The next time anyone picks up a dictionary and looks up the word “methodical,” a picture of the Shenandoah offense should be prominently displayed.
The Raiders controlled the ground and the clock en route to a 31-13 win over Centerville on Friday.
Shenandoah started the second half with an 8-7 lead on the Bulldogs. The Raiders then consumed 9:33 of the third quarter with 18 plays that covered 58 yards. The drive was capped by an 8-yard pass from John Huff to Ryan Runyan for a touchdown.
Centerville then embarked on a long drive of its own.
The Bulldogs moved the ball from their own 33-yard line to Shenandoah territory, finding the seams in the Raiders’ defense with a spread-passing attack.
Then Shenandoah’s John Slivka put momentum firmly back on the Raiders’ side.
Slivka picked off a pass from Bulldogs quarterback Blake Smith at the Shenandoah 24-yard line. The senior safety then turned on the jets, outracing his pursuers 76 yards down the sideline for a score and giving the Class 2A No. 10 Raiders a 24-7 lead with 9:49 left in the game.
“Anytime you got high school kids, there’s a lot of emotion and a lot of energy,” Raiders coach Scott Widner said. “That changed the game. He made a play on it and big time players step up in big time games. He stepped up tonight.”
“It was huge (for us),” Slivka said of the interception. “We worked on it all week. Coach told us they would pass on us and we did it.”
After Shenandoah’s defense forced the game’s only punt, the Raiders stayed true to form with their rushing attack. John Fritz took the lion’s share of the carries on a drive that started at the Raiders’ 18-yard line and was aided by a pair of personal fouls on Centerville. Fritz finished off the drive with a 21-yard scoring run right through the heart of the Bulldogs’ defense.
Fritz finished with 115 yards on 21 attempts and a touchdown.
“It’s just a matter of us not making the mistake that kills our drives and in the second half we did that,” Widner said. “(Fritz) had a heck of a game. We took the five (yards) at a time, and Fritz ran hard. We have the attitude to keep grinding.”
With the win, Shenandoah returns to the sectional title game for a second straight season.
The Raiders will host Guerin Catholic for the sectional championship next week at Dale Green Field.
Guerin earned its ticket to Middletown with a 41-38 win over Heritage Christian in overtime.
“We had it in the back of our mind that we were going to do it,” Slivka said. “We worked hard and we knew we’d be here. We want to finish this time.”