Who says you can’t be a high-powered offense while keeping the ball on the ground? Try telling that to the Wapakoneta Redskins or the Shawnee Indians.
See what happens.
The two WBL foes met at Harmon field Friday night and combined for 71 points and 676 yards — and 606 of them were on the ground. But it was the Redskins of Auglaize County who trotted off the turf the victors, 49-22.
Senior running back Jenson Merricle led the Redskins on the ground with 229 yards and two scores. In his last home game of his high school career, Merricle said he was happy with how he played.
“I felt like I did well, but that’s mainly because of my line,” Merricle said after the game. “They might be young but they always block 100 percent.”
Another senior running back, Josh Windle, added another three touchdowns on the night and a 46 yard performance.
“I’m going to miss this,” Windle said. “This was fun, and this was great. All the credit goes to the O-line.”
Redskin varsity head coach Doug Frye said the credit goes to the seniors of the Wapak football team and the senior running backs, especially Merricle.
“Very good game by him, and I congratulate him, but obviously that speaks very highly of the people in front of him,” Frye said. “I’m proud of him … I’m proud of everyone.”
A third senior running back, Alex Greve, made his mark in other parts of the game, including defensive and special team highlights.
Frye said it would be important to get off to a fast start this week, but he didn’t realize how fast Greve was going to start it.
On the opening kickoff, Greve fielded the ball at the 7-yard line and broke a couple tackles and powered his way all the way to the one-yard line. On the next play, sophomore quarterback Kodi Morgan took the sneak into the end zone to give the Redskins a 7-0 lead before anyone was able to blink.
Greve said after the game a couple of the guys made fun of him for not scoring on the kick return.
“Yeah, almost everyone,” Greve said.
Greve added an interception in the fourth quarter which he brought back to the Shawnee 21-yard line. That interception led to Windle’s final touchdown, a 14-yard run.
In total, Wapakoneta finished the contest with 328 yards on the ground. Shawnee finished the night with 278 yards on the ground – 175 of them came on two plays.
A 76-yard run from senior running back Casey Mulcahy and a 99-yard run from senior running back Tyler Frieson gave the Indians two of their three scores on the day. Frye warned his team about their speed and big play ability earlier in the week.
“That is a very talented football team, a very talented football team,” Frye said. “I really think they’re one of the better skill teams in the league.”
While sophomore quarterback Kodi Morgan was only given two pass attempts on the evening, he made the most of them, completing both for a total of 36 yards.
“He engineered our offense and he’s maturing each ball game, another big step for him,” Frye said. “We could have done some other things with him tonight if it was needed, but it wasn’t needed tonight.”
On the first real drive of the game for the Wapakoneta Redskins Morgan orchestrated a 12-play, 73-yard drive for a touchdown. That drive relied heavily on Merricle, as the Redskins kept it on the ground all 12 plays. The drive was capped off by an eight-yard run from Windle who gave Wapakoneta a 14-0 lead.
But just when it looked like the Redskins might roll, the speed of Shawnee struck.
On the first play of the next drive, Mulcahy scampered down the right sideline 76-yards for a touchdown to cut the lead in half.
At the end of the first quarter, Wapakoneta led Shawnee by a touchdown, 14-7.
In the second quarter, the Redskins again put together a long drive — 16 plays totaling 73 yards. With the exception of a 23-yard strike to senior tight end Brandon Christler, Wapak kept it on the ground the entire drive. Junior fullback Zach Schmerge punched it in from three-yards out to give the Redskins a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
Schmerge finished the evening with 10 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown.
After an unfortunate punt from Shawnee’s Conner Bianco, which after a bad bounce netted negative two yards, the Redskins had about three minutes left in the half to add to their lead. A six-play 35-yard drive capped off by a four-yard Windle touchdown run gave the Redskins a 21 point lead going into the locker room.
“I told our kids that special teams were going to be a big difference here at the end of the season,” Frye said. “Right off the bat we jumped out and asserted ourselves as being superior in that area.”
At halftime, Wapakoneta led 28-7.
In the second half, the Redskins orchestrated a drive all the way to the Shawnee 2-yard line, but on fourth down, Schmerge was stopped short of the goal line. Shawnee was looking at a long field, but one play and 14 seconds later, Frieson was handing the ball to the referee in the other end zone. With that 99-yard run, the Redskin lead was cut to 14.
On the ensuing Redskin drive, it appeared the Shawnee defense had stopped the Wapakoneta running game again, but a fake punt to the up back Schmerge kept the drive alive. The very next play, Merricle made sure they were getting points, running 35-yards to the paydirt. The Redskins now led, 35-14.
Merricle already had 208 yards on the night at the end of the third quarter.
The Indians’ next drive was stalled by a forced fumble by senior linebacker Brandon Miller, recovered by sophomore end Thomas Schoenlein. Six plays later, Merricle was diving over the line for the two-yard score.
Shawnee, now trailing 42-14, went to the air on their next drive. That’s when Greve pounced. He found a floating ball under thrown near the Wapakoneta sideline and picked it easily. The ensuing touchdown made the score 49-14.
A long drive against the Wapakoneta defense as time was expiring resulted in a 9-yard run by Justin Fullom for a score, and the following 2-point conversion brought the Indians’ total to 22.
A couple of plays from the backup offense led by Keaton Metz, and then the game was over. The win marks the last the seniors will have on the turf at Harmon field.
“I was really proud of our seniors’ effort tonight,” Frye said. “What a way to send them off the turf the last time around.”
Greve, who had started all four years in a Redskin uniform, said he couldn’t picture a better way to spend his last game on the turf at Harmon Field.
“It’s special, especially to go out on a win like this,” Greve said. “This senior class has been so successful, I wouldn’t want to spend it with anyone else.”
The Redskins close the season next week with a game against the Wildcats at Kenton. Last season, the Redskin’s perfect season was tarnished by a loss to the Wildcats in Week 10, and Windle said they’ll be looking to get revenge this year.
“We’re going to get revenge, and we’re going to get it by playing our game,” Windle said.