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Shenandoah fends off Monroe Central

WOODSFIELD – Wins in Woodsfield have been hard to come by for Shenandoah over the years, so even though it wasn’t a work of art, the Zeps will gladly take Friday night’s 20-6 victory over the Seminoles.

Shenandoah managed to overcome three turnovers and 124 yards in penalties thanks to a stifling defense that limited Monroe Central to just 57 total yards, enabling the Zeps to notch their sixth win in seven outings while dropping the ‘Noles to 3-4.

“This is the only seventh time in school history that we we’ve won here,” said Shenandoah coach Jesse Wells. “It doesn’t matter what their record is…it doesn’t matter how many kids they have…it doesn’t matter who the coach is…they are going to play football hard. That’s just how it works.”

Not surprisingly, Wells credited his defensive unit for this one.

“The defense kept us in it all night,” he acknowledged. “They did a fantastic job. Any time you have that much adversity and the defense plays that well, they give you a chance to win.”

While mistakes and defense ruled the night, the game started out with each team scoring on its first possession.

Shenandoah drove 58 yards in six plays off the opening kickoff, with senior QB Kendal Sherman hitting 6-8 junior Shakur Payton for a 23-yard gainer and then teaming up with junior back Briar Portman for a 31-yard TD strike.

Senior Easton Hitchens nailed the point-after kick, giving the Zeps a 7-0 lead with 9:23 remaining on the first quarter clock.

Monroe Central responded by moving 62 yards to paydirt, aided by three Shenandoah penalties. The ‘Noles got the TD on a 27-yard pass from sophomore QB Malachi Rose-Burton to senior Wyatt Young, with Young making the grab in the end zone off a deflection by a Shenandoah defender.

The PAT kick was blocked, leading the Zeps on top, 7-6, at the 6:33 mark of round one.

Neither side was able to generate any offense until the final minute of the first half when Shenandoah gained possession at its 42-yard line after a low-trajectory Monroe Central punt deflected off of a lineman and traveled just 21 yards.

A 14-yard run by Portman and a 26-yard Sherman-to-Payton pass had the Zeps knocking at the door, and on third-and-goal from the MC four, Sherman tossed to Payton for the six-pointer with 12 ticks left in the half.

The extra-point was blocked, but Shenandoah had increased its lead to 13-6.

The third quarter featured five turnovers – three by the Seminoles – and the game was still up for grabs until Shenandoah turned the last MC miscue – a fumble recovered by senior Kade Varhola at midfield – into a game-clinching score.

Despite being hit with two more 15-yard penalties, Shenandoah used a 14-yard run by junior Cade Denius; an 11-yard pickup by Portman and a 17-yard scamper by Sherman to set up an 8-yard TD run by Portman with 6:46 remaining. Hitchens’ PAT kick closed the scoring at 20-6.

“It was a sloppy game,” said Monroe Central coach Josh Ischy. “I’m sure Jesse (Wells) will say the same thing.

“We were our own worst enemy and didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” he continued. “They gave us backside one-on-one coverage and we tried to go there, but we just couldn’t connect, and they did a nice job bottling up Alex.

“Our execution was poor,” Ischy added, “but the effort was really good and I was proud of our kids for that.”

Shenandoah finished with a well-balanced offense of 157 rushing and 158 passing for a total of 315 yards.

Portman toted the leather 31 times for 108 yards while Sherman added 47 on nine rushes. Sherman and Portman combined to complete 12-of-22 passes including 9-of-19 by Sherman for two TDs, with Payton on the receiving end of six tosses for 94 yards and a score.

Monroe Central managed very little offense after the early TD pass, closing with 22 net yards on the ground and 35 through the air. Rose-Burton was 4-of-15 with a TD and an INT (by Shenandoah’s Baylor Wentworth) and Kilburn – who entered the game with 677 yards rushing – managed just 31 yards on 13 attempts.

Shenandoah’s 124 yards in penalties came on 13 accepted infractions.

“We break off a 12-yard run and have a holding call, and that’s 22 yards difference,” said Coach Wells. “It’s hard for high school kids to overcome that, and the reality is we’re still learning so this was a big win for us.”

Both teams are on the road this week – Shenandoah traveling to Sugar Grove to face Berne Union and Monroe Central taking on Barnesville. Kickoff at both sites is set for 7 p.m.

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