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Saturday, September 24th, 2022

Stephey's big passing night lifts Wildcats past Redskins

By Bruce Monnin
MINSTER - In a game where both St. Henry and the Minster Wildcats had trouble finding a rhythm early, it was the Wildcats that seized momentum late in the second quarter and continued on for a 31-12 victory. Eighteen accepted penalties for 162 yards slowed both offenses, as well as timely defensive plays.
Minster (4-2, 3-1 MAC) earned the first big break of the game when Connor Schmiesing intercepted a St. Henry pass at midfield and returned it to the Redskin 37. The Wildcats' drive was stopped at the 18, and St. Henry (1-5, 0-4 MAC) blocked the 35-yard field goal attempt to keep the score knotted at zero.
On the Wildcats' next series, Elijah Horstman jarred loose a fumble which was recovered by Logan Dehan at the Minster 15. Curtis Puthoff rushed for five yards then scored from 10 yards out to give the Redskins a 6-0 lead.
Neither team could score on its next two drives. At this point, St. Henry had held Minster to just three rushing yards on eight carries.
"We could not find a rhythm, and we were making mistakes we hadn't made in a few weeks," explained Minster coach Seth Whiting, "St. Henry is big, tough and physical, everything we thought they were going to be. They were not going to allow us to run the ball, as much as I was stubborn and tried to."
Midway through the second quarter, Minster turned to the aerial assault. Brogan Stephey completed four of six passes for 55 yards on the drive, which Justin Bergman finished with a two-yard scoring run.
"We had some protection issues in the first quarter, and we were able to make quick adjustments to correct them," said Whiting. "The line responded well after that, and we were able to throw the ball."
The Wildcats got the ball on a Redskins punt with 1:55 remaining in the half and went back to the air, highlighted by a 48-yard completion from Stephey to Chase Couse. Couse had been well out of bounds before catching the pass, but the officials ruled he had been pushed out and reestablished himself in the field of play in time. A Stephey one-yard run made the score 14-6 at the half.
After three punts to start the third quarter, Stephey turned to his favorite receiver, James Niemeyer. Niemeyer caught four passes on the scoring drive, including a 13-yard touchdown which increased the Minster lead 21-6.
St. Henry responded quickly with a 42-yard pass from Puthoff to Nolan Kunkler, and Harrison Wendel started the fourth quarter with a one-yard scoring run to cut the deficit to 21-12 after the two-point conversion attempt was broken up by Niemeyer.
Minster put the game away on its next possession with a little bit of flim-flam. At the Redskin 17, Stephey handed off to Niemeyer on an end around, Niemeyer pitched back to Couse on an apparent reverse, and Couse threw a touchdown pass to Stephey in the Wildcat version of the Philly Special.
With a 28-12 lead, the Minster defense stopped St. Henry's last chance at a comeback with a Noah Schwieterman interception. The Wildcats later tacked on a 35-yard field goal by Stephey for the final 31-12 score.
The Wildcats ended the game with just 49 yards rushing but threw for 335 yards. Stephey completed 20 passes, the ninth-most in a single game in school history, while his 318 passing yards were the sixth-most in school history. He also pulled off the triple of passing, rushing and catching a touchdown. The top two receivers were Niemeyer with seven catches for 87 yards and Couse with five receptions for 119 yards.
Puthoff led the way for St. Henry with 69 rushing yards and another 132 yards through the air.
Minster travels to play Parkway next Friday while St. Henry hosts New Bremen.
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