Monroe, Shadyside set to lock horns

It’s only week two of the prep football season, but there’s a small-school showdown on tap for Fleming Field in Shadyside.

It’s a battle of 1-0 combines Friday when the Tigers roll out the red carpet for rival Monroe Central for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

“This is a good matchup between two outstanding programs,” said Monroe Central head coach Jay Circosta, who just began his 45th year as a teacher earlier this week.

Both coaches realize how much this game means to their teams for so many reasons, but both also realize there are eight more games after this week.

“It’s still early,” Circosta said. “It’s certainly not the end of the season for either team regardless of the outcome. You can look at many years in the past where the team that lost this game still went on for an outstanding season.

Case in point is last season when the Seminoles routed the Tigers, 42-14. Shadyside finished the regular season 7-3, earned a home game in the playoffs and eventually advanced to the Region 21 championship game.

Shadyside comes into this week’s game after a convincing 35-0 victory at Strasburg.

“This will be a true test this week,” said Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka, who is in his fourth season at the helm of his alma mater. “We won’t be able to afford some of the mistakes we made against Strasburg this week because they won’t be easy to overcome in a game of this caliber.”

While the Tigers played well in all facets, Holenka isn’t anywhere near ready to crown his team.

“I still think the jury is out on us,” Holenka said. “I think we made some improvements from our scrimmages to the first game, but not in all areas, which is what we were hoping to do.”

Monroe Central, which lost several key pieces to graduation, has battled through an early season injury and dealt with a veteran opting not to come out for the team, but still found a way to post a 14-7 victory against Atwater Waterloo last Friday.

“Time will tell what kind of team both us and Waterloo are,” Circosta said. “We sputtered some offensively in the first half, but got better in the second half. Defensively, I thought we did some good things and showed improvement from our scrimmages.”

Circosta, who is a Shadyside High graduate, knows his defense will be challenged this week by the Tigers’ bevy of options both on the ground and through the air.

“Unfortunately, Shadyside does a lot of things well,” Circosta said. “After watching them, I am impressed because they’re big up front and they’ve got good skill people.”

Senior quarterback Chase Kinemond leads the way. An equal threat on the ground and with his arm, Kinemond completed 6-of-12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown last week. He wasn’t asked to run the ball. His only carry was a sack.

The Tigers’ have depth in the backfield with senior Brooks Ramsey, who’s been slowed by injury and carried just five times last week. The workhorse was junior Chris Littell, who ran for 106 yards and two scores on seven carries. Eric Howell and Alex Quinn are also options in the backfield.

When the Tigers pass, Kinemond’s favorite targets are 6-3 senior Cody Hudson and 6-5 sophomore Austin Dorris. The duo caught all six of Kinemond’s completions last week.

“We’ll have to play well defensively because Shadyside poses a lot of problems,” Holenka said. “They’re not one-dimensional by any means and they’ve got the ability to put the ball into people’s hands who can hurt you with big plays.”

Moving the ball against the Seminoles’ defense is never an easy chore for anyone and Holenka is well aware of that.

“Monroe is always solid defensively because they execute their schemes so well,” Holenka said. “They mix up their fronts, but whatever they play, they play well. They make you earn your first downs and any points you might score.”

On the offensive side, the Seminoles got things going in the second half when they posted better than 200 rushing yards to control the clock.

“Monroe obviously lost some really good players, but they replaced them with good players,” Holenka said. “They might not be as physical a player as Tyler Kinchen was, but they’re really balanced with speed and power.”

The Seminoles are led onto the field by quarterback Korey Lafferre, who has taken over the duties under center this season. He completed just 1-of-6 passes for 15 yards, but he did run for 86 yards on 13 carries.

“I am really pleased with how Korey has progressed at quarterback,” Circosta said. “We’re inexperienced at wide receiver since we lost our top three guys from last season, which includes moving Korey to quarterback. We’re hoping our passing game grows a little bit, but we’re not sure how soon that’ll happen.”

The Seminoles’ leading rusher last week was Levi Brown, who ran for 112 yards on 16 rushes last week.

“You can’t key on one guy,” Holenka said. “We’ll have to defend the entire field because of the speed Monroe has. We’ve got to continue to tighten up the bolts in all three aspects of the game.”