Riley Huelskamp long ago bought into what the Anna Rockets football coaching staff demanded. Taking those orders to the next level is all No. 20.
“The coaches are always saying do your job and everything else will take care of itself,” said Huelskamp following a 36-6 elimination of Mechanicsburg in a Division VI high school football state semifinal at Harmon Field on Friday night. “Trust your teammates for what they’re trying to do.”
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Huelskamp did his part, rushing for 244 yards and four touchdowns, and being part of a shutdown Rockets defense.
The victory vaults Anna (13-1) into the D-VI state championship for the first time against New Middletown Springfield (14-0) at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton at 10 a.m. Friday. New Middletown Springfield, located in a village in Mahoning County near Youngstown, advanced with an equally impressive 42-14 defeat of previously unbeaten East Knox in Friday’s other D-VI state semi at Orrville.
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Anna will be joined by Trotwood-Madison at Canton. Trotwood withstood Columbus Bishop Hartley’s rally to win a D-III state semi 24-19 at Piqua. The Rams led that game 24-0. Trotwood (11-3) will play Mansfield Senior (13-1) at 3 p.m. Friday. Mansfield defeated Aurora 27-21 in double-OT.
Cincinnati Elder defeated Springfield 31-24 in a D-I state semi at Piqua on Friday.
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Marion Local (11-2) was scheduled to play Hamler Patrick Henry (10-3) at Lima Senior Spartan Stadium in a D-VII state semifinal on Saturday night. The Flyers have played in eight consecutive state championships.
This is the 12th time in just 19 seasons for Anna to make the playoffs, but the Rockets had only two postseason wins prior to this year. First-round losses each of the previous two seasons meant the Rockets’ robust senior class had just one final season to do something about that and they have delivered spectacularly.
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The Indians had no answer for Huelskamp, who scored on runs of 77, 35, 8 and 2 yards to derail Mechanicsburg (11-3).
Led by linebacker Malachi Minnich (three sacks), the Rockets were just as impressive defensively.
“This is a step in the right direction for our program,” reflected Mechanicsburg coach Kurt Forrest. “These seniors are leaving the program better than they found it. We talk about that all the time. These kids have done a great job. I’m proud of them and I love every one of them.”
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Mechanicsburg also played in a state semifinal in 2013.
Anna’s Jeff Richards opened the scoring with a 62-yard pass from quarterback Bart Bixler. Mechanicsburg cut the deficit to 7-6 when Chayse Propst raced 65 yards for another first-quarter score.
Then Huelskamp took over, ripping through and around the Indians’ defense. Bixler completed all eight passes for 122 yards. Propst led Mechanicsburg with 164 yards rushing.
Anna coach Nick Marino left a successful program at Urbana to take over the Rockets in 2015.
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“We knew it was a great community and the kids have bought in,” he said. “This senior class was eighth graders when I got here. They’ve been in the program a full four-five years with the offseasons. It’s a great group of kids. Our group of seniors are awesome.”
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