Shawnee rolls past Northwestern, clinches outright conference crown

SPRINGFIELD — Shawnee’s football players chanted “C-B-C! C-B-C!” as coach Rick Meeks hoisted the Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division championship trophy into the air at midfield.

After more than a decade, the Braves were finally league champions.

Senior T.J. Meeks rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns, caught a TD pass and threw for another as Shawnee beat Northwestern 41-7 on Friday night to win the outright CBC Mad River Division title. It’s the program’s first conference title in 12 years.

“We’ve finished second six times and were just never able to get over the hump,” Rick Meeks said. “This year we finally got one. We’ve had that playoff success, won more playoff games than any other team in the conference by far. We were never able to finish it off to win a title. It means a lot this year. Typically, you want playoff wins, regional championships is what we’re pushing for. It’s been so long since we finished the job on (the CBC), it means a lot.”

Senior Mitchell Humphreys scored on a 13-yard run on Shawnee’s opening possession and T.J. Meeks followed with a 52-yard TD run to make it 14-0.

Shawnee senior Braylon Brim returned a fumble 58 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 21-0 midway through the first quarter.

T.J. Meeks scored again on a 6-yard run midway through the second quarter and tossed a 1-yard TD pass to junior Connar Earles with 1:23 remaining to trigger the second half running clock.

In the third quarter, Humphreys threw a 47-yard TD pass to T.J. Meeks made it 41-0 with about four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Defensively, the Braves had four sacks, including two by senior Thomus Morgan, and eight tackles for loss.

“We were just bigger, stronger, faster as a team, but (Northwestern) played hard,” Rick Meeks said.

Quarterback Ried Smith scored on a 40-yard run in the fourth quarter for Northwestern, which finished the season 3-7 and 1-4 in the Mad River Division. Northwestern first-year coach Lance Lambert said it was a great experience for his young team. The Warriors will graduate seven seniors.

“It allows our kids to understand the level of play that we’re striving for,” Lambert said. “It sets the bar for us. We’ll go into an offseason where we have everyone coming back. At the end, it was good for our kids because we had sophomores playing against sophomores. It’s a good look for our kids to eventually start to feel more comfortable and gain confidence going into the offseason.”

Shawnee finished the regular season 9-1 and 5-0 in the Mad River Division. The Braves are projected to host a first-round Division IV, Region 16 game, but likely won’t know their opponent officially until Sunday.

“We’ll play whoever,” Rick Meeks said. “We should have a first-round home game. Whoever we draw, we’ll get ready.”

The Braves have 14 seniors this season who set the tone for the program early this season, he said.

“Those were the ones who were able to endure and do what the program needed out of them,” Rick Meeks said. “They kept plugging away with toughness, togetherness. They want to work and they’re great teammates, they root for one another. They’re tough and they’re pretty good football players.”

The Braves longtime head coach also gets to share the championship with his son, T.J.

“It’s special,” Rick Meeks said.

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