It was by no means an opening-night work of art.
Then again, third-year Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka could care less about style points.
The Tigers rallied from a one-point halftime deficit to post a hard-earned 24-13 victory against Strasburg in front of a large turnout at Fleming Field Friday evening.
Shadyside Band plays at season opener
"This wasn't bad for anytime in the season to be honest," Holenka said inside an elated Tigers' lockerroom. "We'll take it anyway we can get it. This was a gut-check victory. We're young, we make mistakes, but we believe and we keep clawing."
The game, which was delayed by a half hour because the Strasburg team bus broke down just east of Cambridge en route to Belmont County, showcased a vaunted Shadyside rushing attack.
"We're going to have fight some adversity," said Strasburg head coach Jimm Morris. "They used a nice naked, counter boot kind of thing going. Give their coaches credit because they knew we read guards, and they sent them one way and false keyed us. I thought we adjusted well, but they hit some big plays off it."
SHADYSIDE’S Chris Littell rips off a large chunk of yards during the Tigers’ game against Strasburg at Fleming Field. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonlie.com
The Tigers unleashed a vaunted running attack, which appears as if it could be their meal ticket.
Using a three-pronged attack of quarterback Chase Kinemond, tailback Brooks Ramsey and bruising sophomore fullback Chris Littell, the Orange racked up more than 260 infantry yards on 46 rushes.
"Chase did a nice job in the early going, and Littell is a runner. He knows how to run and does well for a sophomore," Holenka said. "He stays low, holds the ball well and when he got into the open field, he used a stiff arm to get an extra 10 yards."
The Tigers seemingly had things in control when they snagged a 12-0 in the middle stages of the second quarter thanks to a pair of touchdown runs by Kinemond, which covered 5 and 9 yards, respectively.
However, Strasburg roared back with a 75-yard drive, which was capped when sophomore quarterback Kole Bitikofer, who was subbing for the injured Ryan Froman, found sophomore Landry Hostetler for a 24-yard pitch and catch. The PAT was off the mark.
The Tuscarawas Countians caught Shadyside napping on the ensuing kickoff.
"We did a poor job as coaches with that on-side kick," Holenka said. "I thought we really let them back in the game at that point."
Strasburg pounced on the loose ball on the Shadeans' 37. Three plays later, highly regarded senior tailback Hunter Schneiter outraced the Tigers' defense to the pylon for the touchdown. Dan Kohr - a returning all-Ohioan - was perfect on the PAT, giving the invaders their first lead.
Shadyside drove into Strasburg territory just before halftime, but the drive stalled and it went to the dressing room with a deficit.
"We've got to shore up some things," Holenka said. "Our specialties and our kicking game need some work. We can't put ourselves behind the 8-ball all of the time because of extra points. I think we'll get better at it."
The Belmont Countians took the ball into Strasburg territory on their first possession of the second half, but again the drive failed on downs.
The Shadyside defense, which was staunch all evening with veterans Ian Baker, Matt Hammond and D.J. Shoemaker leading the way, turned the tables for its offense.
Hammond came up with the first of four Strasburg turnovers when he pounced on a fumble, giving Shadyside the ball on the visitors' 40.
"I thought the turnovers were the difference," Holenka said. "They hurt us with a few counters in the first half, and I thought we did a nice job of tightening up the shape and adjusting to a few things."
Again it appeared as if the drive was going to come to a halt, but Kinemond, who completed just three passes in the game, found talented freshman Austin Dorris for a 16-yard gain and a first down on a 4th and long situation. Dorris used his 6-4 frame to his advantage in pulling in the catch.
"That's a young kid stepping up and making a play, which is something we can definitely feel pretty good about," Holenka said. "We're happy because some of our big question marks came out with exclamation points for the good."
Three plays later, Shadyside was back in front. Littell - who finished with 99 yards on 11 carries, notched his first varsity touchdown from 3 yards out with just 1:51 to go in the third. The pass for two failed.
On the ensuing Strasburg possession, Baker stepped in front of a telegraphed Bitikofer pass for a pick.
Five plays later, on a fourth-and-goal, Littell plunged in from a yard out and again the pass for two failed.
Shadyside sealed the deal when Baker came up with a fumble recovery and in the game's wanning moments, Cody Hudson, who had two catches as a wide receiver, intercepted another pass.
Strasburg finished with 229 yards of offense. Schneiter rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries. Bitikofer finished 3-of-10 for 87 through the air.
"The turnovers and the adjustments they made were crucial," said Morris. "They changed up a little bit, countered what we were trying to do and I just never got into a flow of calling plays."
Shadyside goes on the road for the first of three trips this season. The locals visit Monroe Central, which dropped its season opener.
"It's tough to win (in Woodsfield) anyway, but it's going to be tougher now because when you get knocked behind the 8-ball right off the bat, it's tough," Holenka said. "If Monroe Central didn't have talent, I'd say they might be demoralized, but they're going to come climbing back."
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