Minster’s remarkable run came to an end with an admirable concession from its coach. John F. Kennedy played well. “They’re deserved to be a state champion.”
Columbus – One of the most honorable tenents of Midwest Athletic Conference football is honesty. No one ever ducks a worthy opponent, or the outcome if it doesn’t go your way. I’ve never met a coach yet who didn’t admire an opponent who truly deserved to win.
So it was Saturday when the season of miraculous turnaround that defined the Minster Wildcats came to an end at the hands of Warren John F. Kennedy. Behind an indefatiguable effort by running back Evan Boyd (36 carries and 166 yards) the Eagles brought Minster back to reality with a convincing 24-6 win in the Division VII finals at Ohio Stadium.
The reality part was simply this. Minster made too many mistakes – too many turnovers. And this, as well. Every now and then you’re going to run up against someone that takes away everything that you want to do…that you’ve done previously to get to the state championship game. So it was with JFK.
“They were a really good football team that deserved a state championship,” said Geron Stokes in his most matter-of-fact personality. “They played the game the right way – they were physical and tough, and they created problems for us the whole game. You can’t get this far, to play in a building like this, and turn the ball over the way we did. We hadn’t turned the ball over all year and to do it here is just bad timing. And they (JFK) had a lot to do with it.
“I’m just really proud of the way the kids have battled – how they fought. When the clock hit zero at the end…that was end of our season but we weren’t defeated. And that’s a credit to our seniors.”
JFK was tough. They were athletic, quick, and flew to the football on defense. In truth, they DID take away a lot of the things that Minster had done throughout the year to turn their season around…and earn their second trip to the finals in three years.
Minster hit one big play early – a fifty-yard bomb down the middle of the field of which junior Isaac Schmiesing made a circus, over-the-shoulder catch to set up the ‘Cats only score of the game. But never again.
JFK won the line of scrimmage and pressured quarterback Jared Huelsman to the point of not having time to scan the field and find open receivers…if there were any.
JFK’s linebackers loomed behind their front with speed and pursuit, dogging Huelsman and Bryce Schmiesing every time they broke contain. In short…in Stokes’ words…they just played that well.
“They took everything away,” he said flatly in his post-game conference. “They blitzed, they stunted, they attacked…they were quick. They flew to the football and that rattled us. We hit a couple of creases with the run game, but you don’t consistently move the ball against a team that physical that can fly to the football like that. Their #11 was everywhere (Alec Burzynski). He was in the ‘A’ gap, the ‘B’ gap, he blitzed from the edge, and he rattled our quarterback because of that. That’s what good defenses do.”
But Minster was in large part responsible for their own undoing. Three turnovers, a fumble by Jared Huelsman, an interception on a pass that bounced of the hands of Bryce Schmiesing, and a fumbled kickoff return by Jonathan Niemeyer…all within a three minute span in the second quarter…set JFK up for 10 unanswered second quarter points, and effectively set the tone for the rest of the game.
Out of their comfort zone, the Wildcats became tentative, less of the aggressor they’d been throughout their playoff run, and a victim to JFK’s surging confidence and momentum.
“I want to say this about Minster,” said JFK coach Jeff Bayuk. “I give them all the credit in the world for turning their season around they way they did to get here. That’s the sign of a dangerous team, a team that plays to win. I’m proud of the way we responded to their challenge today.”
But the ‘Cats were also the victims of some not-so-timely bad breaks, as well.
Linebacker Jeremy Kauffman left the game in the first quarter with an apparent left knee injury. He returned to the sidelines, but on crutches.
And the officiating, which was quick to spot off-setting personal fouls, clearly overlooked a pair of JKF fumbles that Minster recovered…but were ruled down by contact, erroneously. That may or may not have impacted the outcome. It was that kind of day. JFK had their way.
Running back Evan Boyd was outstanding, relentless to carry the ball and took one bit hit after another. The numbers don’t lie.
Conversely, there was no rushing game for Minster. Jared Huelsman tried fourteen times for a net result of 64 yards and their lone touchdown on their second possession of the game. Bryce Schmiesing, so dynamic throughout the year, was throttled to just 27 yards in eight carries.
Through the air, Huelsman connected on eight of 23 attempts for 79 yards…50 of those yards on Isaac Schmiesing’s big catch in the first quarter.
In total, Minster tallied 159 yards for the game, far below what coach Jeff Bayuk feared in preparing to stop them.
“They were so versatile in their attack,” said Bayuk. “We weren’t sure about how to attack them.”
For their part JFK totaled on 233 yards of their own – to give an idea of the impact of Evan Boyd, whose 166 yards accounted for 75% of his team’s offense.
Disappointed at the outcome, Geron Stokes was still proud of the effort -proud of a team that at one time in October he called “a bad 2-4 football team.”
“We’ve worked on it for four years…to come out and take the first swing at an opponent,” said Stokes in his conclusion to the season. “This year I think we finally got it.”
But to that tenent about MAC football, MAC football coaches, and MAC football every Friday night from August through October: Good football teams will always take away the things necessary to beat another good football teams.
And some days you just run out of season.
So said Stokes on Saturday. JFK was a team that deserved to be a state champion.
It takes one…to know one!