NEW PARIS — After a back-and-forth first quarter, Preble Shawnee (3-0, 2-0 WOAC) dominated the final 36 minutes of its game against the hosting National Trail Blazers (0-3, 0-2 WOAC) to secure a 41-0 win on Friday, Sept. 3.
The teams traded turnovers and punts on the first four drives of the game, but momentum began to swing after Shawnee junior Aiden Walters intercepted a tipped pass from Trail junior quarterback Burgan Hoffman, setting the Arrows up at the Blazers’ 49-yard line.
Shawnee fought down to Trail’s 10-yard line, and facing a fourth-and-five, junior quarterback Brayden Doran ran it in from 10 yards out for the first score of the game, giving the Arrows a 7-0 lead.
On Trail’s next drive early in the second quarter, the Blazers were forced into a fourth-and-one from their own 32-yard line and attempted to sneak, but it was unsuccessful.
After the turnover on downs, Shawnee junior Malechai Stephenson found junior Dylan Zornes for a wide-open 32-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive, giving Shawnee a 14-0 lead.
The Blazers punted on their next drive, but on the Arrows’ ensuing drive, Trail junior Ben Browning intercepted Doran on a third-and-16 heave, setting the Blazers up deep in their own territory.
With a chance to get back in the game, Hoffman was brought down on three consecutive plays, and facing a fourth-and-23, Trail was forced to punt.
“The problem with our offense is that we’ve got three sophomores starting, and they’re starting in different positions,” Trail coach Mark Hoffman said. “We had some guys go down, and when you have a senior go down and juniors and stuff like that – don’t get me wrong, they’re good kids, but they’re starting in unknown positions. We’re struggling.”
From there, it took Preble Shawnee just four plays to find the endzone, this time a 16-yard rushing touchdown by senior Hunter Crockett, his ninth of the season, to give the Arrows a 20-0 lead following a missed extra point.
The teams traded punts to begin the second half, but the Arrows would go on to score touchdowns on their next three drives: a 13-yard rushing touchdown by Stephenson, a 10-yard touchdown pass from Doran to Zornes, and a 19-yard touchdown pass from Doran to junior Dylan Campbell. All told, the Arrows led 41-0 at the end of the third, the eventual final.
Zornes and Campbell each led the Arrows with four receptions each.
Doran finished with 135 passing yards (64 rushing), while Crockett went for 82 on the ground on 18 carries.
“They’ve had a good start to the season,” Shawnee coach Dave Maddox said. “We weren’t able to come out and run the ball like we had planned and kind of stalled out a little bit in the first half and kept shooting ourselves in the foot, getting penalties and whatnot. We didn’t win the line of scrimmage like what we had hoped to. But obviously, we were able to get rolling a little bit in the second half.”
Beyond the inability to sustain drives on offense, the Blazers have also struggled defensively to begin the season, allowing 114 points while scoring none.
“We’ve just got some young kids that we’ve got to work with. We get in gear, we’re going to be okay,” Hoffman said. “We’ve got good athletes. You come out, you say, ‘Oh, they laid 40 on you.’ But all we did was play defense. When you play defense the majority of the game, you’re gonna get scored on.”
Shawnee’s defense, on the other hand, has allowed just 28 points this season, second fewest in the conference between Arcanum’s 21 points allowed.
“I’ve been very, very happy with our defense,” Maddox said. “They’ve really stepped – you know, there’s a lot of guys playing both ways. Playing offense, turning around playing defense. That’s hard to do. Guys get worn out. But they’ve stepped up, and we’re in pretty good shape.”
After a 3-0 start for the Arrows, Maddox said he’s happy with where the team is, but they can’t settle for where they’re at now.
“We’ve got to keep working and getting better,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep improving every single week, and if we do that, by the end of the season, we’re going to be be rolling pretty well.”
The Blazers will travel to Bradford this Friday, Sept. 10, while Preble Shawnee will host Twin Valley South. Both kickoffs are set for 7 p.m.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles