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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • District champs!

  • While they might not admit it publicly, it’s not an uncommon occurrence for coaches to wonder if they’re getting through to their team. Receiving validation from their team that, in fact, they have been paying attention can be uplifting.
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  • While they might not admit it publicly, it’s not an uncommon occurrence for coaches to wonder if they’re getting through to their team. Receiving validation from their team that, in fact, they have been paying attention can be uplifting.
    Well, Seneca Indians head coach Dan Scheible might as well be floating right now. All season he’s challenged his team to be a “team of significance.” He dared his Indians to do something so special with their season that 10, 20, 30 years from now people would still bring them up in conversation. On Monday they came one step closer toward becoming a team of significance when they drilled Aurora 45-15 to win the Class 3, District 4 championship on Tom Hodge Field at Earl Campbell Stadium.
    The Indians will now face Eldon, who defeated Ava 19-12, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in a sectional game at Eldon. The Indians are among eight teams remaining in all of Class 3.
    “I’m proud of them,” Scheible said. “I’m proud of our kids, I’m proud of our coaches and players and fans.”
    With a loud and rowdy crowd along their sideline, the Indians (9-3) added another chapter to their Cinderella story this season thanks, in large part, to the leadership of its senior class. In the Week 3 meeting between the Big 8 Conference foes back during the regular season, the Indians hopped on the back of senior tailback Braxton Graham and he carried the ball 26 times for 223 yards and four touchdowns.
    Wouldn’t you know it? The Houn Dawgs got more of the same on Monday, too. This time, Graham outdid himself in carrying 29 times for 268 yards and four TDs. He also caught two passes for 24 yards. Senior quarterback Payton Rawlins also improved on his previous performance (10-13, 159 yards and a touchdown) by completing 10 of 12 passes for 246 yards. Senior receiver Dalan Merriman caught four passes for 102 yards. Senior Chance Smith had a key interception at the Indians’ 10 late in the third quarter, as well.
    And the story goes on.
    “All of those seniors go both ways for us,” Scheible said referring to the players playing snaps on both offense and defense. “They’ve done such a great job for us. This is a big win for us. A great day for us.”
    The Indians took a 22-7 lead into halftime. Upon receiving the opening kick of the second half, it took all of three plays for them to break it open. Rawlins ran for five yards before hooking up with Merriman on a 33-yard strike down to the Aurora 23 before Graham ran off right tackle for a touchdown on the next play to make it 30-7. The Houn Dawgs answered on the next drive, scoring on a 25-yard run by Will Blankenship to make it 30-15.
    Page 2 of 2 - Seneca, however, would drive the spike on the next series when Graham scored his third TD on a 34-yard scamper — again off right tackle — to make it 38-15 with 6:06 to go in the third. Graham would burn the defense once more on a 57-yard sprint on third-and-14 with 7:59 to go in regulation.
    Rawlins had a big game with his legs, too, as he prolonged a handful of series by scrambling for first downs when protection broke down.
    “I felt we had issues with pass protection,” Scheible said. “We’ve got to go back and get those things corrected. I thought that was a key. Payton did a great job with his legs instead of just his arm.”
    It didn’t take long for the Indians to make their mark in the game. After forcing the Houn Dawgs into a three-and-out on the opening drive of the game, Rawlins opened up with a 46-yard pass to Merriman, Rawlins ran twice for 12 and 15 yards before Rawlins capped it with a 1-yard run to make it 7-0. That scoring drive took all of 1:02 off the clock.
    After turning it over on downs on their second drive at Aurora’s 15, the Indians scored on a 3-yard run by Graham on their third drive. The extra point snap was high on the point after, so Graham snagged it out of the air and ran it in to make it 15-0. Blankenship gave Aurora its first score on a 1-yard run, but the Indians answered with a 1-yard scamper by Rawlins on their next drive with 1:14 to go before the half.
    Now their attention turns to Eldon, a relatively unknown team that carries a matching 9-3 record into Saturday’s game.
    “I think we have a great chance to win Saturday,” Scheible said. “But we’ve got a lot of things to go into a very short week to get prepared for it.
    “I’m just proud of all our support group. Our coaches, players, we have the greatest fans in Southwest Missouri and our administration. Just everyone that has supported us.”
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