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Winless Zebras’ season ends with sectional loss to Bremen

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

The Rochester football team’s season is over.

Whether the ending of its Class 2A, Sectional 34 quarterfinal against Bremen at Barnhart Field Friday is a positive omen for the future remains to be seen.

Landon Kelly ran 28 yards for a touchdown on the game’s final play from scrimmage, and Solomon Romero ran for a two-point conversion, but visiting the Lions earned a 35-8 win.

Bremen, who scored on their first four possessions in building a 28-0 halftime lead, improved to 8-2 and will travel to Wabash in the semifinals this Friday. Wabash knocked off Manchester 16-12 in their quarterfinal.

Rochester finished 0-8. While the first two games of their season were lopped off due to coronavirus-related restrictions that shut down all RHS sports from Aug. 3-24, this marked RHS’ second winless season in the last five years.

Kelly had 94 yards rushing on 20 carries. He also had a team-high 17 tackles and two fumble recoveries on defense.

Alex Deming ran for 55 yards on 14 carries and had 12 tackles from his inside linebacker spot on defense. Jarret Regan had an 11-yard reception. Andrew Bauch and Kelly also caught passes from Reece Renie, who played the entire game at quarterback after splitting time with Antonio Schlosser there against Maconaquah the previous week.

RHS had 150 yards of total offense.

“They’re big, strong kids,” RHS coach Sean Kelly said of the Bremen front eight defensively. “If you look at their bases, they’ve got great bases. They come off the ball. … They’re big men, they come off the ball, and they drive you.”

Noah Swango contributed 13 tackles on defense.

The final 6:26 was played with a running clock after Ethan Nunemaker found Zach Czarnecki in the deep corner of the end zone to make it 35-0. That triggered the IHSAA Mercy Rule.

The Zebras have not beaten Bremen since Oct. 17, 1986, when both schools were still in the Northern Lakes Conference. RHS joined the Three Rivers Conference the following year.

“We’ve improved a lot,” coach Kelly said. “If you look at our front seven on defense there, five of the seven were freshmen and sophomores. And our offensive line and tight end, practically everybody but our quarterback and tailback will be back next year. So they’ve gained a lot of experience. We’ve just got to get them going.”

Nunemaker threw three touchdown passes and also ran for a score for Bremen. Czarnecki had three catches for 47 yards and hauled in two of Nunemaker’s scoring tosses. Hunter Bennitt caught an 18-yard touchdown pass and also ran for a touchdown.

Blake Dingus ran for 169 yards on 25 carries but also lost two fumbles in the third quarter that Landon Kelly recovered.

Bremen didn’t take an offensive snap in their own half of the field until the second quarter. By then, they already led 21-0.

“It was great,” Bremen coach Jordan Leeper said of the start. “Defense played fantastic and set up our offense really well. And Rochester did a really good job of packing the box and taking away the run game. We were able to hit them early with a couple passes that Ethan Nunemaker threw really good. Just happy with that.”

Coach Kelly acknowledged the particular challenge of coaching in the year of the coronavirus.

“Obviously, if you know, if you look at it, we missed an entire summer and spring of workouts,” coach Kelly said. “So we didn’t get anything in the summer when we normally have our 12 days, and we didn’t get any workouts in the summer, all because of the COVID. So it’s tough. And then you lose your first three weeks of the year on top of that, and then you’re going in and playing a lot of young kids.

“So we’ve worked with them hard, and they’ve improved a lot, and hopefully, it will play off in the future.”

Bremen won only three games last season. Leeper said he empathized with some of the issues with which Kelly is dealing.

“I feel his pain,” Leeper said. “I feel a little bit. I know they struggled a little bit throughout the season. But it looks like they’re really young. And it looks like good things are ahead for them. As long as they can keep it together and stick with those guys and get them stronger and get them bigger and let them grow a little bit, I think up front they’ll be pretty solid in the next couple years.”

Bremen 35, Rochester 8

Bremen 14 14 0 7 35

Rochester 0 0 0 8 8

First quarter

BRE – Zach Czarnecki 17 pass from Ethan Nunemaker (Angel Estrada kick)

BRE – Hunter Bennitt 16 pass from Nunemaker (Estrada kick)

Second quarter

BRE – Bennitt 17 run (Estrada kick)

BRE – Nunemaker 3 run (Estrada kick)

Third quarter

(no scoring)

Fourth quarter

BRE – Czarnecki 21 reception (Estrada kick)

RHS – Landon Kelly 28 run (Solomon Romero run)


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