Lost amongst the long winning streak, the back-to-back-to-back state titles and the absolute dominance of 8-man Division II football for the Axtell Eagles over the last few years, is just how Axtell gets it done and in how many different ways.
Sure, Brandon Schmelzle has amassed some terrific numbers (1571 yards passing, 790 rushing, 50 total TDs) this year, but there was a time when the presumed 2023 all-state quarterback was the one catching passes from another Eagle great Isaac Detweiler. Sure, Eli Broxterman was a big-time receiving threat with 10 touchdowns in the air to lead Axtell, but there was a time, there were questions about whether the sure-handed Eagle wide out was going to be able to shoulder the load.
Yet the Eagles persisted. Even after a season opening battle against Cair Paravel, where Axtell could have seen their run abruptly end in a 60-44 win that had fans on the edge of their seats. Still, Axtell did not let maybe their toughest test in nearly a 2 year time frame shake their confidence or ruin their determination. In fact, through all of those things it seemed like Axtell came out stronger than before.
Then there was Saturday. The 2023 state title game in Newton, on a snowy cold day in late November, the Eagles could have let the cold weather be a factor, they could have let the freshly fallen snow be an excuse, they could have let the poor first series where they went 3 and out and had to punt to a dangerous South Central team instead of going out there and starting fast like we had all become accustomed to. They could have let all of those things be the reason that it all stopped. Yet the Eagles persisted and did so in a big way as they defeat Coldwater 50-0, ending the game at halftime via the Mercy rule.
Even through all of those things, Schmelzle, Broxterman, and the Eagle defense were three of the biggest reasons as to why the trophy is now in the hands of Axtell. In what may have been the most total team effort of the season, all three phases of the team provided scores including a pick 6 from Colin Shaughnessy and a massive punt block and scoop and score from Grant Buessing.
The defense allowed only 22 yards of offense and intercepted two of the three passes from SC Quarterback JT Prusa, one of which resulted in a pick 6 from Colin Shaughnessy and the other honestly could have been as Brandon Schmelzle grabbed the final heave from Prusa and had nothing but grass in front of him. Instead Schmelzle went down to the ground and allowed time to expire and end the game.
Axtell finishes the season 13-0. They will return the majority of their team next year but will have to find a way to replace Grant Buessing (29.5 tackles 3.5 sacks), Grady Buessing (535 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns) and Sawyer Deters (tied for team lead in sacks).
For now, Axtell will enjoy this win but soon will be back in the weightroom and preparing for 2024. Congratulations to the Eagle boys and Coach Eric Detweiler on a fine season!