SHAWNEE – It was an uphill battle that kept getting steeper for Shawnee Friday night in a 21-14 loss to Claremore in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs to bring an end to the Wolves season. Shawnee ended the game minus five of their defensive starters. They started with two out and ended up with Gunner Bender and Elijah Bender both leaving with injuries and Garrett Hopkins was ejected in the first quarter.

“It's tough to lose like that. We played well, I was proud of the way the kids fought, we went into the game with two defensive starters out and at the end of the first quarter we had three more out. So I was very proud of our defense,” coach Billy Brown said.

Even with all that, the Wolves put up a fight though and were just one yard from having one last shot to ended it with seconds left on the clock.

With Claremore looking at fourth and one from their own 34, Shawnee needed a stop to extend the game, but Claremore quarterback Noah Grimed stretched out two yards to run out the clock.

The Wolves tied up the game at 14 with a 41-yard catch and run from Heath Hunter to Trenton Skinner with 5:30 left in the third. The two connected on a 63-yarder in the second to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Brayden McGinnis and tie the game at 7.

In the end, the offense just couldn't find the footing they needed to take advantage of the opportunities the defense gave them.

“They gave us a chance to win and played their tails off, we just couldn't get anything going on offense consistently,” Brown said.

The deciding drive for the Zebras stretched late in the third to early in the fourth and was capped on a 7-yard run by Coleman Parsons with 11:07 to go.

Claremore found themselves at first and inches from the goal line following Hopkins' ejection and took a 7-0 lead with three seconds left in the first quarter. They added another touchdown with a 17-yard rush by Grimed 2:36 before the break.

Hunter finished the game 9-25 for 200 yards and threw one interception and was sacked twice. Skinner had 131 yards on four catches, Scout Cawvey had 39 yards on one catch and LJ McKissick had a 28-yard catch.

Shawnee finishes the season with a 7-4 record and will lose 12 senior starters after this season. Brown was proud of how his guys improved as the season stretched on.

“We went through and lost two district games by a total of 14 points and lost this one by seven. So you lose three of your four games by a total of 14 points, I was proud of the fight and improvement we made this year and it's always a joy to coach these guys. It was a good bunch of seniors and we're gonna miss them,” he said.