Anna coach Nick Marino said before the season the team had a goal to “leave no doubt” when it came to being a legitimate Midwest Athletic Conference contender and a threat to make a playoff long run.
The Rockets accomplished the first, winning a share of the MAC title for a second consecutive year after winning their first ever last season. They’ll now try to prove they’re a contender in Division VI by beating a MAC opponent that has proven hard to defeat.
The Rockets will travel to Minster Memorial Field to take on the Wildcats in a Div. VI, Region 23 quarterfinal on Friday in the area’s most anticipated first-round playoff game.
The squads, which tied for the conference title along with Marion Local, didn’t play each other in regular season due to the 10-team MAC’s scheduling system for its eight-game conference slate.
Both squads enter the game with 9-1 records. There aren’t many similarities when it comes to playoff success, though.
Minster has won three state championships, two of which have come since coach Geron Stokes took over the program seven years ago.
Anna has a 1-10 postseason record, with its lone win coming 10 years ago — which is also the last time it beat Minster.
The Rockets have had painful postseason losses the last two years. They lost 14-10 at Middletown Madison in a mud-soaked game in 2017 after giving up a late touchdown and lost 42-35 at Elyria Catholic last year after giving up a touchdown in the final minute.
They’ll try to avoid a similar fate against Minster, which hasn’t lost a first-round playoff game since 2001.
Anna enters the game after averaging a MAC-best 410 yards of offense and 45.3 points per game in regular season. The squad gained most of its yards (301 per game) on the ground.
Senior running back Riley Huelskamp led the MAC in regular season with 1,516 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns on 161 carries. Senior quarterback Bart Bixler ranked third in the conference after gaining 1,008 yards on 124 carries and scoring 20 rushing TDs.
Bixler has led a stout passing attack this year, too. He’s completed 75-of-109 passes for 1,080 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Kamren Steward leads the team in receiving with 30 catches for 404 yards.
The Rockets also had one of the MAC’s best defenses. They allowed an average of 240 yards and 12.3 points per game, good for second in both categories behind Marion Local. Anna has a plus 13 turnover ratio.
Minster averaged 380 yards and 34.7 points per game in regular season and ranked second among MAC teams in both categories. Senior running back Alex Schmitmeyer ranked just behind Huelskamp in rushing yards with 1,502 on 247 carries and scored 20 rushing TDs.
Senior quarterback Jacob Niemeyer gained 592 rushing yards and scored 11 rushing TDs. He also completed 120-of-165 passes for 1,679 yards and 18 touchdowns with three interceptions. Trent Roetgerman leads the team with 45 catches for 841 yards with 13 touchdowns.
The Wildcats allow an average of 264 yards and 16.4 points per game and have a plus 17 turnover ratio.
It’ll be the latest reunion between Stokes and Marino, who are both Urbana High School graduates. Stokes coached at Urbana from 2009 to 2012 before leaving to take over Minster’s program. Marino succeeded Stokes at Urbana and coached there for two years before leaving to take over Anna’s program in 2015.
In matchups since then, Minster has a 3-0 record against Anna.
Hardin Northern at Fort Loramie
Fort Loramie (9-1) finished regular season and wrapped up its second consecutive Cross County Conference title by beating its last six regular-season opponents with running-clock margins.
The end was similar to last year, when the team won its last five regular-season games with running-clock margins of 30 or more points. The team opened the playoffs with another big win by beating Hamilton New Miami 41-0.
The team will try to keep following the pattern and open this season’s playoffs with a running-clock win on Saturday when its hosts Hardin Northern in a Div. VII, Region 28 quarterfinal.
The Polar Bears (8-2) finished second in the Northwest Central Conference. They average 329.5 yards and 29.4 points per game. Sophomore quarterback Nevin Robson has thrown for 1,296 yards and 15 touchdowns with eight interceptions while junior running back Owen Wetherill has run for 1,139 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Hardin Northern has allowed an average of 14 points per game but will likely be in for its biggest challenge of the season when it tries to slow Fort Loramie’s offense. The Redskins have averaged 363.5 yards and 46.6 points per game.
Fort Loramie junior quarterback Collin Moore has completed 82-of-134 passes for 1,183 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions and ran for 251 yards and five touchdowns on 34 carries.
Like last year, the Redskins’ running attack has been by committee. Junior Max Hoying leads the squad with 481 yards and 12 touchdowns while Nate Meyer has run for 403 yards and six TDs and Nick Brandewie has gained 257 yards and scored four TDs.
Brandewie leads the team’s receiving corps. He’s caught 21 passes for 458 yards with seven touchdowns. Mark Seger has caught 21 passes for 361 yards with five TDs and Damon Mescher has caught 20 passes for 244 yards with two TDs.
Fort Loramie’s defense has allowed an average of 108.3 yards and 6.3 points per game. Hoying has 52.5 tackles and a team-best 12 tackles for loss to his credit.
New Bremen at New Miami
New Bremen has earned a playoff berth for the first time since 2004 and will try to start a postseason run when it travels to Hamilton New Miami for a D-VII, Region 28 quarterfinal on Saturday.
The Vikings (10-0) finished in first place in the Miami Valley Conference Gray Division. They average 416.6 yards and 39.8 points per game and allow an average of 10.8 points per game.
New Miami junior quarterback Trey Robinette has thrown for 1,512 yards and 18 touchdowns with two interceptions and run for 288 yards and 11 TDs. Junior fullback Dylan Spivey has led the squad with 817 rushing yards and 13 TDs while junior Jordan Robinette has run for 674 yards and seven TDs.
New Bremen (7-3) averages 321 yards and 26.2 points per game and allows an average 275 yards and 22.8 points per game.
New Bremen junior quarterback Mitchell Hays has completed 33-of-83 passes for 408 yards with four TDs and five interceptions and has run for a team-best 882 yards and 12 touchdowns on 135 carries. Junior Zach Bertke has run for 757 yards and six TDs and junior Wyatt Dicke has run for 590 yards and six TDs.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.