ELKHART — Dealing with pressure was no big deal for Nate Leeper and the Bremen High football team Friday night.
The senior quarterback was one cool customer by passing for 156 yards and one touchdown and running for 28 more yards, leading No. 6 (Class 2A) Bremen to a 27-13 win over No. 10 (Class 3A) Jimtown in a Northern State Conference showdown at a jam-packed Knepp Field.
Senior running back Braxston Miller added 24 carries for 185 yards and two scores as the Lions (8-0, 6-0 NSC) earned themselves at least a share of their first NSC title since 1995.
Bremen can wrap up the outright crown with a win over John Glenn next Friday at Don Bunge Field.
“I hope our kids don’t get too caught up in this tonight, only for the simple fact our work isn’t done yet,” said Bremen coach Bob Holmes. “We won a share of a conference championship, but unfortunately or fortunately, however you look
at it, we have to go and play another great game against an outstanding John Glenn team.
“Our kids worked hard this week and have all season long. To come over here beat a great team like Jimtown at Knepp Field is a great accomplishment for us. Overall, this was a great performance by both our offense and defense.”
Leeper was at his best in the second half, especially on the Lions’ final drive, which went 73 yards in 13 plays and consumed nearly seven minutes off the clock.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Leeper found Mitch Huppert for an 18-yard gain and also scrambled for 20 yards to keep the march going that was capped off by Eric Kneppert with 39 seconds left.
“I thought Leeper showed his poise tonight, especially in the second half,” Holmes said. “He stuck to his technique and did a great job in the pocket. For the most part, he had plenty of time to throw and made some great decisions.”
The Lions wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as the 5-11, 198-pound Miller found the end zone by rambling 63 yards on the game’s third play.
This sequence proved to be costly for the Jimmies (6-2, 5-1 NSC) as free safety and starting quarterback Drew Zeiger suffered a neck injury. Zeiger had to be taken off the field on a stretcher and was taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons. He is expected to make a full recovery, but his status for next week’s game at Triton is uncertain.
“In a game of this magnitude, it’s always easier to play when you’re in front,” Holmes said. “I thought being able to come out and get a quick score like we did set the tone for the entire first half. Although we were pressing at times to get into the end zone, I thought we did a great job of withstanding their surges by keeping them out of the end zone.”
Helped along by a Ben Hueni interception deep in Jimtown territory, the Lions managed to give themselves a little more breathing room before halftime.
Miller got things going with a 14-yard run and then Leeper capped off the drive by hooking up with Hueni for a 15-yard touchdown to give Bremen a 14-point cushion at the break.
Guilty of two interceptions in the opening 24 minutes, Jimtown finally came to life, thanks to the running of Devan Emerson.
The 5-11, 170 pound junior Emerson accounted for 84 yards on the 11-play, 93-yard march, capped off by Tanner Adams’ one-yard run.
A missed extra-point proved to be another omen for the Jimmies as Bremen later in the period answered with a score of its own.
An 11-yard punt paved the way for Miller, who took the ball 50 yards to give the Lions a 21-6 advantage.
Jimtown came back with another score before the Lions sealed the contest with its long drive.
“Drew is a big part of what we do on both sides of the ball, but we’re not using that as an excuse,” said Jimtown coach Mike Campbell. “We just got beat by a better team tonight. They made the plays when they had to and did a good job of containing us when they had to.”
Emerson finished with 22 carries for 211 yards, while Brandon Kay accounted for the other Jimtown touchdown.
Hueni had four catches for 56 yards, while Bobby Cornett and Sean Knepper added interceptions for the Lions.
• BREMEN 27, JIMTOWN 13
Bremen 7 7 7 6-27
Jimtown 0 0 6 7-13
B — Braxston Miller 63 run (Lucas Schlarb kick)
B — Ben Hueni 15 pass from Nate Leeper (Schlarb kick)
J — Tanner Adams 1 run (kick failed)
B — Miller 50 run (Schlarb kick)
J — Brandon Kay 8 run (Trey Zufan kick)
B — Eric Knepper 1 run (kick failed)
First downs: 15 12
Rushing yards: 221 257
Passing yards: 156 15
Passing: 10-16-1 2-10-3
Punting: 2-25 2-15
Fumbles: 0 0
Penalties: 4-35 2-10
Records: Bremen 8-0 (6-0 NSC), Jimtown 6-2 (5-1 NSC)