Maybe more than any other team in the area Shawnee’s success this year will depend on young players.
“We’ve got a ton of young guys,” Shawnee coach Jerry Cooper said as he looked over a 59-player roster which includes only five seniors.
Shawnee finished 4-6 overall and 3-6 in the Western Buckeye League last season, the same record it had in 2018 in Cooper’s first year as its coach.
It has been nine years since Shawnee won as many as five games or finished in the top half of the WBL.
This season’s six-game schedule includes Kenton, St. Marys and Wapakoneta, three of the top teams in the league.
“The only thing it takes to get from 4-6 to 6-4 or better is just a little bit more push or intestinal fortitude or football tradition or that little bit of an ‘it’ factor. I think our kids are slowly getting that,” Cooper said.
“We’ve got three really good classes in a row but they’re not sophomores, juniors and seniors, they’re freshmen, sophomores and juniors. We might be a year away,” he said.
Reece Bagan, a two-way starter on the offensive and defensive line, is the only returning player from last year who earned a spot on the 2019 All-Western Buckeye League team. He was honorable mention All-WBL.
Most of Shawnee’s experience is on defense, led by junior safety Luke Cowan, who has been a starter since his freshman year, and Bagan. Defensive lineman John Norris started last season, cornerback Zach Noonan also started and defensive lineman Shandon Sewell lettered.
Linebackers like Myles Aldrich, Tommy Spyker and Keaton Cooper weren’t starters but got enough playing time to letter and so did defensive back Tyler Windau.
Offensively, Shawnee could go two deep at each line position because several of those players also start on defense.
Cole Marshall and Ryan Twining are the top two centers. Bagan and Champ Keysor are the likely starters at one guard with Alton Clayton and possibly Twining in consideration also. Aaron Stirn and Sewell are the top tackles and Norris and Ethan Truesdale are the backups. Keaton Cooper and Carter Fay are the tight ends.
“Because we graduated almost the whole offensive line I was really worried we were going to be young up front. But we’re probably bigger and maybe stronger up front than we were last year. I think we’ve been a little better on the offensive line than I expected,” Cooper said.
Noon and Windau are competing for the starting quarterback job in addition to playing in the defensive backfield.
“We’re going to play both of them. We’ll play them early until one of those guys gets in front of the other,” Cooper said.
Aldridge is the fullback and Spyker is the No. 1 running back. Cowan and Jordan Banks will be the wingbacks and Chase Beery, Chase Sunderland and Alex Robertson will be the wide receivers.