Slow start dooms Lions

BREMEN — Bremen scuffled to a slow start, and when the long green line finally got rolling, it was too little, too late in a loss to visiting Jimtown Friday.
The Lions outplayed Class 3A No. 1 Jimtown 6-0 in the second half, holding the unbeaten Jimmies to their lowest points production and slimmest margin of victory this year with the second-half shutout. But none of it was enough to pull the home team back from a 21-0 halftime deficit as Bremen suffered a 21-6 Northern State Conference setback at Don Bunge Field.
“You cannot let Jimtown have a 21-point lead on you in the first half and expect to come back from that, because they’re very good,” said Bremen head football coach Bob Holmes.
Bremen managed just three first downs and 50 net rushing yards in the first half, and the Jimmies capitalized on some short field advantages in the second quarter with touchdown drives of 34 and 45 yards, following an eight-play, 61-yard scoring drive in the first quarter capped off by a 20-yard plunge from Tanner Adams — who finished with 82 yards and two touchdowns — to put the visitors up 21-nil.
After recording just one first down in the game’s opening 20 minutes, the Lions finally started moving the ball on their last possession of the first half. They marched 33 yards downfield to the Jimtown 22-yard line, but Kai Slough’s pass into the corner of the end zone was picked off by Marquis Schieber for a touchback, and Bremen entered the intermission down 21 points.
“Too many mistakes,” said Holmes. “I’m not taking anything away from Jimtown… but we didn’t put ourselves in good positions in the first half. When you’re playing a team that’s only allowed 19 points all year, the last thing we can do is put ourselves in positions where we’re starting behind the eight ball. Our concept this week was move the chains. We didn’t do that in the first half, they capitalized on the short field and really put us in a bad spot in the first half.”
The second half didn’t start auspiciously, either, as the Lions went three and out on the opening possession, but Bremen’s defense made a big goal line stand on Jimtown’s next possession courtesy of a big third-down sack by defensive lineman Alan Louderback following a first and goal situation at the Bremen 9.
The Lions marched from their own 15 into Jimtown territory on the ensuing possession, but Zach Campbell sacked Slough scrambling back to the line of scrimmage on a blitz and punched the ball loose from behind, and the Jimmies recovered on their own 49. Adams fumbled on the next play, but after one of several confusing exchanges between officials at the game, the play was deemed null by virtue of an earlier unintentional whistle.
But Jimtown fumbled again two plays later, and Josh Fuchs recovered to give Bremen back possession with a short field at the Jimtown 36 with 11:33 remaining in the game. Six plays and a little over a minute later Reid Zellmer — who tallied a game-high 114 rushing yards in his second game back from a broken collarbone — punched the ball in from the 1-yard line to give Bremen its lone score of the night and cut the Lions’ deficit to 21-6 with the failed kick at the 9:31 stop.
“What I liked is that we fought, we didn’t give up, we bristled up and we played harder when we were under adversity,” Holmes said. “That was something I didn’t feel we did in the first half, and I think it was something that showed in the second half with how we moved the ball and handled the scheme in the secondary.”
Bremen never got any closer, however, as Jimtown ate up all but 1:02 of the remaining game time with a methodical 11-play drive to the Lions 6 featuring a key fourth-down conversion run by quarterback Brody Olson with 3:59 to play.
The Jimmies reclaimed at least a share of the NSC title the Lions dethroned them for last season as they handed Bremen its second conference loss while remaining unbeaten in league play with one round of Northern State games remaining next Friday. The loss marked the first time perennial power Jimtown has beaten the Lions since Holmes took over the program in 2010.
While it wasn’t exactly a moral victory for Bremen, the Lions did have plenty to feel good about in the second half Friday as they challenged top-ranked Jimtown to its closest game of the year and held the Jimmies under 40 points for the first time in five games.
“We played a very good second half. We’ve got to come out and play that kind of inspired football in the first half,” said Holmes. “Jimtown’s a very good team. We just went toe-to-toe with No. 1 in the state in 3A, and I think we did a dog-gone good job, and we fought hard and never quit at all. I think that shows the character of this group, and I’m very proud of them in that regard. We’re never happy when we lose a game, but hopefully we can take some good from this game and move forward.”
At Bremen
Score by quarters
Jimtown: 7 14 0 0 — 21
Bremen: 0 0 0 6 — 6
Scoring summary
First quarter
J — Tanner Adams 2-yd run (Tyler Zufan), 2:55
Second quarter
J — Adams 12-yd run (Zufan), 7:58
J — Brody Olsen 41-yard pass to Carter Gill, 4:08
Fourth quarter
B — Reid Zellmer 1-yd run (kick fail), 9:30
Bremen Jimtown
First downs: 12 19
Rushing: 32-117 51-218
Passing (att-comp-int): 5-13-1 4-5-1
Passing yardage: 49 101
Fumbles-lost: 3-1 1-1
Penalties-yds lost: 3-15 6-50
Bremen leaders
Rushing: Zellmer 22-114, 1 TD; Dillon Mullen 5-21
Passing: Kai Slough 5-13-1 for 49 yds
Receiving: Ryan Zellmer 3-30, Ethan Pike 2-19
Jimtown leaders
Rushing: Devan Emerson 24-96; Adams 17-82, 2 TDs; Olsen 8-33
Passing: Olsen 4-5 for 101, 1 TD
Receiving: Gill 2-84 for 42, 1 TD; Evan Oblinter 1-12; Nick Olson 1-5
Records: Bremen 5-3 (4-2 NSC), Jimtown 8-0 (6-0 NSC)