ANNA — Minster coach Geron Stokes couldn’t be happier to play Anna in Week 10 this year. The Wildcats already have a playoff berth secured, and Stokes says a game against one of the best teams in the Midwest Athletic Conference is the perfect tune-up before the playoffs.
Minster will travel to Anna for a regular-season finale between two MAC teams that, if recent history is any indication, may make long playoff runs.
The postseason isn’t a guarantee for Anna, though, without a win. The top eight teams in each region qualify for the playoffs, and the Rockets (7-2, 5-2 MAC) are currently No. 6 in Division V, Region 20. According to Drew Pasteur’s Fantastic50.net, they have an 85 percent change at a playoff berth even with a loss to Minster.
However, if three other teams in Region 20 (Greeneview, Cincinnati Reading and Brookville) win on Friday and Anna loses, the Rockets could miss qualifying.
“We’re just focused on Minster,” Anna coach Nick Marino said. “That’s been the big focus all week, and that’s the only thing we want to do. It’s senior night, and the seniors want to go out with a win.”
Regardless of whether Anna makes the postseason or not, Stokes says they’re one of the best MAC teams this season. The Rockets lead all MAC teams with an average of 359 yards and 32.5 points per game.
Anna quarterback Travis Meyer ranks among the top MAC passers despite having missed three games with an ACL injury. Meyer has thrown for 1,005 passing yards and eight touchdowns, and running backs Riley Huelskamp (857 yards) and Aidan Endsley (798) are both among the top five rushers in the conference.
“They’re as good as anyone we’ve seen,” Stokes said of Anna. “They’re extremely talented, big, physical and fast. We’ve got our work cut out for us. They attack you in all aspects, all areas of the field.”
“It’s really perfect for us in Week 10. We have to be good at defending everything, or we’ll get exposed. And if we get exposed now, it’s great, because we need to get exposed now before we get into the playoffs.”
Jared Huelsman, the defending MAC offensive player of the year, has led the Wildcats again this season. Huelsman has thrown for 1,437 yards and 10 touchdowns and has rushed for 968 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“He’s like a running back and a quarterback,” Marino said of Huelsman. “That definitely presents a challenge, for sure. …They have several good receivers on the edge. That’s another added aspect we’ve got to watch for. They’ve got big, tall receivers that can go up and get the ball.”
Minster (5-4, 3-4 MAC) averages 320 yards and 23.8 points per game. The Wildcats lost four games in a row in MAC play to Marion Local, Fort Recovery, St. Henry, and Coldwater. Stokes said he’s looking for more consistency from the team heading into the playoffs, especially on offense.
“We’re just trying to have good practices and keep getting better day-by-day,” Stokes said. “… We’ve been inconsistent. I feel like this is a great test for us, because they play great defense. They’re big and physical, and they make you do some things with their structure and scheme that will be a little uncomfortable for us. We’re going to do a few things better and attack them and hopefully play better than we have against some of these teams.”
Anna’s been able to move the ball well against every opponent other than Marion Local, which won a Week 6 matchup 32-7.
Marino said he was pleased the Rockets were able to move the ball in a 28-21 loss to Coldwater last week but said they need to play a complete game on Friday to beat Minster.
“They have a good defense,” Marino said. “Obviously, they stop the run real well and they’re very sound against the pass. With that being said, we’ve got to make sure we’re really sharp. We’re going to try to execute against it.”
Minster allows an average of 16.9 points and 288 yards per game.
“Our defense plays hard, but we’ve got our work cut out for us this week,” Stokes said. “We haven’t seen an offense like Anna’s with the quarterback play, big running backs and physical offensive lineman and good receivers. Everybody better do their job, or we’re in trouble.”
Minster lost four games last season before advancing all the way to the Division VII state final game. The Wildcats, which are one of four MAC teams to win a state title in the last four years, are hoping for a similar performance in the playoffs this year.
“I love the way we practice,” Stokes said. “Our guys attack practice the right way, so anytime you do that, you’re going to get better. We’ve just got to perform consistently on Friday nights now. I think that’s coming. If we keep practicing the way we’re practicing, we’re going to be all right.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.