Jonathan Alder head football coach Nathan Snedeker, left, listens to an explanation by an official. Pictured to the right is JA assistant coach Craig Kyle. The Pioneers will host Springfield Shawnee Friday for Senior Night. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
It will be a battle for second place or possibly even a share of a title on Jonathan Alder’s Volunteer Field Friday evening.
The Pioneers and Springfield Shawnee are both 3-1 in the Central Buckeye Conference’s Kenton Trail Division.
They follow London (7-2 overall), which stands at 4-0.
The Red Raiders will wrap up the regular season on Friday at Bellefontaine (6-3, 2-2).
If the Chieftains would manage to upset London, then the winner of the JA-Shawnee contest would tie the Red Raiders for the divisional title.
A win by London would give it the outright crown, with the Alder-Shawnee winner standing in second place.
JA will take an overall record of 5-4 into the game, while the Braves stand at 6-3.
Shawnee will present several offensive formations to the Pioneers’ defense.
“They will spread you at times and then squeeze you in,” said JA coach Nathan Snedeker. “They are a well-balanced team.”
The Braves have been fairly even between their ground game and passing attack.
Max Guyer is the team’s top rusher with 636 yards on 127 attempts.
He has help in the backfield from quarterbacks RJ Griffin (445 yards) and Zane Mercer (367).
“Guyer is solid and both of their quarterbacks are good runners,” said Snedeker.
The Braves have rushed for 1,611 yards to date.
Griffin and Mercer have also been accurate passers, respectively completing 63.2 and 67.4% of their tosses.
They have combined for nearly 1,000 yards in the air for nine TD passes.
Mercer has thrown the team’s only two picks.
Zion Crowe is the top Shawnee receiver.
He’s caught 29 passes for 541 yards.
“They distribute the ball well in their system,” said Snedeker.
“Our defense must stay focused since they have a lot of guys who can touch the ball.”
The Braves will employ a base 34 defense.
“They will show multiple odd and even fronts,” said the Pioneer boss. “They will blitz when they feel it will take something away from you and play a lot of man coverage in the secondary.”
Snedeker said his squad will have to first establish its ground game in order to open up passing lanes.
The Pioneers boast the CBC’s second-leading rusher in Cameron Jewell.
He’s picked up 916 yards on 95 carries and scored nine touchdowns.
Jewell will continue to get help from Will Heisler, who has carried the ball 72 times for 361 yards.
Snedeker is hoping the Pioneers can successfully get their running game going and also allow quarterback Taber Headings passing opportunities.
Headings has completed 77-of-121 passes (63.6%) for 726 yards and three touchdowns.
“The key to winning this game will be to stick to our game plan,” said Snedeker. “We did that during the second half when we came back to beat Tecumseh.
“Our senior leadership kept us going and the guys believed we were going to win that game.”
The victory elevated the Pioneers to No. 13 in Division III’s Region 11.
That’s a spot that will earn a state playoff berth.
“We are taking it one week at a time, but we do have our destiny in our own hands,” said Snedecker, whose team has fought back from an 0-3 start.
“We’ve been making a nice jump up the ladder,” he said. “These guys have faced adversity for much of the season and have done well.”