Minster Overcame Adversity to Reign As D7 State Champs

By: 
BRIAN SMITH
Staff Writer

The opportunity for Minster to take control of the Division VII state championship game was just three yards away, but there was no safety net with only a second left on the clock in the first half.

Minster bet on its senior quarterback, like it has so many times over the past two seasons.

Jared Huelsman waited on the blocks of pulling left guard Sam Schmiesing and fullback August Boehnlein to put their hats on two Cuyahoga Heights defenders. The way parted for Huelsman, who dove over the goal line to give Minster a two-score lead with no time left on the clock. Huelsman flexed and screamed into the sunny, seasonably-warm skies before being mobbed by his teammates and head coach Geron Stokes smiled ear to ear and pumped his fist on the sideline.

“They find a way all the time,” Stokes said. “It’s like that in practice, it’s like that in the weight room. We challenge them. We put them in adverse situations and every time they come back a little bit better.”

When it came down to it in Ohio’s Division VII in 2017, no one could stop Minster when it mattered. The Wildcats went from unranked to start the playoffs to unstoppable by its completion.

The Wildcats captured the 2017 Division VII state championship with a dominating 32-7 win over Cuyahoga Heights in front of 6,542 fans on Friday morning at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

“This was a display of our seniors and what they stand for,” said Minster head coach Geron Stokes. “Everybody in attendance saw the resiliency and character, the toughness and the amount of care they have for one another.”

“To be a state champion, it’s a wonderful feeling,” said senior Isaac Schmiesing, who scored a three yard touchdown on the ground and intercepted two passes.

The victory puts Minster in rare company in Ohio high school football. The championship is Minster’s third in program history. It’s the second championship in four seasons under Stokes. Minster joins Coldwater, St. Henry, Marion Local, Delphos St. John’s and Versailles as MAC programs with at least three football state titles. The MAC has won 33 state football titles since the 1989 Minster Wildcats served as trailblazers.

“It’s a credit to the competitiveness in that area,” Huelsman said. “It’s insane.”

Minster overcame a four-game losing streak midway through the season against the tough schedule of Midwest Athletic Conference play, only to dust itself off and win its final eight games.

“We have great leadership from our seniors,” Stokes said. “They weren’t going to accept that. They found a way to drive and it and say ‘Here’s how we’re going to do things from here on out and everybody is going to get better.’ It’s really awesome.”

The postseason run to the championship included a daring escape in the second week of the postseason against Crestview. The Wildcats saved their finest play for the end of the season, shutting out Delphos St. John’s 20-0, throttling No. 1-ranked Norwalk St. Paul 40-7 in the state semifinals and handing Cuyahoga Heights its second straight state championship game loss to a MAC team. (Marion Local topped Cuyahoga Heights in last year’s Division title game.)