By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
MIDDLETOWN, Ind. —
Shenandoah needed to play a nearly perfect game to win the Class 2A Sectional 38 championship Friday night.
Instead, early errors helped the Raiders dig a deep hole in a game they ultimately lost 46-14 against fourth-ranked Scecina at Dale Green Field.
“That was about the opposite of what we wanted to do,” Shenandoah head coach Scott Widner said. “But that’s a good football team (at Scecina). We’ve got a great bunch of kids here. Sometimes, that’s just how it goes.”
The Raiders (9-3) mishandled the opening kickoff and started at their own 4-yard line. After a three-and-out, Scecina took over at the Shenandoah 34 and capped a three-play drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Nolan Ayers to wide receiver Trent Wilson.
It was the first of three touchdown passes for Ayers, who finished 11-of-19 for 184 yards with one interception.
The Crusaders (10-2) quickly added their second touchdown after recovering a fumbled snap at the Raiders’ 24-yard line. Ryan Leffler handled the honors on a 9-yard touchdown run, and Scecina led 14-0 less than four minutes into the contest.
But the breaking point didn’t come until the second quarter.
A promising Shenandoah drive ended with an interception at the Scecina 18-yard line, and the Crusaders methodically marched in the other direction for a first-and-goal at the Raiders’ 9.
Shenandoah’s defense held, however, stopping consecutive runs at the 1-yard line to give the ball back to the offense. On the next play from scrimmage, quarterback Adam Lovan was sacked in the end zone for a safety.
Leffler then returned the free kick 55 yards for a touchdown, and the Crusaders had an insurmountable 23-0 lead.
Scecina added a 22-yard touchdown run by Elijah Broschart and a 40-yard field goal by Luke Frain before the end of the half to take a 32-0 advantage into the locker room.
Shenandoah failed to aid its own cause with six turnovers. Three came on Lovan interceptions, and three more were fumbles.
The most costly of which followed one of the biggest plays of the game. Lovan completed a 57-yard pass on a third-quarter rollout to Zack Farmer, and the Raiders had a first down at the Crusaders’ 15-yard line. But JJ Myers lost the grip on a handoff two plays later, and Scecina recovered to staunch the threat.
“We just can’t turn the ball over like that and expect to be in the football game,” Widner said. “We didn’t take care of the football at all. We weren’t ready to play from the start.”
Shenandoah did manage to turn things around in the fourth quarter, scoring a pair of touchdowns in a 45-second span.
Lovan got the Raiders on the scoreboard first with a 25-yard pass to Trevor Conner. Following an onside kick recovery, Chandler Hale scored on a 28-yard touchdown run to cut Shenandoah’s deficit to 39-14.
Scecina, which had scored on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ayers to Wilson in the third quarter, also got a 35-yard touchdown pass from Ayers to Broschart on fourth-and-5 with 4:55 left in the game.
Hale finished with a team-high 96 rushing yards on 14 carries, and Lane Young added 74 yards on 13 attempts. Lovan finished 5-of-13 for 117 passing yards.
In the postgame huddle, Widner reminded the team he was proud of the season it put together and told his seniors he loved them.
“This is a great bunch,” he later said of a senior class that includes Hale and Young. “We’re going to miss them a lot.”