SHELBY — The last time Shelby hosted a playoff game, Blaine Bowman was sitting in the bleachers at W.W. Skiles Field.
He had a more active role Saturday night.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Bowman caught three passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns as the Whippets rallied for a 31-21 win over Edison in the Division IV, Region 14 quarterfinals.
The last time Shelby hosted a first-round game was in 2017, when Bowman was in eighth grade. The Brennan Armstrong-led Whippets pounded Wauseon 50-13 en route to a regional championship and a berth in the state semifinals.
“I was in the stands in middle school watching Brennan Armstrong and his class,” Bowman said during Saturday’s postgame celebration. “It’s crazy to be out here playing in a playoff game as a sophomore and making a difference.”
A shifty 5-foot-10, 155-pound receiver and defensive back, Bowman has been a difference-maker all season for the Whippets (8-3). He had a team-high 30 catches for 463 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season.
Bowman one-upped himself Saturday. His career-long 92 yard touchdown grab early in the fourth quarter Saturday broke a 21-21 tie and came one play after the Whippets had an 87 yard TD on a screen pass to Owen Fisher nullified by penalty. On the very next play, quarterback McGwire Albert dropped back and unloaded a perfectly-thrown ball to a streaking Bowman.
“Our team has such great character and heart,” first-year coach Rob Mahaney said. “After you have that big play that gets called back, it would have been easy to hang your heads, but not us.”
As for Albert, the strong-armed senior never doubted Bowman.
“The (defender) kind of cheated on the route. He came up on the underneath route and I saw Blaine over the top,” said Albert, who who threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. “I knew I had the wind at my back so it was let’s take a shot and see what happens.
“I threw up a prayer and someone answered it.”
The Whippets overcame a 21-14 halftime deficit, outscoring the Chargers 17-0 in the second half. Bowman and Albert hooked up on a 31-yard scoring strike in the third to tie the game.
“We know we’re always in the game,” Bowman sad. “We’ve got a lot of fight.”
Next up for fourth-seeded Shelby is a regional semifinal date with No. 8 Clyde (7-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tiffin’s Frost-Kalnow Stadium. The Fliers upset top-seeded Keystone 28-20 in the opening round.
“I’ve never even played in a playoff game (before Saturday), so to win one is amazing,” Bowman said. “It’s crazy.”