Griffin leads Shawnee to comeback playoff victory

CINCINNATI — Trailing 16-15 at Purcell Marian with about two minutes remaining, the Shawnee High School football team put together one of its best drives of the season.

Braves quarterback R.J. Griffin scored on a 9-yard run with 33 seconds remaining, lifting ninth-seeded Shawnee to a 21-16 victory against the eighth-seeded Cavaliers in a D-V, Region 20 first round game Saturday afternoon at Walnut Hills High School.

Shawnee improved to 7-4 overall and will play the winner of top-seeded Cincinnati Taft (7-2) and 16th-seeded Cincinnati Madeira (4-6) on Nov. 6. Purcell Marian finished its season 7-4.

“It’s a credit to our kids for making plays,” said Shawnee coach Rick Meeks. “When it was crunch time and we’ve gotta go, gotta go, we went. It was zero coverage, man-to-man stuff and we exploited that a little bit on that last drive. The kids ran great routes and caught the ball.”

The Braves practice the two-minute drill every Thursday, Griffin said, and the game played out just like it does on the practice field. Shawnee sophomore T.J. Meeks and junior Zion Crowe each caught key passes to get the Braves within striking distance.

“It was a lot of screaming and a lot of excitement,” said senior offensive tackle Clay Boeke. “We all wanted to win.”

A roughing the passer penalty gave Shawnee the ball on the 11-yard line. Griffin scored two plays later to give the Braves the lead.

“(My teammates) definitely stepped up in tough situations, fought adversity the entire game,” Griffin said. “I’m proud of everybody on the team.”

Crowe intercepted Cavaliers quarterback Jaron Kelley’s pass on the ensuing possession to seal the victory.

The Braves were without several starters due to injuries and were dealt another blow when junior running back Max Guyer left the game right before halftime with an injury.

While Shawnee brought home the victory, the game was filled with multiple stalled drives, penalties and dropped passes, Rick Meeks said.

“I’m proud of the effort, but we’ve got to clean those things up,” Meeks said. “You’re not going to beat too many good teams like that. This was a good team and we were able to get away with it, barely. … We made plays at the end. It was a gutsy win.”

Shawnee took a 6-0 lead on a 3-yard run by Guyer with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter. Early in the quarter, Griffin nailed a 63-yard punt, pinning the Cavaliers back on their own 1-yard line. A few plays later, the Braves tackled the Cavaliers’ Leo Hennegan in the end zone for a safety to make it 8-0.

Late in the second quarter, Shawnee sophomore Braylon Brim blocked a punt and it was recovered by junior Boston Scanlan. A few plays later, Griffin scored on a 13-yard run to give Shawnee a 15-0 lead.

Right before the half, the Cavaliers drove the ball down the field and cut the lead to 15-3 after a 20-yard field goal by freshman Alaina Gentry.

Purcell Marian grabbed the momentum in the second half. The Cavaliers scored on a 12-yard TD run by Jenkins with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter. After their defense held in their own territory with about four minutes remaining, the Cavaliers took the lead on a 13-yard run by Jenkins with 2:22 to go to grab their first lead of the game at 16-15.

Shawnee’s offense took care of business from that point forward — and lived to fight another day in the postseason.

“We want to keep winning and keep getting better,” Boeke said.

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