CANTON — A slow start didn’t prevent Minster from winning the Division VII state championship on Friday, just like a slow start to Midwest Athletic Conference play didn’t prevent the team from reaching the game.
Minster beat Cuyahoga Heights 32-7 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium to capture the title. The game was tied 7-7 until the Wildcats scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the second quarter to pull ahead.
“I just thought everyone in attendance saw the character and the toughness, the amount of care they have for one another,” Minster Coach Geron Stokes said of Minster’s players. “… I just thought it was a cool display of who these guys are as people, not just football players.”
It’s the second football state title for Minster in the last four years and the third appearance in a state championship game.
But with a 3-4 record heading into the home stretch of the 10-game regular season, state championship thoughts weren’t on anyone’s mind.
“We were 3-4, and it’s not a BS story,” Stokes said. “We were just trying to have a good lift on Monday morning, and then repeat it Tuesday, and repeat it Wednesday. That’s how we do things.”
It’s the second consecutive season that Minster has endured a four-game losing streak in MAC play.
That hasn’t been a bad thing for Minster. The conference has had four teams win state titles this decade and three teams win multiple state titles, including in 2014, when Coldwater, Minster and Marion Local won titles.
The grind of the conference schedule has made Minster better according to Stokes. Minster also lost four consecutive MAC games last year and started the season 2-4 before advancing to the D-VII championship game.
After a 3-4 start this season, Stokes credited the team’s willingness to practice for the improvement.
“The amount of investment and that this senior group has, with the amount of time and energy in the weight room, the amount of getting better and the amount of discomfort they’ve went through, really made us be a close-knit group,” Stokes said. “I think that was on display today.
“… They show up in the mornings and take feedback every single morning. They’ve worked and become a unit. They were just a bunch of individuals at first. None of them were close friends, and I think that’s the coolest thing about football. You get to Week 15, and it just show happens they’re really, really close.”
Senior quarterback Jared Huelsman accounted for 362 yards of offense in the game and ran for three touchdowns. Though Huelsman had many similar Herculean efforts this season, Stokes said the team couldn’t have won the title without much improvement after the 3-4 start.
Among the areas Stokes said improved through the season were the team’s defensive secondary and the offensive line. Senior Isaac Schmiesing, who had two interceptions on Saturday, said it started with intensity in practice.
“It’s just a credit to our work ethic and our practices this year,” Schmiesing said. “We’ve really stepped it up as seniors.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.