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Shaw’s Four Norsemen lead Niles to first football conference title since 2001

Means-Flewellen leads three backs over century mark in 56-18 wipeout of unbeaten Paw Paw
for Wolverine crown

NILES – Seniors Talon Brawley and Julian Means-Flewellen will forever be grateful for the arrival of Michigan High School Hall of Fame football coach Scot Shaw as the head coach at Niles High School.

Shaw, a former standout running back at Mishawaka High School in the 1970s and later the head coach of Three Rivers High School’s 2003 state championship team, arrived three years ago. Friday night, his No. 9 (Division 4) Vikings captured the school’s first conference football title since 2001 when they whipped previously unbeaten No. 3 Paw Paw 56-18 in Viking Stadium for the Wolverine title.

“Football here was boring before coach Shaw came here,” said wingback Means-Flewellen, who had a team-high 219 yards on eight carries, three of which were touchdown runs of 87, 41 and 46 yards as the Vikings ran for 498 yards and finished with 572 total yards while limiting Paw Paw to just 234 yards. “It’s amazing how he’s changed the culture here. We’re winning games. It’s just amazing.”

Hough column: Observations from a wild night of high school football in the South Bend area

Coach Dave Janicki led the Vikings to their last conference title, Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West Division title in 2001. Prior to Shaw’s arrival, Niles had 16 losing seasons in 17 years. They’ve now gone 5-4, 6-5 and 8-1 under Shaw’s direction, and they likely will be home next Friday to begin the Division 4 district playoffs. 

The Michigan High School Athletic Association will announce its state playoff pairings Sunday night, and Niles’ first opponent could be its Wolverine Conference and U.S. Highway 12 neighbor Edwardsburg. The 5-4 Eddies, who beat Sturgis 59-33 Friday night, lost 49-0 at Viking Stadium back on Oct. 6.

“Going from being 1-6 (in 2020) to winning just about every game this year (Niles’ only setback was 15-14 in week two at Lakeshore) is wonderful,” said Brawley, who threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Sam Rucker but mostly did his damage with his ball-handling skills running Niles’ Flexbone attack. 

Means-Flewellen, Brawley, Rucker and Paul Hess have become known as the Vikings’ Four Norsemen. Junior fullback Hess had 147 yards on 19 carries and matched Means-Fluellen with three touchdown runs, while junior wingback Rucker picked up 129 yards on six carries including a 58-yard touchdown run after Paw Paw had pulled within 35-18 late in the third quarter. 

“Our kids have seen enough things now that they can adjust pretty quick,” Shaw said. “I think this team is on par to some of the best teams I’ve ever had. I hesitate right now to say it’s the best team, but it’s probably the most well-rounded team I’ve ever had.”

He’ll get no argument from Paw Paw head coach Dennis Strey. “They are a good football team, no doubt about it,” Strey said. 

Trench warfare

Niles’ offensive line and its front seven on defense were the difference in the game. 

“Basically we wanted to make a ruckus down front so we could get to the ball,” said inside linebacker Hess, who along with senior inside linebacker Alex Cole and outside backers Sam Rucker and Dane Asmus backed up the work of the defensive linemen Isaiah Moore, Malachi Burris, Landon Martin and Brandon Hamilton.

Paw Paw’s two 1,000-yard rushers Ben Miller and PJ DeYoung failed to reach 100 yards, finishing with 93 and 86 yards respectively.

Niles’ offensive line of left tackle Carson Clanton, left guard Chase Brawley, center Jimmy Gaya, right guard Brandon Hamilton, right tackle Riley Cowan and tight end Max Rucker was outstanding as well.

“They are the best offensive line I’ve ever run behind,” Rucker said.

Niles 56, Paw Paw 18

At Viking Stadium, Niles

Paw Paw 6 6 6 0 —18
Niles 8 20 14 14 —56


N: Julian Means-Flewellen 87-yard run at 11:07 (Alex Cole run)

PP: PJ DeYoung 10-yard run at 9:31 (run failed)


N: Means-Flewellen 41-yard run at 10:07 (Andrew Cutajar kick)

N: Paul Hess 34-yard run at 7:27 (kick failed)

PP: DeYoung 1-yard run at 1:14 (kick failed)

N: Sam Rucker 41-yard pass from Talon Brawley at 0:50 (Cutajar kick)


N: Hess 3-yard run at 6:19 (Cutajar kick)

PP: DeYoung 2-yard run at 1:56 (run failed)

N: Rucker 58-yard run at 1:38 (Cutajar kick)


N: Hess 7-yard run at 10:53 (Cutajar kick)

N: Means-Flewellen 46-yard run at 5:09 (Cutajar kick)

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