Alec Bennett returns to lead Shawnee to victory over previously unbeaten Tippecanoe.
TIPP CITY — Many of Shawnee’s previously injured starters are back. As a result, Shawnee is playing elite football again. Just ask Tippecanoe.
Shawnee beat the previously undefeated Red Devils 35-28 in Tipp City Park on Friday. Tippecanoe ran through its first four games with little trouble and survived a scare against Indian Lake last week. The team watched in disbelief as Shawnee ran the final seconds out.
It wasn’t a fluke win, but rather the result of Shawnee having most of its anticipated starters healthy enough to play. Quarterback Alec Bennett, who broke his collarbone in a scrimmage against Valley View on Aug. 21, returned to lead the offense. He had several big runs in the game, including a 42-yard touchdown run that gave Shawnee a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Bennett isn’t the only injured Shawnee player to recover and return. Linebacker Ta’Von Kerby, who was injured in Shawnee’s season opener against Butler, returned against Tippecanoe. Running back Josh Nelson and backup quarterback Will Finch both returned for the Braves last week against Greenon.
All of the previously injured players helped Shawnee win. Nelson had several big first half runs. Finch played at receiver and caught a couple of passes. Kerby intercepted a pass in the third quarter that set up a Shawnee touchdown.
“It’s just a world of difference,” Shawnee head coach Rick Meeks said of the returning players. “We’ve got four players back from when we last lost (two weeks ago to Northwestern). We knew we had a chance to be pretty good coming into this season. But injuries frickin’ hurt us. But we’re getting guys back. I’m so proud of these kids because everyone was counting us out.”
After Shawnee built its early two touchdown lead, Tipp battled back. Jakob Prall scored on a 67-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds left in the second to bring the Red Devils within 21-13 at halftime.
The Red Devils took their only lead of the game at 28-27 after a wild 65-yard punt return by Aaron Hughes with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Shawnee moved the ball into Tippecanoe territory but looked like it was going to stall after getting to the 43-yard line.
Shawnee faced a fourth-and-eight at the 43 with less than two minutes left in the game. Bennett dropped back to pass but was forced to scramble after the pocket collapsed. He ran to his right and looked downfield. Meanwhile, receiver Michael Guyer broke free of his defender near the end zone on the right hash marks.
“I was roaming out and I didn’t really see anything,” Bennett said of the play. “Then I saw Michael in the back like forty yards deep. He put his hand up, and I just let it go and watched.”
Guyer stopped running and hovered underneath the ball. He caught the pass like he was fielding a punt and fell down at the one-yard line.
“My heart dropped,” Guyer said. “I saw nothing but the ball in the air. It was rough. I almost forgot how to catch it.”
Though Guyer was short of the end zone, the Braves had no problem scoring. T.J. King ran it in on the next play for Shawnee with 1:34 left in the fourth.
Tippecanoe got the ball back but turned it over on downs in the next forty seconds, which allowed Shawnee to run the clock out.
The catch was a role reversal from previous weeks for Guyer. He’s normally a slot receiver, but played at quarterback for Shawnee against Northwestern and Springfield. Guyer said the Braves’ first four losses helped the team regroup the last two weeks.
Tippecanoe (5-1) looked like the conference frontrunner with multiple key returning players back from last season’s team. With the Red Devils down, Shawnee (2-4) hopes to keep its two-game winning streak going through the end of regular season.
“We’re ready to keep this train rolling,” Bennett said. “We’re going to keep going and do what we do: play as a team and fight through adversity.”
Play of the Game
Though Shawnee’s final touchdown diminished Aaron Hughes’ punt return for a touchdown, the play was a work of art.
Hughes caught the ball at Tippecanoe’s 35-yard line and was nearly tackled soon after the catch. He spun around and missed two tacklers and ran toward Shawnee’s sideline. He cut up the sideline and raced by several defenders. He then turned toward the center of the field and shook off a couple more defenders. Racing past the 10-yard line, he sustained a hit on the legs by one Shawnee defender, stayed standing, and made it into the end zone.
Shawnee head coach Rick Meeks on Shawnee playing as an underdog:
“After we started out 0-4, no one gave us a shot. No one gave us a shot to win this game. That’s what I told everybody. Nobody thinks we’re going to win but us. That’s the first time in a long time that Shawnee has been flying under the radar. It kind of felt good.”
- Tippecanoe’s Jakob Prall scored on two long touchdown plays in the first half. He took a short screen pass 57 yards for a score and also scored on a 67-yard run.
- Shawnee has beat Tippecanoe five out of the last six seasons.
- Both team’s kickers missed extra points in the game. They both regained the missed point by scoring on two-point conversions later in the game.
Tippecanoe travels to Bellefontaine next week in a conference game. The Chieftains have struggled most of this season but beat previously undefeated Stebbins by three points on Friday.
Shawnee hosts league and county rival Kenton Ridge in a league game. The Cougars beat Tecumseh 53-14 on Friday to improve to 5-1.