Rick Meeks is accustomed to the “Nobody believes in us” story line after 16 seasons as Shawnee High School’s head football coach.
The Braves have advanced to the playoffs seven times in that time and have never lost a first-round game. They’ve won multiple games against top-ranked teams — including a defeat of top-seeded Goshen in 2009 — all while relishing the underdog role.
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Shawnee (7-3) will face another big test when it travels to last year’s state runner-up Clinton-Massie (9-1) for a Division IV, Region 16 playoff game on Saturday night at Clarksville in Clinton County, just east of Cowan Lake State Park. It’s the first playoff appearance for the Braves since 2013.
“They’re excited to be back in the playoffs,” Meeks said. “I’ve not been shy to remind them that we’ve never lost in the first round. The expectation from everybody else is that we’re probably overmatched. I remind them that our M.O. is beating teams we’re not supposed to beat.”
That’s been the case each of the last two weeks. After dropping three games in a row, the Braves beat Bellefontaine 34-0 and Jonathan Alder 17-14 to vault themselves into the playoffs.
Shawnee lost to Clinton-Massie in a nonconference home-and-home series in both 2017 (30-7) and 2016 (36-0).
“The pressure is not on us; it’s on those guys,” Meeks said. “With us, it’s, ‘We’re happy to be here and we’re going to keep it going as long as we can.’ ”
The Braves beat Alder in the second half without dual-threat quarterback Robie Glass, who left with a hand injury. Sophomore Drew Mitch scored to take the lead in the fourth quarter and drove the ball down the field in the final minute of the game that led to kicker Andi Meeks — the coach’s daughter — hitting a 25-yard field goal as time expired.
“It was a good growing experience for us to be able to do it without (Glass),” said Meeks.
Glass expected to play this week. The junior has thrown for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns, rushed for 998 yards and 11 more scores and caught five passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
Clinton-Massie was ranked fourth in the final D-IV state poll. They’ve won eight straight games since falling at Coldwater in Week 2. The Falcons have allowed just nine points in the last five weeks and posted three shutouts.
“They try to impose their will on you on both sides of the ball,” he said. “They’re very aggressive. They’re big and physical and want to beat you up.”
The young Braves have just four seniors on the roster. The experience will pay dividends in the future.
“They believe we can beat anybody because we weren’t supposed to (beat Bellefontaine and Alder) either and we found a way to do it,” Meeks said. “We pride ourselves on beating teams we’re not supposed to.”