By Jeff Gilbert
Shawnee football coach Rick Meeks wanted a fast start Saturday night at Northwestern. He got that plus a whole lot more.
Dusty Seelig returned the opening kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown. That was only the beginning of big play after big play for the Braves in a 73-3 domination of the Warriors in a Central Buckeye Conference crossover game.
“We wanted to come out early and get on top,” Meeks said. “What we hoped was that our success over them in the past would creep back into their minds.”
There wasn’t much time for those thoughts to creep as the Braves (4-0) rolled up 687 yards of offense. A 55-yard run by Jalen Nelson set up the first of five rushing touchdowns for Clay Phillips. Then a 75-yard reception by Nelson set up Phillips’ next score for a 19-0 Shawnee lead with 4:41 left in the first quarter.
The big plays didn’t stop. Nelson caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Saalih Muhammad and Phillips scored on a 33-yard run for a 33-0 halftime lead.
Shawnee had played the more difficult schedule, but this was not the matchup of 3-0 teams that Northwestern second-year coach Seth Whiting expected.
“From the opening kickoff we had kids out of lanes,” Whiting said. “We continually made mistakes that we don’t normally make. People can read into the score all they want – that was not an accurate representation of how good of a football team we have.
“But my hat’s off to Shawnee. They played a flawless football game. Everything they did worked. And the things that we did during the week in practice our kids just did not execute in the game.”
Nelson was in the middle of much of what was flawless for the Braves. He had a sack and led a defense that harassed Warriors quarterback Hunter Houseman into two interceptions and a number of losses as he scrambled. Houseman was 19 of 34 passing for 182 yards but didn’t hit the big play the Warriors are used to making. Nelson returned one of the interceptions 40 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Nelson rushed for 152 yards on seven carries and a 59-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Muhammad had 102 yards on 10 carries and Phillips had 124 on 12 carries. Muhammad completed 8 of 11 for 191 yards.
With only six seniors and a lot of sophomores playing, Meeks was hoping to start the season at least 3-1.
“I feel good because we’re young,” Meeks said. “Being undefeated at this point is a little ahead of schedule.”