Wapakoneta Redskins senior fullback Zach Schmerge (22) dumps Gatorade from the bucket on Wapak varsity football coach Doug Frye after Friday's win over the Shawnee Indians, which unofficially clinched a home playoff game for the Redskins. (Staff photo/William Laney)
SHAWNEE — A furious start allowed the Wapakoneta Redskins to finish their regular season on a high note Friday, and now they will move onto the playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons.
The Redskins cruised to a 49-0 halftime lead against the Shawnee Indians, with seven touchdowns in the first 19 minutes of Friday’s game, in a 49-13 win in Western Buckeye League varsity football action.
The victory secured a 9-1 overall record for Wapakoneta and a 8-1 finish in the WBL. Shawnee fell to 2-8 overall, 2-7 in the league.
Kenton, which beat the Redskins in Week 2, clinched the WBL title outright Friday with a 62-8 win over Defiance. Wapakoneta finished alone in second place in the league.
Wapak ended its regular season with eight consecutive wins.
“What resiliency,” Redskins varsity coach Doug Frye said. “The sport of football teaches a lot of values, but the big value was when we were knocked on our face in Week 2, we got back up and kept digging out. It’s a tribute to our seniors.”
To begin the wave of scoring Friday, Redskins sophomore Cameron Lauck returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
Frye described how Lauck’s TD impacted the rest of the first half.
“Any time you’re a favorite like this, and it’s a game where we’ve got playoffs on our minds, getting off to a quick start is key,” Frye said. “That’s what happened. Cameron did a good job, and so did the rest of our return team.”
The two teams swapped punts on their next possessions after Lauck’s kick return.
Wapak’s first offensive series resulted in punt, which was muffed and recovered by Thomas Schoenlein, setting the Redskins with short-field position at the Shawnee 39-yard line.
Wapak junior halfback Keaton Metz ran for a TD on very next play, putting the Redskins up 14-0 with 7:56 to go in the first quarter.
A third Indians punt set up another one-play scoring drive for Wapak, as senior fullback Zach Schmerge wove through the Shawnee defense, briefly breaking from a few tackles and sprinting away on a 55-yard TD run.
With 5:40 left in the first quarter, Wapakoneta led 21-0.
The Redskins’ final TD of the opening quarter came on a 30-yard TD pass to Metz from junior quarterback Kodi Morgan.
After another Shawnee punt, runs of 30 by Schmerge and 22 by Morgan set up a Metz 4-yard TD run on his second TD carry of the game on two attempts, as the Redskins led 35-0.
After four offensive possessions resulted in punts, Shawnee had just 5 yards of offense, as the Wapak defense forced four consecutive three-and-outs.
Frye explained why his team managed such a good start to Friday’s game.
“We had a good week of practice,” Frye said. “If not the best, it was one of two best weeks of practice of the year.”
The Indians then hit the turnover bug late in the first half, as sophomore quarterback Collin Rambin threw three straight interceptions on Shawnee’s first three possessions of the second quarter, with two of them setting up two more Redskins touchdowns.
Metz, following an interception by Lauck, added his third rushing TD of the game on just his third carry, a 29-yard score, with 11:13 left before halftime.
Wapak began inserting substitutions for certain offensive skill players midway through the second quarter.
Junior linebacker Nick Steinke snared a Rambin pass on the next Shawnee possession, setting up a 13-yard passing TD to junior tight end Ethan Saunders from Morgan.
“He’s got a great set of hands,” Frye said of Saunders. “He’s a good receiver. I keep saying that but nobody believes me. Ethan did a good job.”
Saunders’ TD with 4:55 left in the second quarter concluded Wapak’s scoring, with the Redskins leading 49-0.
Junior linebacker Adam Henderson picked off Rambin’s third interception, but Wapak punted following the turnover.
A good sign Friday was the team getting healthy in advance of the playoffs.
Morgan and senior tight end Jared Smith each returned to game action Friday after missing two games with injuries.
Smith was the target of a Morgan pass Friday.
Elsewhere, Morgan was 4-for-8 passing for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
Frye commented on how those two figured into Friday’s game, one week before they’ll be fully immersed in playoff action.
“It almost worked out perfect,” Frye said. “We got Kodi and Jared in enough tonight. We didn’t keep them in too long. It was a perfect scenario as far as getting them acclimated again.”
Friday was the fifth straight week Wapak’s reserves saw action in the varsity contest, as the Redskins have outscored opponents 256-67 since a 29-26 win over Celina on Sept. 27.
The Redskins, who unofficially clinched a playoff berth entering Friday, will now direct their efforts to the postseason, which will begin next Friday, Nov. 8.
“We just want to continue to get better and keep our focus small as we start a new season here,” Frye said. “Improvement and finishing are key points now.”
Wapakoneta will play in a Division III, Region 10 quarterfinal against an opponent and at a site to be determined Sunday, when the final ratings which determine playoff positioning will be released. The Redskins stand a good chance of hosting a first-round game.
In Divisions II through VII, the top eight teams in each region will make the playoffs, while the top four teams in each region will host regional quarterfinal games at their home sites.
The Redskins last qualified for the playoffs in 2011, when it entered with a 9-1 record like they will this season.
Wapakoneta: Zach Schmerge 7-144; Keaton Metz 3-72; Jared Cockerell 10-69; Kodi Morgan 4-33; Cort Merricle 3-16; Tyler Copeland 3-9; Jon Eaton 2-8; Aaron Huffman 5-2; #42 1-(-1); #31 1-0; Logan Martin 1-(-2); Dylan Kuehl 2-(-3).
Shawnee: Collin Rambin 16-47; Griffin Hites 17-29; Carter Jones 3-27; Zach Kaplan 1-0; Justin Fullom 4-(-10).
Wapakoneta: Morgan 4-8 54; Huffman 0-1 0. Shawnee: Rambin 8-26 87; Hites 0-1 0.
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Wapakoneta: Metz 1-30; Saunders 1-13; Cameron Lauck 1-7; Martin 1-4. Shawnee: Cody Rollins 4-57; Fullom 1-17; Kaplan 1-6; Brady Crea 1-6; Hites 1-1.