MINSTER — Opposing coaches have referred to Anna’s backfield combo of senior running back Riley Huelskamp and senior quarterback Bart Bixler as a “two-headed monster” this season.
The two athletic players are enough to make any team in Division VI good. But the Rockets’ surrounding cast has made the team into one of Ohio’s best, as it proved again with a dominating playoff win on Friday.
The Rockets earned their first playoff win in 10 years by beating Midwest Athletic Conference rival Minster 47-21 in a Div. VI regional quarterfinal at Minster Memorial Field on Friday.
It was also the first defeat of the Wildcats in 10 years for Anna, which has struggled in postseason play since the program began two decades ago. Entering Friday’s game, the squad had a 2-11 playoff record.
The Rockets (10-1) picked up their third playoff win in program history on Friday and will try to win many more in the coming weeks. Friday’s win advances the team to a D-VI regional semifinal against Sherwood Fairview (10-1), which will kick off this Friday at 7 p.m. at Wapakoneta’s Harmon Field.
Huelskamp ran for 291 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries in the win while Bixler ran for 139 yards and two TDs on 23 carries and completed 8-of-9 passes for 165 yards and one TD. Each also had an interception on defense.
“That is a talented team we faced tonight,” Anna coach Nick Marino said of Minster. “Except for Marion Local, they were the best against us. Two great guys in our backfield carried us all night.”
But other players shined on Friday — including Anna’s linemen, which held off pressure from Minster’s sizeable counterparts.
Other key players like Jeffrey Richards and Kamren Steward came up with key plays. Richards came up with a big 52-yard touchdown catch, and Steward recorded an interception.
The Rockets amassed 603 offensive yards against Minster and started early.
After Minster went three-and-out on its first two drives, Huelskamp scored on a 27-yard run with 2:17 left in the first quarter to put the Rockets ahead 7-0.
The Wildcats finally got going on offense. After senior quarterback Jacob Niemeyer threw three consecutive passes to Trent Roetgerman to move the ball into the red zone, Alex Schmitmeyer capped off the drive with a 1-yard TD run to tie it 7-7 with 10:05 left in the second quarter.
But the Rockets took over from there. Bixler scored on a 62-yard run 45 seconds later, then Huelskamp intercepted a Niemeyer pass. He capped off a 52-yard drive after the interception with a 3-yard run with 5:34 left in the second to give the squad a 21-7 lead with 5:34 left.
The Wildcats quickly punted again, and Huelskamp followed with three big runs, including one run for 45 yards. Bixler ran in from three yards out with 38 seconds left to boost the lead to 20 points after a missed extra point.
Niemeyer connected with Roetgerman on several quick passes, the last of which was an 11-yard TD pass with five seconds left in the half to cut the halftime deficit to 27-14.
Adam Ketner intercepted a Bixler pass early in the third quarter, and Niemeyer threw a 49-yard bomb for a TD with nine minutes left in the third quarter to bring Minster within 27-21.
But the Rockets quickly regained momentum. Bixler threw a 52-yard TD pass to Richards with 6:12 left to put the Rockets ahead 34-21.
Huelskamp credited Richards for making a tough catch after the game to help the team regain control.
“That pass (Richards) caught was special. It kept us on the move,” Huelskamp said. “(Minster) is a great team. I played AAU (basketball) with some of these guys and we’re friends off the field. They gave great effort. I have a lot of respect.”
Hueslkamp gave a great effort in the fourth quarter to help the team pull away. He scored on a 7-yard run with 11:30 left to boost the lead back to 20 points. After Steward came up with an interception, Huelskamp busted through the line for a 39-yard run with 9:22 left to increase the advantage to 47-21 after a missed PAT.
The Rockets had 438 rushing yards in the game while Minster managed 357 yards of total offense.
Niemeyer ended up with 263 yards passing with two TDs and three interceptions. Schmitmeyer, a senior, was the MAC’s second leading rusher in regular season but was held to 42 yards on 12 carries by Anna.
The Wildcats, which tied with Anna and Marion Local for the MAC title, finish 9-2 overall.