High School Football: New Bremen eyes second state title in three years

Cardinals face Warren JFK, the team they beat in 2020 championship game, on Saturday afternoon

New Bremen’s Chris Schmidt and Warren JFK’s Dominic Prologo didn’t compare notes before speaking on Tuesday’s conference call with media from around Ohio. But they said a lot of the same things about each other.

Their teams meet in the Division VII state final for the second time in three years at 3 p.m. Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. New Bremen (12-3) won its first state title in 2020, dominating JFK (14-1) 31-0 in Massillon.

“I think they’re better, which makes you nervous seeing as how the team that beat you 31 nothing maybe is better,” Prologo said.

Schmidt’s assessment of JFK: “They’re a much better team than what they were two years ago. They’re better up front, they’re more athletic than maybe what they were two years ago. You know they’re going to be well-coached, you can tell they’re physical. They played a really challenging schedule.”

Maybe the coaches see it this way because they see so much of themselves in each other. Both teams rely on the old football staples of controlling the line of scrimmage, running the ball well, stopping the run and excelling in all three phases.

“You’re talking about two teams that are trying to in many ways do the same thing and who can do that more effectively,” Schmidt said.

Two years ago it was New Bremen. The Cardinals won their first state title and the 36th for the Midwest Athletic Conference, which now owns 39. Hunter Schaefer, now a senior, rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Senior David Homan, now a big-play quarterback and safety, returned a punt for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass.

“I’m gonna be honest with you,” Prologo said. “Two years ago I underestimated who they were from film, and obviously that showed.”

Prologo isn’t underestimating the Cardinals, especially Homan, now. When he studied the Cardinals’ 42-34 semifinal victory over Lima Central Catholic, he saw Homan throw for 218 yards and rush for 207. He saw Schaefer rush for 145 and score three times. He saw Aaron Thieman and Ben Sailer combine for nine catches and 170 yards.

“Their quarterback is maybe one of the best athletes we’ve seen this year and we’ve seen some good ones playing the schedule we do,” Prologo said. “And their tailback tore us up two years ago, so I’m sure he’s better now.”

Schmidt’s defensive game-planning focuses on what has been called Thunder and Lightning. The Thunder is 205-pound quarterback Caleb Hadley, who has passed for 1,259 yards and rushed for 792. Lightning is Aiden Rossi, who does a little of everything and leads the team in receiving with 601 yards. And the Cardinals can’t overlook running back Antonio Smith, who has rushed for 1,286 yards.

Schmidt toured the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a 10-year-old, but he’s not seen the inside of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

“I always thought I want my first time going to Canton to be as part of a team,” he said.

His strongest wish, though, is to be the better team again.

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