SHELTON — Kenesaw's only loss this season got away from it in the third quarter.
That quarter turned out to be a much more favorable one Friday in the Blue Devils' closest win of the year.
Tyler Schnitzler ran for three of his four touchdowns in the third to lead Class D-2 No. 6-rated Kenesaw to a 25-20 win over No. 4 Shelton.
Schnitzler had scores of 65 and 38 yards around the right side to give the Blue Devils (6-1) leads, but it was a 3-yard quarterback dive up the middle with 16 seconds left in the period that provided Kenesaw with the winning margin.
“Tyler was able to get loose,” Kenesaw coach Craig Schnitzler said. “We had some great blocks up front and he made some people miss and was able to get down the sidelines on some big runs for us. That really kind of opened things up and forced them to play sideline-to-sideline.
“We missed some fourth-down opportunities that we need to clean up, but they bring a lot of guys all night. I'm really proud of the effort because they had six in the box all night and I thought we did tremendous job of moving the football and our defense made plays at times.”
Tyler Schnitzler, who finished with 290 yards on 26 carries, credited the offensive line for figuring out a Shelton defense that was packing the line of scrimmage hoping to stop the run.
“Our line stepped up,” the senior quarterback said. “They figured out how to block their big line. Our running backs found the holes and we were able to score.
“A lot of (the touchdowns) were the same blocking. I don't think they were the same formations, but our line did a great job. It all goes out to them. We had seven blockers most of the game going out there trying to pick them up. They came hard. They're a good team.”
Shelton (6-1) took an 8-7 lead into the second half before both offenses really got going and traded a total of five touchdowns in the third.
The teams first traded three-and-outs before Tyler Schnitzler took off around the right side, accelerated once he got to the corner, and raced down his team's sideline for a 65-yard score. The PAT kick was blocked, leaving Kenesaw's lead at 13-8.
That lead lasted 1:25 before Luke Glenn's 5-yard score put the Bulldogs back on top 14-13.
And that lead was enjoyed for 1:06 before Tyler Schnitzler again took off around the right side on a 38-yard scamper which put Kenesaw back on top 19-14.
Shelton then used what stood for a lengthy drive in the quarter to answer. The Bulldogs went 65 yards on 10 plays and 3:55 to go up 20-19 on Glenn's 3-yard run. Glenn finished with 174 yards on 31 carries.
Kenesaw took to the air to answer. Tyler Schnitzler hit Colton Blankenship for a 48-yard gain on third-and-9 from the Blue Devils' 16-yard line to keep a drive alive, and the quarterback went on to score what proved to be the game-winner four plays later.
“I thought the effort was there,” Shelton coach Mike Lowe said. “Really they didn't hurt us a lot besides Tyler is a great athlete. He can shift around. He was making us miss. His two long touchdown runs I could have sworn we had him tackled, and he scampered up the sideline. He was faster than us. But I don't think they outplayed us.
“We had some tough breaks not go our way. We dropped two wide-open touchdown passes. I don't think they had a guy on us. That could have changed the whole course of the game.”
Freshman running back Preston Schnitzler added 94 yards on 21 carries for Kenesaw. Tyler and Preston Schnitzler accounted for 47 of Kenesaw's 51 carries, and Preston Schnitzler had four of the team's five receptions.
Craig Schnitzler said the linemen also played a huge role in the win.
“Before the game I told them it was going to be trench warfare and it really was tonight,” he said. “They changed up some blocking on us in the third and fourth quarters, so we had to make some adjustments. I thought the adjustments worked well and shut down their iso play.”
Shelton took an 8-0 lead with 8:49 left in the second quarter when Clayton Stoppkotte hit Taryn Hawks for a 12-yard pass after the Bulldogs recovered a Kenesaw fumble on the Blue Devils' 16-yard line.
But — in a preview of what would happen in the third quarter — Kenesaw answered 1:44 later when Tyler Schnitzler took off around the right side, stopped and started his way around several defenders down the sideline, and scored from 53 yards out to pull within 8-7.
Shelton tried to answer late, getting down to the Kenesaw 9-yard line. But five straight incompletions from inside the 20 around a pass interference penalty didn't let Shelton add to its lead going into the half. Two of the incompletions were dropped passes in the end zone.
“That was big, and we had some coverage mistakes,” Craig Schnitzler said. “We were very fortunate to get out of that half with only one touchdown. But that's part of the game.
“You've got to make plays and that's what we talked to the kids about all week. It's going to come down to making plays, and I thought in the third and fourth quarter we did that on big third down plays to keep drives alive and get into the end zone.”
The strong third by Kenesaw was a different story than in its loss to Giltner. In that game a one-possession deficit turned into a running clock during that quarter.
“In the Giltner game we found out we were out of shape and we weren't ready to play at that level,” Tyler Schnitzler said. “Coaches stepped up on our practices and really pushed us hard. That's how we were able to go four quarters and play with teams like this.”
His father/coach agreed: “I think it helped us have a mindset of playing four quarters of football. We knew that going in, and the kids prepared well. It was the battle I thought it was going to be.”
Although disappointed with the loss, Lowe was happy with his team's effort and that it was competitive against Kenesaw, something that wasn't reflected in last year's 52-13 defeat.
“All our kids saw in every newspaper and every write-up about this game was the score from last year,” he said. “They know that was not indicative of how they play, and the score wasn't really indicative of the two teams out on the field. They wanted to change that.
“If anything, they should gain some respect. Whatever the rankings are after this game, I still think these are two of the top five teams in the state.”
Kenesaw 25, Shelton 20
Kenesaw (6-1)..........................0 7 18 0—25
Shelton (6-1)........................0 8 12 0—20
S—Hawks 12 pass from Stoppkotte (Stoppkotte run), 8:49.
K—T. Schnitzler 53 run (Sonneck kick), 7:05.
K—T. Schnitzler 65 run (kick failed), 9:18.
S—Glenn 5 run (run failed), 7:53.
K—T. Schnitzler 38 run (run failed), 6:47.
S—Glenn 3 run (run failed), 2:52.
K—T. Schnitzler 3 run (run failed), 0:16.
First downs 18 13
Rushes-yards 51-381 41-199
Passing yards 93 89
Comp-Att-Int 5-10-0 7-19-0
Punts-avg. 1-46.0 7-34.7
Punt returns 0-0 0-0
Kickoff returns 2-16 0-0
Fumbles-lost 2-2 2-0
Penalties-yards 5-49 3-25
RUSHING—K, T. Schnitzler 26-290, P. Schnitzler 21-94, Burr 2-1, TEAM 2-(minus 4). S, Glenn 31-174, Stoppkotte 9-24, Mueller 1-1.
PASSING—K, T. Schnitzler 5-10-0 93. S, Stoppkotte 7-18-0 89, TEAM 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING—K, P. Schnitzler 4-45, Blankenship 1-48. S, Hawks 4-40, Mueller 3-49.