New Bremen managed 47 yards and five first downs against St. Henry and managed 66 yards against the Cavaliers.
Those two lopsided losses didn’t turn into a trend. New Bremen beat Parkway 33-13 at home in Week 7, thanks in part to a big game from Bornhorst. Bornhorst threw for 155 yards and two touchdowns an also led the squad with 92 rushing yards. The Cardinals had 427 yards of offense as a team, and five players scored touchdowns.
The Cardinals then earned a 14-7 comeback win in a rain-soaked Week 8 game at Versailles. The Tigers led 7-0 at halftime, but Bornhorst scored on an 8-yard run in the third quarter and threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Selby in the fourth to lead the comeback.
New Bremen followed with a 36-14 victory over Delphos St. John’s in its home finale in Week 9. That set up a Week 10 showdown at Minster. A victory would not have only secured a playoff berth for the Cardinals but also likely would have earned the squad a first-round home game.
The Wildcats quickly took the drama out of the game by scoring the first three touchdowns on their way to a 25-15 win over New Bremen.
The Cardinals finished the year ranked ninth in D-VII, Region 28 — just one spot away from earning their first playoff berth since 2004.
Bornhorst finished the season in the top 10 in the MAC in rushing and passing yards with 994 passing yards and 11 touchdowns and with 508 rushing yards and six TDs. Blickle finished sixth overall in the conference with 398 receiving yards and five TDs on 18 catches.
Senior defensive end Brandon Heitkamp and senior defensive lineman Jacob Rindler were named first team all-MAC after the season.
New Bremen will open the 2019 season at Ada on Aug. 30.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.