Following an amazing season where our program took a giant step forward in being undefeated in regular season and district play, a look back on how this came to be, and what lies ahead
Following a season where we graduated seven quality seniors that included two who would go on to play college football, and also held down school records, along with a defensive core of Cody Orth, Trevor Schadler, Devon McCormick and an upstart athlete who had never played football and thought it might be fun, the 2021 Mustangs appeared devoid of that explosive, big-play back, and it appeared that it might be our passing game that would carry us forward through the 2021 campaign. Jed Martin appeared to be thrust into the running-back position by necessity, after having run for a total of 96 yards the previous year. Jacob Leicht certainly carried the credentials to be a blue-chip quarterback after serving in that capacity the two privious campaigns, but appeared to perhaps be the “Lone Ranger” and might have to sacrifice himself, in order for us to gain positive yardage on a consistent basis out of the backfield, or maybe we would just give the ball to David Govan and let him run over top of the opponents’ defense..
Our defense, which allowed 166 point in 8 games the year before, were now playing without four of our top five defensive players who had accounted for 163 tackles in 2020. At best we could hope for a repeat of that team’s defensive efforts. Could Thomas Sayers, the Reis twins, Austin Schadler, Adam Bezold and Eli Twehues step up and match the efforts of the 2020 defense? Maybe, Maybe Not.
Needless to say, the 2021 Football Season was not met with boundless enthusiasm for such things as the ability to dominate our opponents, go to Newport, handle Holy Cross, and take on newcomer Lloyd Memorial to our schedule. The answer to that question honestly, is No. Neither myself nor Coach Paul Wiggins saw this coming. While I was happy to be back in football season, glad to be playing once again at the MAC and anxious to watch David Govan and Jacob Leicht play out their senior seasons, I hoped for a winning record at best.
The 2021 season dawned with a home game versus Dayton, who always seem to have a lot of positive hype surrounding them early in the season, and this was no exception. Coach Jesse Herbst, a Dayton football grad himself, had breathed new life into the program and the Greendevils came to Alexandria on August 20th with more players on their roster than we did, and there was no reason to think that the possibility existed that the Greendevils might take us out on opening night. Jacob Leicht, Jed Martin, and Evan Orth combined to gain 236 yards that night, as the Mustangs rolled to a 28-0 home game win.
Things did not go well the following Friday when rain began to fall as our team boarded the bus, heading for Newport. After driving through rain and sitting out a long delay prior to kickoff due to a combination of rain and lightening, I was secretly hoping that the game would be postponed until the next night, and had already decided on what I was going to have for dinner at Pompilio’s when that announcement was made. However, thanks to the persistence of the offilials and both coaching staffs we got underway about an hour past the original post-time.
Mayhem ensued early in the game for our guys when a bad snap deep in Newport territory resulted in a 36 yard touchdown recovery by Elizha White, and a successful PAT made it 7-0 Cats before the crowd, under their umbrellas, were comfortable in their seats. On the second Newport kick-off of the game, bad went to worse when we failed to field the hot grounder, but ran it down and recovered it at the one yard line. From that point on the ship was righted, the Cats turned the ball over and we intercepted a couple of passes, and we began to see the emergence of Leicht’s ability to orchestrate long drives. In this game one for 78 yards and one for 80 gave the Mustangs the confidence that we could move the ball and score without having Trevor in the backfield. Jed Martin ran for 167 yards, and Leicht 85. Our run game was thus established.
Jacob Leicht was unable to answer the bell for the Bellevue game the next Thursday and Junior Mason Meyer was pressed into quarterback duties. He had learned his lessons well – Give the ball to Jed, who collected 142.yards, including an 85 yard breakaway, and a touchdown. Meyer himself scored two TDs. Three other Mustangs carried the ball to paydirt as the Mustangs rolled 42-0 Martin was quickly becoming a premiere Class 1A running back.
A 21-0 win over Holy Cross would further bolster our stock. Newport and Holy Cross were two of the Class 2A schools who pummeled us during our 2A stint. It was also garnering notice that our defense had issued three shut-outs, and the only 7 points scored against us was on a turnover at Newport.
On September 17 we welcomed the Lloyd Juggernauts to the MAC. Lloyd was another 2A school with which we had had no success during our 2A days, and they were a cut above the other schools appearing on our 2021 docket. Lloyd did not lose to Class 1A schools, but on this night they were defeated 13-8 in “big boy” football game, as our Mustangs overcame a late-game 8-7 deficit, when Leicht hit Jed Martin out of the backfield for the game-winner. Leicht had previously connected with Evan Orth on a 36 yard touchdown strike. This was indeed a signature win for the 2021 Mustangs.
