(by Mike Siroky) The football season is two-thirds over for the 3-3 Bremen Lions. Seldom has an overall record so well reflected the balance of play.
They were so close to the upset of the year. Maybe the state upset of the year,
It was a second straight loss to a team in a higher enrollment classification, 35-28 at Marian this time. Still the bus ride home was not all gloom.
Homecoming looms next as a night in which to record forever memories.
If one of those is success defending the home field, it will have to be by besting a team with real swagger, South Bend Washington.
Bremen is second in its first-ever Northern Indiana Conference South season, with the lone loss to Marian.
The game came don to a Marian defensive stand in which one apparent TD toss by Matt Box to All-State senior receiver Ryan Topper was ruled out of bounds (the Bremen mental replay is still awaiting confirmation) and the fact is, Bremen could not get the final five yards on the final drive for the final upset.
Thus Marian is 6-0 and in first at 4-0 in the Northern Indiana Conference South and Bremen is merely even in the season and now second in the division
The Lions had four tries from the 10 going in with a little over two minutes left. It was an electric sequence in a wonderfully emotional game.
The Lions offense was busted. They got half the yardage, but by penalty.
Marian, full of respect after this first confrontation with Bremen, said this is just what they practiced for and they felt relieved to survive
Junior quarterback Box was unfazed and steady, the team had 18 completions for 237 yards, a season high. Senior runner Brett Louderback gained 80 yards on 25 carries). Until the end, Bremen had the superior game plan.
“The kids came tonight with a proper attitude of team first,” Bremen coach Bob Holmes said. “We believed in what we were doing on the field and played extremely well.
“We rose to the occasion.”
The final drive started on their own 27 with 8:21 remaining. The Lions needed only four plays to get into Marian territory The next four plays (helped by a late hit on Box for 15) had them at the Marian 22 with 4:40 to go. At the 18, with Topper covered up, Box hit Louderback for five yards with six needed on third down. No problem. As he does every time he can, Holmes went for it on fourth down. Louderback rewarded him wit a rhino run for three yards on fourth and one.
But Bremen had no time outs left and that proved crucial.
“I knock myself for bad clock management,” Holmes said. “We had the plays where we wanted them. We missed them.
“We played our fannies off.”
Box went to the end zone, right away to the 6-3 Topper, as everyone in the stadium knew they would be.
Corner fade attempts went awry, including a nifty swat by star of the game Michael Hemingway, at 5-9 matched with Topper. He had already run back a kickoff for 75 yards, the first time this season kickoff coverage failed Bremen in a game where every play mattered.
Hemingway said he had enough faith in his vertical defense and he was right. These two will meet on a hard winter’s night when hoops season arrives.
One of the attempts was completed, but was ruled out of bounds. So close.
The moment of the game.
Box could not complete on third, but there was again defensive pass interference and that meant a placement at the 5 and third down replayed, but no first down as this year’s rule change stipulates.
Louderback was stuffed. Marian called time out at 1:44 to reset its defense.
And that’s how they won, inserting another defensive back and, when Box went for freshman Kain Hammons, that back, senior Collin Linner was savvy enough to bother the rookie and force an incomplete
Box had completed his first five attempts on the final drive and then missed four.
The exhausted and grateful Knights ran out the clock from their own 5 to make for a happy Homecoming.
They had used the extra time from the festivities to rework their game plan, affter allowing 20 opening half points and one TD after that. And they had the eight-point lead at half, so only had to play even. Less anxiety. No one scored in the third, shortening the game
Linner admitted as much, saying they had been “punched in the mouth” in the opening quarters. So they redrew the defensive schemes and that was just enough to eke out a win.
Bremen scored first but not last. They gave up the kickoff return and another score on a 64-yard pass and run. Those mind warps are solvable.
Sure it Bremen’s second loss to a state-ranked team from a higher classification (5A Plymouth was the first), but it is also part of the annual gut check in which the Lions refine their playbook while building for the playoffs and games against schools their own size.
They more than passed the test on the competitor’s turf. All it costs them was in the overall won-lost record.
But they gained a measure of respect statewide and in their own locker room among themselves. This team can compete with any school of any size.
Marian had been allowing an average 5 – that is not a typo – points per game. The Lions smashed that average by a multiple of itself.
Despite the big plays, Bremen had more total offense (345-262) it would have been dominating without the two long ones; ran more plays (70-41), completed more passes (19-5); did not have an interception; ran eight more plays; had more receiving yards (238-169); more rushing yards (107-94); more first downs (19-10); converted three times on fourth downs; had fewer penalties (3-30 vs. 6-75); and had no turnovers.
Topper threw his first pass of the season in a it of trickery, for 34 yards. He caught two more passes. Drew Coffel had the interception. Bremen blocked a point-after attempt.
BREMEN 7 13 0 8 – 28
MARIAN 6 22 0 7 – 35
B – Brett Louderback 1 run (Mitch Moore kick)
M – Bryce Tomasi 1 run (kick blocked)
B – Ryan Topper 10 pass from Matt Box (Moore kick)
M – Michael Hemingway 75 kickoff return (Dominic Rulli run)
M – Joseph Ravotto 47 pass from Tomasi (Jack Tiller kick)
B – Justin Baker 7 pass from Box (kick failed)
M – Zander Horvath 64 pass from Tomasi (Tiller kick)
B – Box 3 run (Box pass to Justin Baker)
M – Horvath 6 run (Tiller kick).
First Downs 19 10
Passing 19-32-0 5-11-1
Passing Yards 238 169
Rushing Yards 107 94
Penalties 3-30 6-75
Punts 2-32 1-40