MINSTER — After winning a state Division 6 championship in Geron Stokes’ first year as the head football coach at Minster, the Wildcats finished 6-4 the following season and just missed a return trip to the playoffs.
But last season, Stokes guided the Wildcats to an 8-2 record and made another run deep into the postseason to finish at 10-3 overall.
But if the Wildcats are going to make it three playoff berths in Stokes’ four years, it will have to be with an inexperienced squad as most of the starters from last season were lost to graduation.
Heading that list is quarterback Josh Nixon, who will play baseball at Dayton next year. He left Minster as far and away the all-time leader in passing yards and pass completions. He threw for an amazing 8,415 yards in his four years, and to put that into perspective, No. 2 on the list threw for 4,917 yards. Nixon also completed a school-record 566 passes in his four years, and that is 162 more than the runner-up all-time.
“We lost 19 seniors so we have a ton of holes to fill,” said Stokes. “And we have to replace some great players. We don’t have a Josh Nixon. Those players are few and far between. So our identity will be different and we’re going to need kids to step up and fill in.
“But our kids have learned how to do things the right way and we feel good about how our kids approach practices,” he added. “They are getting better all the time.”
He has just eight seniors on this year’s team.
Among the few players he has returning is three-year letterman Bryce Schmiesing. Even though he caught 67 passes for over 1,000 yards last season, Schmiesing will play some running back for the Wildcats this season, as well as playing linebacker on defense, Stokes said.
Jonny Niemeyer is another returning player at wide receiver and cornerback. “He’s a great athlete and competes well,” said Stokes.
Up front on the line on both sides of the ball is Isaac Dorsten, but he’s the only returnee there. And at outside linebacker, Jared Huelsman is expected to lead the defense. He’s still just a junior. “He did a great job as a sophomore,” Stokes said. Huelsman was third on the team in tackles last season and first in tackles-for-loss.
Beyond those four, however, there will be new faces in the lineup. When asked about the top newcomers, Stokes replied “There’s about 17 of them that will have to start.”
“We love this, and it’s fun,” Stokes continued. “It’s easy to coach a Josh Nixon or an Eli Wolf. We have great kids and we coach to see if we can maximize their abilities. We’ve never chased a result. It’s about how you can get the best out of every single kid.
“We’re expecting everybody to compete, and we have great kids that have learned how to approach practice and the season from the class ahead of them.”