We were now 5-0 and had beaten the most formidable team on our schedule and thoughts of possibly running the table, pushed aside thoughts of being .500. We now wanted to win them all. Ludlow came to town the following week in what I considered the mother of all trap games. The Panthers had embarrassed us 54-33 a year previous in the River City, and came to Alexandria recovering from some recent injuries, and with the same cast of characters that laid 54 on us a year ago. The Mustangs would not give up 54 to the Panthers in this game, limiting them to a late-game TD after the game had long been decided. Jed and Jacob would combine for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Jacob would connect with David Govan on a touchdown pass for a fourth. The Mustangs ran their record to 6-0 and now an expectation of winning set in as we embarked on district play the following week hosting Nicholas County.
Continued From Post of 11/23
The onset of district play took place as Game Four of a four game home stand at the MAC under ideal playing conditions. Nicholas County conjured up memories of our 3OT victory over the Blue Jackets year ago in Carlisle, earning us the Class 1A, District 5 top seed. It also brought back flashbacks of the unspeakably cruel Covid precaution that deprived 7 seniors, and this Mustangs football team a chance to experience their finest hour, from competing for their first-ever district championship. This year’s regular season bout featured the running games and defense of both the Mustangs and Blue Jackets teams in a battle of wills, that would see the Nicholas County place-kicker attempt 47, 60, and 61 yard field goals, while Paul Wiggins more often utilized the services of what we would call the “Jumbo Package” – a backfield of David Govan, Austin Schadler, and Jed Martin. Jacob Leicht took us on a pair of long drives, 80 and 85 yards, that resulted in our two touchdowns on this night. Leicht would finish off both drives with touchdown runs. Our defense was stellar, shutting out the Blue Jackets, allowing 14 points to stand up, and our record to improve to 7-0 and go up 1-0 in district competition.
A stubborn, slow-moving weather front that brought rain and lightning greeted the Mustangs as we arrived at Bracken County High School. The game got underway about 45 minutes past scheduled start time, with standing water on each sideline. The Polar Bears, who had defeated Paris the previous week, put up a fight early on, but as we had learned throughout this campaign, we were a tough team to beat for 48 minutes. and slogged out a 36-0 win, putting us in control of our district-seeding fate, with a district seeding game remaining with Paris at Blanton Collier Stadium. With this win, the 2021 Mustangs set a new school record for most consecutive wins to start a season, with 8, eclipsing the old mark held by the 2015 class, who had reeled off 7 straight.
The trip to Paris was made through scattered showers, that had followed a steady rain that had fallen throughout the day. Blanton Collier Stadium is our toughest venue from which to broadcast, and we rolled the dice by choosing to set up on the roof of the press box, with the continued possibility of rain. Fortunately, the rain held off and we remained high and dry, but such was not the case for our football gladiators, who played in an absolute quagmire, wich severely limited our ability to make breakaway runs and put big numbers on the scoreboard. Leicht drove the Mustangs 99 yards for a touchdown, and when David Govan recovered a blocked punt in the end zone, we had all of the points we would need on this night. The game was described post-game, as “not a bit of fun,” our Mustangs were up to the task, prevailing over the home team 15-6 to earn that coveted district top seed
The regular season would come to a conclusion at Sharp Middle School where the Mustangs found a proud and contentious bunch of Wildcats, focused on retuning Battle Of US27 Trophy back to Falmouth. Once again, we would demonstrate that we are a tough team to beat for 48 minutes. Tied at the half at 8-8, we would outscore the Cats 16-6 in the second half en-route to putting up 24 unanswered points in the second half to retain possession of the traveling trophy. Our record improved to 10-0 and we were the only Class 1A undefeated team in the Commonwealth, along with sporting the top defensive record in the state. When Jacob Leicht scored his 13th Touchdown of the season, and 27th of his career, he surpassed Trevor Schadler who had previously held the “Most Rushing Touchdowns in a Career” mark with 26. Jed Martin crossed the 1,000 yards rushing plateau Friday night with 110 yards, giving him 1,047 on the season,
