Shawnee’s defense knew what to expect Friday night against Tecumseh. The Arrows brought their clock-eating wing-T running game of fullback dives and halfback sweeps to the Braves’ homecoming party. But the Braves didn’t expect a backup guard to crash it.
A.J. Betleyoun is a 5-10, 185-pound senior who knows the running plays because he practiced all week to block for them. He’s also the Arrows’ middle linebacker and leading tackler. But when starting fullback and leading rusher Davey Berner left the game in the first series after six carries with an ankle injury, Betleyoun became a running back the Braves couldn’t stop.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who play a lot of positions and I’m one of them,” Betleyoun said. “Whatever they want me to do I’ll do.”
Betleyoun followed his blockers and had more fun on offense than he’s ever had. He rushed for 92 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns to help power the Arrows to a 17-14 Central Buckeye Conference victory. He entered the game with five carries and one touchdown and said he’s never carried the ball so much.
“I told him it’s your senior year and I’m going to put the biggest burden on the seniors,” Tecumseh coach Chris Cory said.
The Arrows (4-2) trailed 6-3 late in the first half and faced fourth-and-3 at their 44. They set up to go for the first down but called time out when they couldn’t get the Braves (4-2) to jump offsides. A punt seemed logical, but that wasn’t the discussion on the Tecumseh sideline. Cory, who Betleyoun says is a risk-taker, asked an important question.
“It’s your senior year,” Cory said. “What do you want to do? You going to get me this first down?”
Betleyoun said it was a unanimous yes.
The handoff went to Betleyoun over the left side. He got blocks from his line, a running back and some receivers and wasn’t stopped until he had gained 48 yards to the Shawnee eight. Three plays later he scored from the three for a 10-6 lead with 34 seconds left in the half.
“It was a great opportunity, we got some great blocks from the line and I got loose and just tried to make something happen,” Betleyoun said.
Otherwise, the Arrows did exactly what Shawnee coach Rick Meeks expected — lean on the young Braves with their physical offensive line and keep Robie Glass, the Braves’ big-play quarterback and sometimes wide receiver off the field. The Arrows held the ball 11 more minutes, forced two fumbles and gained 263 yards on 55 rushes. They threw one incompletion and limited the Braves to 43 plays. Glass caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Drew Mitch in the first half and threw a 26-yarder to Luke Myers with 3:40 left.
“He’s one of the best athletes we’ve played this year,” Betleyoun said of Glass. “We were just trying to contain him, and I think the defense did a great job.”
The Arrows took a 17-6 lead with 7:04 left on Betleyoun’s second 3-yard touchdown. After Shawnee scored, he and senior halfback Gavin Wasson, who made a big 17-yard run to overcome a holding penalty for a first down, followed the line to three first downs to run out the clock.
“It feels good to get in the end zone, but I owe it all to the offensive line,” Betleyoun said. “They’re the guys in there doing the work. I just run the ball.”
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