LAKEVILLE — It would take some creative math to make LaVille’s first-half numbers add up to a win. In the end, the Lancers couldn’t.
Zero first downs. Negative 12 net offensive yards. Five turnovers, all before the intermission.
Bremen’s defense won the battle for field position again and again, and the opportunistic Lions capitalized on five LaVille turnovers in the first half to run out to a 42-0 lead at the break, eventually handing the host Lancers a 42-15 Homecoming night spoiler.
“The kids did a nice job in the first half of executing the offense and taking advantage of field position,” said Bremen head football coach Bob Holmes. “I think that was the key to the first half. We penned them (eight) times, and we scored on every series except for two. LaVille fought hard, and I’m not taking anything away from them, we just played an extremely efficient first half.”
“From the beginning of the game, we didn’t do ourselves any favors with field position,” said LaVille coach Mark Reddy. “We’re still trying to figure out personnel issues. A lot of our offense is predicated off of timing, and we just didn’t execute very well tonight. Give credit to Bremen, they did a nice job defensively being aggressive, and we didn’t match that very well, and it resulted in kind of a lopsided victory.”
Those five first-half turnovers were particularly problematic for LaVille as the Lancers coughed up three turnovers on seven fumbles and sophomore newcomer Mitchell Henry threw a pair of interceptions in the first frame Friday. The Lions converted three of those miscues into touchdowns, including a 4-yard fumble recovery by Zach Zimmer at the 5:18 mark of the second frame as they easily put the Northern State Conference game away before halftime.
“You can’t win and turn the ball over, especially when you’re playing a good team,” said Reddy. “We put ourselves in bad position a lot with a lot of turnovers, and that’s obviously something that we need to clean up if we want to get better. We’re going to have to play a lot more disciplined and not turn the ball over.”
“Turnovers are a big part of any game. When you’re on the positive side of the turnover game you’re going to have success,” Holmes said. “It gave us a short field in the first half. We penned them deep on the kicks and really set the tone. It was nice that we could come out, execute and do what we were supposed to do in the first half and let some other kids play in the second half.”
Bremen was equally dominant on the offensive side of the ball as the Lions converted each of their first three possessions into scores.
Eric Knepper ran 33 yards up the Bremen sideline for a touchdown on the Lions’ first offensive play of the night at the 9:55 mark of the first, and the visitors dominated the line of scrimmage from there on.
John Stoller capped off a quick five-play, 26-yard scoring drive with a 4-yard touchdown rumble at the 7:25 stop to give Bremen a 14-0 lead with Knepper’s two-point conversion run, and Kai Slough hit Ethan Pike on a perfect 39-yard touchdown pass to stretch that lead to 20-0 with 4:06 still remaining in the first quarter.
LaVille’s defense finally began to hold the Lions late in the first quarter as Bremen went three and out after Pike’s TD reception, and the visitors turned over on downs in their next possession.
Bremen began moving the ball again in the second quarter but turned over possession on a fumble at the LaVille 33-yard line recovered by Lancers defensive lineman Austin Wilson at the 6:20 stop of the second, but two plays later Bremen and Zimmer returned the favor with Zimmer’s 4-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. Slough hit Ryan Zellmer for 13 yards and a score to cap off a 36-yard scoring drive with 2:36 remaining in the half, and Pike’s second TD reception for 32 yards with just a second on the clock put the game well out of reach at 42-nil with Lucas Schlarb’s second PAT.
“We ran hard. I thought Dillon Mullen played extremely well, Eric ran well, Pike was his normal self, and Matt Holderman made a nice catch on a quickie pass to the tight end that we threw him. We’re working him in at tight end, and he did a nice job. Kai managed the game extremely well,” said Holmes. “They played one series in the third quarter and then we put in everybody else for the rest of the game and got some good experience for our younger kids that does nothing but make us deeper.”
Henry started to settle in in his first game at QB since taking over for Greg Peppers, and LaVille was finally able to move the ball against the Bremen reserves after the intermission.
Zach Gurtner scored twice in the third quarter, once on a 51-yard ramble with 4:14 on the clock and the second on a 19-yarder that capped off a five-play march after Bremen lost a fumble on its own 36. Henry scrambled in a two-point conversion when a high snap made the extra-point kick unfeasible to bring the score to its final margin with four seconds left in the third quarter.
Gurtner finished with a game-high 109 yards on 12 carries in a big step forward for the Lancers after they were shut out for the second time in three weeks at Knox last week.
“There were a lot of different factors that went into the new quarterback situation, and we decided to go with Mitchell Henry and see what he could do. We knew that there were going to be kind of some hiccups along the way, but we’re going to continue to work and he’s going to get better. The second half Cameron Gurtner got going. It’s simple execution — we had better blocking and Cameron did a nice job finding some holes and was able to get some yards,” Reddy said.
“We’re going to keep fighting. We thought we saw some nice things defensively tonight at some different times, and I think as we mature we’ll start to figure ourselves out offensively.”
Bremen saw balanced rushing production led by Knepper’s 76 yards in 15 carries with a touchdown, followed by Stoller’s 44 yards and a touchdown in nine carries, and Mullen’s 35 yards on five carries.
Slough hit his targets at an efficient 4-for-7 rate with three touchdown passes in the steady rain at LaVille, connecting with Pike for 71 yards and two touchdowns and Zellmer once for his 13-yard score.
The Lions moved to 4-2 and 3-1 in the NSC with their third straight win.
• BREMEN 42, LaVILLE 15
Score by quarter
Bremen: 20 22 0 0 — 42
LaVille: 0 0 15 0 — 15
B — Eric Knepper 33-yd run (kick fail), 9:55
B — John Stoller 4-yd run (Knepper run), 7:25
B — Kai Slough 39-yd pass to Ethan Pike (kick fail), 4:06
B — Zach Zimmer 4-yd fumble recovery (Knepper run), 5:18
B — Slough 13-yd pass to Ryan Zellmer (Lucas Schlarb kick), 2:36
B — Slough 32-yd pass to Pike (Schlarb kick), :01
L — Zach Gurtner 51-yd run (Jordan Smith kick), 4:14
L — Gurtner 19-yd run (Henry run), 0:4.9
First downs: 14 6
Rushing (att-yardage): 50-166 35-117
Passing (att-comp-int): 4-9-0 2-12-3
Passing yardage: 125 11
Fumbles-lost: 7-3 3-3
Penalties-yds lost: 3-25 2-15
Rushing: Knepper 15-76, 1 TD; Stoller 9-44, 1 TD, Dillon Mullen 5-35
Passing: Slough 4-7-0 for 125 yds, 3 TD; Israel Mitchell 0-2-0 for 0
Receiving: Pike 2-71, 2 TDs; Zellmer 1-13, 1 TD; Matt Holderman 1-41
Rushing: Cameron Gurtner 12-109, 2 TDs; Caleb Dudeck 11-35
Passing: Mitchell Henry 2-12-3 for 11 yds
Receiving: Greg Peppers 2-11
Records: Bremen 4-2 (3-1 NSC), LaVille 1-4 (0-4 NSC)