Cards Look To Stick With What Got Them To Playoffs

Staff Writer

The mercury is approaching record lows and there's snow on the ground.

The Cardinals are not used to being in this position. At least this year's group isn't.

As they headed to the practice field covered in the wintry precipitation this week, it's been nothing but business as usual.

"I guess it's a good problem to have when you're worried about there being snow on the ground," said New Bremen football coach Chris Schmidt, whose 8-3 Cardinals meet the Perry Commodores (8-3) at 7 p.m. Saturday in a Division VII, Region 28 semifinal at Piqua Alexander Stadium.

"I think they really embraced it," Schmidt continued. "For the most part we still try to keep it a week-by-week focus.

"Obviously there's a little bit of added energy and enthusiasm because of the opportunity and being able to play at a great stadium like Piqua. It's exciting, but at the same time I think the kids have done a good job of staying focused and playing day-by-day."

That mindset includes sticking with the same offensive game plan it has all season and being a run-first squad. The Cardinals, who finished the season ranked No. 13 in the polls and entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed, were second in the Midwest Athletic Conference in rushing yards per game with 256.7. New Bremen destroyed that mark with 386 yards in its 45-15 victory over top-seeded New Miami in the regional quarterfinal last week.

Perry, which earned a playoff berth for just the second time in program history after qualifying in 2017, earned its first postseason victory by defeating Cincinnati College Prep 44-0.

"There's an old saying, 'You dance with the girl you came with,'" Schmidt said. "We're going to try to run the football and hopefully that is a way to possess the ball and keep time on our side and limit their opportunities offensively."

A key to that will be taking care of the football, as the Commodores — since losing their first three games they've won eight in a row, including going 7-0 to win the Northwest Central Conference — have forced 30 turnovers defensively.

Senior free safety Chazz Jackson has seven interceptions — one returned for a touchdown — and a pair of fumble recoveries, and junior DeVares Glenn has five picks and two fumble recoveries to his name.

The responsibility of limiting those turnovers rests mostly with Mitchell Hays.

"Just be smart with the football," Schmidt said. "Command the offense, get guys in the right place.

"He has big play potential too but at the same time we want him to be smart about it when he has the opportunities and not force something."

Offensively, Perry's sophomore southpaw quarterback Ryan Yingst is the jack-of-all trades. He's completed 57.8 percent of his passes (115-of-199) for 1,775 yards with 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Yingst is just as lethal with his legs as he's the team's leading rusher with 917 yards on 131 carries with 16 TDs.

"They're probably most dangerous offensively when a play breaks down," Schmidt said. "When (Yingst) is scrambling around, he either decides to run wit it or throw it up deep to a couple good receivers to make plays.

"That scares you as a coach, the big potential they have."

Jackson is Yingst's favorite target, as they've connected 49 times for 974 yards (19.9  ypc) and 16 touchdowns. Terry Riley has 34 catches for 404 yards and four TDs, while Glenn has caught 15 passes for 237 yards and five scores.

Schmidt said he won't do anything specific to contain Yingst, just return to that dance floor and what got the Cardinals back to the regional semifinal for the first time in 15 years.

"We just have to do our jobs and execute and make sure we're not getting out of position or not doing something we're not supposed to do," he said.

Jackson and Glenn are also dangerous on special teams. Jackson has returned two kickoffs to the house and taken one punt back for a score. Glenn has a pair of pick-6s and one kick return touchdown.

Although the Commodores — with a roster of just 23 — are athletic and explosive, Schmidt thinks a strong MAC schedule has prepared the New Bremen for just about anything.

"So many (MAC) teams are well-coached and there are so many good players," he said. "You have to be sound in all phases of the game … if you're not doing something that's sound then teams will try to expose you on it very quick.

"I think that's why, at least from my perspective, MAC teams are so successful historically against non-MAC teams in the playoffs."