WAPAKONETA — Up 28-26 after giving up a touchdown, New Bremen stopped Lima Central Catholic on the two-point conversion that helped send the Cardinals to the Division VII state championship game with a 28-26 victory against the Thunderbirds on Friday night.
New Bremen (9-2) will face Warren John F. Kennedy in the state final game at at 2 p.m. this Friday at Fortress Obetz in suburban Columbus. Warren JFK (9-2) beat Newark Catholic 20-13 in a state semifinal to advance to the championship game.
LCC ends its season with a 9-2 mark.
Down 28-20, Lima Central Catholic had one final shot to tie the score with just more than four minutes left in the game and when Thunderbird quarterback Evan Unruh found Connor Gephart with a five yard touchdown pass with a 31 seconds left on the clock, LCC needed the two-points to tie and force it into overtime.
However the Cardinal defense produced its biggest stop of the game when Unruh scrambled to his right and tried to dive into the end zone but was met with a trio of Cardinal defenders who pulled him down before he could break into the end zone.
“I told the kids at halftime that we were playing tight and we were playing not to lose and to go win and I told them let’s just leave it all out there and play to win and let it loose and go for it and thankfully that happened,” New Bremen coach Chris Schmidt said.
“That (two-point conversion stop) was huge. I don’t know how close it was and I don’t care because when they said he was down that is all I needed to know.”
When Lima Central Catholic hit an 89-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter it appeared the Thunderbirds had all the momentum against New Bremen after going up 20-7 with 10:39 in the third quarter.
However, New Bremen never blinked and the Cardinals scored 21 unanswered points to down the to take control of the game.
New Bremen rode the legs of quarterback Mitchell Hays and Hunter Schaefer to the victory.
After being held in check for the majority of the first half, New Bremen found its footing in the second half as Hays exploded for 138 of his 179 yards in the second half. The Cardinal signal caller had two touchdowns including a 50-yard scamper in the third quarter to pull the Cardinals within six and then scored what turned out to be the game winner when he burst his way into the end zone from six yards out on a fourth and 1 with 4:21 left in the game. After the successful extra point, New Bremen led 28-20.
Schaefer, who finished with 70 yards on seven carries had the Cardinals other touchdown.
LCC, who had relied on the running game for its postseason wins, utilized the passing game to score points. Unruh finished the game 16 for 27 for 332 yards and three touchdowns and one interception.
Thunderbird receiver Bryan Hines had a big night, catching eight passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns. He had touchdown catches of 89 and 50 yards. LCC wide out Traves Hoyles had five catches for 87 yards.
On the ground, Rossy Moore finished with 120 yards on 24 carries.
“LCC is a great team and we would answer and they would answer and thank God we found a way to make a few stops there and they showed the heart of a champion to pull that win out,” Schmidt said.
Lima Central Catholic took a 7-0 lead over New Bremen at halftime.
The Thunderbirds first score came on a two-play drive that included back-to-back passes that went 68 yards. LCC’s Evan Unruh connected with Traves Hoiles for 42 yards and then Unruh found Bryan Hines for the remaining 15 yards on a slant for the Thunderbirds first touchdown at the 3:25 mark of the first quarter.
LCC had two other big scoring opportunities in the first half.
In the first quarter, the Thunderbirds missed a 36-yard field goal with a little more than five minutes remaining.
The Thunderbirds also had a chance with time winding down in the first half when LCC drove down to the New Bremen 6-yard line but New Bremen came up with an interception with six seconds left in the first half.
LCC’s defense kept New Bremen in check in the first half and allowed only two first downs. The Cardinals did not get their first first down until the 8:38 mark of the second quarter.
The Cardinals reached the 50 yard line and never entered Thunderbird territory in the first half.
“I can’t be more proud of them. They played and they played hard,” LCC coach Scott Palte said. “Hats off to New Bremen they played a great game and good luck to them. They really really dominated the line in the fourth quarter on offense and defense and they earned the win. I am proud of the way our kids played.”
Reach Lima News sports editor Jose Nogueras at (567) 242-0468.