Despite another difficult season in the MAC in 2016, the New Bremen Cardinals feel that they are prepared to take the next step in moving up the ladder in the state’s best small-school football conference.
New Bremen – As the collection of Cardinal football players drifted out of the impressive school training facility after another tough lifting session, one could easily sense a new found confidence, and eagerness to commence the 2017 football season.
The attitude of the players is clearly a reflection of what head coach Chris Schmidt has instilled the past two years.
“In my first year we walked into a program that was burdened with one of the longest losing streaks in Ohio; I had to get to know the kids and the community,” Schmidt said this week. “In our second year, (2016), we set out to win both non-conference games, which we did, and to be competitive in the MAC, which sometimes we were, at other times we were a bit disappointed.”
However, the Wittenberg grad knows that achieving the next goal of once again winning the two non-conference games, and winning in the Midwest Athletic Conference, is easier said than done.
“There are no freebies in the MAC,” he admits. “Every week is difficult as you face great players who are well prepared by outstanding coaches.”
One, above everything else Coach Schmidt knew the Cardinals had to get stronger on both sides of the ball.
“We had a great winter participation in the weight room which carried over into this summer. The rewarding thing is to see the development of our athletes, and as they develop physically competing against the MAC schools is not an impossible task.”
Going hand in hand with the development of a stronger team is the size of the roster, which looks to be in the neighborhood of 53 players, 9-12, which is the largest turnout in quite some time.
With the graduation of only 4 seniors from last year’s team, the Cardinals will welcome a roster of players that saw extensive playing time, and a very successful 8th grade team that compiled a 6-1 record. On a larger roster the coach stated, “Having more athletes allows some competition at various positions, something we have not often had, plus, less players will have to go both ways, hopefully alleviating some injuries.”
“The MAC is a grind and if we can keep our injuries to a minimum, that is a big plus,” says Schmidt. “The larger squad will also allow the football program to field three high school squads for the first time in a long time as schedules are complete for a Frosh program to go along with the JV and Varsity.”
The New Bremen team of 2017 will have some talent on display as the season unfolds.
An athletic QB, Nolan Barhorst, earned his stripes in his frosh season and steps in as the apparent starter where he’ll trigger the Cardinal pistol offense. On the all-important QB position Coach Schmidt says, “wWth a year under his belt we feel we can throw a lot more at Nolan this year because he has confidence in the offense and knows how to react to different situations.”
He will be joined by versatile running back Avery Powers and tight end Brandon Heitkamp. The offensive and defensive lines will be anchored by veteran Logan Dicke.
Defensively the Redbirds will align in a 3-4 base defense with some variations. Maintaining consistency in what they do on the field is obviously very important to the Cardinal coaching staff.
“We tweaked a few things over the winter, and feel we will be able to change some things as the season progresses because we have some veteran players,” Schmidt assures. “The important thing is that the athletes are excited and have a belief in what we are doing.”
So, will 2017 see the marked improvement that 53 young men are currently working tirelessly to attain?
And for a coaching staff that has worked so diligently to put these athletes in a position to win, which the entire New Bremen community longs to see, only time will tell.
But, as you watch this addition of the Cardinal football team work, and listen to a head coach with belief in his team and program, you get the sense that at least some of the young Cardinals are ready to leave the nest.