WAPAKONETA — It took Minster all of 14 seconds to score.
After that, the Wildcats were on their way to the next round.
Minster’s Jonathan Niemeyer returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and Minster went on to roll past Upper Scioto Valley 41-8 in the Division VII Region 28 semifinal Saturday at Harmon Field.
Minster led 13-0 after the first quarter and 41-0 at the half. Minster subbed frequently in the second half, which was played the whole way with a running clock.
“It was a big-time effort from our kids,” Minster coach Geron Stokes said. “They were so focused. They’re going to fight and they’re going to compete because they want to keep this team together as long as possible. … Our kids are hungry and they keep getting better.”
Minster (8-4) advances to the regional finals against Fort Recovery (8-4), a 42-14 winner against Covington at 7 p.m. Saturday at a site to be named.
USV (8-4) reached the second round in its first playoff appearance.
Leading the way for Minster was standout run/pass quarterback Jared Huelsman. In the air, he completed 11 of 19 for 151 yards and one TD, all in the first half. On the ground, he ran for 73 yards on 10 carries, with one TD.
“He’s a competitor,” Stokes said of Huelsman. “He’s a fox-hole guy. You want those kids.”
Minster’s Bryce Schmiesing had six receptions for 86 yards and an 18-yard TD. He also ran for 20 yards on seven carries. He ran for TDs of 5 and yards.
USV came in banged up with two of its top players going down with knee injuries in the playoff win last week against Troy Christian.
USV quarterback Jason Moots didn’t play because of a knee injury.
Wayne Lowery started at quarterback for the Rams and completed 3 of 9 for 42 yards. Lowery ran for 47 yards on 11 carries.
Northwest Central Conference player of the year running back Austin Sloan suffered a knee injury last week and tried to play Saturday. He had runs for 11, 10 and 9 yards early around the right side, but went down twice trying to stop and cut back.
Sloan was limited to one carry in the second half before leaving for good after re-injuring his knee. He finished with 48 yards on 11 carries.
“I made it look good warming up, but it didn’t feel good,” Sloan said. “The first run I knew it wasn’t going to be a great night for me, but I wanted to be out for the team. They needed me out there, for morale more than anything. I made a cut over here and it gave out on me and I knew I couldn’t cut and I knew it wasn’t going to go well for me tonight.
“They’re a great team and are well disciplined and they were a great bunch of guys.”
Added Stokes, “We’ve gotten better each week, defensively, and that kid (Sloan) can fly.”
Niemeyer actually dropped the opening kickoff, picked it up and turned the right corner for an 83-yard kickoff return for a TD.
“First, I dropped it, then I saw a hole, hit it hard and I heard the crowd go nuts,” Niemeyer said. “It was a great feeling. We have a lot of young guys on the team and some of them may have come in a little tense. It might have loosened them up a little bit and made them feel more comfortable.”
Minster made it 13-0 on Schmiesing’s 5-yard TD run through a huge hole with 4:19 left in the first quarter.
Schmiesing zig-zagged his way through the line for a 2-yard TD to give Minster a 20-0 lead with 9:56 left in the second quarter.
In all, Minster had the ball seven times and scored five times in the first half.
Huelsman ran a 3-yard quarterback draw up the middle for a TD to make it 27-0 with 1:34 left in the first half.
Then Huelsman hit Schiemsing on an 18-yard post pattern for a TD to give Minster a 34-0 lead with 21 seconds left in the half. The play came off a 4-fourth-and 12.
USV tried to run out the half, but Minster’s Alex Oldiges stripped the Rams’ runner and took the ball before it hit the ground and went 24 yards for a TD.
That pushed the Minster lead to 41-0 with two seconds left before halftime.
“That was a back breaker,” Stokes said. “And that kid who got the strip and took it to the end zone has put in an unbelievable amount of work.”
Sloan, obviously, wished he was 100 percent, but felt good about the Rams making the playoffs.
“It feels good. We are truly blessed to come this far,” Sloan said. “It’s amazing.”
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0468.