Bremen preps for toughest challenge yet in Luers
BREMEN — Thirteen down, one to go.
Undefeated No. 4 Bremen (13-0) faces its toughest challenge yet as the Lions travel to Fort Wayne to take on two-time defending state champion and No. 1-rated Bishop Luers (11-1) in the Class 2A Northern Semistate Friday at 7:30 p.m. The winner will receive a berth at the state finals Nov. 25 against the winner of Saturday’s Southern Semistate between Guerin Catholic and Evansville Mater Dei.
“We are exactly where we wanted to be. We are one step away from the ultimate goal that we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season,” said Bremen Head Football Coach Bob Holmes. “We are one victory away from obtaining our goal, which is to play for a state championship. We know there’s a very good team called Fort Wayne Bishop Luers that stands in our way, and we’re going to give our very best effort to get past them and do what we need to do to get to the state finals.”
While the Lions have faced some tough challenges from some quality programs this year, Luers looks to be their sternest test yet.
The Knights are looking for their third straight state championship berth and 14th overall — Luers stands alone atop the IHSAA’s list of all-time semistate champions with 13 — and looking to extend their active tournament win streak to 17 games, where they share top honors with Class A No. 1 Lafayette Central Catholic.
While Bremen is one of only four unbeaten teams remaining in the state tournament and the only one in the Class 2A tourney, Luers also has yet to be beaten by an opponent this season: The Knights’ lone loss to Fort Wayne South on Sept. 2 actually came by forfeit after 25-year head coach Matt Lindsay discovered he had fielded an ineligible player in the contest.
Luers’ offense is averaging better than 42 points a game this season guided by senior quarterback and Bowling Green signee James Knapke, who threw for 210 yards and four touchdowns in his team’s 44-23 regional win over Tipton last week. The Knights also possess what Holmes calls a “stable” of running backs led by 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior Jaylon Smith, who is currently courting offers from Purdue and Ohio State, among other DI prospects.
Against such a prolific scoring threat, the Lions’ best defense may prove to be their offense.
“They have a stable of running backs, an unbelievable amount of kids who can carry the football,” said Holmes. “Their speed is tremendous; they’re very versatile. Their quarterback is outstanding. They have very good receivers. We’re going to have to keep their offense off the field. We’re going to have to control the clock, control the ball, and we’re going to have to put some points on the scoreboard after hopefully long drives.”
But then again, Bremen’s proven itself pretty formidable, too.
The Lions have set numerous program benchmarks, including a repeat sectional championship, the school’s first Northern State Conference crown since 1995 and its first unbeaten regular season since 1990, a 14-game skid-snapping win over Plymouth and a program-first win at Tippecanoe Valley in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively, and last week’s 35-21 regional championship win of the previously unbeaten Bearcats on the road at Wheeler.
The team boasts 18 seniors with plenty of big game experience led by heady quarterback Nate Leeper as well as bruising leading rusher Braxston Miller and speedy top receiver Ben Hueni, and so far this season, the Lions have outscored opponents by a lopsided 522-160 margin.
“We’re going to do what we do,” Holmes said. “The most important aspect of this week is we can’t get caught up in what Luers does. We have to continue to do what we’ve done all year and do it very well. We have to continue to believe in our scheme and our system. Our discipline and our scheme is what’s going to allow us to get the victory. We’re going to have to continue to do all the things that we’ve done all year.”