SHELBY — Officially it’s the second week of the playoffs, but for Shelby the postseason began on a mid-October night at W.W. Skiles Field.
The Whippets have been in playoff mode ever since.
Fourth-seeded Shelby (8-3) will take on No. 8 Clyde (7-4) in the Division IV, Region 14 quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tiffin’s Frost-Kalnow Stadium. The Whippets advanced with a 31-21 win over No. 5 Edison in last week’s opening round.
The playoffs seemed like an unlikely possibility after a Week 8 home loss to Lima Central Catholic. It was Shelby’s second loss in a row and and sent the Whippets plummeting to No. 10 in the Region 14 standings (the top eight teams in each region qualify for the playoffs).
“We knew after the Lima Central Catholic loss that we were going to have to win out,” said quarterback McGwire Albert, who threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns — all in the second half — against Edison. “The mentality kind of shifted in the locker room. We started getting after it in practice.”
Shelby kept its playoff hopes alive with a 17-7 win at River Valley in Week 9, then secured its spot in the postseason with a come-from-behind 35-25 win over Clear Fork in Week 10. That victory also secured an outright Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference championship.
“We challenged them going into Week 9,” Shelby coach Rob Mahaney said. “It’s do-or-die here, to win a conference and make the playoffs. We carried that mentality into Clear Fork and we kept it (against Edison).
“That’s our whole season. We’re up-and-down but we find a way.”
The Whippets found a way last week against Edison, overcoming a 21-14 halftime deficit. Shelby outscored the Chargers 17-0 in the second half with Albert throwing touchdown passes of 31 and 92 yards to sophomore Blaine Bowman.
“With the skill players on this team, we know we’re always in the game,” Bowman said. “We’ve got a lot of fight. Since the River Valley game we’ve turned it up.”
Owen Fisher rushed for 125 yards on 17 carries, including an 81 yard touchdown run in the first half. He had an 87 yard touchdown on a screen pass nullified by penalty and came up with a critical interception in the third quarter.
“It’s a lot of pressure knowing it’s win or go home every week,” Fisher said. “We’ve been showing up and playing our game every week and it’s working out.”
Clyde punched its ticket to the second round with a 28-20 win over top-seeded Keystone. The Fliers trailed 14-0 before scoring 28 unanswered points. Quarterback Ryan Lozier threw second-half touchdown passes of 25 and 6 yards to Carson Rieman and 20 yards to Adam Koviak.
A win Saturday would send Shelby into the regional finals for a third time in four years. The Whippets won a regional championship in 2017.
“Everyone knows it’s win or go home. It’s been that way for the last three weeks,” Albert said. “We’re excited to be moving on, but we aren’t satisfied. We don’t want this to end.”