LIMA — Total domination.
Coming into Friday’s Division VII state semifinal football game with Minster at Lima Spartan Stadium, Norwalk St. Paul’s offense was reeling off 445 yards per game.
But that didn’t faze the Wildcats.
Minster dominated up front all night long and handed the No. 1 team in the state its first loss of the season, 40-7.
With the victory, Minster (10-4) will face Cuyahoga Heights (12-1) in the state championship on Friday at 10 a.m. at Canton’s Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
On Friday, Minster held St. Paul (13-1) to 216 total yards (43 rushing, 173 passing).
Minster quarterback Jared Huelsman had his way with St. Paul, as he rushed for 271 yards on 44 carries and had five touchdowns. Through the air, Huelsman was 11-of-16 passing for 93 yards and a touchdown. Isaac Schmiesing had eight receptions for 72 yards and a TD.
“We were just taking what we were given,” Huelsman said. “Obviously, that (the run) was what we were given tonight. It’s just a credit to the O-line — pounding it throughout the whole game. It’s a huge credit to them. They’ve been working all year and it’s showing up.
“I didn’t know what to do with myself, having so much space to cut. But it’s a good feeling, I guess. That’s what you want to see.”
For the game, Minster recorded a total of 28 first downs, compared to St. Paul’s nine. The Wildcats rolled up 397 total yards.
“I really believe this — I think when you get a group of people that invests and works as hard as our kids do, good things happen,” Minster coach Geron Stokes said. “I really believe that. I don’t think this is an accident. I think this is sixty-some kids really buying in to a workload of time and investment to get things right. And because of that, we can go through struggles and handle adversity the right way.”
Minster got off to a quick start against St. Paul on Friday night and never let up.
After a three-and-out by St. Paul to start the game, Minster then went 72 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown. Huelsman found Schmiesing on a swing pass to the left side, and Schmiesing ran it in from 13 yards out for the score. The extra point attempt by Schmiesing was blocked, and the Wildcats led 6-0.
However, St. Paul answered.
On its very next possession, quarterback Nick Lukasko found Joey Catalano wide open, and the senior halfback rambled to the end zone for a 65-yard TD pass. The extra point by Catalano was good, giving the Flyers a 7-6 lead, which held until the end of the first quarter.
Unfortunately for St. Paul, that scoring strike would virtually be the lone bright spot on the night for the Flyers.
On its next possession, Minster mounted a 14-play, 72-yard scoring drive, capped off with a 13-yard TD run by Huelsman. With the extra point, Minster led 13-7.
At the 9:14 mark of the second quarter, Minster scored again. This time, Huelsman ran it in from 2 yards out. With the extra point, Minster led 20-7.
Right before the half, Minster capped off another long scoring drive. The Wildcats went 80 yards on 12 plays, and capped it off with a 1-yard TD run by Huelsman, his third of the game. The Wildcats went into the locker room with a commanding 26-7 lead over the Flyers.
In the first half, St. Paul managed just 32 rushing yards, and had 65 passing yards (the TD pass).
Minster, on the other hand, rolled up 199 rushing yards, 170 of those coming from Huelsman. Huelsman also threw for 77 yards. The Wildcats moved the first-down marker 18 times in the first half.
Coming into Friday’s game, St. Paul had not allowed a point in the first quarter all season.
“You could definitely feel the momentum,” Huelsman said. “It’s always great to get the momentum on your side and just use it for the rest of the game; and that’s what we did.”
Minster came out strong in the second half.
On its very first possession, Minster drove 65 yards on 11 plays for a score. Huelsman ran it in for his fourth TD of the night. With the extra point, Minster led 33-7.
Minster put the game away for good, three minutes into the fourth quarter, on Huelsman’s fifth TD run. This time, Huelsman ran it in from four yards out.
Minster will return to the state championship game for the second year in a row. Last season, the Wildcats lost to John F. Kennedy in the Division VII state title game, 24-6.
“We have to go right back to work,” Stokes said. “That’s what we do.”
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.