It has to be hard being in the Midwest Athletic Conference
Think about being a player from another team besides Coldwater and Marion Local. Hanging around Augalize and Mercer counties, hearing the same old questions regarding playing in the MAC:
“Can you believe Coldwater has gotten to six straight state title games?”
“How about Marion Local? Going for a fourth straight title. What a dynasty!”
“Doesn’t St. Henry play in that conference? Isn’t that where Bobby Hoying and Jim Lachey went to high school?”
“Didn’t Delphos St. John’s win like 50 games in row not too long ago?”
Yep, playing in the MAC, the best football conference in Ohio, hasn’t been a picnic for the “other” teams in recent years. Most of the time, teams may just hope to win their other games, finish 8-2, make the state playoffs, and hope for a good run. Rarely would any team get to a state final. Having 2, 3, or 4 losses would give them a lower seed, and most of the time get them eliminated early having to go on the road and play a top seed.
When looking at this year’s state playoffs when the pairings first came out, Divisions V, VI, and VII were pretty much locks as far as knowing who would at least make the state final game. Everyone knew Coldwater would get to the Division V final (they did). Everyone knew Marion Local would get to the Division VII final (they did). Everyone knew that Kirtland and Defiance Tinora were on a collision course to meet in the final of Division VI.
Wait, you mean Kirtland ISN’T playing Defiance Tinora?
Who could be the November “Bracket Buster”?……..Figures it is a team from the MAC
The Minster Wildcats
It is indeed Minster that will be taking on Kirtland in the Division VI state championship game Friday at 3 p.m. at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. The Wildcats are trying to crash the annual Coldwater-Marion Local state championship parties. It isn’t as if Minster doesn’t have tradition or success. They have made the state playoffs in five of the last six years, but because they play in the MAC, their seed was low, and they were usually either “one and done” or “two and done”. They HAVE won a state championship, but it was over 25 years ago in 1989. The run this season to the state title game ISN’T a Cinderella story, but it may be the most interesting set of games of any team still playing.
Entering Region 22 as a three seed the Wildcats hosted Mechanicsburg and their zone read offense. Their playoff dreams almost became derailed in the first round. It took a fourth down stop, and driving over 70 yards in a minute and a half just to get the game into overtime. In the second overtime, the teams traded touchdowns, and Mechanicsburg decided to go for two and the win. Minster stopped the Mechanicsburg quarterback just inches short of the pylon to win 42-41. It was a game where Mechanicsburg led in time of possession by nearly a 3-1 margin. In a quote to The Evening Leader, Minster Head Coach Geron Stokes gave his thoughts on surviving:
That was as hard of a played football game as maybe I’ve ever been a part of. We made mistakes and they made mistakes, but we just went at each other and made plays.
In the second round of the playoffs, Minster found themselves playing against a familiar foe: Fellow MAC team Versallies. These games can be tricky, especially if the winning team in the first meeting takes the other team for granted. After beating Versallies in the regular season, Minster was able to break out to an early lead, and cruised to a 45-19 win. Minster was explosive on offense, and held Versallies to three straight three and outs to start the game to build their lead. In a quote to The Daily Advocate, Versallies Head Coach Adam Miller was impressed:
They’ve got a lot of weapons. I give all the credit to Minster for playing well. I’m very proud of our kids for their effort. I felt they did what they could do.
The third round posed another challenge for the Wildcats as they took on undefeated West Liberty-Salem. Minster rolled up over 520 yards of offense, held the vaunted West Liberty-Salem passing game to just 10 completions in 31 attempts, completely stopped their running game, holding West Liberty-Salem to just 30 yards in 21 carries, and came home with a 35-0 shutout victory. In a quote to the Dayton Daily News, Stokes was excited about his team’s performance:
Hammer it out. Man, that was awesome. Kids just making plays. This time of year your kids have to make plays.
Last weekend, it was the BIGGIE. Facing off against Defiance Tinora and their massive size along both lines. It turned out to be one of those “buckle your chinstrap” type games. It was a battle from the start. After taking a 7-0 lead into the break, Minster saw Tinora score twice in the third quarter to take a 13-7 lead. The blocked extra point would loom large. With just under seven minutes remaining, Minster scored to take the lead 14-13. The Wildcats had to survive a last second missed field goal by Tinora to escape with the win. Presto! State finals here we come.
I’m jacked, man. We’ve got work to do. I’m anxious to watch this tape and try to get stuff fixed in the morning. You’ve got a shot. You’re in the final two, playing a really, really, really, really good team…. Minster Head Coach Geron Stokes
A really good team they will get. Kirtland is playing in their fourth straight state final game. They have won 58 of their last 59 games. They are the favorite in the game. Those are facts that really shouldn’t bother Minster.
They HAVE played Coldwater and Marion Local
Now they have a chance to join them on the championship podium
Could the MAC actually have THREE state champions?
Minster hopes so, and in a game against Kirtland, no one should bet against them