By being the District 5 top seed, we were guaranteed two home games. Confidence was at an all-time high, as Paris invaded the friendly confines of the MAC for a game to be played on a dry surface. Certainly, the game vs the Hounds played in the muck at Paris, would be an aberration, and the Mustangs would duplicate their efforts over the Greyhounds exhibited in 2019 (36-0) Such would not be the case. In basketball, we talk about hwo teams matching up with each other. Paris showed us that they were capable of limiting our running game, and there would be no Mustangs track meet on this night, it would have to wait until the following week. Our guys squandered a pair of premiere opportunities in the first quarter as we intercepted Chase Puckett twice, and found ourselves at first and goal from the Paris 8 yard line but failed to score. In this one and done event, neither team scored in the first half. We would draw first blood in the third quarter when Leicht marched us 66 yards for a touchdown, finding Mason Meyers for a touchdown, giving us a 7-0 lead when Schwartz knocked home the PAT. Paris answered making it a 7-6 ballgame. Leicht found Meyer again and we opened a 14-6. Again, the Paris Greyhounds would not go away, running the ensuing kick-off back for a touchdown, and only a super-human effort by Jed Martin and Evan Orth preserved the 2-point lead, stopping the 2 Point conversion. We had survived, but their was now some conjecture that maybe our competition had caught up with us… Jed Martin became a school record holder for Most Rushing Yards in a Season, surpassing the old record of 1,123 yards, set by Jacob Elbert back in 2011.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Nicholas County returned to the MAC, in what was a much anticipated to be, knock-down, drag-out contest between ourselves, and the proud Blue Jackets, who owned the three previous district championships, and would certainly not go down without a fight of major proportions. What was about to transpire however, was perhaps the most dominating half of football to ever be played by any Brossart football team. Coach Paul Wiggins also included any games that he had played in back in his playing days at Newport. We scored on each of our five offensive possessions in the first half on drives of 79, 81, 67, 40, and 99 yards, sending this game to a running clock with a 36-0 halftime lead. Jed Martin scored three touchdowns, and Jacob Leicht one to tie Trevor Schadler (14) for Most Rushing Touchdowns in a season. David Govan scored a touchdown and a 2 point conversion. Keegan Gulley hit Eli Twehues for a 2 point conversion, and “Dewey” Schwartz knocked home a pair of PATs. It was a fitting ending to a “perfect” regular season and district playoffs. In what was a memorable “Mustang Moment” our fans regaled with our players on the field for a full fifteen minutes following this game, taking it all in, despite being in a steady rain. We were 12-0, and would face highly-touted Raceland the following Friday night.
My past experience, and knowledge of the Raceland Rams told me that despite our lofty rankings – Number 7 in Class 1A, our prowess, leading the state defensively, and our 12-0 record, that the Raceland Rams, playing at home, would expect to win. They had a few trophies in their case that we could only dream about at this stage of our development, having played in a State Championship game. To me, Raceland represented “the next level.” They, like Beechwood, are a big time football program, housed in a Class 1A school. Basketball and baseball at Raceland, are simply activities used to occupy their time between football seasons. The fact that we had earned our way to Raceland, and that our defense had been able to keep our mere-mortal opponents in check, gave hope that just perhaps, if we could keep it close, we might be contentious. Much as we had sliced and diced Nicholas County seven days ago, would their blue-chip, reclassified, Sophomore quarterback, Logan Lundy, demonstrate his passing skills liberally as the Rams struck by land and by air, building up a 19-0 first-quarter lead. But, hold the phone, we began the second quarter with a very Mustang-like 67 yard drive, culminated by a 7 yard touchdown pass to Jed Martin, and when “Dewey” Schwartz split the uprights, it was a 19-7 football game. The ensuing “rush the ball” on-sides kick and recovery was a classic. In the press box there were probably 20 of us. 18 staunch good old boy Rams supporters, and 2 of us from Brossart, and believe me, they were mad. They almost took it as a personal insult, that we would resort to chicanery, and not play the game as God designed it. Mike Schack and I expected an empty bottle to come flying from the other end of the room. But down on the field we were back in business, Leicht marched us from the Raceland 44 to their 24 yard line, before turning it over on downs. Since that moment, I’ve wondered how the Rams might have responded had we punched it in, and their once insurmountable 19-0 lead would have diminished to 5. As it was, Raceland scored again prior to the half, and our fate was sealed. The Raceland scoring in the second half was much more some kind of a statement of their dominance, more so than an actual evaluation of our competitiveness. Much as our previous opponents struggled to compete with our team for 48 minutes, so too, did this Mustangs team run out of gas, and succumb to the superior opponent on this night, dropping the curtain on our 12-1 storybook season.
|08-20||W||Dayton - 28-0||Home|
|08-27||W||Newport - 21-7||Away|
|09-02||W||Bellevue - 42-0||Away|
|09-10||W||Holy Cross - 21-0||Home|
|09-17||W||Lloyd - 13-8||HOme|
|09-24||W||Ludlow - 41-7||Home|
|10-01||W||Nicholas Co - 14-0||Home|
|10-08||W||Bracken Co - 36-0||Away|
|10-15||W||Paris - 15-6||Away|
|10-22||W||Pendleton Co - 24-14||Away|
|11-05||W||Paris - 14-12 (Playoff)||Home|
|11-12||W||Nicholas Co - 36-0 (Playoff)||Home|
|11-19||L||Raceland - 7-48 (Playoff)||Away|
What Lies Ahead?
What lies ahead is anyone’s educated guess. The bar has certainly been raised, and the gauntlet has been thrown to this team’s successors to carry on this tradition of excellence achieved by the 2021 Mustangs. As we were shown by Raceland, who were bounced by Pikeville Friday night, there are still some giant steps to be taken before realistically setting our sights on that date off in the future at Kroger Field.
Here we are again, graduating eleven productive seniors, including our three-year quarterback, Jacob Leicht, who, along with Jed Martin are two 1,000 yard ground-gainers that are going to walk down the aisle.
Had I not seen our JV and Colts teams in action, nor learned some valuable history lessons along the way, I might expect that proverbial step-back that we appeared destined to take, as we approached the 2021 Football season.
Our cupboard is certainly not bare. There are two worthy candidates waiting in the wings to fill the shoes of Jacob Leicht – Junior Mason Meyer and Freshman Keegan Gulley. Meyer filled in for Jacob in the Bellevue game when Jake was unavailable, and Gulley served as quarterback in all four JV games and did a masterful job in doing so. Leicht himself took over at the quarterback position as a sophomore, and Meyer might be best served in another productive position moving forward. While there are always going to growing pains in any transition of power, the quarterback position should not be a major cause for concern. Austin Schadler and Evan Orth are certainly capable of forming two sections of a “jumbo package” and Orth will again be called upon to serve as our short yard specialist, but the bigger question is, who becomes our breakaway threat in the backfield, replacing Jed. Perhaps that question was answered earler, or maybe, as when Trevor Schadler and Jacob Leicht teamed up, so too might we see a tandem of Gulley and Meyer. Sheer speculation! Any number of candidates appear poised to compete for the wide receiver slots. Should Meyer remain in that capacity, he would certainly anchor one of those spots, and I would have to tab Sam Willike as another. Perhaps Luke Schroeder might step up and earn consideration. David Govan’s versatility and “wide-body” status will be missed. In the concerns category should be listed the lack of “wide-bodies.”
In the grand scheme of things, our bigger concern might be who replaces linemen Thomas Sayers, Kaleb Lukes, The Reis twins, and Adam Bezold. Austin Schadler can certainly step in and fill one of those spots, and Nate Heck, who filled in capably for Brad Reis for a time, has shown that he is ready for a lineman’s spot. Henry Goering appears to be the heir apparent to the center position, but is no match for the size and girth that Sayers brought to the table. Evan Orth, Derek Martin and Eli Twehues have the credentials to lead the defense. Twehues was perhaps our top defender in the late stages of the season. Alejandro Arguelles has the potential to pick up where “Dewey” Schwartz left off in the place-kicking department.
Whether any of the Colts grads are ready to step in and become viable varsity contributors is yet to be seen, but if any should, this would be an added bonus, and there are a few candidates who just might compete for a varsity job.
There is a lot of debate about our schedule and that will be left up to our coaches. Lest we forget, we are a small Class 1A football program from a school of just over 300 co-ed students, who share fall athletes with a popular soccer program and a successful cross-country team, and house zero re-classified players . Newport, Holy Cross, and Lloyd are 2A programs, with Pendleton County residing in Class 3A. Each have every right to improve from the team that they were this year. My only wish would be that we might see Sayre back on our schedule. We played them in 2020 and scrimmaged them this season. They are a perennial Top Ten Class 1A program with whom we match up well.
While I am quite ready to get back indoors and enjoy a basketball season, the memories of this past football season will remain fresh in my mind moving forward as we anticipate the 2022 Football season.