High School Football: Shawnee to face top-ranked Wyoming

SPRINGFIELD — The Shawnee High School football program is playing in November for the fourth straight season.

The Braves beat Roger Bacon 33-7 in a Division IV, Region 16 first-round game last Friday night at Shawnee High School. It was Shawnee’s 10th first round win in 11 playoff appearances during Coach Rick Meeks’ tenure.

Shawnee will travel to D-IV top-ranked and undefeated Cincinnati Wyoming for a Region 16 quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. Friday. The Cowboys beat the Braves 14-7 in their only playoff matchup in 2009.

“They’re excited,” Meeks said. “Practice has been great this week. Spirits have been really good and upbeat. The kids have been focused on what we need to do. We’re going to go and hope the ball bounces our way.”

Shawnee started the season 5-1, but lost three straight to fall to 5-4. In Week 8, the Braves lost starting quarterback senior R.J. Griffin to injury.

“It was a big mental letdown for the team because he was our leader,” Meeks said. “He was our guy. It was a blow, but they’re resilient. It was: ‘OK, let’s go’.”

The Braves rallied in Week 10, beating Jonathan Alder 49-21 to earn a home playoff game as the No. 8 seed in Region 16. The Braves were dominant in their victory over Roger Bacon, sending their seniors off with a victory in their final home game.

“The kids that have made it through the season are fighting their butts off through the adversity we’ve had,” Meeks said. “We’re just really proud of them. Did we think we could do it? Yeah, we absolutely did. We thought we could be Jonathan Alder and Roger Bacon. The kids came out and played well. I’m pleased.”

Braves junior Zane Mercer and senior Max Guyer have shared duties at quarterback over the last few weeks. Mercer started three games at QB as a sophomore and threw three TD passes in last week’s victory against Roger Bacon.

“He’s had to step up and he has,” Meeks said.

Braves junior running back T.J. Meeks has also scored eight TDs over the past two weeks, including five rushing TDs against Jonathan Alder and two receiving TDs against Roger Bacon.

Shawnee will face a tough test against Wyoming senior running back CJ Hester, who has rushed for 2,292 yards and 37 TDs in 11 games this season. The Western Michigan commit has rushed for nearly 6,200 yards in his career, qualifying for the Ohio High School Athletic Association career rushing yards list.

“He’s really good,” Meeks said. “We’ve got our hands full. They put a lot of guys out to block for him.”

Defensively, the Cowboys have allowed just 28 points in 11 games, including eight shutouts.

“I told the kids it’s an opportunity to knock off the No. 1 team in the state,” Meeks said. “Not a lot of people get that opportunity and we have that opportunity. I can’t remember when we’ve played the No. 1 team in the state.”

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