Shadyside, Union Local set to meet Friday in Morristown
Two teams heading in opposite directions are set to clash Friday night in Morristown at 7.
Playoff-bound and undefeated Shadyside is heading west to face reeling Union Local, which will be trying to put the brakes on a four-game slide since starting 3-0.
“We’re having good practices and the kids are still working hard, but we just have to find some consistency,” said first-year Jets’ head coach Bruce Stiles. “We’re getting back to working on fundamentals and we need to cut down on limiting the big plays because we’ve given up far too many the last few weeks.”
In addition to the 7-0 Tigers, the Jets’ stretch run of the season includes dates with 5-2 Bellaire and a road trip to 6-1 St. Clairsville to close out.
Meanwhile, Mark Holenka and his Tigers have wrapped up the school’s 15th overall and ninth consecutive trip to the OHSAA postseason.
Shadyside currently sits atop the Division VI, Region 25 rankings. Along with being in the field, it’s believed that the Tigers have already guaranteed themselves yet another home game in the first round.
However, still with the OVAC title and a chance at only the school’s third 10-0 season still dangling in front of them, the Tigers have plenty to play for in the final three weeks.
“The tournament is down the road,” Holenka said. “It’s nice to have clinched, but there’s a lot of football to be played prior to that. The playoffs aren’t even a topic we’ve thought about. Maybe if we were 5-2 or 6-1 at this point, we’d be looking ahead more, but we have a lot of things left to take our mind off the playoffs.”
The Tigers are coming off an impressive 34-7 victory against perennial West Virginia small-school power Wheeling Central. In that game, the Tigers’ backfield monster of quarterback Austin Dorris, running back Eric Howell and fullback Chris Littell all surpassed the 100-yard mark. All three have a legitimate shot at surpassing the 1,000-yard mark.
“They’re running game is impressive,” Stiles said. “From watching them on film, they’re a typical, well-coached fundamentally sound Shadyside ball club. They don’t miss blocks or take wrong steps. They’re just well coached.”
With a bruising offensive line of Cory Banco, Zach Meadows, Jacob Spencer, Hunter Hammond and Colton Campbell leading the way, Shadyside has amassed more than 2,000 rushing yards in seven games.
“They don’t do anything fancy,” Stiles said. “You know they’re going to run the ball, but they do a great job of finding a weakness. They don’t throw it much, but when they do, they’ve been successful.”
Dorris, who has been making his rounds on several college visits this fall, leads the attack with 803 yards and 11 touchdowns. Howell has scored 15 touchdowns and has 712 yards on 105 carries. Littell, who missed a game with an injury, has gained 641 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
The Jets’ defense is led by Mason Friede, Tater Blake, Patrick Abboud, Colton McKivitz and Spencer Ware.
“They’re aggressive on defense and get to the ball well,” Holenka said. “They really understand what they’re trying to do and they’re well coached defensively. Their defense has played well most of the season.”
The Jets’ offense has struggled recently to find consistency. Stiles has indicated that freshman quarterback Shane Smolenak could see more action along with Travis James.
Jake Leishman is the Jets’ leading ground gainer with 398 yards and five touchdowns on 57 carries. Senior Eric Dunfee has been a solid playmaker. He’s gained 387 yards.
“They’ve battled some injuries offensively, but their schemes are pretty clever at times,” Holenka said. “Union Local’s feeder system has been winning games and those kids are now in high school, so they’ve improved as those kids have gotten older.”
The Tigers’ defense is led by Meadows, Howell, Dorris and Scott Hammond.