As the Wapakoneta Redskins entered Week 9 of the high school football season a year ago, they had already exceeded expectations.
The memories of a 1-9 season in 2009 were gone and a playoff berth seemed in the bag.
Then came a 46-15 loss to Kenton in Week 9 and a 28-21 defeat at the hands of the Elida Bulldogs seven days later.
Suddenly it was time to pack up the equipment and start thinking about next year.
Now it’s next year.
The Redskins (8-0, 7-0 WBL) will have a chance to erase the memories of those frustrating two weeks when they travel to Western Buckeye League rival Shawnee to take on the Indians at 7:30 Friday night.
And while pundits and prognosticators have been pointing to the Week-10 matchup with league favorite Kenton (8-0, 7-0 WBL) all season long, Wapak coach Doug Frye is focused on a dangerous Shawnee team.
“It’s a typical Shawnee team,” Frye said. “They’re well-coached. Dick West does a great job. They’re fast. What they want to do is get their people on the perimeter and try to make big plays on you.
“Their quarterback (Seth) Rosenbauer is good. He’s a big kid, throws the ball well, runs well. We’re going tohave to be able to control their speed.”
Shawnee (4-4, 3-4 WBL) comes into Week 9 riding a two-game win streak, posting convincing triumphs over the Bulldogs of Celina and Defiance.
The Indians opened the season with an impressive win over the state-ranked Marion Local Flyers before topping Van Wert in Week 2.
Then injuries to key players began to pile up and Shawnee lost four in a row to Ottawa-Glandorf, Kenton, Elida and Bath.
But the Indians are back to near full strength.
Shawnee brings a speedy offensive attack led by Sam Altenbach, who is closing in on 1,000 rushing yards for the season. He is averaging 7.8 yards per carry and has scored 13 touchdowns.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the win at Defiance.
Senior QB Rosenbauer (6-5, 240) has thrown for 539 yards and five touchdowns.
“Our outside people, our contain people, our outside linebackers, have to do a good job flushing their speed back inside,” Frye said. “It’s kind of a spread-out Wing-T, same look as us but in more of a one-back set. So we’re going to have to be able to control their misdirection, their double handoff reverse and their traps inside.
“But the No. 1 thing is making sure you don’t give them an opportunity to get on the perimeter and make big plays on you.”
Defensively Shawnee is led by senior linebacker Trey Runneals (5-10, 185), who is tied for third in the WBL with 103 tackles.
The Indians have been strong against the passing game with four players with two or more interceptions: Keenan Newland (3), Brandon Kohl (2), Runneals (2) and Zach Bailey (2).
In the win over Celina, the Indians picked off Braden Billger six times and returned three of those for touchdowns.
“In their wins they have really controlled the plus-minus turnover game and done a good job in the passing game of making big plays,” Frye said. “We’re going to have to make sure we take care of the ball when we put it in the air and put it in spots where we don’t give them the opportunity to do that.”
Wapak will have to do just that if it hopes to still be playing in November.