SHADYSIDE - Coming into the season, like most coaches, Mark Holenka found different areas of his team that could be deemed question marks.
However, the one aspect of his Shadyside Tigers football team that could never be questioned was its will, determination and desire to not let the teams before it, in what's developed into one of the Ohio Valley's premier small-school grid programs, down.
Those three inate characteristics played out to a tee once again during the past 10 weeks and the results are something to which Holenka never gave a thought.
T-L Photo/MIKE PALMER
SHADYSIDE’S Eric Howell avoids a Barnesville defender during the first half of Friday’s game at Fleming Field. Howell finished with nearly 80 yards and scored two touchdowns. The Tigers rolled to a 52-0 victory to wrap up their second consecutive 10-0 season. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
After posting a 52-0 beatdown of invading Barnesville Friday night at Fleming Field, the Tigers became the third team in school history and second in a row to finish the regular season with a perfect 10-0 mark.
"This feeling certainly doesn't get old," Holenka said shortly after receiving a Gatorade bath. "It's a tribute to these young men and these coaches. Those are the people who I hope feel good about this."
The Tigers' string of clinchings has reached four in a row. After Week 7, the Tigers wrapped up a playoff berth. The following week they finalized a home game and last week the OVAC title became official.
"I think these kids believed in themselves," Holenka said. "I think they believed in themselves maybe more than some us understood how good they were or could be. Deep down, in their hearts, these kids knew how good they were and they worked hard every day."
However, after this most recent accomplishment, the Tigers' wipe the slate clean and turn their attention toward the second season, which begins a week from today at Fleming Field. As for who's coming to town, Shadyside will wait until Sunday to formally learn its opponent when the OHSAA announces the 32-team Division VII field.
"We have to get used to playing on Saturdays now, which will be a little different, but we'll enjoy this (Friday night) and get back to work for what's ahead," Holenka said. "The kids need to realize that everything from this point out is do or die, so it's a little bit different scenario."
It didn't take the Tigers long to establish themselves against the Shamrocks, who finish the season with a 2-8 mark.
"It seems like I say it every week, but we got beat by a better football team," said Barnesville head coach Matt Johnson. "We're young, but we can't keep using that as an excuse. It's going to take work and dedication to get this thing turned around, and, for us coaches, that work begins next week."
The Shamrocks took the ball on the opening kickoff after the hosts deferred to the second half. They proceeded to run three plays for losses of 10, 8 and on the third play, Tigers' defensive end Scott Hammond pounces=d on a fumble in the end zone for the first score of the game.
"When teams try to roll out, our defensive ends do a great job," Holenka said. "We got them in a third and long, they couldn't afford a miscue and we came up with a big play."
The tone was certainly set.
Shadyside's first unit scored on all but one of its possessions before being lifted after one drive in the third quarter.
The Tigers and their vaunted running attack racked up 331 yards. It was senior Chris Littell's turn to serve as the go-to-guy. He carried 10 times for 118 yards and scored twice, both of which were from 5 yards out.
Junior Eric Howell rushed 12 times for 78 yards and scored on runs of 5 and 13 yards.
Shadyside's seemingly weekly quest to work on its passing game resulted in a 3-of-9 effort from junior Austin Dorris. He did throw a 17-yard touchdown to Hammond late in the first half. Mason Campbell connected on four PAT kicks.
Luke Nardo, who also recovered a fumble, and Littell caught Dorris' other two completions.
As has been the case all season, the Tigers offensive line, which consists of Hunter Hammond, Colton Campbell, Zach Meadows, Jacob Spencer and Cory Banco was impressive.
"We had some things we wanted to get done offensively, but when you finish off a 10-0 season and score 52 points, you're not going to complain too much," Holenka said.
Back-up quarterback Billy Johnson scampered into the end zone from 33 yards out and Matt Krupa found a seam on the left side and dashed 58 yards to cap the scoring.
Barnesville received a solid rushing effort from Dylan Burkhart. He finished with 71 yards on 14 totes. Royce Hall added 41 stripes on 11 carries.