WALKERTON — Bremen has become a pretty nice second half team.
Last week the Lions outplayed Class 3A No. 1 Jimtown 6-0 in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to get the win. On Friday, Bremen rallied back from a 17-14 halftime deficit to spoil Senior Night at John Glenn, 34-24, in a back-and-forth regular season-closer for third place in the Northern State Conference.
After putting up only 48 offensive yards — including a net loss of 15 rushing yards in the second quarter — for just three first downs in the first two frames in Walkerton, the Lions hit the field fired up after the break, chewing up 263 ground yards for three scores. The Bremen defense limited the Falcons to a single score in the same span, holding on a key fourth-down conversion attempt at the Lions’ 23 with 5:05 remaining in the game to give Bremen back possession for the game-sealing score with 2:48 left to play.
“John Glenn’s a tough opponent. It always is a really, really emotionally hard-hitting game, and it was tonight,” said Bremen head coach Bob Holmes. “I really was impressed with the way our kids finished the end of the game. They had their opportunity to put it out of reach, and I felt they showed their mettle a little bit tonight. “I’m awful proud of the way we played in the second half because we sure weren’t getting it done in the first half.”
Bremen’s big break came at the end of the first half, when Jacob Bennitt reeled off a 91-yard kick-off return up the Glenn sideline for a touchdown that cut the Falcons’ lead from 10 points to a manageable 17-14 at the 1:05 stop of the second quarter.
“A huge momentum-shifter, and when you play a quality team like Glenn, momentum is such a huge part,” said Holmes. “I felt that that kind of gave us a little bit of momentum, and we built off of it from there and did a nice job.”
“The kick-off return before the half hurt us. We’ve got to make those plays to win this game, and that type of thing kills you. It killed us tonight,” said Glenn head coach Justin Bogunia.
“It might have taken some momentum away from us in that the dagger that we had going being up 10 before the half would have been tough for them to come back from and more positive for us. Who knows?”
Bremen opened the second half with a 10-play, 86-yard scoring drive highlighted by a 34-yard breakaway by Reid Zellmer — who finished with a game-high 181 rushing yards and all four of his team’s scores in his third game back from a collarbone injury — and capped off by the senior tailback’s 4-yard touchdown plunge to give the Lions their first lead of the night, 21-17 at the 8:26 mark of the third quarter.
Glenn responded with a quick four-play drive and a score of its own less then two minutes later when Adam Dodson broke a trio of tackles for a 54-yard TD ramble up the middle to give the Falcons back a tentative 24-21 advantage, their last lead of the night.
The Lions got a big break on their next possession when, facing a second and 14 situation at the Falcons 18, Glenn was called for interference on a Kai Slough pass to Ethan Pike in the corner of the end zone to give Bremen an automatic first down and half the distance to the goal, which the visitors capitalized on with two Zellmer runs to retake the lead, 27-24 with Lucas Schlarb’s only failed point-after attempt of the night following a 5-yard false start penalty on the Lions.
Alan Louderback’s big sack of Glenn QB Kyle Liedtky on a fourth and 5 at the Bremen 23 stalled out the Falcons’ next drive, and the Lions hammered the final nail in Glenn’s coffin with a four-play scoring drive featuring a 39-yard Dillon Mullen run and culminating in Zellmer’s fourth and longest TD run of 13 yards to bring the score to its final margin with Schlarb’s PAT.
The Falcons opened the scoring at the game with a touchdown on their opening possession, a 22-yard TD strike from Liedtky to Jake Strong that put the home team up 7-nil with the first of three Micheal Schmeltz extra-point kicks at the 8:54 mark of the first.
Bremen knotted the score at 7-all with 2:31 remaining in the quarter with a five-play scoring drive capped off by a 4-yard Zellmer run after taking over at the Falcons’ 27 following a failed fourth-down conversion attempt by the Falcons.
Glenn took back the lead 10-7 with a 25-yard field goal by Schmeltz at the 5:35 stop of the second frame after marching down to the Bremen 7.
After holding the Lions to three and out on the ensuing possession, the Falcons pushed that advantage to 17-7 with a 58-yard drive as Dodson found pay dirt with a 9-yard score with 1:19 remaining until halftime.
But Bremen cut into the lead with Bennitt’s big 91-yard kickoff return to give the Lions new life before the break.
While Zellmer led all rushers with 181 yards and four scores, Ryan Zellmer recorded 73 yards in three big carries, and Dillon Mullen finished with 52 yards in five touches for the Lions.
Dodson recorded 131 yards on 17 carries with two scores, while teammate Derek Hiler put up 74 yards in 15 rushes, and Zach Combs turned in a 62-yard, eight-carry performance before both he and Dodson were sidelined with injuries late in the game.
Bremen closes out the regular season at 6-3 overall and 5-2 in the NSC, good enough for third place behind unbeaten Jimtown and runner-up New Prairie.
But maybe more importantly, the Lions were able to bounce back from their first loss in five weeks against the Jimmies last week to take some forward momentum into their playoff opener on the road at Lewis Cass next Friday, a rematch of last year’s Sectional 26 championship game.
“We’re going to have to play from the beginning like we did in the second half because we won’t get any second chances. Our kids need to understand we can only guarantee them one more game, and if they want any more they’re going to have to go out and play the way that they did in the second half to earn it,” Holmes said. “Hopefully they will. I’m extremely happy with this group, the adversity they’ve faced the entire season to end the regular season at 6-3 and guarantee themselves a winning season, what a great job.”
Glenn drops below .500 at 4-5 with a 4-3 conference slate. The Falcons will face Culver Military in a rematch of a 20-7 Week 6 loss in a Sectional 17 opener at home next week.
• BREMEN 34, JOHN GLENN 24
Score by quarter
Bremen: 7 7 7 13 — 34
Glenn: 7 10 7 0 — 24
JG — Jake Strong 22-yd pass from Kyle Liedtky (Micheal Schmeltz kick) 8:54
B — Reid Zellmer run 4 (Lucas Schlarb kick) 2:31
JG — Schmeltz 25-yd field goal 5:35
JG — Adam Dodson 9-yd run (Schmeltz) 1:19
B — Jacob Bennitt 91-yd kickoff return (Schlarb kick), 1:05
B — Zellmer run 4 (Schlarb kick) 8:26
JG — Dodson 54-yd run (Schmeltz kick) 6:43
B — Zellmer run 2 (kick fail) 10:04
B — Zellmer run 13 (Schlarb kick) 2:48
First downs: 16 19
Rushing: 39-302 49-270
Passing 4-9-0 7-14-1
Passing yardage: 48 66
Fumbles-lost: 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yds lost: 6-67 2-15
Rushing: Reid Zellmer 29-181, 4 TDs; Ryan Zellmer 3-72; Dillon Mullen 5-52
Passing: Kai Slough 4-9-0 for 55
Receiving: Ethan Pike 3-45, Reid Zellmer 1-10
Rushing: Dodson 17-131, 2 TDs; Derek Hiler 15-74; Zach Combs 8-62
Passing: Liedtky 7-14-1 for 66 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Strong 5-47, 1 TD; Schmeltz 1-11, Combs 1-8
Records: Bremen 6-3 (5-2 NSC), Glenn 4-5 (4-3 NSC)