MINSTER — Out of the 14 teams playing for state championships this weekend in Canton, Minster far and away has the most losses. It’s all part of the Wildcats’ process according to coach Geron Stokes.
Minster enters Friday’s Division VII state title game against Cuyahoga Heights with a 10-4 overall record. The Redskins are 12-1, and every team in the other six divisions is either 14-0 or 13-1.
The Wildcats’ four losses came in consecutive weeks in Midwest Athletic Conference play. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Minster lost four consecutive MAC games last year before advancing to the D-VII state title.
“My wife and I were just talking about this just the other night,” Stokes, who coached the Wildcats to the Div. VI title in 2014, said. “She asked, ‘Do you have to do that every year?’ I said no, and there’s a lot of other good coaches that don’t have to go through that. But it’s been our process of really maximizing. When the guys get stripped down, the kids get back to work and improve. The kids have been incredible with that.”
Unlike teams in many divisions, Minster doesn’t have to worry about getting eight or more wins to secure a playoff berth. From a playoff points standpoint, the Wildcats play at least two Division V teams (Anna and Versailles) and many Division VI teams, so opportunity for more points by beating larger schools is abundant.
Then there’s the consistent strength of MAC teams. Seven of the 10 teams won at least six games this season, which means the opportunity for second-level playoff points is abundant.
Since only two other MAC teams play with Minster for one of Div. VII, Region 28’s eight playoff berths each season, the odds of making the postseason are high with five or more wins.
“I think we have a little bit different mindset, values-wise,” Stokes said. “We really don’t chase wins or losses. It goes back to our mission of just trying to maximize the group, I think. With the situation we’re in (in the MAC), we have to go through some of that.”
Minster lost four consecutive games last season in Weeks 3 through 6 to Delphos St. John’s, Marion Local, Fort Recovery and St. Henry. The four losses came by an average score of 40-18. The Wildcats rebounded and won their next eight before losing to Warren JFK in the Div. VII championship game.
Minster lost close games to Fort Recovery (28-27) and Coldwater (17-16) in this season’s losing stretch but suffered lopsided defeats to Marion Local (21-7) and St. Henry (30-7). All but St. Henry were playoff teams, and Marion Local is playing for the Div. VI title on Saturday.
Aside from the Coldwater loss, Minster’s defense particularly struggled during the stretch and allowed over 300 yards each game.
The Wildcats rebounded and finished regular season on a three-game winning streak, including a 20-7 Week 10 win over Div. V playoff qualifier Anna. Minster held Anna to 248 yards in rainy conditions and forced the Rockets into six turnovers.
“Every year that we’ve had success, we’ve hit rock bottom and went into the locker room at halftime or right after a game and said, ‘Man, we are terrible. We are not doing things really well right now.’ From that point on, our kids have been incredibly humbled about the fact that we just have to get to work and get better. That’s just our nature.”
The D-VII state final kicks off at 10 a.m. on Friday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. Presale tickets will be available at Minster High School from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.