A gamble on the first drive of the game set the tone for the Shawnee Braves on Friday in a 37-7 victory against the Northwestern Warriors at Taylor Field.
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Facing 4th-and-2 at the Northwestern 45-yard line, Shawnee handed the ball to senior Matt Guyer, who had rushed for two touchdowns in each of the first three games. Guyer ran straight ahead through a wide hole and wasn't touched on his way to a touchdown with 8 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first quarter.
Asked if that was an easy decision to go for the first down instead of punting, Shawnee coach Rick Meeks said, "I was ready to roll with it, but (Devin) Spitzer, our defensive coordinator, after we got it and scored, he said, 'For the record, I was not for that.' But I didn't ask. Usually, I ask them. I was like, 'We're going.' We just did it and made the executive decision."
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Robie Glass followed with two touchdown passes to give the Braves a 21-0 lead. The Warriors responded with the final touchdown of the first half. Ben Van Noord scored on a 1-yard run with 3:36 to play.
"I was optimistic going into halftime," Northwestern coach Shane Carter. "I thought we could make some adjustments."
Then Northwestern looked to get even closer on the first drive of the second half. Van Noord broke free on a run and dove toward the goal line as Shawnee defenders brought him down. He came up short and also fumbled the ball, which bounced out of the end zone. The officials ruled it a touchback.
Instead of trimming Shawnee's lead to 21-14, the Warriors still trailed by two touchdowns and then watched as Shawnee put together an 80-yard drive, which Guyer capped with a 3-yard touchdown run.
"We got the momentum right back," Meeks said.
The same could be said for Shawnee's season. After losing their opener 56-39 to Greenon, the Braves (3-1) have won three games against Tippecanoe, Thurgood Marshall and Northwestern by a combined score of 128-31.
"There's no quit," Meeks said. "They've come to practice ready to go. We'd like to think that (Greenon loss) is an anomaly. We hope to get into the playoffs and have another opportunity."
Northwestern (2-2) lost its second straight game. VanNoord rushed 13 times for 81 yards and caught four passes for 46 yards. Gavin Thomas completed 7 of 15 passes for 71 yards and rushed for 55 yards on 21 carries. Shawnee outgained Northwestern 451-198.
"We played physical," Meeks said. "I think they matched it early, and then we wore them down. They were taking some chances defensively. They were in a look they hadn't been in. They were playing man coverage on us and trying to get extra guys in the box and trying to limit our pulling guys. They were trying some things, and we got them out of position because they were gambling to try to shut our run game down."
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Andi Meeks kicked a field goal with 30 seconds left in the third quarter to give Shawnee a 30-7 lead. An interception return in the final minute provided the last score for Shawnee.
Shawnee won its second straight game in the series. The Braves won eight straight against the Warriors before losing 21-0 in 2015. Shawnee won 35-0 in 2016. Northwestern won 7-6 in 2017. After that defensive duel, it went the other way last season with the Braves winning a shootout, 40-35.
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