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BREMEN — Heroes are made in the postseason, and Bremen’s Braxton Miller became one in Friday night’s Sectional 26 opener.
After a Whitko field goal to start overtime, Miller’s three-yard touchdown gave Bremen a 20-14 victory to put the Lions in the second round against Fairfield, a 45-0 winner over Woodlan.
“It’s just too much, and the crowd just went wild,” Miller said of his game-winning score. “It’s just overwhelming. It’s awesome.”
Bremen coach Bob Holmes was ecstatic with how his team came through in the clutch.
“The kids really stepped up and handled adversity and did a great job tonight,” Holmes said. “I’m awfully proud of those kids.”
Miller finished with 149 total yards and two scores, while Bremen’s defense held Whitko power backs DJ Fouce and Dakota Harmon to 97 yards on 29 carries, a 3.3-yard average.
“Our defense did a great job against two really good running backs,” Holmes said.
No. 10 Whitko, which scored with a minute left to force overtime, thirsted for the program’s first sectional title in 24 years, an aspiration that will wait at least another year.
“This one hurts, especially for the seniors,” Whitko coach Wayne Swender said. “But I told them they have nothing to be ashamed of. They played a good, hard game and lost to a very good team.”
On a third-and-17 with four minutes left in the first half, Whitko’s Alex Stoddard hit Derek Snep for a 33-yard score, as Snep jumped and snagged the ball between two defenders.
Bremen (7-3) answered with just 24 seconds before halftime, on a three-yard TD run by Miller, who had 63 yards on the drive, including a 43-yard pass from Nate Leeper.
“We needed that score, because we knew we were going to be in a war,” Holmes said. “We just had to keep believing in what we do.”
Bremen took the lead with 7:09 left in the third quarter when Leeper finished an 88-yard drive with a one-yard TD run. The scoring drive was helped by a 38-yard run by Brock Molebash and a 22-yard pass from Leeper to Sean Knepper.
On the next possession, Bremen stopped a Whitko fake punt attempt near midfield. After an false start and a sack, Snep pulled down an interception at almost the same spot.
On third down at the Bremen five, Knepper intercepted Stoddard in the end zone to end the threat.
Stoddard hit Scott Skiles on a 46-yard pass on third-and-27 with two minutes left. A Bremen personal foul pushed Whitko further, and Fouce followed with a five-yard TD run to tie it and force OT.
A 20-yard field goal by Benjamin Bryan put Whitko up 17-14, but on Bremen’s third play, Miller’s three-yard score set off a wild celebration.
“Our only goal this week was to be on the right side of the 32 teams left,” Holmes said. “We get an opportunity to play another week and we’ll work hard and let the chips fall where they may.”
For Whitko, it wasn’t the ending the Wildcats had in mind.
“Right there at the end, they just kind of ran over us,” Swender said. “It’s just one of those things. We played a lot of young kids this year and they’ll be ready to hit the weight room and get back at it.”
Whitko finishes 8-2 on the season with its first Three Rivers Conference title since 2002 and most wins since 1995.