Shawnee has a lot to be excited about four weeks into the season. The Indians have opened up with a 4-0 mark, one of two teams in the Western Buckeye League, 3-0, and a No. 12 ranking in Division III in the first Associated Press High School football poll.
And while there is a lot to celebrate early, the Indians know there is still plenty of work to be done if they want to be celebrating at the end of the year.
The Indians enter what many might consider the murderer’s row of the WBL line-up with Wapakoneta, St. Marys, Van Wert and Ottawa-Glandorf in the next four weeks and then finishing out the year with Elida and Kenton.
“I think our team and our community is exited about the potential of this team but our players understand and hopefully our community understands that we don’t feel like we have played our best football,” Shawnee head coach Jerry Cooper said. “We understand it will take our best football over the next three or four weeks to find how the season is going to end up for us and it starts with Wapak.
“We have to prove it because the way we have been playing if we don’t get better in the next four weeks it will not be good enough to win a bunch of games in the Western Buckeye League.”
Defense has been the primary reason for the Indians’ early success. The Indians have given up only 27 points in its first four games and have held opponents to 13 points or less in each of those contest.
The 13 points given up were against LCC in the season opener which is impressive when you consider the T-Birds since that game have been averaging better than 39 points a game.
Shawnee’s run defense is outstanding, giving up a mere 76 points per contest and 137 through the air.
“The thing that has been best is we have played pretty solid defense,” Cooper said. “We haven’t given up very many points and that has obviously has contributed to our fast start.”
With a number of returning starters on both sides of the ball, the defense, which was one of Shawnee’s strong points last year, is led by middle linebacker Myles Aldrich who has 52 tackles and two sacks this year and defensive back Luke Cowan who has 34 tackles on the season.
“Luke Cowan has been playing the safety spot pretty well and our defensive end Carter Fay has played well and then probably the best player on the defense has been Myles Aldrich our middle backer so it is a combination of different players ,” Cooper said. “We have kept teams in front of us and we have tackled fairly well so it has been a true team effort to hold teams to the few points we have given up.”
Cooper added that getting that big win over LCC and limiting them the way that they did got the season off on the right foot.
“That was a big win for us,” Cooper said. “LCC has a lot of great athletes and as many as all the teams we face in the WBL. They were coming off a big season after playing in the state semifinals so it was a really big win for us.
“But that seems like a lifetime ago. We are ready to get into the meat of WBL schedule and it is a meat grinder. We have Wapak, then St. Marys, then Van Wert and then O-G so we have really good teams.”
Prior to last season Wapakoneta had dominated Shawnee in the regular season winning its yearly meeting since 2009. However, the Indians broke that string with a 9-7 win last year.
But in a playoff meeting rematch, Wapakoneta scored a 15-0 victory.
Coming into this year, Wapakoneta is 2-1 in the WBL and 2-2 on the season. The Redskins lost its opener to Marion Local and are coming off a 55-45 loss to Van Wert.
In its first three games, Wapakoneta scored 44 total points.
“One of the things we are really working on is making our team understand what a good football team Wapak is,” Cooper said. “They might have two losses but they lost to the No. 1 team in Division 7 and the No. 1 team in Division IV and then they exploded against a good Van Wert team, offensively so they are a really good football team and our guys have played them every year and all through youth football so they know what a good football program Wapak is so it is going to take our best effort to compete.”
While the defense has been the driving force in terms of wins, the offense is still looking for some consistency. The Indians are averaging 17.7 points a contest and rank fifth overall among WBL teams in total offense.
Quarterback Tyler Windau leads the air attack, going 36-0f-63 for 446 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and Jordan Banks is the leading ground gainer with 183 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. Keaton Cooper is the top receiver with nine catches for 165 yards.
“We are not an explosive offensive team,” Cooper said. “What we have been able to do is try and run the ball, and at times we have run the ball fairly well, and we have thrown it with a little bit of efficiency, completing a little over 60 percent of our passes, so I feel we have the potential.
“What we lack is the consistency. In one game we had four turnovers and last week we struggled with field position…so three of our possessions were inside the field and we are not built to go 85 yards and be a real efficient offense so our kids have shown signs of being good.”
Cooper added that Wapakoneta, despite giving up 55 points to Van Wert, has a solid defense and his team will need to execute on the line of scrimmage and out on the perimeter if they want to move the ball.