By Mark Ruschau
PIQUA -- The New Bremen Cardinals postseason run will last at least one more week as they used a balanced offensive attack to win a 34-25 shootout over the Mechanicsburg Indians in Division VI, Region 24 action Friday night at Alexander Stadium in Piqua.
With the win, New Bremen improves to 9-3 on the season and will play for the regional championship Friday against the Hardin Northern Polar Bears at a site to be determined on Sunday. Hardin Northern advanced to the finals with a 27-13 win over Springfield Catholic Central. Mechanicsburg bows out of the playoffs with a 9-2 mark.
This game was one for the offenses as the two teams combined for 59 points and a total of 784 yards.
After rushing for close to 500 yards last week, New Bremen had a balanced attack as it rushed for 228 yards and Alex Leugers threw for 168 yards more.
"Last week we had everything going with the running and we didn't have to pass and tonight they comitted a lot of people to the box and that open things in the passing game," said New Bremen head coach Howard Overman. "We had to throw the ball a little and we have confidence in Alex throwing the ball and we have some nice receivers." Mechanicsburg quarterback Joel Bostick, who came into the game averaging just 95 yards a game passing, threw for 269 yards and rushed for 52 more.
"This was just one of those nights," said Mechanicsburg coach Neal Kasner. "There are some plays that we would like to have back but that is a dog gone good football team over there, with some great athletes and they came through a tough league and they are battle tested."
After moving to midfield on the opening drive of the game, New Bremen turned the ball over to the Indians at the Mechanicsburg 21. The Indians then went on a nine-play, 69-yard scoring drive with David Webb plunging in from two yards out to make the score 7-0 and the track meet was on.
New Bremen came right back and went 74 yards on seven straight running plays with Troy Lammers motoring the final 32 yards to tie the game at seven.
After stuffing Mechanicsburg on its next series, New Bremen took over at its own 44 and went 56 yards in five plays with Chris Grant going the final 43 yards for the touchdown and New Bremen led 14-7.
Three plays later the New Bremen offense was back on the field and exploding again as it went 67 yard in just two plays with Leugers hooking up with Scott Steineman on a 60-yard acrobatic touchdown pass on a play which Steineman tipped the ball away from a defender to himself. Curt Eilerman's point after was no good, leaving the score at 20-7 in favor of New Bremen.
The New Bremen defense came up huge twice before the end of the half to preserve the 20-7 lead. On the series after the New Bremen touchdown, the Indians moved the ball to a first down at the New Bremen 25. The drive stopped there as Mark Fleagle and Marcus Overman made defensive plays.
After stopping New Bremen, Mechanicsburg went on the march again moving to a first down at the New Bremen 12. On first down, Indian quarterback Joel Bostick was sacked for a loss by Leugers. On second down, Jeff Thobe tackled Greg Bline for a two-yard loss on a screen pass. The drive ended on two incompte passes.
"Those two empty drives at the end of the half were big," commented Kasner. "If we get one of those two in the end zone and then with us scoring on the opening drive of the drive of the second half it may have been a different ballgame."
"Defensively we made the plays when we had to," said Overman. "We came up big when we had to and we won the football game. Give Mechanicsburg credit, they are a tough football team."
Mechanicsburg took the second-half kick and got on the board as it drove 64 yards in nine plays with Bostick going the final yard on fourth-and-goal to cut the deficit to 20-13.
New Bremen got its offense untracked late in the period as it went 86 yards in five plays with Leugers hooking up with Lammers on a 61-yard scoring dart on the first play of the fourth quarter to make the score 27-13.
"That play and that drive was big," said Kasner. "We came out of the lockeroom and scored and they come back and we think that they are going to run the ball but they throw a vertical route to Lammers."
After an exchange of punts, Mechanicsburg went 83 yards in seven plays in just 1:55 with Webb going the final two yards for the score to cut the New Bremen lead to 27-19 after the missed extra point.
Needing a score to regain the momentum, New Bremen went to Jeff Thobe who rushed for 42 yards of a 60-yard scoring drive, including the final seven for the score to give the Cardinals a 30-19 lead with 4:23 left.
The Indians had one last drive left as they went 62 yards in seven plays in 1:54 for the final score of the game with Bostick going the final 15 yards for the score to make the score 34-25 after the missed extra point.
New Bremen then took the remaining drama out of the game as Steineman recovered the onside kick and the Cardinals ran seven running plays to end the game.