The roller coaster that is the Shawnee Braves football season, as coach Rick Meeks calls it, is on the upswing.
The Braves were siting at 2-3 three weeks ago following a 7-6 loss to Northwestern on a fourth-quarter touchdown. Shawnee, behind its run-stopping defense, responded with consecutive wins against Urbana (34-7) and Kenton Ridge (21-3).
That pushed Shawnee to No. 9 in the Division IV, Region 16 playoff computer rankings. The Braves can go even higher with a win Friday.
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Shawnee (4-3 overall, 1-0 Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail) hosts Bellefontaine (6-1, 2-0 CBC) in a clash of the last two unbeaten teams in the Kenton Trail Division. And, not that the Braves are looking ahead, but after tonight Jonathan Alder (5-2, 1-1 CBC) is up next.
Shawnee is taking it one challenge at a time.
“(Bellefontaine is) loaded,” Meeks said. “They’re an extremely good team and well coached. It’s a tall order for us. We’re big underdogs going in this week. Our kids have a good attitude and hope to compete.”
Bellefontaine senior quarterback Dezmin Lyburtus enters fifth in the league in passing with 1,124 yards and third in the league in rushing with 993. He rolled up 228 yards passing and 121 rushing in a 19-6 win against Alder last week.
Last week against Kenton Ridge, Shawnee held dual-threat quarterback Dylan Lemen to 159 yards passing and minus-4 yards rushing on 12 carries. Lemen averages 106 yards per game rushing. As a team the Cougars finished with 35 yards rushing on 30 carries.
“We’ve played well defensively all year, even though the scores like Tipp (38-0) and Clinton-Massie (30-7) were skewed by the inability on offense at times and special teams,” Meeks said, noting 17 of the points scored by Clinton-Massie came against the Braves’ special teams. “We knew we’d be pretty good defensively.”
Senior lineman Billy Forbes, a starter on both lines, has helped lead the way.
“He’s been a stalwart and workaholic all year. He’s a great leader,” Meeks said. “Even during the down times he came to practice every day and got to work. He’s a grinder. He’s a good example for the guys.”
Jack McCrory leads the Braves with 46 tackles. Tanner VanVelzor (36), Aaron Schack (26), Cyres Cooper (23) and Billy Lord (22) round out the top five with Forbes next. They’ll be key if the Braves are to pull the upset against the Chieftains.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Meeks said. “We’re relishing the underdog role. The pressure is on them since they’re the ones supposed to win. We’re going to go compete, hopefully get some breaks and maybe we can steal one from them. It’s been a roller coaster season. Our kids have a good attitude and we’re trying to embrace that we control our own destiny.”
• It’s win and you’re in for the Springfield Wildcats, who are No. 9 in the Division I, Region 3 computer points. That’s easier said than done, though, with the juggernaut lineup the Wildcats face the final three games.
Springfield (5-2) hosts Beavercreek on Friday night. The Beavers are 5-2 overall and ranked No. 10 in Region 3.
Springfield closes out the regular season on the road at Wayne (5-2, No. 6 Region 3) and at Fairmont (6-1, No. 4 Region 3).
Last week Northmont held Springfield to 81 yards rushing on 30 attempts as a team, limiting Tavion Smoot to 26 yards on 12 carries and Leonard Taylor to 34 yards on 11 attempts. The Wildcats will need the running game in high gear against the Beavers, who rank among the GWOC’s best, allowing 106 yards per game.
• Twelve teams reside in the Ohio Heritage Conference. Half of them are still in contention for the playoffs.
West Jefferson has the best shot sitting No. 5 in D-V, Region 20. Greeneview and Mechanicsburg hold No. 6 spots in D-V, Region 20 and D-VI, Region 24 respectively. West Liberty-Salem is No. 8 in D-VI, Region 24. The Tigers can improve their position with a win tonight against Fairbanks and next week against West Jefferson.
Catholic Central is No. 9 in D-VII, Region 28 and Fairbanks is No. 10 in D-VI, Region 23.