Cardinals Blanked In Regional Championship

New Bremen’s Wyatt Dicke (4) stiff arms Marion Local’s Carson Griesdorn (8) during Saturday’s Division VII Regional Final at Harmon Field in Wapakoneta.
Staff Writer

The Cardinals pushed with everything they had in the first half.

A big play put the Flyers on top, but the Cardinals were at the doorstep of the end zone three times in the second quarter. 

One ended with a field goal going wide left. Another drive stalled out at the opposing 22 yard line and another ended with an interception in the red zone.

Time of possession and total yardage were in the Cardinals’ favor after 24 minutes against the top-ranked team in the state. The score, however, was not.

And big plays in the third quarter gave the more experienced team another regional title.

The New Bremen football team wasn’t able to capitalize on three first-half scoring chances and had its season slip away with two big plays in the third quarter of a 27-0 loss to the Marion Local Flyers in a Division VII Region 28 final on Saturday at Harmon Field.

“We had a couple opportunities there,” said New Bremen coach Chris Schmidt, whose team ended its year 9-4. “It would have been nice to get points on the board. It’s always hard to get points on them.

“Just missed some opportunities there, unfortunately. Credit to them, they’re a good ball club. Our kids just kept battling and like I said I’m proud as heck of them.”

Marion Local (11-2), which won its ninth straight regional title and 18th overall, advances to a state semifinal against Patrick Henry at Spartan Stadium in Lima.

Kyle Muhlenkamp of Marion Local raced 20 yards up the middle of the field on a read-option to cap a 10-play scoring drive on the first possession of the second half to put the Flyers on top 14-0.

New Bremen was forced to punt on its next drive, and Nolan Bornhorst recovered a Brandon Fleck fumble to give the Cardinals the ball at their own 36.

But after managing just four yards, New Bremen had to punt and it got blocked. The next play, Muhlenkamp found Peyton Otte for a 33-yard touchdown and a 21-0 Flyer advantage.

It was the second time Muhlenkamp and Otte connected for a touchdown after striking for a 48-yard score midway through the first quarter.

The Cardinals (9-4) had an 116-69 edge in yardage at halftime, but managed just 40 more in the final two quarters.

Hays completed nine of his 15 pass attempts for 75 yards and was the team’s leading rusher with 55 hard-earned yards on 20 carries.

The Flyers, on the other hand, finished with 230 total yards, including Muhlenkamp’s 100 yards on 4-of-8 passing and Fleck’s 71 yards on 15 carries.

Hays picked off Muhlenkamp in the Cardinals’ red zone and returned it all the way to the Marion Local 22. But like each possession before it, the drive ended without points.

“We wanted them to go out and let it hang out there,” Schmidt added. “They did that, and unfortunately got beat on a couple plays over the top that really hurt us.

“Play after play they battled. We have a lot of those kids coming back so there is something to build off of, hopefully.”

Build, the Cardinals have done.

Three years ago the Cardinals were 2-8 overall and lost all eight Midwest Athletic Conference games for the fourth consecutive season. Because of that, when the MAC realigned its conference schedule, it took the Flyers, who have played in eight straight state championship games, off the slate.

In the two years since, New Bremen went 3-7 and 6-4, just narrowly missing the playoffs in 2018 and this year they advanced to the regional final for the first time in 15 years against none other than that historic Flyer program.

“Hopefully it shows the kids that with hard work, belief and trusting in what we’re doing that great things can happen,” Schmidt said. “We fell short of getting in the playoffs last year and we felt like we should have been in last year. But because of that setback, the kids really worked hard and got to see what we accomplished this year.”

Regardless of how much Saturday night’s loss hurt in the moment, or how much it still hurts in a week or a month, Schmidt and the Cardinals completed a turnaround that saw them finish with back-to-back winning records after finishing below .500 each of the previous 12 seasons. They were 0-10 four times, including both 2013 and ’14.

“Walking out here tonight we get a trophy to put in the trophy case,” Schmidt said. “We don’t have too many football trophies in our trophy case. Yeah, we would have liked maybe a different trophy, but again when you take it in context and kind of look at it, you know, where we were and where we’ve come there’s a lot to be proud of, no doubt about it.”