MINSTER — Minster showed the last two postseasons that it can go on the road and win a Week 11 playoff game, twice coming back from Springfield Catholic Central with wins.
The Wildcats won’t need to prove it again.
The Minster football team will host the school’s first-ever home playoff game on Friday when Tri-County North comes to town in a Division VI, Region 24 semi-final.
“It’s the first time it’s happened here and it’s awesome,” Minster senior Devon Poeppelman said. “We’re going to cherish it.”
“It was big, being the first time for Minster and the way that we got it by beating Delphos, a team we hadn’t beaten in 15 years,” junior tight end Ethan Wolf said. “It’s been a great experience being a part of that.”
It’s also a third straight playoff appearance for the Wildcats in Nate Moore’s third season. “Everyone in town is excited,” Moore said.
While many area schools are evaluating their fields after a season of marshy conditions, Moore said Memorial Field is in almost pristine condition heading into the playoff game.
“Our booster club had a big capital campaign and did a lot of maintenance work,” Moore said. “Through that whole Delphos game it held up pretty well. They’ve been out there all week coring it and conditioning it, so it should be perfect.”
Minster’s balanced offense scored 29.8 points per game and split its almost 390 yards of total offense per game evenly with the pass and the run.
Korey Schultz is a home run hitter in the backfield, averaging 8.5 yards per carry with rushing 14 touchdowns.
“Korey is a special running back,” Moore said. “He’s sitting third in single-season rushing yards at Minster and this is a program that has taken pride in running the football. So to do what he’s done this year and be where he’s at is an honor for him. He’s getting to the second and third levels untouched and that’s the guys up front.”
A unit that was a question mark coming into the season, the offensive line is paving the way for Minster’s balanced offense that passes and runs for more than 190 yards.
Senior quarterback Adam Niemeyer embarks on his second playoffs as a starter with a 62 percent completion percentage and over 1,900 yards passing.
Minster features a pair of big, strong possession receivers in Devon Poeppelman (630 yards receiving, 5 TDs) and tight end Ethan Wolf (461 yards receiving, 4 TDs). Troy Kauffman is a deep threat in the passing game, averaging 22.4 yards per catch on nine receptions.
Minster’s passing offense is efficient this season.
“A lot of that is on Adam making good decisions and making good throws,” Poeppelman said. “The routes are just there. He does a good job not focusing just on one receiver and that opens it up for all of us. Short passes for me have been working well.”
Minster defensively played well this season despite coming into the season after losing Daniel Gusching, the Division VI defensive player of the year in Ohio. While the Wildcats haven’t racked up the sack numbers they did a season ago, they still hold opponents to 126.7 yards per game through the air.
Teams have been able to run against the Wildcats, gaining an average of 190 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry, but Nate Moore says the numbers are deceptive. For the most part, he’s been happy with his team’s run defense. “We’ve played some teams that are better rushing teams and we’ve been up in some games and teams ran the ball against our No. 1’s,” Moore said. “I’ve felt like we’re doing what we need to do to win. We’re better than that number.”
James Borges is a stalwart on defense, leading the team with 64 tackles. He also has 6.5 tackles for a loss. Kauffman leads the team with 7.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage for a Minster defense that held opponents to 14 or fewer points six times this season.
Tri-County North, which finished the season at 7-3, runs a Wing-T offense that features talented running back James Macpherson. He rushed for 1,095 yards and 15 touchdowns with an 8.8 yards per carry average. Macpherson went over 100 yards six times, including the final three weeks of the season. Macpherson scored seven combined touchdowns over those final three weeks of the regular season, as well. “They’ll look similar to Anna or Fort Loramie or Lehman Catholic,” Moore said. “It’s something we’ve seen before.”
Sophomore running back Colton Booth rushed for 533 yards and six touchdowns, busting out for a season-high 132 yards in Week 9 against National Trail.
Quarterback Austin Hutchins was efficient, completing 58.8 percent of his passes, throwing 18 touchowns and being picked off just five times. Hutchins’ favorite target is senior Billy Derringer, who has scored 10 receiving touchdowns and averaged 17.4 yards per catch. Senior wideout Darrin Jackson provides a deep threat. In his 11 catches, he averaged 25.2 yards per catch and scored on four of them.
Tri-County North brings pressure most every down and Minster’s players and coaches said they’ll have to be ready for it.
“They blitz about three out of every four snaps,” Moore said. “They probbably blitz more than any other team we play. They like to bring the heat. We like to do a lot of things on offense where we give the quarterback a lot of leeway, so he’ll check to different plays. We’ve been pretty successful against the blitz and pick the best option at the line of scrimmage.”