Jalen Nelson rushed for school records of 308 yards and five touchdowns Friday night, and unbeaten Shawnee High School needed every last one of them against upset-minded Bellefontaine.
The Chieftains dipped to 3-5 overall and 0-3 in the Central Buckeye Conference’s Kenton Trail Division, but not before registering an absolute dogfight at Dave Long Memorial Stadium.
It took Nelson’s fifth and final touchdown — a gritty, 17-yard run at 3:23 in the third — to put the pesky Chieftains away for good, 34-33.
Nelson again played hero, this time with a key sack on defense on third and goal from the 4.
Trailing, 34-27, Bellefontaine scored as time expired, but a two-point conversion bid to win failed.
Three of Nelson’s TDs (2, 2 and 29 yards) came during an opening quarter that had all the makings of an apparent Shawnee blowout.
The Braves (8-0, 3-0) moved the ball with ease, striking early and quick with a four-play, 65-yard drive that took just 1:15 off the clock.
But a 20-7, first-quarter lead and any hint of a lopsided score vanished in the second period when Bellefontaine matched Nelson’s fourth TD of the half (a 15-yard run) with two of its own.
Quarterback Jake Kennedy, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior, hit freshman receiver Hayden Nease with a 14-yard pass at 1:33 to cut the Braves’ lead to 20-14.
Nelson’s TD run padded the lead, but Kennedy again fought back, this time hitting Dorion Hughes on a 10-yarder with 21 seconds left that sent the Chieftains into halftime with confidence, trailing 27-20.
The game was much closer than first-half stat sheets indicated.
Shawnee outgained Bellefontaine, 427-205, in the opening half, including a sizeable 261-19 rushing advantage, but Kennedy kept the Chieftains in the game, taking 20-yard passing advantage (186-166) into intermission.
He finished with 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17 of 41 throwing.
Shawnee head coach Rick Meeks appeared visibly frustrated and eager to make adjustments as the first half expired.
Bellefontaine emerged from the locker room undaunted and promptly drove 39 yards in two minutes to knot the score, 27-27, at 9:43 in the third, getting a 19-yard TD run from Kennedy.