Thursday, December 19th, 2013
By Robb Hemmelgarn
Schacht looks back on 1960 season
Last Curtain Call
  Jerry Schacht hasn't diagrammed a play, blown a whistle or instituted strategic adjustments at halftime of a boys basketball game in many years.
The 77-year-old's body hasn't been a fixture in New Bremen for decades, but after speaking with him, it isn't difficult to determine his mind isn't all that far away.
Schacht wasn't much older than his players when he took the New Bremen boy's coaching job in 1959. He remained at the school for only two seasons but undoubtedly left with a bang when he helped guide the Cardinals to their first-ever appearance in the state tournament in 1960.
"I was only 22 or 23 when I arrived in New Bremen. It was my first head coaching job out of college," said Schacht, who currently resides in Perrysburg.
"I was early to school on one of my first days there and they wouldn't let me in. I was told that students needed to wait outside until the bell rang. I went to my car and put on a men's hat to show that I was a teacher. The basketball boys really thought that was funny because I stepped on the bus for our next game and they were all wearing the exact same hat. I really enjoyed the kids in New Bremen. There were rarely any issues and they were all extremely easy to coach."
Tom Thieman was a senior standout on the hardwood during Schacht's second season in 1960 and felt his teams' potential was high after suffering just five losses the prior season. The Cardinals defeated their first 14 opponents before absorbing their initial defeat in a 56-50 setback against Coldwater near the end of the season.
"We had high expectations going into the season," said Thieman, who earned All-Ohio accolades in 1960. "The expectations grew as each game passed and so did our enthusiasm to keep winning. We played in the Auglaize County League, so New Knoxville and Minster were always our biggest challengers. We beat both of them on two occasions during that particular regular season, which was nice."
New Bremen concluded the regular season with victories over Waynesfield, Buckland, Minster and New Knoxville. A three-point win over the Rangers polished off a 10-0 record in the ACL and capped the regular season with the Cardinals holding an 18-1 overall record.
"I remember scouting a lot of our opponents back then and having a good game plan for when we played against them, which allowed us to be successful," said Schacht. "We took the whole team to scout. I drove one car and a player's father usually drove another. Watching other teams play during our off-nights really helped to prepare us and make us better."
Billed as the favorites in the County Tournament, New Bremen opened postseason play with wins over Waynesfield and Minster, setting up the highly-anticipated battle with New Knoxville, which the Cardinals edged by two and three points in their previous encounters. The battle teetered back and forth before New Knoxville pulled off a 56-53 upset.
"We didn't play our best that night and New Knoxville knocked us off," said Thieman. "They played us tough when we faced them during the regular season and put it all together that night in St. Marys. Thankfully it didn't end our year, as both teams advanced to the sectional tournament from that point."
The Cardinals returned to McBroom Gymnasium in St. Marys for the Class A sectional tournament and downed Immaculate Conception and Convoy-Union by an average of 13 points to claim the sectional crown.
"We knew from then on, that one loss and our season was over," said Thieman. "We just regrouped after the New Knoxville game because none of the guys on the roster wanted to be finished playing and we decided to just keep winning."
Schacht's crew plowed through the district tournament at Lima Senior with decisive victories over Lafayette and Van Del. Five-foot-five guard Jan Belton scorched the opposition with 17 and 27 points as the Cardinals moved on to regional play. Just as Belton had been clutch throughout district action, Thieman dominated the regional tournament by averaging more than 23 points in triumphs over Leipsic and Lykens.
It was time for New Bremen to head where they had never been - the state tournament in Columbus.
"Lima Senior was the biggest place that we played until the state tournament," said Thieman. "We were not allowed to practice on the floor at St. John before our game, so about an hour or so before tipoff was our first time out there. I think we were a little overwhelmed at the size of the place and the size of the crowd."
The final hurrah for Thieman, Belton, Max Fledderjohann, Jake Froning, Larry Hirschfeld, Dan Nedderman, Denny Wint, TomWissman, Ron Wiedeman, Steve Froning, James Cumming, Ray Rush and John Bornhorst, wasn't their best outing of the year.
They fell behind to Frazeysburg 16-14 at the end of the first quarter and trailed 34-28 at halftime before eventually losing by 13 points.
Schacht stepped away from New Bremen after the 26-3 season at the end of the school year, but reflecting back more than a half-century later, his brief stint in town had a lasting effect.
"I really enjoyed my time there and didn't want to leave but I had a child and coaching and teaching at a small school just didn't make enough money," he said. "I still have lunch with some of the New Bremen guys every now and again and it is very enjoyable. They were such good kids with good parents and it is a shame we have already lost four of the guys from that team. That was a remarkable season. All of the fans, whether or not they had a kid on the team, followed us along for the ride and what a ride it was."
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