ANNA — Minster’s offensive game plan isn’t too much of a secret to opponents: a lot of Jared Huelsman.
And with constant rain through Friday’s Midwest Athletic Conference, the Wildcats relied on Huelsman’s running ability to move the ball. He was up to the challenge.
Huelsman, a senior quarterback and reigning MAC offensive player of the year, ran for three touchdowns and 140 yards to lift Minster to a 20-7 win over Anna in a regular-season finale.
The Wildcats (6-4, 4-4 MAC) secured a home playoff game with the win, and Anna (7-3, 5-3) will be in the playoffs despite the loss.
“Our offensive line did a great job, our defense did a great job of putting us in great situations, but most importantly, our seniors have done a phenomenal job of forcing us to practice really well,” Minster coach Geron Stokes said. “Not just (Huelsman), but all our seniors have the last four, five or six weeks. Credit to them.”
In the sloppy conditions, ball security was a large factor in the outcome. Anna committed six turnovers in the game, and Minster had one.
“We’ve got to take better care in the ball,” Anna coach Nick Marino said. “It’s rainy, but we’ve got to take better care of the ball. We’ve got to play better in conditions like this. We still had some chances but we couldn’t find a way to win. We’ve got a lot to improve on.”
Minster took advantage of an Anna turnover in the third quarter to secure the win.
After Minster was forced to punt, Anna lost a fumble at its own 12. Huelsman ran straight up the middle untouched for a touchdown on the next play, and then ran for a two-point conversion to give Minster a 20-7 lead with 5:52 left.
The fumble was the third of the night for Anna, and two more turnovers came on interceptions in the fourth quarter by Huelsman and Austin Brown. The Rockets also had a fumble late in the fourth quarter that was recovered by Jacob Heuker.
“They did awesome,” Stokes said of Minster’s defense. “They’ve played awesome all year.”
Minster suffered a four-game losing streak in the MAC but won its last three games. The Wildcats also had a four-game skid in a 6-4 campaign last year and advanced to the Division VII state final.
The Wildcats will try for a repeat performance this year, but Stokes said a lot of work remains for that goal to be met.
“Our goal was to be at maximum efficiency at 10 o’clock tonight,” Stokes said. “We’ve got work to do. Now we’ve just got to go right back to work and do exactly what we’ve done for a long time. We’re excited. It starts on Monday, and we’ve just got to have a great Monday practice and go from there.”
Anna’s 7-3 record is its best since an 8-2 mark in 2010, which is the last time the program made the playoffs. The Rockets’ three losses in MAC play came to Marion Local, Coldwater and Minster, which all played in state championship games a year ago.
“When you look at the whole season, we’re very pleased with what we’ve done,” Marino said. “But there’s so much we can get better at. If we find out we’re in the playoffs, we’ve got to get back at it and get to work.”
Though the official playoff pairings won’t be released until Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, Drew Pasteur’s Fantastic50.net says the Rockets will be a No. 7 seed in Division V, Region 20 and travel to Middletown Madison next Friday to open postseason play.
Minster will be either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed in Division VII, Region 28. The Wildcats’ seed will be determined by the outcome of Lima Central Catholic at Gilmour Academy on Saturday. If LCC wins, Delphos St. John’s will be No. 3 seed and Minster will be No. 4. If LCC loses, the team’s seeds will be switched.
Brown led Minster with 6.5 tackles, while Huelsman had 5.5. Huelsman recovered a fumble on the first play of the game, and Alex Lehmkuhl and Alex Schmitmeyer also recovered fumbles.
Minster had 220 yards of offense in the game, all of which came on the ground. The Wildcats didn’t attempt a pass. Isaac Schmiesing ran for 80 yards to go with Huelsman’s 140.
Anna had 262 yards of offense. Riley Huelskamp led Anna with 89 rushing yards, while Aidan Endsley had 49. Travis Meyer completed 14-of-27 pass attempts for 124 yards. Caleb Kauffman led Anna’s receivers with six receptions for 50 yards.
Minster led 12-7 after the first half.
Anna fumbled at its own 28-yard line during a handoff on the first play of the game and Huelsman recovered. Minster quickly drove into the red zone, and after Anna had stopped three consecutive running plays, Huelsman ran around the line for a touchdown with 9:45 left in the first. Minster couldn’t get down the hold on the extra point but took a 6-0 lead with the touchdown.
The Rockets went 3-and-out on their next drive. The Wildcats drove to the 4-yard line on a 16-yard run by Huelsman, and he scored a touchdown from a yard out two plays later to increase the lead to 12-0 after a missed extra point.
Both teams punted on their next two drives. Riley Huelskamp ran 60 yards on the first play of Anna’s first drive in the second quarter to cut Minster’s lead to 12-7. Neither team did much on offense the rest of the first half.
Minster had 141 rushing yards in the first half and Anna had 94. Neither team had any passing yards. Huelsman had 83 rushing yards and Isaac Schmiesing had 58.
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.