Shadyside treks to Bellaire for the first time since 1950

The two-year contract between Bellaire and Shadyside in football was formally signed in January.

After more than eight months of waiting, the game that’s not been played since 1950 is just a few days away.

The Big Reds will host the Tigers Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Nelson Field in what many hope becomes an annual meeting.

“We’re treating as another game, but we know it’s not necessarily that way for the communities, especially the old timers,” said Bellaire head coach Jose Davis. “I realized how much this game means to people when had a guy tell me that if we only won one game, he hoped it was Shadyside game.”

The Shadyside community is soaking up the chance to face the Big Reds as well.

“I think the public and community gets goose bumps for games like these,” said Shadyside head coach Mark Holenka. “The excitement for this game has sort of fluctuated. It was really high when it was first announced and then it went back down, but it’s really high now.”

This week’s meeting will be the 28th all time between the neighboring communities. The Big Reds lead that series, 24-2-3, including prevailing in the last three meetings.

During the course of the series, the Big Reds blanked the Tigers in 19 of the contests. The last time Shadyside scored a point against Bellaire was 1943 when it defeated the Big Reds, 12-6.

None of that matters, however, when this week as nary a person directly involved with the upcoming meeting was alive when the teams met.

This week’s game will come down to whether the 2-0 Tigers can slow down the 1-1 Big Reds’ passing game and whether or not Bellaire can put the brakes on the Shadyside ground attack.

“We have to be prepared physically because Shadyside has a big offensive line and they come off the ball hard,” Davis said. “Plus, they move well. When you throw in their guys carrying the ball, they’re tough to stop, so we have to get better at tackling and hit and wrap.”

The Tigers’ ground game has been their meal ticket in wins against Meadowbrook and Monroe Central.

The three-headed backfield monster of quarterback Austin Dorris and running backs Chris Littell and Eric Howell has been impressive. Combined, they’ve ran for nearly 500 yards between them.

Dorris has proven to be a capable passer as well in his first season as the full-time quarterback. His most reliable targets have been Scott Hammond and Jake Duvall. Littell is also a good pass catcher out of the backfield.

The Bellaire defense has played well at times this season. The Big Reds’ stoptroops held John Marshall in the red zone on multiple occassions last week.

“I think Bellaire’s defense is better than people give them credit for,” Holenka said. “I think people look at that Steubenville Central game and take too much from that. Momentum and turnovers had a lot to do with Steubenville Central scoring a lot of those points. We’ll have to be balanced on Saturday.”

The Big Reds’ offensive approach is vastly different as they run a wide-open spread attack with quarterback Spencer Badia at the controls. He threw five touchdowns last week against John Marshall. All told, he’s passed for 475 yards and seven scores.

He has a plethora of options at his disposal, including four receivers with at least seven catches thus far. Senior Kenny Hess (11-165-2td), junior Hunter Westlake (8-38), senior Nick Patrone (7-117-2td) and Tyler West (7-103), who is a capable runner.

“Only having a week to prepare for the system that Bellaire runs is very tough because they execute it very, very well,” Holenka said. “It’s a real credit to Bellaire because they’ve perfected something you don’t see a whole lot of. We’re young in the secondary, so this is a tough assignment at this point in the season.”

Holenka believes getting pressure on Badia will be “paramount” for the Tigers.

“Bellaire knows what teams have to do, so that’s why the bubble (screen) has become such a big part of their offense,” Holenka said. “They use it kind of like a wide handoff, so it negates pressure.”

The Tigers’ defense has given up some big plays in the passing game the last two weeks. Monroe Central exploited Shadyside to a degree by getting players in space and passed for nearly 200 yards.

“Sometimes that can be a little misleading because the preparation during the week wasn’t as much for the passing game,” Davis said. “We expect them to bring pressure and them to get after us. We’ll need to do a good job of adjusting and taking what they give us. We have to take care of the ball.”