MARIA STEIN – In a competition featuring some of the best football programs in Ohio, Tri-Village senior Austin Bruner finished third out of 17 competitors in Saturday’s Maria Stein Country Fest Quarterback Challenge.
Bruner and freshman Layne Sarver represented Tri-Village in the sixth annual competition, which included quarterbacks from 10 schools including Coldwater, Covington, Fort Recovery, Lima Central Catholic, Lima Shawnee, Marion Local, New Bremen, St. Henry and St. Marys.
Sarver finished 10th overall while Bruner finished third behind champion Clay Schmitz of Fort Recovery and runner-up Kyle Muhlenkamp of Marion Local.
“It was a lot better than what I expected,” Bruner said. “I had a few rough throws but ended up pretty decent, I guess. As big as the other schools are out here, I’m pretty proud of what I did, pretty happy with what I got.”
The Quarterback Challenge tested high school quarterbacks’ accuracy and arm strength with two rounds of stationary targets, two rounds of moving targets and one round of distance throws.
The competition began with each quarterback throwing a pair of passes at a stationary target. Bruner finished the round in third place behind Muhlenkamp and LCC’s Nevan Stolly, who were tied for the lead.
The second round had quarterbacks throwing three passes each at a moving target attached to a golf cart. Bruner dropped in the standings, falling to seventh through two rounds. Schmitz from Fort Recovery had the top score in the second round and moved into first place.
Bruner started his comeback in the third round, which was a distance throw. Passers were awarded points for how far they threw the ball with deductions subtracted for distance from a center line. Bruner was credited with a throw of 49 yards, which matched Shawnee’s Johnny Caprella for the best mark of the round.
“It was alright,” Bruner said of his distance throw. “I was trying to do better.”
The fourth round was another stationary target positioned farther down the field. Bruner had a strong showing and moved into fourth place overall. It also was Sarver’s best round as he had the second-best score in the round behind only Covington’s Cade Schmelzer.
The final round of the day was another moving target. Bruner had the second-best score behind Caprella and moved ahead of Nevan Stolly for third place.
Bruner, who finished 14th out of 14 competitors in last year’s Quarterback Challenge, said hard work throughout the year allowed for his big improvement.
“A lot of weight room, taking time with working out and going through drills,” he said.
With his third-place finish, Bruner won a plaque and also earned $100 for the Tri-Village athletics department. Schmitz earned $250 for Fort Recovery’s athletics department, and Muhlenkamp earned $150 for Marion Local’s athletics department.
Schmitz is the second Fort Recovery quarterback to win the Maria Stein Country Fest
Quarterback Challenge. Versailles’ Nick Campbell won the inaugural championship in 2012, Parkway’s Austin Dennison won the championship in 2013, Fort Recovery’s Caleb Martin won in 2014, and Coldwater’s Sam Broering won in 2016 and 2017. The competition was rained out in 2015.
The high school football season is only a couple months away, and Bruner is ready to get started.
“Aw, heck yeah,” he said. “Heck yeah. Ready to get it started.”
The Maria Stein Country Fest Quarterback Challenge will be rebroadcast on WOSN and online at wosn.tv.
Maria Stein Country Fest Quarterback Challenge
1. Clay Schmitz, Fort Recovery: 665
2. Kyle Muhlenkamp, Marion Local: 655
3. Austin Bruner, Tri-Village: 637
4. Nevan Stolly, Lima Central Catholic: 622
5. Carter Ballweg, St. Marys: 584
6. Jake Hemmelgarn, Coldwater: 579
7. Cade Schmelzer, Covington: 575
8. Nolan Bornhorst, New Bremen: 561
9. Kurt Bubp, St. Marys: 540
10. Layne Sarver, Tri-Village: 524
11. Johnny Caprella, Lima Shawnee: 522
12. Nate Bruns, Marion Local: 521
13. Matt Bertke, St. Henry: 492
14. Nathan Stolly, Lima Central Catholic: 489
15. Braeden Dunlap, St. Marys: 453
16. Max Link, Marion Local: 411
17. Brady Klingshirn, Coldwater: 383
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4312. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.