The Shawnee High School football team is ready to make a second straight run at the postseason — only this year it will be in a smaller division.
For the first time in school history, the Braves will play football in Division V.
“We knew it was a possibility looking at our numbers and the district having shrunk as a staff,” said head coach Rick Meeks.
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In his first season as head coach 17 years ago, the Braves played in D-II, Meeks said. They finished runner-up in the D-III state tournament in 2011 and played in D-IV last season.
Based on its Ohio High School Athletic Association competitive balance number of 207 boys at Shawnee, the Braves dropped from D-IV, Region 16 to D-V, Region 20 — making them one of the largest D-V schools in Ohio. The D-V schools’ enrollment numbers range from 158-207 boys.
In the past, the Braves have averaged 60-80 players. Now, with fewer students, the Braves have averaged about 40 players over the last few seasons.
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They’ll be joined in D-V with Central Buckeye Conference opponent Indian Lake and three other Ohio Heritage Conference schools — Madison Plains, West Liberty-Salem and West Jefferson.
“The schedule is tough, but as long as we don’t have injuries, we’ll be OK,” Meeks said.
A year ago, the Braves had 21 new starters, including 11 on defense. They finished the regular season 6-4, advancing to the playoffs on a last-second field goal by kicker Andi Meeks, the coach’s daughter. The 17-14 victory over Jonathan Alder gave Shawnee its first playoff berth since 2013.
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After losses to Kenton Ridge and Urbana, Shawnee beat the top two teams in the CBC Kenton Trail Division — Bellefontaine and Jonathan Alder — to advance to the playoffs.
“Our kids played better at times than I thought we were going to play,” Rick Meeks said. “There were a few eggs that we laid, but we bounced back as a young team.”
The Braves return all but four players from last year’s team. Shawnee has 13 seniors, including quarterback Robie Glass, the CBC Kenton Trail Co-Offensive Player of the Year. He threw from 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns last year, while rushing for 998 yards and 11 more scores. He also caught five passes for two touchdowns.
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The Braves senior — who has a Division I scholarship offer from the University of Akron — will be used all over the field, Meeks said.
“He can do everything,” he said. “He can play quarterback, receiver, punts for us. He returns kicks and he’s a lockdown corner. We’ve got to have him on the field. I’d like to have him rest up for offense, but we just can’t afford to do that.”
Glass is also one of the hardest-working players on the team.
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“He works his tail off like he’s not very good,” Meeks said. “Some of that stuff comes easy to him, but he’s constantly pushing and pushing.”
The Braves also return several weapons, including senior running backs Matt Guyer and Jaden Hall. Junior Drew Mitch will play wide receiver, tight end and quarterback, Meeks said.
The Braves open the season at former conference rival Greenon — the only D-V school they’ll play the entire regular season — on Friday, Aug. 30.
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The Knights finished with a 6-4 record and led the Braves at halftime last season, making this opener one of the marquee matchups in Week 1. Greenon also moved from Region 18 to Region 20 this fall.
“They’ve improved,” Meeks said. “(Greenon coach Josh Wooten) has put together a great staff. They’ve had improvement in their talent level. There should be a lot of people there and it should be an exciting first game.”
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