Shadyside seeks sixth straight win vs. Blue Devils

It’s hard to argue that Shadyside’s season thus far has been anything but stellar.

Outside of a week one thriller at Meadowbrook, the Tigers have cruised through the first-half portion of its slate virtually unchallenged.

While many think things can’t get any better for Shadyside, Mark Holenka, the team’s head coach, sees plenty of areas where improvement is warranted heading into Friday night’s tilt against Beallsville.

”I’m happy to be where where we’re at, obviously,” he said. ”But when you’re playing teams in your region, those are games you have to take care of. If you don’t, you’re basically playing for them and not playing for yourself.”

The Tigers (5-0) stand in third in the latest Associated Press Division VII state poll, but, more importantly hold the top spot in the Region 25 computer rankings.

The Blue Devils (3-2) are sixth.

Shadyside has won 18 consecutive regular-season games dating back to 2011 and it would take a complete collapse for it not to return to the postseason this year.

However, Holenka isn’t one to ever let one of his squads rest on its laurels.

”We can’t be satisfied,” he said.

Since the 22-20 victory against the Colts to open the season, Holenka has seen his team improve each week in numerous areas, but acknowledges other things need to be tweaked.

”I think we have to be more balanced,” he said. ”Defensively, we have to tackle securely and soundly.”

The Tigers are one of the top rushing teams in the valley, thanks to the 1-2 punch of Eric Howell and Chris Littell. Throw in quarterback Austin Dorris and Shadyside is quite potent offensively.

”Our approach is going to be to see if we can slow down their running game,” Beallsville head coach Paul Kanzigg said.

”Both of their running backs are strong runners. We’ll have to do a god job of tackling. It will take a good effort by our defense.”

Shadyside’s offense has picked up steam as the season has gone along. The Tigers have cracked the 40-point mark the last three weeks, culminating with a 43-0 thrashing of Toronto during last week’s homecoming contest at Fleming Field.

Dorris and Littell are both on pace to have 1,000-yard rushing seasons, and Howell could join them, too.

Holenka would like to throw the ball more, but circumstances thus far have dictated more running plays.

”Austin is a big-time player,” he said. ”He brings a lot to the table.

”The more and more he grows as a pocket passer the better we’re going to be. I like seeing his growth within the pocket.”

Beallsville will have quarterback Chase Mercer in the fold Friday after missing the last two games.

The Blue Devils have won three of their last four after falling to Madonna on opening night.

”They do a lot of things well,” Holenka said. ”They’re quick, hard-nosed in certain places. They have one of the best tackles in the OVAC in (Dalton) Secrest and their fullback (Bruce) Sefert is one of the best in the OVAC.

”They could present some problems for us.”

Sefert has rushed for 263 yards and six touchdowns.

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