By Lyle Kittle
ST. HENRY -- Two running backs, smaller in stature than many and more productive than most, locked horns for the final time in their high school careers last night at the Wally Post Athletic Complex.
Minster's Ty Parks and St. Henry's Jon Hemmelgarn have each been starters, and 1,000-yard rushers since their sophomore years. Each reached the 1,000-yard mark again last night, but it was Hemmelgarn that stole the show in St. Henry's 21-7 Midwest Athletic Conference victory over Minster in a game that held playoff implications for both teams.
St. Henry improves to 5-1 in the MAC and 7-1 overall. Minster drops to 2-5 in the conference and 3-5 on the season.
Hemmelgarn carried the ball 31 times for 272 yards and three touchdowns, going through huge holes ripped in the Wildcats' defensive line by the Redskins' offensive line, while the Redskins' defense held Parks to 45 yards and one score on 27 carries. Hemmelgarn has rushed for 1,182 yards through eight games, and Parks has amassed 1,027 yards on the ground.
"They surely beat us up front," Minster coach Whit Parks said outside a quiet Minster locker room. "They were a better team than us on the line. They're all seniors and we're playing about five or six sophomores. They're a good football team and they're going to make some noise in the playoffs." St. Henry coach Jeff Starkey agreed with the assessment of the line play.
"We wanted to be a little more physical up front," Starkey said. "We definitely wanted to establish ourselves on the front line and control things offensively because we know how dangerous their offense is. Our goal in the second half was to keeping moving the chains and keep their offense off the field."
Hemmelgarn picked up his first score at the 7:13 mark of the first period, capping a 59-yard drive with a six-yard scoring run. The touchdown capped a seven-play drive, with the big play being a 33-yard sprint by Hemmelgarn on third down that took the ball inside Minster's 20-yard line.
The Wildcats went three-and-out on their next possession and the Redskins struck quickly.
A nine-yard pass from Nathan Stahl to Brady Schmitz and a three-yard run by Stahl took the ball to the Wildcats' 45-yard line for a first down. Hemmelgarn then broke loose outside, shot through Minster's first line of defense and outran the secondary on his way to a 45-yard touchdown run.
Hemmelgarn's other score came in the third quarter at the end of an eight-play, 80-yard drive. After a couple of short gains, Stahl and Schmitz connected again, this time for 20 yards to take the ball near midfield.
With the help of a personal foul for a face mask on the Minster defense, Hemmelgarn carried the ball over the final 54 yards, ending the drive with a 12-yard run that required second, third and fourth efforts on his part to plow over Wildcat defenders.
The Wildcats got their only score of the game in the second period. Minster went 60 yards in 11 plays with Parks scoring from the three-yard line. Parks was involved in all but two plays of the drive, passing to Alex Stricker for a 40-yard completion that took the ball inside St. Henry territory. Brian Hoelscher carried the ball twice for 14 yards after Stricker's reception, and Parks covered the final 14 yards on five carries.
As impressive as Hemmelgarn's numbers were (8.8 yards per carry), it was the surge of the offensive line that carved big holes in the Minster defense, giving Hemmelgarn room to run.
"Jon probably had his best game of the season," Starkey said. "He made all the right cuts, he was physical. In the second half, when we wanted to control the ball and move the chains, so Jon got the ball."
Other names called on the public address system almost as much as Hemmelgarn and Parks were those of Redskin defenders Alan Hartke and Toby Boeckman. The book end, six-foot, seven-inch defensive ends were knocking down passes whenever they weren't stringing out sweeps and cutting down onto the inside running game of Minster's single-wing offense, contributing to the mere 75 yards rushing for an offense that generates big ground-gaining numbers when successful.
St. Henry travels to Versailles to tangle with a Tiger team smarting from a 10-7 loss to Coldwater on a field goal by the Cavaliers' Trevor Stromblad in the closing seconds.
Minster is at home, welcoming Parkway for a conference contest.