Meeks sets school record as Shawnee routs Urbana

SPRINGFIELD — In the final home game of his career, T.J. Meeks saved his best for last.

The Shawnee High School senior running back carried the ball 43 times for a school-record 405 yards and five touchdowns as the Braves beat Urbana 42-7 in a Division IV, Region 16 quarterfinal game on Friday night in Springfield.

The seventh-seeded Braves (11-1) advanced to play sixth-seeded Cincinnati Wyoming in a Region 16 semifinal game at 7 p.m. Friday at a site to be determined. The Cowboys, last year’s D-IV state runner-up, beat second-seeded Cincinnati Taft 35-26 to advance to Week 13.

Shawnee rushed for 509 yards in the game. Braves senior Braylon Brim scored on a 68-yard run in the fourth quarter to trigger the running clock.

“I just wanted to savor the moment,” T.J. Meeks said. “I was prepared to keep pounding the ball, pounding the ball and try to pierce their defense whenever I could.”

Shawnee did its best to keep Urbana quarterback Will Donahoe and the Hillclimbers big-play offense off the field. They took a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter on back-to-back TD runs by T.J. Meeks.

“We were just pounding the ball and that was the plan,” said Braves coach Rick Meeks. “We told these guys all week our best defense would be the offense holding onto the ball, pounding the ball, not turning the ball over, reducing penalties, trying to stay on schedule and keep them off the field and it worked in the first half.”

Urbana cut the lead to 14-7 on a 77-yard TD pass from Donahoe to Julian Davis, but they wouldn’t get any closer.

“Thank goodness it was only one,” Rick Meeks said.

T.J. Meeks scored on a 7-yard run with 4:40 remaining in the first half to make it 21-7 at the half. He scored on runs of 13 and 14 yards in the second half to make it 35-7.

“We couldn’t run the ball and that hurt us offensively,” said Hillclimbers coach Carleton Cotner. “We couldn’t get in a good rhythm or get our tempo to help us and we struggled to stop the run on the other side. When you can’t do those two things, you’re in for a long night. They were very physical and we struggled with that.”

T.J. Meeks broke the previous record of 305 yards rushing set by Jalen Nelson in 2013. Meeks also surpassed 2,060 yards this season and broke the single season rushing record of 1,774 yards previously set by Brad Jarzab in 2011.

The Shawnee senior was born in 2006, three years into his father’s tenure as Braves head coach.

“It’s a great feeling,” T.J. Meeks said. “Growing up, seeing those guys, they were like giants. They were so good. I always wanted to be a part of it and be a part of this team. I’m honored that I get to experience it with them and be a part of it with their names (in the record book).”

Urbana finished its season 8-4. The Hillclimbers senior class made back-to-back playoff appearances after going 2-16 during their freshman and sophomore seasons.

“I told them to not let tonight taint the great things we’ve accomplished this season,” Cotner said. “It’s a great class that’s turned this football program around and I’m really proud of them.”

Shawnee is in the regional semifinals for the second time in four years. They’re not ready for their season to end anytime soon, Rick Meeks said.

“We want to keep moving along,” he said. “Whoever they put in front of us, we’ll keep getting a gameplan ready and try to execute it.”

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