MINSTER — There’s a lengthy list of teams around the state that would take the Minster Wildcats’ 8-4 overall record and playoff appearance last season.
But expectations run high in the Midwest Athletic Conference.
Minster — which moves up to Division VI this season — looks to “rebound” from last season’s run to the D-VII regional semifinals.
“This group hasn’t overachieved yet. There’s a hunger for this group to reach its potential,” Minster coach Geron Stokes said. “We didn’t do that last year. We’re going to find out how committed and invested they are. …We just didn’t get our best last year. We didn’t get the most out of some key positions. We had guys on the bench that shouldn’t have been on the bench. We didn’t get high-level production from every area, which we need to.”
Minster returns six offensive and defensive starters and has 14 total letterwinners back.
The Wildcats have key offensive talent in senior quarterback Jacob Niemeyer, senior running back Alex Schmitmeyer and senior wide receiver Trent Roetgerman.
Niemeyer threw for 1,832 passing yards and 15 TDs and 692 rushing yards and six TDs. His completion percentage last year was 63.3, and he threw seven interceptions.
Schmitmeyer rushed for 1,094 rushing yards and 20 TDs and also had 223 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Roetgerman caught 10 passes for 133 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Both lines are stout with senior right tackle and defensive lineman Dylan Sharp, senior left guard and defensive lineman Dustin Frericks, senior left tackle Clayton Purvis, senior defensive lineman Craig Monnin, senior nose guard Kyle Riethman, senior linebacker A.J. Heitkamp and sophomore center Alex Frimel.
“We’re excited. They’re a core group of really good kids,” Stokes said. “They’re the kids that showed up and worked. They’re really cohesive so we expect a lot of them.
“We feel pretty good about the senior class as far as talent goes. Really our biggest thing isn’t talent and it isn’t the football part of it. We’re going to do things right and become a football team.”
The Wildcats lost their top six tacklers to graduation, including three-year starting linebackers August Boehnlein and Jack Heitbrink. Boehnlein also started a fullback, and Stokes said he’s a big piece that will need replaced.
Riethman is the team’s leading returning tackler. He had 31 tackles and two sacks last year. Another returning defensive starter is linebacker Phil Trzaska, who had 22 tackles and one fumble recovery.
Schmitmeyer started at linebacker and had 22.5 tackles and one interception while Roetgerman started at strong safety and had 28 tackles and one interception.
Minster’s season starts with nonconference games with Fort Loramie and Covington. Fort Recovery kicks off the MAC schedule in Week 3. Minster hosts Coldwater, St. John’s, St. Henry and Versailles and travels to Fort Recovery, Parkway, Marion Local and New Bremen.
“We’re excited about our schedule. You’re going to know exactly where we are every single week,” Stokes said. “It creates a sense of urgency in your entire program. … It demands that you’re at your best all the time.”
Minster has qualified for the playoffs five straights seasons and has reached the postseason 17 times overall. Last season’s run ended with a 28-14 loss to Convoy Crestview.
“I love our work ethic. But we haven’t been hit in the mouth yet and we haven’t faced any adversity yet. Everybody thinks they are a good football team right now. We’re going to find out how invested we are how committed to each other we are when things get a little sideways,” Stokes said.
“With the extra playoff weeks and all the weeks of practice, we have juniors and seniors who have waited their turn. Now they get the chance to go compete.”