ANNA — Each of Anna’s wins this season have come by running-clock margins of 30 points or more. The squad earned another on Friday at Booster Field — its seventh of the season.
This one was unlike any of the previous six, though, and will long be remembered as one of the program’s best victories.
The Rockets dominated from the start against previously undefeated Coldwater (which entered the game as the top-ranked team in Division VI in the state Associated Press poll) and earned a 49-8 victory in a Midwest Athletic Conference game.
Anna coach Nick Marino said before this season that the squad wanted to leave no doubt as far as it being a legitimate MAC powerhouse.
If there were any doubters left before Friday, there aren’t now.
The Cavaliers entered the game averaging 402 yards and 42 points per game and while allowing conference lows in points (11.1) and yards (236) per game.
The Rockets (7-1, 5-1 MAC) didn’t have much problem either moving the ball against Coldwater or shutting down the squad’s high-powered offense led by quarterback Jake Hemmelgarn. They moved the ball as well as they have all season and racked up 395 yards while holding the Cavaliers (7-1, 5-1) to a season-low 172.
“Our front seven guys were just lights out tonight,” Marino said. “They played very solid and controlled the game for us. They gave us great field position on our possessions and then the offense moved the ball.”
Anna senior quarterback Bart Bixler ran for 164 yards and three touchdowns and completed 7-of-8 passes for 76 yards and two TDs in the victory. Senior RB Riley Huelskamp ran for 148 yards and two TDs on 20 carries.
The Rockets wasted no time taking a lead. After forcing Coldwater to punt on the first series of the game, Bixler scored on a 24-yard touchdown run with 8:35 left in the first quarter to give the team a 7-0 lead.
After Coldwater muffed a punt on its next series, the Rockets started their second drive with good field position and quickly scored on a 26-yard run by Bixler to take a 14-0 lead with four minutes left in the first quarter.
Hemmelgarn, who had thrown for 1,425 yards and run for 697 in the team’s first seven games, couldn’t get Coldwater’s offense going. He was sacked on third down on the team’s third offensive series of the game and was then stuffed while trying to convert a fourth down.
“Our defense continued to get better as the night went on,” Marino said. “We had a great week of practice and that rolled over tonight.”
Bixler scored on a 12-yard run to increase the lead to 21-0 and later threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jeffrey Richards on Anna’s next drive to boost the lead to a four-touchdown margin.
Hemmelgarn fumbled at Coldwater’s 16-yard line on the next drive after being hit by Anna defensive lineman Malachi Minnich. Huelskamp went the distance in two plays and scored on a 9-yard run to boost the lead to 35-0 with 10:07 left in the second quarter.
After Coldwater was again quickly forced to punt, Huelskamp and Bixler put on a show on the ground on the next drive and quickly moved the team into the red zone. Bixler then threw a 4-yard TD pass to Isaac Linger just before halftime to increase the lead to 42-0.
With the scoring gap well over 30 points, the entire second half was played with a running clock. Huelskamp scored in the third quarter on an impressive sweep run in which he ran left toward the sideline, kept his feet away from the sideline and body away from Coldwater defenders on a 32-yard run to boost the lead to 49-0.
Coldwater finally got some offense as Alex Knapke ran 61 yards for a Cavalier TD. He gained more yards on that play than Coldwater had gotten on the ground in the whole game to that point. The Cavaliers made a two-point conversion try, but that was the end of any comeback attempt.
Hemmelgarn was 9 for 20 for 79 yards and finished with a net of 0 rushing yards.
With the win and Minster’s victory over Marion Local on Friday, Anna is tied atop MAC standings. The Rockets, Wildcats, Flyers and Coldwater each have 5-1 conference records. According to Drew Pasteur’s Fantastic50.net, the win secured a playoff berth for Anna.
The Rockets will continue MAC play when they travel to Parkway this Friday.