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Barnesville falls at Shenandoah

SARAHSVILLE – Week 4’s “Battle of the Unbeaten” lived up to expectations, but a couple of key components – poor tackling and too many penalties – were the downfall of the visiting Barnesville Shamrocks who fell victim to the Shenandoah Zeps by a 35-21 score before a large, enthusiastic crowd on Friday.

Although piling up more than 400 yards of total offense behind a big effort from junior quarterback Ayden Hannahs, the ‘Rocks combination of tackling miscues, penalties and a second quarter turnover that turned the momentum were the difference.

Another factor was a heavy dose of Shenandoah junior back Briar Portman with a touch of senior Kendal Sherman sprinkled in. Portman accounted for all five Zep touchdowns – rushing 17 times for 114 yards and four scores while adding three receptions for 97 stripes and a TD while the versatile Sherman – who stepped into the QB role with junior starter Ayden Smith sidelined – completed 8-of-14 passes for 155 yards and a TD and added 51 yards rushing on 10 attempts.

“Hats off to Shenandoah…they outplayed us and outcoaches us,” said Barnesville coach Blake Allen.

“We moved the ball offensively, but penalties and turnovers hurt us,” he said, “Until we start stopping somebody on defense, the other stuff is not going to matter.

“We’ve got to find some kids who want to tackle somebody because we’re not doing it,” he added. “Portman and Sherman are two really good runners and we told our guys all week if we don’t get hats to the ball and gang tackle, we’re in for a tough night and that’s what happened.”

Barnesville took the opening kickoff and marched 72 yards in eight plays, capped by a play-action TD pass from Ayden Hannahs to junior Jake Boulet. Hannahs kept for the two-point conversion to put the ‘Rocks on top, 8-0, at the 9:14 mark of the first quarter.

Shenandoah responded quickly, tallying on its third snap when Sherman teamed up with Portman for a 65-yard TD, with senior Easton Hitchens connecting on the PAT kick to pull the Zeps within 8-7 with 8:13 left in the opening round.

The Shamrocks pushed their lead to 14-7 with 2:49 left in the first period thanks to an 11-play, 82-yard drive fueled runs of 10 and 19 yards by Ayden Hannahs and a pair of 15-yard pass completions (one to senior Uryan Meade and one to junior Gage Hannahs).

Senior back Caden Lake got the payoff on a three-run run, but the two-point pass was incomplete.

The Zeps tied the score at 14-14 early in the second quarter with a 58-yard drive which featured a 33-yard pass from Sherman to senior Aden Laipply, with Portman finishing it off on a three-yard TD run and Hitchens adding the placement with 10:23 left in the first half.

That started a momentum swing in Shenandoah’s favor which continued when senior Wesley Guy intercepted a pass at the Zeps’ 25 and the hosts capitalized, covering the 75 yards in eight snaps including a nifty 33-yard scoring scamper by Portman.

Hitchens again kicked the point-after and the Zeps were in front, 21-14, with 3:59 until the intermission.

After stopping the Zeps after a 13-play series, Barnesville tied the game at 21-all with a 14-play, 80-yard march. Ayden Hananhs hit Uryan Meade for 21 yards and ripped off a 27-yard run along the way and then he found senior Alex Meade for an 18-yard TD connection.

Sophomore Gavin Carpenter nailed the PAT and it was all square with 41 seconds left in the third chapter.

A Shenandoah punt pinned Barnesville inside its 10-yard line and a 27-yard punt return by Portman on the ensuing Shamrock boot set the Zeps up at the BHS 14-yard line.

Portman got his fourth TD from there and Hitchens again was true on the extra-point, giving the hosts a 28-21 lead with 9:16 remaining in the game.

Shenandoah’s defense stopped the ‘Rocks on a fourth-and-four near midfield on the next series and the Zeps embarked on a game-clinching drive, capped by a four-yard TD run from Portman with Hitchens making it five-for-five on PATs to close the scoring with 1:19 left.

Barnesville made one final push and had the ball at the Shenandoah three-yard line, but a “pick” by junior Shakur Payton finished it off.

The Zeps improved to 4-0 and left Coach Jesse Wells extremely pleased.

“That’s what everybody came here to see,” he offered. “That win will be very instrumental in what we’re planning on doing this year as far as the playoffs and the OVAC and to do it in front of what was the biggest crowd I’ve seen here in a long time I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

“It was a gritty performance,” Wells continued as his team firmly penciled itself in as a playoff contender in Division VII, Region 27. “We established the run and threw it when we needed to. Briar was a stud again and I thought Kendal did a great job running the offense. We felt our line could be the difference and they were.”

Barnesville (3-1) looks to bounce back with a home game against River on Friday while Shenandoah has another big clash when it travels to Shadyside the same night.

“The three-game game road stretch (Meadowbrook, Buckeye Trail and Shenandoah) we just had was tough,” said Barnesville’s Allen, “but we’ve still got a lot of goals ahead of us with another tough game next week.”

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