High School Football: Xenia blanks Tecumseh for first playoff win

Xenia linebacker Isaiah Hoyt (9) and Tawfiq Jabbar Jr. hem in Tecumseh's Braden Berner during Xenia's 18-0 Division II playoff victory Friday at Tecumseh. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

NEW CARLISLE -- The Gatorade shower wasn’t just two players sneaking up on the coach. The entire Xenia High School football team – minus the 11 on the field in victory formation – got in on the victory celebration.

And why not.

Winning a playoff game for the first time in school history happens only once. And if this was a normal year, well, Xenia would not have even qualified for the playoffs.

“It’s 2020,” head coach Trace Smitherman said.

Covid-19 shortened the season to six games so the OHSAA invited every team to the playoffs. Xenia made the playoffs for the first time last year with a 9-1 record and lost in the first round. But the top teams in Division II received byes this year, giving Xenia a shot at school history. Seeded No. 17, Xenia with its 1-5 record knew it had a chance against No. 16 and 3-3 Tecumseh.

The Buccaneers dominated both lines of scrimmage, dominated time of possession and muscled their way to an 18-0 victory.

“I haven’t been here a long time, but most of these guys have grown up in Xenia, and I’m so happy for them and the community,” Smitherman said. “For the kids to follow through and get the W, it’s fantastic.”

Now the young Bucs have a severe test this Friday at 7 p.m. at top-seeded, unbeaten and seventh-ranked Cincinnati Winton Woods.

“It’s going to be a challenge that I think we can handle,” said senior outside linebacker Zack Gaither. “It should be a good game.”

Xenia and Tecumseh both wanted to run the football and dominate time of possession. Xenia started that way with a long drive, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Tremell Wright.

“I wanted to get off to a fast start and gain some confidence and not make as many errors,” said Smitherman of his young team that plays only eight or nine seniors.

Wright scored again on a 3-yard run on fourth-and-goal with 1:05 left in the first half for a 12-0 lead. The Arrows had stonewalled the Bucs on two previous plays.

“What can you say about our quarterback just making all the big, tough fourth downs,” Smitherman said.

Even when the Bucs didn’t score, they made first downs and ran down the clock.

“The line was really good and allowed our fullback (Ramon Browder) to really run, and he was able to get chunks of six and seven yards,” Smitherman said.

Tecumseh’s desire to get Braden Berner and others to the edge was shut down by Xenia outside linebackers Isaiah Hoyt and Gaither and inside linebackers Ryon Foubert and Jamell Smith.

“Offensively we didn’t do enough to help the defense out,” Tecumseh coach Chris Cory said. “I think they ran 30 or 35 more offensive plays than we ran, and that’s not how we’re made. They were just a little bigger, a little stronger and a little faster than we were tonight.”

Teams are permitted to play more regular season games after they are eliminated from the playoffs up to a total of 10 games. That’s particularly good for a young team like Tecumseh that never had more than three seniors on the field against Xenia. The Arrows host Urbana this Friday, have plans to play Graham and are looking for one more opponent. Xenia plans to do the same.

“The kids deserve to play football games,” Cory said. “They’ve worked their tails off for the last four years or five years or six years or seven years or 10 years. It doesn’t mean anything in the standings or playoffs, but when you only get the chance to play 10 games already, we want to give them the opportunity to get all 10 of those games in and have fun.”

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