Their paths to the state championship game couldn't have been any more different.
Yes, both Shadyside and Delphos St. John's had to qualify for the Division VI playoffs and then win four games, but those are where the similarities stop.
However, their paths will cross Friday afternoon at Canton's Fawcett Stadium in the title game, which is scheduled to kick off at 3 p.m.
The Tigers have not gotten here by accident once they got rolling. They've been clicking on all cylinders since the postseason began almost a month ago.
"We've believed in ourselves and we've probably over-achieved some to get here," said Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka during Monday's OHSAA conference call for the state finalist coaches. "We've got 14 seniors on this team who've taken the bull by the horns and developed well as a team."
You see in August, probably not even Holenka or his trusted staff had this team on the radar screen of a possible state championship.
THE SHADYSIDE Tigers go through drills Monday afternoon as they began preparations for Friday’s Division VI State Championship Game against Delphos St. John’s at Canton. Pictured for the Tigers, from left, are Evan Marling, Ellis Brown and Brendon Sedinger. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
SHADYSIDE’S Jesse Coen’s shirt indicates ‘extraordinary’ and before the season Tigers’ head coach Mark Holenka indicated that his team could have the capability of reaching that point if a few players developed as the “pulse” of the team. To help the process, Holenka had t-shirts printed to drive the point home further.
Actually in reflecting to August, Holenka didn't know what to expect because his team was facing a more difficult schedule with four new opponents with some pieces who hadn't played starring roles prior.
"We were definitely under the radar," Holenka said.
Some of the pieces were actually under the radar to Holenka and company as well.
In his team's preview, which published in this paper in late August, Holenka reflected some to the 2006 squad, which was the last time the Tigers were in the state title game.
He said, "we don't have that heartbeat type player, who's at a peak for us. We had some of those people when we went to the state finals in 2006. We don't have that guy who can just saddle up and take you. If we have someone who can matriculate into being the pulse of this team, I think we can go from being ordinary to extraordinary."
After reading that, two things jump out. The first being no one can ever accuse Holenka of coach speak because he was to the point and very accurate. Secondly, the Tigers have had those players develop into the pulse of the team.
Names like Ellis Brown, Brendon Sedinger, Aaron Silverio, Evan Marling, Logan Hudson, Taylor Brown and Matt Hammond have become commonplace.
While in Belmont County, the Tigers were hoping for names to arise and make a playoff run, some 260 miles to the northwest in a town of just more than 6,700 people, the Blue Jays of St. John's went to work in early August with a bittertaste in their mouth.
St. John's fell in the Division VI title game to Norwalk St. Paul, 24-21, after owning an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
"We're proud of what we accomplished last year, but we definitely learned a lesson from it," said St. John's head coach Todd Schulte.
The feeling of bitterness came to the forefront because of the fact that the 21 seniors on the Blue Jays won the Division VI title in 2008, posting a 34-14 victory against Bascom Hopewell Loudon just a season removed from finishing 2-8.
"I didn't have to say a lot in the offseason or preseason," Schulte said. "Losing last year could end up being a blessing in disguise."
Moments after last season's title game, media and pundits around the state installed the Blue Jays as the immediate favorites for this title.
"The media can say and write what they want because our kids don't care about that," Schulte admitted.
"They've come to work every day to get better and gotten after it."
TICKETS for Friday's final are currently on sale at the high school only. They will be on sale until Friday for $8 in advance. All tickets at Fawcett Stadium are reserved seats. At the gate, the tickets will cost $10.
SHADYSIDE will serve as the home team Friday afternoon. The Tigers will don their home black jerseys. In case you were wondering, the OHSAA establishes the home team based on which team is on the top line of the bracket.
ON THE Division I third-team all-Ohio squad, Massillon's Justin Olackwas named to the team as a wide receiver. Olack's dad is a Shadyside High School graduate.
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