WEST CHESTER – Brayden Doran knew he needed to make a big play if Preble Shawnee’s football team was going to continue its historic season.
The shifty quarterback/kick returner/nose guard had been making plays all night, but with his team tied at 28-28 and momentum shifting to No. 2 seed St. Bernard Roger Bacon in a Division V, Region 20 semifinal game, Doran had a few more big plays left in him.
After the Spartans tied the game with just over three minutes left, Doran sparked the Arrows with a 58-yard kickoff return to the Roger Bacon 39-yard line setting up his eventual game-winning 12-yard touchdown run with 12 seconds left, to send the Arrows into a regional final for the first time in program history.
“I honestly don’t know what to say besides just how proud I am of those guys and how hard they fought,” Preble Shawnee coach David Maddox said. “That is a very, very good football team. And I think for us to be able to come out and not only compete, but win a game like that against an opponent like that, really shows how good we are. I think we’ve earned some respect and hopefully we keep building on it.”
The No. 3 seed, Shawnee (13-0) will meet No. 5 seed Versailles (12-1) on Saturday, Nov. 13, at Trotwood-Madison’s Miami Valley Hospital SportsPlex. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“I was just thinking we have to get it downfield to win the game,” Doran said of the kick return.
The final scoring play was designed for Doran, who broke a couple of tackles and outran Spartan defenders to the end zone, which set off a wild celebration on the Shawnee sideline and stands.
“It was designed for me to keep it,” he said.
Doran, who rushed for 288 yards and four touchdowns, praised the play of the offensive line.
“They try so hard,” he said. “We’ve gotten way better at blocking since the beginning of the season to now. It’s so much better.”
Senior center Cole Hawkins, who anchors the offensive line, said the team was confident despite falling behind 21-6 late in the second quarter.
“We just had to keep our heads high. Had to stop bickering at each other, get it together,” Hawkins said. “Once we stopped bickering at each other we were able to get on our feet and figure out what we needed to do. We still thought we could come back. We’ve had multiple games this year we were able to come back and win.”
“To be able to fight back from that and overcome adversity — the first half wasn’t who we are and guys kind of facing some adversity and starting to fight a little bit,” said. “I think once we settled in a little bit and got over the shock of playing on this field and playing against a physical team like that, we obviously we haven’t faced a team that good this year, to be able to answer and get rolling offensively and defense stepped up.”
Roger Bacon delivered the first big play of the game when Beamer Walker returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:06 left in the first quarter.
Doran then delivered his first big play of the game.
With the ball at the Shawnee 8-yard line, Doran ran left and was hit by a Roger Bacon defender. Doran, though, was able to keep his balance and while most of the players on the field stopped playing because they thought he was down, Doran kept going and raced 92-yards for a touchdown with 1:06 left. The point after kick was blocked, leaving the Arrows behind 7-6.
Roger Bacon added to its lead on a 21-yard touchdown run by Charles Hawkins with 8:22 left in the first half.
The Spartans then delivered what appeared to be a major blow to the Arrows.
Roger Bacon scored on an 81-yard run by Jah’Mal Hutsell to push their lead to 21-6 with 28 seconds left in the half.
After the kickoff went out of bounds, the Arrows started their next drive at their own 35. After a Hunter Crockett run put the ball near midfield, Shawnee pulled out a halfback pass and Grady Hutchinson connected with Dylan Campbell for a 52-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds left. Doran added the two-point conversion to make it a 21-14 game at the half.
“That gave us a little bit more momentum going into halftime and kind of opened our eyes a little bit,” Maddox said. “We (realized we) can move the ball, we can score and we can play with them. I think once we realized that and that touchdown helped us do that. Then we were able to to play our style of football a little bit in the second half.”
Shawnee tied the game on a 6-yard touchdown run by Doran with a second left in the third quarter.
The Arrows grabbed their first lead of the game on another 6-yard touchdown run by Doran for a 28-21 lead with 5:13 to play.
Shawnee’s defense then stepped up and stopped the Spartans at the Shawnee 42 with 4:02 left in the game.
But a fumble by the Arrows near midfield gave Roger Bacon new life.
On the first play after the turnover, the Spartans scored on a 52-yard touchdown pass by Logan Huber to Jake Tschida with 3:15 left.
That set up the final game-winning drive for the Arrows.
Doran returned the ensuing kickoff to the Spartans 39.
“I think that was the only only kickoff we actually returned the night and he got rolling. I thought he was going to score,” Maddox said. “I mean, that kid can do can do everything.”
Seven running plays later and Doran and the Arrows were celebrating.
Shawnee controlled the game in the second half with its running. On the night, the Arrows rushed for 463 yard. In addition to Doran’s 288, Crockett added 174 on 28 carries.
The Arrows finished with 542 yards on offense to 327 for Roger Bacon.
“There’s probably a lot of people going ‘wait, what?’” Maddox said of his team’s historic run. “I’m just happy for them. They played their butts off. I’m just so happy for the players that their hard work’s paying off and they bought in and it’s a great thing going for the school, the team, the community.”
Maddox said he considered this an upset for anyone not associated with the Shawnee community.
“To other people, not to us,” he said with a laugh. “I’m sure everybody checking the scores did not expect us to win tonight. We’re not going into this game just expecting to compete. We’re going into this game to compete and to win. And they fought like crazy and came out on top.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr