SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP – Perhaps the two biggest surprises in the Western Buckeye League are the 2-0 start for Shawnee and the 0-2 record Wapakoneta has posted.
This Friday the two will square off and it will determine a lot about how this season will go for both squads the remainder of the season.
For the Indians, the early success has been a surprise to numerous fans and pundits and even to Shawnee head coach Frank Crea.
Crea pointed to the preseason where he had to cancel his second scrimmage against Lima Senior because he had 18 players hurt from a 50-man squad. The following scrimmage against Spencerville, Crea started eight new faces on offense and seven on defense.
“I’m pleasantly surprised at where we are right now and how we are playing right now,” Crea said.
The Indians stunned a lot of folks by opening the season with a win over Delphos Jefferson and then followed it with a huge 56-7 victory over WBL foe Defiance.
Crea credits hard work to this year’s turnaround. Last year Shawnee went 1-9.
“We didn’t know how we were going to be so we decided that we have to get our kids in better shape,” Crea said. “We thought we were working hard up until the Spencerville scrimmage and then we turned it up a notch in practice the last two weeks. I work these kids extremely hard.”
Crea added that instead of having a walk through Thursdays, he uses it as another practice within the Ohio High School Athletic Association parameters of the rules and regulations.
“We go out four days a week in full pads and then on Friday we play the game,” Crea said. “I think the approach that we have changed has helped us the last two weeks.”
Also different are the players’ attitudes. The seniors on this team had three wins in their career coming into the season and know they have almost matched that output in their first two games.
“You can definitely tell the change of the attitude and the work ethic,” Crea said. “I think they are starting to see their hard work is starting to pay off on the field Friday nights. I think one of the biggest changes around here is to develop that work ethic that we have started to develop.”
Crea added that even though the first two weeks produced wins, the team cannot get a big head or be satisfied.
“We keep them really grounded and when we think they are starting to get a big head we do this tribe drill,” Crea said. “I’m an old school coach and I believe in that hard work and dedication are the main contributors to success on Friday night.”
The gruelling exercise has the players moving their feet and dropping to the ground every 5 yards until they complete 100 yards.
“You do that for 100 yards that will bring you back to earth,” Crea said. “If practice starts to slip we do the the line tribe drill. They are starting to learn if you do it right you do it light if you do it wrong you do it long.”
The emergence of quarterback Johnny Caprella has also been a major factor in the Indians’ success.
The Shawnee signal-caller passed for 375 yards and six touchdowns and ran for a pair of scores against Defiance last week. For the season, Caprella has passed for 584 yards and eight touchdowns.
Wide receiver Christian Ford, who has plenty of speed to burn, was the Indians’ top receiver last week when he hauled in three catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
Also getting looks is Peyton Wilson. The wily Wilson had two catches for 81 yards and one touchdown.
From the backfield, Grant Wheeler has shown he is a running and receiving threat. Out of the backfield, Wheeler had four receptions for 113 yards and three touchdowns.
Even though the Indians have put up big numbers early in the season, Crea, who has had to deal with injuries even before the season started, finds himself having to replace two linemen that were hurt last week.
Shawnee’s defense may not have size but the group does have heart and determination, and Crea adds the unit runs around and look to make plays.
“We are a smallish team but we pride ourselves on getting to the football and our creed is to get as many red helmets to the football,” Crea said.
Wapakoneta head coach Travis Moyer said it has been a disappointing two weeks and he is looking for his team to bounce back against the Indians.
“We are extremely disappointed in where our record stands right now,” Moyer said. “I think our kids have worked extremely hard in terms of wins and losses. 0-2 is a very lonely place and we have dug ourselves in this hole and we are the only ones that can dig ourselves out of it.”
Mental miscues and turnovers have hampered the Redskin offense this year. In its first two games, Wapakoneta has been outscored 47-27.
In their loss to Van Wert, the Redskins made several key mistakes down the stretch that allowed an opportunistic Cougar squad come away with the win.
“We have to get better in all three phases of the game,” Moyer said. “From an offensive standpoint, turnovers and penalties hurt and we had self-inflicted wounds last week.”
On defense, Moyer said the Redskins have to prevent the big plays that have hurt them in their two defeats.
“Our approach right now is we have to be a consistent team in all three phases,” Moyer said.
Moyer added that their season goals are still achievable despite the winless start but the Redskins are going to have to be perfect if they want to vie for a league title and a possible playoff berth.
As far as the team’s attitude, Moyer said the players are disappointed but they remain positive that they can turn around their losing ways. The Wapakoneta coach said he felt the team played its best 24 minutes in the second half of last week’s game and he hopes they continue to build on that.
In the past several years, Shawnee was considered an easy win but with the Indians firing on all cylinders they pose a major challenge for the Redskins.
“From an athleticism standpoint and a speed standpoint they are one of the fastest teams we’ve seen,” Moyer said. “Offensively it starts with their dual threat quarterback who can hurt you with his arm or his legs. They have very good team speed that can take the top off the coverage.”
As part of Friday’s game, the 1966 Shawnee football team, which recorded nine shutout and allowed six points the entire season, will be inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Ada and Crestview have established themselves as the early front-runners in the Northwest Conference after the two teams posted a 2-0 mark to begin the season. Both clubs are the only two NWC teams with unbeaten records going into week three.
Ada will face Lima Central Catholic this week. The Thunderbirds lost to Delphos St. John’s, 34-10 Saturday. Ada posted a 34-0 win against Arlington.
Crestview has had back-to-back wild comebacks, including a 41-40 win against Hicksville last week. The Knights will face Columbus Grove in a league affair. The Bulldogs are still searching for their first win of the season. In other action, Bluffton (1-1) battles Ayersville (2-0) and Spencerville (0-2) faces Perry (0-2). The Bearcats endured a heartbreaking loss to Parkway last week. Delphos Jefferson (1-1), which defeated Versailles 14-7 last week, will play Paint Valley at Northwestern (Springfield) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Allen East (1-1) takes on Wynford (1-1), which shut out Bucyrus 48-0 last week.
Northwest Central Conference
As mentioned Perry (0-2) seeks its first win of the season when it plays host to Spencerville. The Commodores are coming off a 24-14 loss to Allen East.
Waynesfield-Goshen (0-2) seeks its first victory when it faces Ridgedale (1-1). The Rockets come into the game after losing to Cleveland Young 36-14 in overtime.
Hardin Northern (1-1), which fell to Riverdale 43-8 last week, will look to get back on the winning track when it faces Danbury (1-1), coming off a 42-0 loss to Greenwich South Central.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter @JoseNogueras1