Minster coach Geron Stokes couldn’t recollect the Wildcats’ two long second-quarter scoring drives Friday. The Division VII state championship trophy might remind him.
Tied 7-7 after one quarter, Minster dominated the final 10 minutes of the first half to take a 19-7 lead en route to a 32-7 victory over Cuyahoga Heights in Ohio’s small school state final at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
The championship accompanies Minster’s prior state titles in 1989 and 2014. The Wildcats (11-4) were state runner-up last year.
The state title marks the Midwest Athletic Conference’s 32nd in football and 124th overall. It also marked the fourth time in the brief five-year history of D-VII that a MAC school claimed the crown. Marion Local won titles in 2013 and 2014 and Fort Recovery was state champ in 2015.
Cuyahoga Heights (12-2) lost last year’s D-VI state final 21-17 to Marion Local.
Minster senior quarterback Jared Huelsman carried the ball 14 times and threw seven passes as the Wildcats ran 23 plays combined on two second-quarter drives that covered 94 and 83 yards. Huelsman capped both possessions with 3-yard touchdown runs, the second coming on fourth down and the final snap of the first half.
“I don’t remember (those drives) honestly,” Stokes said. “Awesome execution I guess? We run some option offense where Jared has the ability to do things with the football not every quarterback gets to do.”
Coming off a state semifinal performance where he set the Minster single-season rushing record with 277 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-7 win over Norwalk St. Paul, Huelsman was just as effective in the state final.
Carrying the ball 31 times for 221 yards and three touchdowns, Huelsman tied D-VII finals records for most touchdowns and rushing touchdowns set previously by Marion Local’s Jacy Goettemoeller (2013 and 2014). Huelsman also completed 12-of-20 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. He threw two interceptions.
Huelsman, who finished the season with 1,837 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns and 2,092 yards passing and 17 touchdowns, credited his offensive line. So did Cuyahoga Heights coach Al Martin.
“He’s a really good and confident player and that’s a really good offensive line,” Martin said. “Everybody wants to run behind that line.”
Minster churned out 258 of its 396 total yards via the ground. Isaac Schmiesing added 37 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Huelsman’s favorite target was Austin Brown, who collected seven receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Heights had trouble keeping up.
The Redskins managed 97 of their 246 yards in the first quarter and produced zero points on three trips inside the Minster red zone.
The Wildcats were 4-for-4 on red zone opportunities.
“We had multiple opportunities but didn’t convert,” Martin said. “We didn’t call the right plays in the right situations and didn’t give our kids opportunities to make plays. But Minster was prepared. They play downhill fast.”
Minster’s secondary had four interceptions, led by Schmiesing’s two. Brown and Alex Lehmkuhl had one each. Jacob Hoying registered a team-high nine tackles. Schmiesing had eight.
“We were going to have to play great to beat them,” Martin said. “We didn’t.”
Opening the season 3-0, Minster experienced a four-game losing streak, and was a game below .500 after Week 7. The Wildcats closed the season on an eight-game win streak.
“We don’t ever talk about state titles,” Stokes said. “In our community there is a lot value placed on state titles and our football program is different. We don’t talk about that. When we were 3-4 we were really just trying to have a good lift Monday morning and a really intense high-energy practice that afternoon. The goal then was to repeat that Tuesday. And repeat it Wednesday. That’s how we do things.”
The state championship was Minster’s 32nd overall (12 girls track & field, 11 girls cross-country, three baseball, three football, two girls basketball and one boys golf).
“I thought they wore on us,” Martin said. “It was a concern for sure when they took it 170 yards on two drives.”