Remsen St. Mary’s wins 8-player championship

Thursday, November 17, 2022
(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Remsen St. Mary's celebrates with their state championship trophy and banner.

CEDAR FALLS — Remsen St. Mary’s capped off a perfect season with a 38-16 win over WACO in the 8-player football championship at the UNI-Dome on Thursday.

“We wanted this since last year,” Hunter Pick said. “We lost that game against Easton Valley, we were close, but we wanted back.”

That loss to Easton Valley in the semifinal round last season fueled the Hawks in the 2022 campaign.

“It’s the best feeling, especially senior year,” Cael Ortmann said. “There’s no better way to go out.”

Defense wins championships

They say that defense wins championships and the Hawks were able to hold their opponent scoreless until right before halftime.

Kadden Groepper was part of that defensive front for the Hawks, leading the team with 1.5 tackles for loss, part of his 4.5 total tackles in the game.

“They had big guys, but we were tough and strong and we did what we needed to do,” Groepper said. “Coach just said do our job at the line, that’s where it all begins.”

The Hawks forced a three-and-out on WACO’s opening possession and took the ensuing possession the length of the field for a score. The team converted on a 4th-and-2 play with a quick slant from quarterback Cael Ortmann to Alex Schroeder. Brenden Fisch capped off the 11 play, 65 yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with the score at 6-0 after a failed 2-point conversion attempt.

The defense forced another punt, but couldn’t punch it in this time as a double reverse handoff from Schroeder to Fisch was stopped as Fisch was pushed out of bounds at the 1-yard line on fourth down.

Two plays later, Groepper forced a fumble which Jaxon Bunkers picked up and walked into the end zone with for a touchdown to increase the lead to 12-0.

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Jaxon Bunkers picks up a fumble and makes a quick trip to the end zone for a touchdown. It was one of two fumble recoveries for Bunkers in the win.

“I think honestly our defense got us a win,” Fisch said. “Our defense did great today.”

Keaton Harpenau led the team with eight tackles followed by six for Schroeder and 5.5 for Isaiah Gerrietts.

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Isaiah Gerrietts (17) and Keaton Harpenau (2) join in on the stop of a WACO ball carrier. Harpenau led the team with eight tackles in the win. Gerrietts was third on the team with 5.5 tackles.

Special teams plays a role

A couple of special teams mistakes from WACO helped the Hawks increase their lead. A bad snap sailed over the punter’s head on fourth down and led to the Hawks taking over on downs at the WACO 3-yard line. Two plays later Fisch was in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 18-0.

The Hawks stopped the Warriors on their next drive with three incomplete passes from Isaac Oswald and then blocked the punt. Collin Homan got a hand on the ball which Braxton Kneip came away with once the ball fell back to the turf.

A short field led to a 2-yard rush from Ortmann and then a 6-yard pass to Fisch to complete the drive and take a 24-0 lead.

It was part of a 12-of-16 passing day for Ortmann for 156 yards, but most of the passes were underneath routes to running backs in a different style of game which relied on keeping the ball mostly on the ground and not airing it out.

“We knew the run would set the tone for the pass, but we didn’t need the pass because our running backs were running so well,” Ortmann said. “They did their job and they did really well.”

WACO drove down the field but lost the fumble near the goal line as Ryan Willman forced a fumble by Louden Huisenga which Bunkers recovered.

The Hawks punted for the only time in the game on their next drive. They did advance 30 yards on 10 plays while taking 5:08 off the clock before Willman booted the ball away for 38 yards to pin the Warriors inside their own 10-yard line.

The Warriors got a big pass play from Oswald to Oleh Shtefanchuk for a 34-yard gain which helped them get into field goal range for a long 48-yard kick from Simeon Reichenbach who put the Warriors on the scoreboard with 12 seconds left before halftime.

Remsen St. Mary’s Head Coach Tim Osterman said it was a solid defensive performance, especially in the first half.

“I thought our kids definitely executed,” Osterman said. “We tried to look at what they do really, really well and then we tried to take away some of the simple little things that seemed to work.”

RSM adds to their lead

The Hawks got a fast start in the second half as on the second play from scrimmage, Fisch broke free for a 62-yard run. The play made up about half of his 134 rushing yards on 20 carries in the game.

“My guys on the line, those hogs, they put holes that I could hit and on those big runs, they were still blocking downfield for me which gave me the opportunity to go down the field and score for us,” Fisch said.

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Brenden Fisch rushes for a touchdown in the championship. Fisch rushed for four touchdowns in the game and added a receiving touchdown. He finished with 134 rushing yards on 20 carries and caught a pair of passes for 14 yards.

Luckily the extra-point situation didn’t matter much in the end, but the Hawks were finally able to convert on one after Fisch’s opening scoring run of the second half as Schroeder ran to the outside for the 2-point conversion. Of the team’s six touchdowns in the game, the Hawks added points after just one of those scores.

Fisch capped off the scoring for the Hawks with a 6-yard run with 4:03 left in the third quarter, his fifth total touchdown in the game. The touchdown put the running clock in motion with a 35-point advantage of 38-3.

RSM holds off late WACO rally

WACO did rally for a couple of touchdowns after getting down by 35 points. Forced to go more to the passing game, Oswald connected with Colton Leichty for a 25-yard touchdown to stop the running clock at the 1:51 mark of the third quarter. Oswald finished 14-of-23 passing for 212 yards.

Simeon Reichenbach added a 1-yard run on a pitch to the outside for the Warriors early in the fourth quarter as he finished with 32 yards on nine carries, just a yard shy of leading rusher Huisenga.

“They eventually found a weakness and took some shots and we knew that was going to be, but it was something they were a little more uncomfortable with,” Osterman said.

The Hawks chewed up clock with a 12 play, 52 yard drive which lasted over six minutes on their next possession. The Hawks didn’t score, turning the ball over on downs, but it was successful in keeping the ball away from their opponent for over half of the fourth quarter.

The Hawks made one final stop on defense before running out the clock for their win.

Emotional victory

For Groepper, it was an emotional win as he said he was playing for his grandfather who passed away during the season.

“I knew he wanted me to be playing and I just played for him,” Groepper said. “I just played for him, came out hard like he would want me to come out hard and just do it for my boys next to me and play for them.”

Fisch added the senior class came together for the win.

“It feels amazing as a senior to win a state championship, but there was a lot more emotional motivation behind this for us seniors,” Fisch said. “Bobby Groepper, he wanted this and we won it for him.”

Pick added tears were shed after the game.

“Jaxon Bunkers, me and him have been close. We’re cousins,” Pick said. “I hugged him after the game. I told myself I wasn’t going to cry, but I cried.”

Osterman said this was a special group of seniors made up of Schroeder, Willman, Bunkers, Ortmann, Fisch, Groepper, Gerrietts and Nathan Britt.

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Alex Schroeder dives over a tackler in the championship game. Schroeder caught five passes for 44 yards and added 54 rushing yards on 17 carries.

“They’re a talented group,” Osterman said. “They’ve shown great leadership. They’re great models for our community. They’re going to be sorely missed next year.”

WACO finishes the season with a 13-1 record in their first championship game appearance.

Remsen St. Mary’s finishes the year with a 13-0 record. They are now 3-1 in state championship games, winning in 2004 and 2020, while falling short in the 2017 title tilt.

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