MINSTER — The Minster defense stonewalled the Tri-County North wing-T offense, quarterback Adam Niemeyer delivered a handful of touchdown passes and the Wildcat running backs had four-foot wide holes to run through all night long.
For one week of the playoffs, the Minster Wildcats made it look easy.
The degree of difficulty goes way up next week when the Wildcats face the Division VI defending state champions.
Minster and Marion Local will meet yet again on the playoff gridiron after Nate Moore and his Wildcats for the third straight year controlled a first-round playoff game. Second-seeded Minster held serve and breezed past visiting Tri-County North, 48-7, on Friday night at Memorial Field to set up a Week 12 postseason match-up with the rival Flyers for the third straight season.
“We looked crisp to start the game. We weren’t perfect but we did a lot of good things,” said Moore, who wore short sleeves on the sidelines even as temperatures dipped into the 30s on a — finally — dry but cool night for playoff football.
The two teams did not meet in the regular season with the Midwest Athletic Conference’s modified schedule that drops one fellow MAC school off the schedule.
“The fact that we didn’t play them in the regular season definitely adds an aspect of mystery to it,” Minster All-MAC running back Korey Schultz said. “But the coaching staff is going to put together a great report on them and we’ll be ready for the Marion Local Flyers.”
The scenario is the same as 2010 and 2011, when Minster beat Springfield Catholic Central both of those years before facing Marion Local the next week. The Flyers bounced Minster out of the playoffs in Week 12 last season, and in 2010 Minster upended the Flyers in Week 12 after reaching the postseason with a 5-5 record.
Minster and Marion Local will play on Friday, Nov. 9 at a neutral site to be announced on Sunday afternoon. The last two times the teams met in the playoffs, the games were played at Wapakoneta.
“It’s going to be a very hard-hitting ballgame,” Minster wideout and defensive back Troy Kauffman said. “They’re a very good football team. They’re the state champions. I think it’s going to be who hits the hardest that survives the four quarters and gets the win.”
The Wildcats (9-2) set siege to the program’s record books and Tri-County North’s defense throughout Friday night’s game.
Minster quarterback Adam Niemeyer threw for the second-most passing yards in a game in school history, became the first Wildcat to throw for 2,000 yards in a season and tossed five touchdown passes. Niemeyer was 15 of 21 for 257 yards passing and hit eight different receivers.
Minster wide receiver Devon Poeppelman caught 3 passes for 67 yards and set the single-season receiving mark for yards. Ethan Wolf hauled in three passes for 34 yards and two touchdowns. A.J. Huelsman had a 44-yard touchdown reception in the second half for the Wildcats.
The victory gives Minster back-to-back nine win seasons for the first time since Ken Newland led the Wildcats to nine or more wins for six straight seasons from 1987 to 1992.
Minster buried the Panthers from the beginning by scoring 20 first-quarter points.
Six-foot-five tight end Ethan Wolf caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Niemeyer to start the scoring. Wolf caught the ball at the four and bulldozed a pair of Panthers for the score just three plays from scrimmage and 1:21 into the ballgame.
Wolf scaled high into the air to bring down a seven-yard touchdown pass from Niemeyer just a few minutes later to put Minster up 14-0.
The Wildcats scored again in the first quarter on an eight-yard hookup from Niemeyer to Poeppelman.
A Korey Schultz one-yard plunge put Minster up 27-0 at the half.
Schultz rushed for 106 yards on 12 carries to go with the one-yard touchdown run.
Minster rushed for 215 yards as a team on just 24 carries. Scott Sekas had 72 yards on seven carries, including a fourth-quarter 39 yard touchdown run. Troy Kauffman slid into a running back position he played a season ago and rushed for 31 yards on four carries.
After Tri-County North’s J.J. McPherson put the Panthers on the board with a four-yard touchdown to close the gap to 27-7 midway through the third quarter, Minster answered with a 44-yard strike from Niemeyer to a wide open A.J. Huelsman down the left sideline. Minster led 34-7 through three quarters.
Jay Eilerman caught an 18-yard bullet threaded by Niemeyer through tight coverage for a touchdown early in the fourth.
Scott Sekas busted open a 39-yard touchdown run down the left sideline in the closing minutes to give Minster the 48-7 lead.
Nate Moore’s biggest concern after the game was seeing how his team came out of the game health-wise.
Minster had a handful of players leave the field with injuries, including leading tackler James Borges. Defensive lineman Garrett Hogenkamp was carted off the field on the second play of the second half.
“The injury bug really hit us tonight,” Moore said. “We need all those guys back. I’ll tell you that much.”
The two teams had a bizarre exchange of plays in the second quarter. The teams combined for three interceptions in four plays from scrimmage. After Devon Poeppelman picked off Tri-County North quarterback Austin Hutchins and returned it for 38 yards, Adam Niemeyer threw a pick for Minster on the very next play. Two plays later, Minster’s Prate Otting read an inside shuffle pass perfectly and picked it off.
MIN — Adam Niemeyer 25-yard pass to Ethan Wolf (Devon Poeppelman PAT good), M7-0, 10:39 (3 plays, 52 yards, 1:21 T.O.P.)
MIN — Niemeyer 7-yard pass to Wolf (Poeppelman PAT good), M14-0, 7:24 (3 plays, 12 yards, 1:31 T.O.P.)
MIN — Niemeyer 8-yard pass to Poeppelman (PAT failed), M20-0, 2:45 (7 plays, 70 yards, 2:16 T.O.P.)
MIN — Korey Schultz 1-yard run (Poeppelman PAT), M27-0, 3:59 (3 plays, 62 yards, 0:50 T.O.P.)
TCN – J.J. McPherson 4-yard run (PAT good), M27-7, 5:59 (10 plays, 70 yards, 6:01 T.O.P.)
MIN — Niemeyer 44-yard pass to A.J. Huelsman (Poeppelman PAT), M34-7, 4:35 (4 plays, 74 yards, 1:14 T.O.P.)
MIN — Niemeyer 18-yard pass to Jay Eilerman (Poeppelman PAT), M41-7, 9:55 (8 plays, 53 yards, 4:13 T.O.P.)
MIN — Scott Sekas 39-yard run (Poeppelman PAT), M48-7, 2:17 (5 plays, 65 yards)
Passing — Minster: Niemeyer 15-22-257, 5 TDs, INT; TCN: Hutchins 5-17-90.
Rushing — MIN: Schultz 12-106, TD, Kauffman 4-31, Niemeyer 1-6, Sekas 7-72, TD; TCN: Macpherson 9-20, Booth 10-31, Hutchins 10-(negative)10.
Receiving — MIN: Schultz 3-30, E. Wolf 3-34, Thobe 1-35, Wolf 1-3, Kauffman 2-14, Poeppelman 3-67, Huelsman 1-44, Eilerman 1-18.