CAMDEN — In a challenging season for football teams across Ohio, many would be satisfied with an appearance in the OHSAA playoffs, signaling a successful ending of a difficult, shortened 2020 season.
Not ready to settle with simply competing in the playoffs, however, No. 13 Preble Shawnee went out and not only won in its first ever playoff appearance, but absolutely dominated, downing the visiting No. 20 Clermont Northeastern Rockets 45-6 on Saturday, Oct. 10, in the Division V, Region 20 bracket.
It was a sloppy start for both teams, as Northeastern missed a 43-yard field goal on the opening drive.
On Shawnee’s first drive, senior Travis Howard’s pass was intercepted on their first play, but the Rockets gave the ball right back on the next play after a fumble that was recovered by Shawnee sophomore Malechai Stephenson. However, the Arrows would punt on the drive.
Northeastern’s next drive saw the Rockets get pushed back to their own 37-yard line after a sack by sophomore Brayden Doran, and then on third-and-15, the ball was intercepted with Stephenson forcing his second turnover of the game.
“They threw the ball quite a bit on us,” Shawnee coach David Maddox said. “We came in wanting to get some pressure on the quarterback, and I felt like we did that pretty well. I thought we played really hard, and that’s the thing that we talked about – just not focusing on other teams, but just fixing the things that we got to do, and we’ve got to play hard.”
After a conversion on third-and-12 on the ensuing drive, a horse collar tackle by the Rockets moved Shawnee to Northeastern’s 24 yard-line where Howard connected with senior Bryce Singleton on a 24-yard passing touchdown for Shawnee’s first points in the OHSAA playoffs, taking a 7-0 lead.
The Rockets got good field position on the next drive after a line drive kickoff and a personal foul on the Arrows, and they responded to Shawnee’s score with a 17-yard passing TD, but after a delay of game penalty on the extra point to move it back five yards, Shawnee sophomore Grady Hutchinson blocked the extra point to maintain Shawnee’s lead, 7-6.
As the second quarter began, the Arrows drove down to Northeastern’s 6-yard line, where Howard threw his second touchdown of the game, this one to senior James Gibson, to extend Shawnee’s lead to 14-6.
The next drive for the Rockets ended in disaster after a sack on first down and incomplete passes on second and third down led to a punt on fourth-and-16.
A high snap led to the punt being blocked and then recovered by Shawnee senior Triston Engle at Northeastern’s 22-yard line.
From there, it took just four plays for the Arrows to find the end zone, with Howard again finding Gibson for a 2-yard TD pass, making it 21-6 in favor of the Arrows.
“We tried to mix it up,” Maddox said. “Running the ball is probably the best thing we do, and then getting the ball out to some of our receivers. Travis Howard, our quarterback, he played a really good game. Our running back, James Gibson, they both had – I’d like to see how many yards both of them had running the ball. There wasn’t too many negative plays.”
Looking to get back into the game, the Rockets drove down to Shawnee’s 22-yard line, but another turnover by Northeastern gave it right back to the Arrows, who then rushed for 78 yards on the ensuing drive, capped off a by a 4-yard rushing TD by Gibson, extending the lead further to 28-6.
With 2:22 remaining in the first half, the Rockets were able to just move the ball into Shawnee territory before the clock ran out.
The defense for Shawnee showed up again in the second half, stopping the Rockets on fourth-and-17 from Shawnee’s 23-yard line as Northeastern began to act desperately to get back into the game.
Just three plays later, Howard took the ball 61 yards down the sideline for his fourth score of the game, making it 35-6.
The teams traded a punt and a turnover on downs on the next two drives, and the Arrows then forced another punt after an illegal block by the Rockets and a sack by Shawnee junior Hunter Crockett on third-and-15 to make it fourth-and-31.
Entering the fourth quarter, a personal foul by the Rockets on the next drive set the Arrows up at Northeastern’s 27-yard line, and a pass from Howard to Singleton set Shawnee up at the 1-yard line, where Gibson then walked it in for his third touchdown of the game, making it 42-6.
For good measure, Hutchinson intercepted Northeastern on the next drive, and sophomore Cooper Roell added a short field goal for the Arrows to make the final 45-6.
“It’s hard to feel bad after something like that,” Maddox said. “We’re feeling pretty good. I’m just happy for the boys. It’s been an up and down season with them battling the virus stuff, so a lot of uncertainty, but now I’m just happy for them and they can forever say were the first Shawnee team to win a playoff game. Don’t care how we got there, but we did it.”
While it was a dominant first outing for the Arrows in the playoffs, Maddox said there will still be plenty to clean up heading into this week’s game.
“We’ve still got to clean a lot of things up,” he said. “I don’t know how many penalty yards we had, but it’s way too many.”
The Arrows will travel to take on Versailles in the next round of the OHSAA playoffs on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.
“We’re just going to enjoy this one and see what we can do next week,” Maddox said.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles