SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Another hurdle cleared.
And now the big one.
The Wapakoneta Redskins came up with a pair of big third-quarter stops and pulled away to a 41-14 win over the Shawnee Indians on Friday night at Shawnee.
Wapak remained unbeaten at 9-0 overall and 8-0 in the Western Buckeye League.
The win sets up what looks to be an epic Week 10 matchup against the also undefeated Kenton Wildcats for all the proverbial marbles.
“I couldn’t ask for a better season,” Wapak center Nick Warner said. “It’s been great. I never expected something like this out of my senior year.”
Nursing a narrow 21-14 lead midway through the third quarter, the Redskins defense made fourth-down stops in the red zone on back-to-back possessions, then scored touchdowns on its final three series to put the game away.
“It was a tough environment,” Wapak coach Doug Frye said. “Everybody’s been talking about next week’s ballgame and we’ve been trying to keep out focus in the right regard.
“I just thought that our kids didn’t panic and just kept playing. That’s a good sign of a very good football team.”
Shawnee opened the second half with an extended drive that began on its own 18 yard line. Twelve plays into the drive, the Indians had the ball on third-and-three at the Wapak 16.
The Indians had converted seven of nine third-down attempts up to that point — including two on that drive — and were moving the ball at will on the Wapak defense.
But the Redskins swarmed Shawnee running back Sam Altenbach at the line on third down — and again on fourth — to stall the drive and take possession.
The Indians forced Wapak into a three-and-out when potential disaster struck.
Redskins punter Zach Holtzapple’s knee touched the ground when he had to field a low snap, giving Shawnee a first-and-goal at the Wapak 10.
But the defense held and Shawnee kicker Connor Bianco missed a 30-yard field goal wide right.
“The thing that stood out to me about our kids tonight was that they handled adversity extremely well and bounced back,” Frye said.
Wapak took over at the 20 and Connor Pickens went to work. The senior running back carried the ball seven times in a nine-play drive, capping it with a five-yard touchdown run set up by Kyle Gibson’s 44-yard pass to Kevin Kraft.
Bailey Hinegardner’s PAT made it a 28-14 game with 9:51 to play.
Wapak went on an eight-play, 70-yard scoring drive. Pickens scored his fourth touchdown of the night and sealed the win with a two-yard score that made it a three-touchdown game with 4:44 remaining.
Kevin Kraft took the handoff and raced 45 yards untouched down the left sideline for final touchdown.
Connor Pickens finished the night with 117 rushing yards on 20 carries (5.9 per carry) with four touchdowns.
Elida 56, Celina 0
CELINA — Elida quarterback Reggie McAdams went 20-of-23 for 333 yards and four touchdowns passing and the Elida Bulldogs thumped Celina, 56-0, on Friday night.
Elida rolled up 468 yards of total offense while the Elida defense held the usually potent passing attack of Celina to just 162 yards through the air and picked off Celina quarterback Braden Billger three times.
Celina slumps to 1-8 on the season.
Elida keeps its postseason hopes alive with a 6-3 record.
O-G 35, Bath 18
OTTAWA — Tristan Parker ran for 146 yards on 16 carries and the Titans beat an Aaron Smith-less Bath Wildcats in a key WBL match-up.
O-G’s Brandon Kuhlman picked off a pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown.
St. Marys 34, Van Wert 14
O-G 35, Bath 18
Elida 56, Celina 0
Kenton 54, Defiance 15
Wapakoneta 41, Shawnee 14
Coldwater 30, New Bremen 21
Ft. Recovery 25, St. Henry 0
Minster 28, Parkway 16
Versailles 33, Anna 0
Marion Local at DSJ, Saturday