High School Football: Shawnee ready for big test against West Jefferson

Shawnee’s Robie Glass runs for a touchdown against Jonathan Alder on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Plain City. David Jablonski/Staff
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Shawnee’s Robie Glass runs for a touchdown against Jonathan Alder on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Plain City. David Jablonski/Staff

The Shawnee High School football program is back in the regional semifinals after a six-year absence.

This time, the Braves will face another program with storied playoff tradition. The third-seeded Braves (9-2) will play No. 2 West Jefferson (10-1) in a Division V, Region 20 semifinal game at 7 p.m. Saturday at London High School.

In mid-November, there’s no holding back, said longtime Braves coach Rick Meeks.

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“We want to go out and lay it on the line,” Meeks said. “We’re in the final four in the region. There’s only 16 teams left in Division V. We’re one out of 16 that can win the state title, one out of four that can win the regional title. Let’s lay it all out there and give it everything we’ve got and see where the cards fall.”

West Jefferson won a share of the Ohio Heritage Conference North Division. The Roughriders have won three straight since falling at West Liberty-Salem 42-39 in Week 8. They beat Cincinnati Summit Country Day 48-24 last week to advance to the regional semifinals.

West Jefferson is making its third straight playoff appearance and 22nd overall. They’ve won two state titles (1976 and 1982) and are seeking their first state semifinal appearance since 2013. Shawnee hasn’t played West Jefferson during Meeks’ tenure, he said.

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The Roughriders are led by senior running back Gabe Jones, who rushed for 2,050 yards and 32 touchdowns this season.

“We’re going to have to play a heck of game,” Meeks said. “They’re big up front. They’ve got a tailback who can run. The quarterback isn’t as mobile as other we’ve faced, but he can throw the ball. They remind me of Jonathan Alder offensively how they run things.”

West Jefferson sophomore Tyler Buescher has also been stellar, throwing for 2,229 yards and 27 TDs in the balanced Roughriders attack.

“They’re built around running the ball and the play-action pass off of it,” Meeks said. “They try to get deep strikes off of that, everybody loading up on the run and throwing over their heads. It’s worked.”

Conditioning will be key for the Braves this week. The Roughriders have 70 players, while the Braves have 30, but about the same number of players go both ways, Meeks said.

“If things don’t bounce our way, they’re an extremely good football team and we’ll get beat,” he said.

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The Braves turned the ball over three times in their 34-18 quarterfinal victory over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy last week. Shawnee emphasized ball security in practice this week, just like it has all season, Meeks said

“Some weeks we do (take care of the football) and some weeks we don’t, that’s how it goes,” Meeks said. “Coaches at every level of football are saying the same thing every single week. People say those are cliches, they’re not cliches. They’re reality. If you can run the football, take care of the ball and play good defense, you win.”

DIVISION V

No. 1 Cincinnati Taft (10-1) vs. No. 4 West Liberty-Salem (10-1) at Miamisburg’s Holland Field: In the other D-V, Region 20 semifinal, the Tigers will travel to Montgomery County to face top-seeded Taft.

The Tigers beat Madeira 21-14 to advance to the regional semis for the first time since 2015, when it lost to eventual state runner-up Marion Local.

The Senators beat Blanchester 35-3 to advance to the regional semifinals. Taft had lost in the regional quarterfinals the last four years in a row and its last six appearances. It was the first playoff victory for Cincinnati Public Schools in more than 30 years,